Rambling Anecdote, Personal Imagery, Secular Epiphany and Powerless Rant -- My opportunity to express my opinion, whether anyone ever listens or not. Instant gratification, another two-word phrase.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Being New

No one knew me when I arrived in Heidelberg last August. I had no history; I had no pre-conceptions. I had no friends; I had no enemies. It was OK if I didn't know where something was or who someone was, because everything was new.
I'm not forgetful or clueless; I'm new.
No one knew the overweight me or the angry temperamental me. No one knew my weaknesses, my regrets, or my disappointments. No one knew my politics, my religion, my family history. Of course, no one knew my strengths or my successes either. No one knew what a good teacher I have been or what a good friend I am. Or that I love Rossetti and Bessie Smith. Or that I sometimes dream of Siena. I have made friends who have helped me make a place for myself here, and I have also rediscovered a new appreciation for loved ones left behind. Here and there, I thank all the friends and students who encouraged me this last year. I once saw an abstract painting of a woman who appeared to have no skin between her and the world. Symbolically, would being so completely in touch be excruciating or ecstatic?
Just reminiscing.
Originally 5 May 2012.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

So Very

Vocabulary is how we discriminate meaning. By this, I believe that we cannot communicate ideas for which we have no words. "So" and "Very" scream "I don't think clearly enough to find the word which expresses my ideas."
     So hard or diligently, enthusiastically, arduously, indefatigably, fervently, zealously. Shades of meaning.
     I ran a readability analysis on Donald Trump's acceptance speech. It scored very high on readability at 77.9%. Depending on the chosen scale, the grade level was from 3.2 to 7.9. No wonder so many non-college voters chose him; they could understand him. His sentences are actually often longer than one might expect because he believes in "and so," anathema to English teachers everywhere, but firmly ingrained in unrehearsed oral language. "And so" and the consequent run-ons engendered keep the speaker in control of speech. Other transitions usually emerge in written language because it is reflective, not in the moment. As an English teacher, I could always recognize first draft writing from its "and so's."
     I also completed a stylistic analysis of the diction and syntax of Donald Trump's acceptance speech and it was revelatory. The surface conciliatory tone was embedded firmly in its syntax. This was a "we"speech, not so much an "I" speech. Many of the "I" sentences come appropriately in the various commendations to specific family, friends, and supporters. At a syntactical level, Trump focused on the unity for which we all hoped.
     Unfortunately the best sentence in the speech was probably the only sentence read from the teleprompter: "We will seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict." Yes, that is a semicolon, not an "and so." It may be stretching the rhetorical device to label it antanagoge (places a criticism and a compliment together to lessen the impact, as in "The car is not pretty but it runs great."), but I will give his speech writer that. 
     The off-teleprompter sentences are casual and superficial, simple and imprecise -- "I mean that very sincerely." "I have gotten to know our country so well." "It is going to be a beautiful thing." "We have a great economic plan." "We will have great relationships." "We expect to have great, great relationships." "We are going to dream of things for our country, and beautiful things, and successful things once again." "It is going to happen." "This was tough. This political stuff is nasty, and it is tough." "They're tough and they're smart and they're sharp."
     The imprecise diction of this passage is befuddling. A student had to negotiate using the word very. Find the precise word. Think, then use your words. So can only be used as a conjunction, not as an adverb. No, Hell No, to the following -- "very, very hard," "very, very special," "a very, very historic victory," "so long," "so well," and "really very proud." "Thing" is Taboo.
     Intensifiers also disguise imprecise language and muddled, lazy thinking. Not "tremendously talented," but rather "accomplished," "adept," "proficient," or "ingenious." No to "tremendous potential." No to "truly great" and "learned so much." No to "really fantastic."
     Adults are not teenagers on Twitter. Adults do not get to use the word "unbelievable" and pretend it means believable.
     Yes, Donald, you would have hated my class, but you should have been there. If you had learned what I am sure someone tried to teach you, you would have respected this country enough to have honored us with careful thought.
     And from your own words -- "Boy, oh, boy, oh, boy. It's about time you did this right. My god."
     My god.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Imposter Syndrome

I was an impostor. A poseur. A fraud.

