My current challenge: Discipline.

 

to do listNow that I’m retired, I don’t have to do much.  There are things to do, but I get to choose the time and the speed with which I do things.  This poses a problem.  I am not in the habit of being disciplined, and therefore, have not created habits of behavior that are beneficial on a grand scale.  I know I’m not looking at this clearly because someone outside looking in might say I have good habits.  I don’t drink to excess, don’t smoke, don’t tune out in front of the TV, I stay busy with chores and worthwhile endeavors.  I brush twice a day and floss most days.

But I still see lots of areas that I want to manage better.  So I ask myself this question. What do I need to do on a daily basis that would become a habit, that would make a difference, and satisfy the primary needs for connection, purpose and fun? Stephen Covey suggested asking yourself this question.  “What is one thing you can do on a regular basis that would significantly improve the overall quality of your life?”

key-stretch-04-sitting-hamstring-stretch the more you fill up on healthy food

 

 

 

Health:

  1. Cardio and stretch.  I have lower back problems that, if I don’t stretch often, can get problematic.  If I can get that going regularly, then I’ll move on to weight training.
  2. Eat right.  Smaller portions, healthier choices, avoid the sugary and carb snacks that are so seemingly satisfying. Keep the sweets out of the house.
  3. Do something, make something, fix something.  I need a sense of accomplishment.  At the end of the day, I want to be able to look back and say I accomplished something today.Clip Art Illustration of a Boy Mowing the Lawn Right now, that means repairs and tidying up our two properties, getting them ready to sell.  Not sure what that will look like after moving.
  4. Regularly, if not daily, spend time with friends and family. Friendship-old-friends-old-men Even if this means a phone call, if not in person.
  5. Write. I have a need to leave some thoughts behind for my family and friends to remember me by, or maybe even learn something.  I probably won’t get around to writing a book.  But a blog?  With regular entries?  Or my journal.  About all kinds of thoughts?  That is doable.  John Grisham, in an interview on PBS gave advice to would be writers.  “Write a page a day.”  Would be writers that are unwilling to do that, including myself, just aren’t serious about writing.  And there is a journal for ideas that I’m still working on.

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What’s on your daily list? What have you done that allows you now to reap a harvest of good results.  What do you need to change, to avoid the consequences of missed opportunities?

How understanding connection changed my teaching, as well as my life.

I’ve heard all my life that it takes a special kind of person to be a good teacher and I believe it is true.  It is not however genetic.  I think excellent teachers are excellent due to their belief system about themselves and the students they teach.

I can speak from experience. I was both a lousy teacher and transformed into a pretty good teacher.  I started teaching in a school in rural North Carolina in 1982.  I had a traditional university preparation to teach what was then called Industrial Arts.  I had basic training on the technology side and how to write a lesson plan, but little if any guidance on understanding students, or people in general.

My focus was teaching technology.  Somehow I thought technology and skills could help these kids dig themselves out of poverty or mediocre lives.  Do you see the judgment coming from me yet?  My upbringing prepared me for giving orders to dutiful, and trembling underlings. I was shocked that not all students did as I told them to do.  After all, I was the teacher.  I did all the things my nuns at parochial school as well as my  alcoholic father and co-dependent mother modeled.  Make demands, without explanation, get angry, humiliate, ridicule and threats.  Of course

I did not make physical threats but threats of sending them to the office or calling the parents.

I hated teaching this way.  I was miserable and many of the kids were miserable.  Most had too much respect to tell me what they really thought of me, and the administration saw no reason for me to try out a new method.  I ended up teaching in another rural school for three more years before finally quitting, unhappy, and feeling frustrated that many of the kids didn’t learn.  I realize in retrospect that it wasn’t the teaching, or the kids that made me miserable.  It was me, myself and I.

After eight years working for myself and working for others, I returned to teaching. I was still in a predominately rural area, with the advantage of being in a college town, so the mix of students was fairly diverse.  I still struggled with classroom management.  To give you an idea the negativity I displayed to some of my students, despite my best efforts, I’ve had two students years later tell me that they hated me, and they knew I hated them too, because that’s how I treated them.  Wow.  What a wake up call.

