Peter Bregman is a strategic consultant and writer who blogs for Harvard Business Review. He writes sometimes about meditating, always making me want to be way better about my own spotty practice.
In Stop Focusing on Your Performance he writes that life is a set of experiences, not performances. Excerpt:
So how can we let go of performance in favor of experience? Here's something that's helped me: Several times a day I'll complete this sentence: "This is what it feels like to..."
This is what it feels like to receive praise. This is what it feels like to be in love. This is what it feels like to be stuck writing a proposal. This is what it feels like to present to the CEO. This is what it feels like to be embarrassed. This is what it feels like to be appreciated.
So, here goes, from my today.
This is how it feels to...
…connect with someone you barely know when you can't talk. My dental hygienist, whose name I don't know, is a pretty, gentle, personable woman. She's single, and I can't for the life of me figure out why. She talks while she cleans my teeth, asking many times if this feels okay, how's the temperature of the water, telling me how she helped a friend move his bed, how she doesn't like the cold so she's grateful for our mild weather. She makes going to the dentist easier.
This is how it feels to…
Get praise on my writing by someone I only just met, now, on the phone. "I didn't have any comments on your chapters!" she said. "I can't wait to read the rest." She has no idea how difficult this project has become and how much I want to finish it and how unsure I am about my ability to craft a story. She only knows that she liked my chapters and told me that, giving me the impetus, maybe, to get through the writing for a while.
Han has been waking at all hours, usually way too early in the morning, and yelling, moaning and crying. Since he is three and a half, I'm not convinced I should let him cry it out, but I don't know what else to do. So I'm letting him cry it out. This morning he commenced crying at 4:30, then 5:15, then 6:30. When I did sleep in between bouts I had horrible dreams about lice and flies buzzing in my ear. Then I dreamed that Han drowned in a swimming pool because I wasn't watching him, and someone took his body out and left it on the side. It was a horrific dream, and I woke to that feeling of great relief after such a nightmare.
When I finally got out of bed this morning I felt limp and soggy. I returned home after taking kids to school feeling blue. I forced myself to go for a run, and as I was tackling my first hill a guy on a bicycle stopped to let me cross the street. "Lookin' good," he said. "Keep it up." That simple thing, encouragement from a stranger, lifted my spirits immensely.
In other happy news, Iona doggedly finished a whole book in a day. Saturday night as she went to bed she broke down in tears, confessing that she had not read the book assigned to her class. Book group discussion for the book is today, and I am one of the facilitators. Yesterday I lectured her about responsibility and telling the truth. She picked up the almost 200-page novel and managed to read nearly the whole thing in between doing homework, being pestered by her brother and accompanying me on a three-hour outing. This morning she finished the book. I could tell she was proud of herself.
And finally, also in the good news department, it looks like Han has embraced the potty!
I really have no reason to be blue, do I?
We got our travel call yesterday! We got our travel call yesterday. We got our travel call yesterday!?!#*!? We leave for Seoul Saturday to finally meet Han (which is what we call him; his foster mother named him Han Byeol Kim) or Angus, which will be his first name, or Hangus, which is what friends suggested upon hearing our two chosen names. I also like to shorten Angus to Gus because there is a small Gus at school with whom I'm a little in love. And then a friend of mine calls him Little King, because the agency photographs the charges in a small gilded throne with a red pleather upholstery.
Angus Han Byeol Kim, the boy with many names. We are about to find out who he really is, perhaps as soon as Monday. I'm excited as I write this. Since yesterday my feelings have ranged from elation to anxious irritation. Never as far down as sadness or despair, though, and I'm taking that as a good sign.
I really did expect this call for travel to come two or even three weeks ago, and there has been that recurring theme underscoring my recent days and adoption in general, the theme of I Control Very Little And That Is Uncomfortable, a theme that Scott helped me articulate today. Maybe I will someday be able to turn that into Lettin' Go And Chillin' = Enlightenment. Lots to think about here.
So Iona has just gone off with friends through dinner (good for her, good for me) and I'm hitting rush hour in search of last-minute pureed carrots and plums, disposable diapers (what does he weigh?), more small gifts for Korean caregivers, videotape, snacks for the plane, milk which we are out of, and maybe a new pair of sunglasses to make the shopping trip fun. Plus a skirt, because they're more formal there, and my old, soft khaki shorts simply won't do for meeting Little King.
I recently heard that some bullying is going on at my daughter's school, and I bravely made an appointment with our assistant head to talk about it. Apparently (and unsurprisingly), according to some British researchers, bullying can turn kids psychotic.
Now I am off to (more bravery! onward!) recycle some piles of paper. (whimper)
Addendum: This one cracked me up too. Now I'm closing all my browser windows. Maybe I'll even turn off my computer.
Addendum II: Little movies probably not suitable for work or children, as they contain swear words.
Gary was our janitor at school. He was the first person Iona and I met on our first day. I didn't know him well, but I liked him. I came to respect how handy he was and appreciated the fact that he was always there. When he dressed in drag (and changed his costume multiple times) during our school auction and goofed around on stage I realized there was something special about him.
But it was only after he died a two weeks ago that I started to learn who he really was. At morning sing this morning, we sang a song honoring him.