Impostor Syndrome is the secret feeling that you’re a phony, way out of your depth, soon to be exposed to everyone, the masquerade over. More prevalent among women, it is common among successful, high-achievers. Though one may appear confident on the outside, doubt and fear hide inside -- I’m not really smart enough for this job, I’m not really fit enough to work out in this gym, I’m not really pretty enough to shop at Balliet’s. I’m not really enough ENOUGH to be who I appear to be. I’m in the wrong place. I’m not worthy to be here. I’m a fraud and soon everyone will know it.

Characteristics include being unable to take credit for accomplishments or to accept recognition for success, which sufferers may dismiss as simply luck, good timing, or perseverance. So-called impostors feel that they have fooled everyone and that they are not as smart or capable as everyone thinks. This, of course, is inaccurate.

Taking realistic and accurate assessments of your performance is key to moving past the impostor syndrome. Such assessments, however, are difficult. With each success, take time to jot down the specific actions that led to success as well as what experience and qualities underlies your success at completing each action. If we want to maintain and repeat our success at weight loss, we must learn to recognize ourselves as worthy and remember how and why we succeeded.

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome*
  1. Break the silence. Shame keeps a lot of people from admitting their fraudulent feelings. Knowing there’s a name for your feelings can be tremendously freeing.
  2. Separate feelings from fact. There are times you’ll feel inadequate. It happens to everyone from time to time. Realize that just because you may feel that way, doesn’t mean you are.
  3. Recognize when you should feel fraudulent. If you’re one of the first to do something, even something like get a lapband, it’s only natural you’d sometimes feel like you don’t totally fit in. Instead of taking your self-doubt as a sign of your ineptness, recognize that it might be a normal response to being an outsider.
  4. Accentuate the positive. Perfectionism can indicate a healthy drive to excel, but the trick is to not obsess over always being perfect. Do a great job when it matters most. Don’t persevere over routine tasks. Forgive yourself when the inevitable mistake happens.
  5. Develop a new response to failure and mistake making. Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Instead of beating yourself up for being human for blowing the big project, glean the learning value from the mistake and move on.
  6. Right the rules. If you’ve been operating under misguided rules like, “I should always know the answer,” or “Never ask for help,” start asserting your rights. Recognize that you have just as much right as the next person to be wrong, have an off-day, or ask for assistance.
  7. Develop a new script. Your Impostor script is that automatic mental tape that starts playing in situations that trigger your Impostor feelings. Instead of thinking, “Wait till they find out I have no idea what I’m doing,” try thinking, “I may not know all the answers but I’m smart enough to find them out.”
  8. Visualize success. Spend time picturing yourself fitting into your dream dress size or successfully completing a marathon. It sure beats picturing impending disaster and will help with performance-related stress.
  9. Reward yourself. Break the cycle of continually seeking and then dismissing validation outside of yourself by learning to pat yourself on the back. Actually make a list of non-food rewards to gift yourself. 
  10. Fake it ’til you make it. Don’t wait until you feel confident to start putting yourself out there. Courage comes from taking risks. Change your behavior first and allow your confidence to build.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Too Late

After a week of dreary weather, today was wondrous, bright sunshine, no wind. I wanted to go bicycle riding, but I give up a block from home. My bike’s broken, whether it’s the brakes or gears doesn’t matter. Walking it home, I start crying and I can’t stop.

The most tragic words in life are Too Late.
  • When I had lapband surgery at 54, I feared it was too late to get my life back.
  • When I did get healthy, it was too late to have a child, but not too late to return to teaching.
  • Last summer, it was too late for cosmetic surgery to turn me into a hot babe, but not too late to feel comfortable in my own skin.
  • At 60, if I want to be a ballerina, it’s probably too late.
  • And, today, it’s too late to ride my bicycle.
My parents, step-parents, and grandparents are all gone and I know each of them died with some things undone -- and it’s too late for them.