I developed a passion for teaching, and the content I delivered was both challenging, relevant  and sometimes fun.  I still struggled but things got easy for everyone involved when I learned about “Love and Logic”. It was there that I began to understand the phrase “Kid’s don’t care about how much you know, until they know how much you care.”  Another quote I’ve leaned on, is “People won’t remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.”  Instead of teaching technology, I started to teach kids.  I started to make the effort to like them, and let them like me back. Teaching became more relationship based, a cooperative effort between me and them.  Love and Logic offers lots of ideas about giving kids choices and consequences, helping them to learn to be more responsible.  And teaching got more fun.  For everyone.  Kids started to understand that I did care and they responded in kind.  Finally, I started hearing the words “You were my favorite teacher because you really cared about me.”

I’m recently retired now but the last five years were the best of the twenty seven years total teaching.  I started risking more and had the freedom to integrate into my curriculum the teaching of concepts that helped me so much.  Brene Brown, TEDtalk speaker and author is a researcher into shame and vulnerability.  Her book changed my life, and my teaching.  At the beginning of each class, I would take a few minutes to talk about concepts they probably heard nowhere else.  Karpman’s Drama Triangle, the emotional bank account, a growth mindset so well spelled out by Carol Dweck. It was however Brene Brown’s book “Daring Greatly” that went the farthest to describe how we develop our own sense of self worth, and how we can help others to do the same.  From that point on, I made it a point to make everyone I was in contact with to know they were appreciated, that their effort, and risk taking was valued, and that they were awesome.  

Some kids find it hard to believe they are awesome when society, or their own family seems hell bent on convincing them they are not good enough in so many ways.  I would remind them regularly on the importance of our differences, how each person is like a unique puzzle piece, and a critical piece, as important as every other..  I would say, “You are awesome.  Yes, you and I, we all make mistakes. Taking risks is essential to learning. It is part of the process.  We are not perfect.  We are growing, learning. But you are courageous.  And resilient.  And there is no doubt in my mind, that you are  (insert your own word here: god’s, universe, cosmic conscious, all that is, spirit) gift to mankind.”

Some days I would show a youtube video of Keb Mo singing “I’m Amazing”.  Many of my kids, learned the words by heart. We would shout out each sentence back and forth to one another before disappearing into a classroom.   “You’re amazing.  You’re  incredible.  You’re marvelous.  You’re a  dream come true.”  And you are too.

 

Dad’s been drinking, and by the way, Happy Father’s Day

Iyoungdadmaybe5yearsold read an article in the NY Post by  and here is the link if you want to read it.  It is a lot funnier than what I have to say. Anyone who had an alcoholic or dysfunctional family can relate to part of it.  And isn’t that about everyone?

Being the baby of seven, I wonder if I was oblivious to much of the negative aspects of growing up with an alcoholic dad.  On the other hand, as his disease progressed, and he gave into it, the older kids flew the coop, some still living in the same city, others in other states or even countries. I was there, living at home, til the day he died.

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My mom said he struggled his whole adult life with alcohol but when he was younger, he could handle it better. The reason for his self medication?  To numb out? Low self esteem, the burdens of responsibility, unfulfilled creativity.  Who knows? Maybe it was more genetics than anything.  Of his seven kids, four are alcoholics, but unlike him, all are in recovery and have been for many years.

But in those days, AA was about the only place you could go to for help, and he went some of the time.  He tried antabuse.  I wonder which was more difficult.  The struggle to stay sober, or dealing with the internal dialogue of self indictment.

PORTRAIT.jpgdad playing tennis

Mom told me he always drank heavy but he would sweat it off  playing tennis or racket ball.  When he was in his early 40’s, he played tennis on a cooler than usual day, and the sweat and the cold got to him.  He got sick, pneumonia set in, and the doctors said it damaged his heart.  I don’t have any recollection of this, even though I was about 11.  From that point on, it was a downward spiral.

