Keep listing…part 2

This week also starts the Lenten period.  I grew up in an Episcopal school AND I taught in an Episcopal school for my first 9 years.  The Lenten Fast is nearly hardwired into me. It’s like I have an internal alarm clock going off – “what are you giving up this year?”.  In thinking, it seems tied to the “Keep Listening” post. Lenten fast is often tied to sacrifice (giving up chocolate, candy, ice cream). I once had a chaplain who challenged us , though, to think differently about it. Lent could be about creating a prayer, reflection, meditation period. The result could be creating a positive instead of focusing on what was given up.  There’s still the sacrifice of the time but the end result puts the emphasis on creation.  In the flow of  the school year reflection and positive momentum are vital.

One of my favorite ways to reflect on my life and professional practice is on the treadmill or taking a walk, my playlist loaded with songs that get me going and make me think. Here’s my annotated list.

My Top Ten Songs for Lenten Reflection

10. “Oh happy day”  – some positive gospel is what I need to get moving and thinking about what I can do, not what’s holding me back

9. “Happy” by Pharrell — “clap along if you feel like a room without a roof/ clap along if you feel like happiness if the truth”, this is my goal, sometime you need to hear that it’s ok to search for happiness

8. “40” by U2 – it’s a nice break from all that happiness and gets me thinking about some of the struggles

7. “War” by Edwin Starr – we are all fighting something: placement battles, grading guerrilla attacks, collaboration combat missions

6. “Fight the Power” by the Isley Brothers – a good dose of anti-authority lyrics is good for everyone, including the leaders who are “the man”

5. “Appalachian Spring” by Aaron Copland – a single theme repeated by many voices in the orchestra, it’s powerful when you think about it

4. Songs from Riverdance – get up, get moving, it’s March; there is still lightheartedness to experience

3 “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang – see #4

2. any Jimmy Buffett song but “Attitude of Gratitude” is a good one –

1. “Respect Yourself” by The Staples Singers – almost anything by this group enlightens me about what I need to do

Remember, in these days before the bloom of spring, in the waning winter days darkness has an insatiable hunger. Lightness has a call that’s hard to hear (Indigo Girls, “Closer to Fine).  Listening and reflection create the positive momentum needed for growth.

Reflection is key to my success. Life gives me little time (but 40 minutes on the treadmill may just be enough). Friday night is my deadline (score one for being early to meet it!).

Keep listening…

“Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable/ And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear”. Those lines from the Indigo Girls spoke to me this morning. It wraps up what I’ve been feeling for a couple of months now. To keep up the advancement of ideas, momentum and progress in school we need to listen carefully for the lightness calling us. The fear, anxiety, stress and cabin fever of February can wear on us. Here are a few ideas to keep you moving forward:

1. Finish strong. I always think of my gymnastics teacher, Mr. H. I really wasn’t good at gymnastics; I wasn’t flexible enough for handsprings, back bends or swinging my less-than-lithe 12 year old body around the uneven parallel bars. I did learn a lesson. Start strong, finish strong. He was a stickler for that. You could do the best floor routine but if you didn’t do the start and finish he made you do it over. Several times over the past month I noticed the importance of finishing strong. This mid year period is the beginning of the end. Even in the beginning we need to set ourselves up to finish strong. 

2. Don’t be afraid to get yourself worked over

About a week ago I had a deep tissue massage. As I was laying on the table, I realized the massage therapist was going to give me a good working over. I haven’t been taking care of myself lately. Too much stress, not enough exercise, hunched over my keyboard writing emails late into the night, I wasn’t being kind to my body. And throughout the uncomfortable points of working through the knots in my muscle I realized I was getting some feedback. And it hurt. Alot. The next morning I woke up and felt like I was run over by a truck. I drank water. I stretched. I gave myself a break from the emails. By the third day I felt better. Feedback is tough and can really hurt, especially when you’ve been neglecting something. But feel the pain. Take care of yourself and you will make it through. 

3. Reach out

Schools are stressful places. Once a consultant came to our school and said the teaching professional was the second most stressful profession, right behind air traffic controllers. I don’t know if that’s true but it’s this time of year when the crush of 5 day weeks, cold air, pressure of tests and curriculum take the toll on everyone. Reach out and help your colleagues and students.

 Don’t let the darkness gobble you up in the waning moments of the school year. Listen for the light.

Reflection is key to my success. Life gives little time for this. Friday night is my deadline.

Friday night deadline – Introduction

I used to compose a weekly humor email for my colleagues at work. It functioned as a simple reminder that we had almost made it to Friday and that the potluck . You could take a breath and slow down a bit and know the chunk of time to decompress, reflect, catch up on work, plan for the next week was almost here.

The email announced the impending arrival of Friday, the fact that caffeine, conversation and carbs (and the occasional quiche) would be available 7:27ish to 7:55 in the faculty lounge. The beauty of this weekly exercise was in finding the theme that would speak to the masses while cleverly (hopefully) capturing the week’s events AND the email had to go out before lunch on a Thursday. That deadline inspired a daily habit of looking at the moments of life, trying to fit them into a bigger, happier, funnier picture that would inspire my colleagues to finish the week strong and to know we are all in it together. It taught me the value of google – but that’s a whole other post. It provided some challenges on the healthy eating front. It always gave me a sense that people can band together to enlighten, to inform and to empower each other through sharing (food, a bit of encouragement, a smile, that nugget of information that will make a difference).

I gave up my weekly emails when I moved into a new position at school. It doesn’t work to be “the man” and to make fun of “the man”. Welcome to iteration #2 of my attempts to reflect and contribute to the general sense that we are all in this together. Being mindful of those patterns and themes and the moments of joy is the basis for my life and work.

Reflection is key for my success. Life gives me little time. Friday night is my deadline.