Too late is tragic because one recognizes what might have been, because one must acknowledge lost opportunity; one must be profoundly self-aware.

I don’t want my last words to be “Too Late.” I will
  • find the time and money to go back to Italy and walk in the steep streets of Siena
  • contact Bonnie O’Malley and apologize for hurtful words our senior year in high school
  • write more poetry and submit some poems for publication
  • say “Thank You” more often to the people who make my life better
  • ride a boat up the Nile and climb the pyramids
  • keep in better touch with friends and family
  • hear (and say) the words “I love you” so many times I get bored with them
  • take more photographs
  • volunteer for Habitat for Humanity
  • be a docent at a local museum
  • keep this blog updated
  • ride my bicycle again
  • discover more things I want to do before it’s too late

Friday, June 10, 2016

Full Wheelbarrow

Don't pick up other people's rocks. My wheelbarrow is full.

On SmartBandsters, a Yahoo support group, Jesse Ahroni posted the above line which provoked all sorts of thoughts for me today. Her point was that we all have enough of our own baggage to carry, so we don't need to pick up other people's rocks. If we focus on solving our own problems, we won't have time to worry about someone else's issues.

At some level, I'd like to think that my interest in someone else's problems is a sign of an empathic nature, that I am a genuine, caring human. Truth may be that I am perhaps too eager to find weaknesses in others. If they are flawed, it's OK for me to be flawed.

Of course, even if my concern is heartfelt and artless, what can I really do with someone else's rocks? I can't control other people,or their actions. Sometimes good advice is irritating. A good example can even provoke undesired behavior out of pure contentiousness.

Other people's rocks distract me from toting my own. Hmn?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Memory Palace


One begins with a real place --
Grandmother’s house full of knickknacks,
a beloved bedroom hideaway,
the special corner of a favorite coffee shop,
the hidden stacks of Bizzell Library,
Heidelberg’s Bahnhof,
my lofty terrace overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea --
a place so real that you can float above it,
twisting and turning from top to bottom,
every angle familiar, 
placing objects in perfect settings,
framed by memories,
flooded in sounds and smells and tastes.
A place so real that you do not need it.

Keep it anyway.
For ever, for ever after.

Decide how you will travel through your memory palace.
If you want to remember in a special order,
define a route you can follow over and over,
‘til it becomes unconsciously there.
Move through your palace,
marking locations to store your memories --
landmarks, crossroads, shadows, colors,
sizes, smells, symbols.

Fill your palace with images that can store your truths for the years
when time will eat away thoughts that fill the mind now --
the yellow kitten that spits and scratches holds that first heartbreak,
the scratchy record player warns of Death’s close seductive song, 
the soft gray angora granny square quilt can be the mother lost,
the snap of a Waterman fountain pen can save every poem,
the smell of a honeycrisp apple sings of survival and joy,
the taste of Brunella will kiss a lover’s lips forever.

For ever ever after.

*Apologies to Matteo Ricci and Jonathan D. Spence (The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci).

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Totally Inappropriate

Leonard Nimoy Dies 27 February 2015

I had such an inappropriate obsession with the Spock character, so here is my totally inappropriate poetic tribute --
Star Trek Again

Do you remember
lusting after the alien,
just devilish enough
for a teenage girl
to know it was so wrong
to want his hands on her,
to ache to see yearning
in his cold intellectual eyes?
How might that first forbidden desire
have encouraged
other adventures,
other dark quests,
for reluctant passions?

Leonard Nimoy Dies February 27, 2015

Anyone else remember Pon Farr? I actually got to interview Nimoy when he spoke at OU for the Oklahoma State Psychological Association in 1968. Liked him, but he was NOT Spock. Must have been a great actor...