Man of literature and history felt most at home with working people
By Mike Lindblom
Seattle Times transportation reporter
Gary Greaves had just moved into a home on Seattle's Capitol Hill when he noticed a crowd of people arriving for free lunch at a nearby church.
He walked over and offered to help. He washed dishes, gathered surplus food from grocery stores, chopped vegetables. Standing 6 feet, 3 inches tall with a "spirit of calm," he would defuse the occasional argument or fight, said the Rev. Jon Nelson, of Central Lutheran Church.
That was 1997, and Mr. Greaves never quit serving neighbors who were hungry.
He died Feb. 12 at age 57, of a heart aneurysm, while practicing basketball on an outdoor court in Morocco. He was overseas with his wife, writer Frances McCue, a University of Washington professor who is teaching on a Fulbright fellowship, and their 13-year-old daughter, Madeleine.
Mr. Greaves led a monthly book club inside the Monroe Reformatory. Inmates serving 20 years to life would discuss literature, and their own writings, on Sundays. Mr. Greaves brought authors, including National Book Award winner Sherman Alexie.
He befriended Seattle-area veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, communist-affiliated Americans who fought in the Spanish Civil War against fascism in the 1930s. He introduced Monroe prisoners to veteran Abe Osheroff, who died last year.
"It was such a privilege to witness, so up-close, the temerity they had, to never give up," Greaves wrote in the literary journal "Raven Chronicles."
Mr. Greaves was born in Michigan and took many jobs, including apple picker, bicycle messenger and janitor. He had only a high-school education, but immersed himself in history and literature. Mr. Greaves was working in a San Francisco bookstore when he met McCue, a customer who soon took a job there. The pair replaced pulp novels with literature by monkeying with the inventory system, she said.
They adopted Madeleine from a Romanian orphanage when she was a year old, and later moved to Seattle and into the Richard Hugo House, a Capitol Hill haven for writers that McCue co-founded in 1997.
Mr. Greaves worked nights as a janitor at Giddens School, where his daughter was a student. He took such jobs because they allowed time for literary and political interests, but mainly because he identified with working people, friends said.
"He believed in God, but he didn't believe in religion. He thought religion was a useful social tool if it got people to actually live their values," his wife wrote a few days ago. "He was never mean. Everything he wore, everything he did was about humility, thrift and kindness. And music. And history."
Mr. Greaves "was really, really goofy with his family," and sometimes let nephews and nieces wash his hair in mustard, his wife said.
"A man with the child in his eyes," is how Mr. Greaves described himself.
In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by brothers Greg Greaves, of Denver, and Fred Greaves of Kalamazoo, Mich.; and sister Carol Liskiewitz, of Grand Rapids, Mich.
A memorial service was held Friday at Central Lutheran Church.
The salmon called Coho is from a native language. We went to the Locks today there is kind of an elevator in the water. The salmon dies where they were born. Bears eat salmon, sharks eat salmon, eagles eat salmon, people eat salmon, seals eat salmon. I am learning salmon at school. What do you know about salmon? I hope you had a good day. Read this two times a day or three times and when they're red they are close to dying and they also have a hooked nose.
(If anybody feels like perspiring [cough], I'd advise you to go ahead, because I'm sure going to. In fact I'm gonna [mumbles while pulling up his gown and taking out a handkerchief from his pocket].) Greetings ["parents"?] and congratulations to Kenyon's graduating class of 2005. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?"
Tonight I came back from dinner with a bug bite on the littlefinger edge of my left wrist and one on the littlefinger edge of my right wrist. We all agreed this is odd. Iona said, "Mom, I know you don't believe in the mummy [in the basement of the church next to my school playground], but whenever we see weird things we think it's the mummy. And we're always finding weird things! And Maxwell says the mummy is his pet, and that's weird! And I gave a crystal to Rivka, and it made the mummy speak to her!"
I've been writing, just not here. But I missed writing here, so here I am, writing about what I've been writing about.
I wrote a parenting resource plan for adopting an African American infant (Korea is an eighteen month wait, minimum, and now we think that's too long to wait). One big difference between adopting and having a biological child is the paperwork. At least, I thought the parenting resource plan was paperwork, but it's ended up being an expansion for me, a sort of prototyping experience. Writing about how we would bring Korean culture and African American culture into our lives has expanded my views of what identity means. I look at people differently now that I've prototyped walking beside them. In my mind, on paper, through research, I've attended a celebration of Korean American Day, gone to Festival Sundiata and gone to the beauty shop to get tight little braids in my daughter's hair. Probably both daughters' hair. Though we can't choose the child's sex. And an infant! No sleep! Diapers! We are definitely out of our minds, in a good way.
I wrote my final story for the final quarter of my class and handed it in last week. It's about a girl, her mother, her grandmother and the spirit of an African American nanny. My classmates will talk about it tonight. It's a story that I need to continue to write and rewrite. It's a cycle and a prophecy.
I rewrote "Puce Box" and read it out loud at University Bookstore last night. It went pretty well; I had fun. My sister and parents were there.
I wrote an analysis of a classmate's story. It's good, she's a good writer, so that was a pleasure.
I'm tired. Ewan's tired. Iona is tired, too. We're off out of here for a vacation soon.