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He was not a happy drunk.  He preferred to be by himself and generally, it was a good idea to avoid him when he was drinking.  We learned to walk lightly, talk little, and find other things to do when he was hitting the bottle.  He would try of course.  He would even take individually or maybe two of the kids at a time to go with him to the Wonder Bar.  It was surreal.  Sitting in a bar, at the age of 10, with half dozen other older men, just sitting.  Drinking.  Not much talk going on either.  Just the usually, “Hi Bob, good looking kid you got there.”  Or some nicety the break the silence.  But I knew I was there, watching him drink his poison, and knowing it would not end well.

Surviving in a dysfunctional family takes some coping skills.  Siblings didn’t really talk about what was going on.  It was pretty secretive, other than a couple of phrases. 1. Dad’s hitting the sauce, or 2. Dad’s on the wagon.  And eventually, “Dad fell off the wagon.” For me, surviving meant numbing out, keeping quiet, don’t draw any attention to myself, as there was plenty of drama going around in the family anyway.  Don’t get your hopes up, and wait.  Wait til what.  Wait til I graduate from high school, and then get out?  Those last few years, it was waiting til his physical health took such a toll that he would be released from this earth, and we, our family would be released as well, and could get on with our lives.

His death came as no surprise. He had been in and out of the hospital for a year, more in than out it seemed. The doctors said he was failing and the kids that could, came home to say good bye to him in the hospital.  All but one, who was overseas in the military.  Much to our surprise, he rallied and came home a week or two later.  In that week, he started drinking again, taking on fluids, and by day three, he no longer went upstairs to sleep, or even changed out of his pajamas.  By day seven,  pills were the only solution to ease the pain searing across his chest.  The doctors said there was nothing else they could do.  According to mom, his final prayer, and a rare one at that, was something like “God, I know I’m a bastard but throw me a few crumbs.” And he said it many times before he finally slipped away. Congestive heart failure was the cause of death according to the coroner’s report.  A broken heart is more likely.

He was 47, and died on Ground Hog’s Day in 1971.  Our home at 1494 Clarence Avenue was open to visitors for two days. Folks came over, brought food, told stories, and expressed their condolences.  I was mostly relieved he was gone. I played ping-pong in the basement with a few friends. Yes, it was tragic.  A talented man, creative, funny, responsible to his family in many ways, just couldn’t win the battle. I’m told in his good days, he loved fiercely.  He loved my mom, his kids, and life in general.  But love wasn’t enough.   His genetics, and emotional battle fatigue won out in the end.

Robert E. Tidyman, Sr. was not a bastard.  He was the product of the times, his genes and his environment.  He was a soldier in WW2, a musician, a writer, an athlete, a loving husband and devoted father.  Not perfect in any way.  His disease and maybe some errors in judgement restricted him from being the full of life person he might have been.

xmas65I hold no grudge or resentment, though I am sad for all that he missed.  If there is life after death, and I think there is, I want to sit with him and tell him I love him and respect and honor his struggle.  I couldn’t do any better in the same circumstances.  I will listen to him tell his story, and remind him he has plenty of reasons to be proud; proud of himself, and proud of his children and now grandchildren, and oh yes, great grandchildren.  See you on the other said Daddio.

richard and dad on the beach

 

 

 

Making Decisions Based on Self-Worth

A couple of truths, at least from my experience.

  1. We always have choices.  
  2. We will always enjoy the benefits or suffer the consequences of our choices.
  3. Knowing how we make choices, a form of metacognition helps us choose the method by which we choose.
  4. Our life, wherever we are at the moment, is the result of the choices we have made, and the consequences that followed.  We are not victims.  We are the creator of our lives, and while we may have gratitude for others that contributed to the effort, we are, ultimately the only one responsible for our lives and the consequences that occur.

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There seems to be two extremes to the decisions making progress, and we operate somewhere on the spectrum, depending on the circumstances.

Method 1:  Feel good.  Satisfy physical and emotional desires for the moment, and avoid unpleasantness as much as possible.  Avoid difficult challenges.  There is no philosophy or guiding principles here.  It is primarily pleasure seeking and pain avoidance. It says I want to feel good now, and will deal with the issue later.  It is hanging onto relationships that will hurt us hoping that they will change. It is choosing people into our lives that makes us feel good, or at least, don’t make me feel inferior.   It results sometimes in a victim personality, wondering why life seems to sucks, and how did this happen to me. 

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This type of person wants to avoid the harsh criticism, takes things personally, and resents others that do well.This is spelled out well in Carol Dwecks book “Mindset”. I believe that the basis of this fixed mindset, that is afraid to embrace challenges, seeks pleasure and avoids pain, is based in self worth.  Brene Brown speaks to self worth.  These behaviors and poor choices are a result of one’s low sense of self worth.  I see it like this.  “I am worthless.  I am not good enough at the things required to succeed in most any area of life.  Therefore, why try.  I’ll only fail miserably and lose what little comforts I have now.  I will avoid risk, hang with people that make me feel good, until they don’t.  Since I have no control of the circumstances, I depend on others for my feelings (by what they say or don’t say). It seems easier to understand people’s behavior by understanding what shame or self doubts they hold.

There doesn’t seem to be an organized societal effort, especially not in our schools that educates people on how this shame thing, self-worth influences our every feeling, decision and ultimately the quality of our lives. If you are lucky enough, or force yourself to hang with effective people, they may steer you into the direction of learning more about this kind of stuff.  But you can lead a horse to water, as the saying goes. You can’t make them drink, and you can’t make a person read or think anything they don’t want to.

Method 2: Do what is right, fair, honest, loving and kind to self and others.  Sometimes this means enduring temporary pain and discomfort to do the right thing, sometimes extremely painful, and will really piss off the people you care about most.  Making sacrifices to go to school, living on the cheap so that down the road, a more satisfying career will produce the opportunities, both financial as well as personally that one desires. It means cutting off from ourselves habits and people that are destructive.  It means saying goodbye to a person that despite all of their good points, ends up being toxic in your life. Even though we may feel like we love or need them, which is temporarily painful but necessary.  Sometimes we must cut off the cancerous limb to save the body. It means eliminating destructive behaviors,  whether is is dietary, drugs, laziness.  

How  we make choices varies from one end of the extreme that thinks, what is easy, what is comfortable, , and by doing so, I will feel better in the moment.  Damn the consequences, I’ll deal with those later.  I wonder if this is the source of procrastination . The other extreme is answered to the question of “what is loving, kind to others and self, authentic, honest and fair?” This second standard is by far much harder, a more challenging path, but when developed as a habit, results in the fruition of good things, like achievement, positive relationships, and a sense of satisfaction of a life well lived.  

Our lives are a culmination of making choices, some easier, some harder than others.  

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Carol Dweck would say that a person with growth mindset embraces challenges, accepts mistakes and defeats as a necessary part of learning, accepts criticism for the benefit of learning, and I would add, accepts and encourages others as equally worthwhile human beings, not better, not worse, but maybe in a different place on their journey.  

At the core of the growth mindset is a sense of self-worth.  Not braggadocio, or superior.  It is more like, I’m good enough.  Mistakes and failure do not detract from my sense of worthiness.  I may have made a mistake, but I’m not a mistake.  I may have failed at something  but I am not a failure. If I am a person of worth, then by reasoning, all people are, and they are worthy of kindness and consideration.  They deserve to be treated well, and judge not by their mistakes. We can view others as equally worthy of respect.  

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The hard part comes when we watch others, who are operating out of shame, doing destructive things to themselves and to others, and we feel hopeless to do anything for them.  My sister taught me a phrase to use when I was upset with another human beings choices.  “Bless them, heal me.”  I don’t have to fix it, and in Al Anon I learned, “I didn’t create it, can’t cure it and can’t control it.”  I tell myself they are on their path, on their timeline.  My job is to take care of me, be kind, loving but not a rescuer, not a fixer of other people’s problems or relieve them of the consequences of their choices.  That doesn’t make it any easier to watch.

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