2023_BlogPrompt #38 – Roles

There are stories we tell ourselves about who we are. This blog post will reflect on the roles we take upon ourselves… and those we are given. What are some of the roles you fill? What is a role you have rejected? If you take up the challenge and want to share, please add a pingback to this prompt.

Photo by Jacky Zhao on Unsplash 

From the moment we are born, we begin to accept the roles people hand to us. Son, daughter, sister, brother… these are some of the early roles that are part of who we become in life. And they work their way into the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. Throughout our lives, we create these “roles” for the people we come in contact with: he is a nerd; she is a jock. When we are young—especially when we are in school and still living with our parents—these roles are reinforced daily, and we naturally accept them and come to believe they define us. We settle into these roles and all their limits as if we don’t have a choice.

Eventually, the roles we are given may become tight and constricting as we strain to grow to our full potential. Maybe we have discovered something new about ourselves that doesn’t quite fit with one of the roles we carry. Or maybe we want to strike out in a new direction, defying the limits of our role.

There are, of course, always choices. We can stay within the confines and comfort of the roles we’ve always lived; we can remain small and compact. Or we can expand our limits and our roles by trying new things and adding those to who we are. Adding allows us to become more than our original role but avoids the certain risk undertaken in fully breaking out of a role. And breaking out is the third option. We can reject our former roles entirely when they start to cramp our style. I imagine the Incredible Hulk growing beyond the capacity of his shirt, and it rips to shreds as his body morphs into a mass of green muscles. That is how you break out of your role, my friends! You make it memorable.

And so this is what I’m working towards. What and who I am matters to me and only to me. If I am not fitting into what others have come to believe I am, they will adjust and adapt. Over my lifetime, I have seen this happen time and time again. Those around me adapt to the changes and the growth that I undertake, just as I adapt to their growth. If they can’t (or won’t) adapt, they will find someone else who fills the role they once needed me to fill.

Those who keep you small are only filling their own needs, and they need to move on. Those who truly love you will welcome your changes. They will encourage your growth.

So if you are ready to change your roles, to move on, I encourage you to break out! Make it both memorable and worthwhile!


2023_BlogPrompt #37 – Breathe

Breath is something we often take for granted. If we don’t breathe, we don’t survive. But sometimes, our breath can become tight or labored or uncomfortable simply from our reaction to the stresses of life. So today, I am focusing on breath and breathing. Feel free to share your thoughts. If you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.

In my current position, I have learned that I sigh a lot. Students who are studying quietly in the vicinity of my office will tell me that I am sighing. From my inside vantage point, I’m not sure if I am sighing or just remembering to breathe and center. It often happens when I am focused on a project, and I finish up one part or section and move on to the next. I exhale. Apparently loudly.

Life is crazy sometimes, and we need to breathe. Crazy can be a good thing, but sometimes crazy can be felt as way too heavy, busy, chaotic. Crazy can bring undue stress that pulls us up all tight in our core. When I’m feeling stressed, I take a deep, intentional breath. A cleansing breath.

But I don’t just breathe intentionally when I am working. I do so when I am walking or thinking or cleaning. When I am scrolling through social media, and I am stopped by comments that seem out of line, unnecessary, or jarring, I remind myself to breathe, and I keep scrolling. Or I put the phone away.

When I am working on a task that is frustrating and everything I do seems to go wrong, I pause and take a deep breath. I ask myself if I need a break to help me rethink my approach. Sometimes that brief pause is enough, but sometimes, I step away for a few minutes (or a few days) until I can come at the task with more patience and a better mindset.

Breathing is a way to remain centered. It’s a way to remind ourselves that we are human and sometimes need to step away. And it’s a reminder that without breath, there is no life.

Remember to breathe. Practice taking in deep, cleansing breaths. Make it intentional.

Breathe out the chaos and stress as you breathe in healing oxygen.

Breathe out the tension and frustration; breathe in the rest and the peace.

Breathe out impatience and breathe in grace.

Breathe a momentary pause in your day.

2023_BlogPrompt #35 – Ideas

There are these ideas that torment me. Constantly. Lately, I have been distracted with a big work project and a small surgery, and I have not been paying attention to my ideas. But if I don’t give them some air time, they will disappear. What is your relationship to your ideas? As always, if you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.

Ideas have been dancing a crazy choreography in my head, swirling spinning, but never coming together in a way that shows their interrelatedness. Until last night when they danced the choreography that pulled them together like magnets that have been drawing to each other forever, but finally moved just close enough to attract. And snap together.

Connections are funny like that. We might be connected to someone or something for a very long time but not know it—or notice—until some switch is thrown or some shift in the energy of the universe makes it undeniable. Once we see the connection, we cannot un-see it, and it changes how we move forward.

For me, and I suspect for other creative individuals, ideas are living and breathing in my mind. They are constantly in motion, constantly evolving, becoming bigger and brighter and faster and stronger until they get my attention. But if they don’t get the attention they seek, they slowly dim and puff out, eventually disappearing in search of a more attentive host.  

And so I am writing to capture the moment, to solidify the connection, and to let my ideas know I am still here. Despite the big work project. Despite a hobble in my walk. Despite my lack of attention.

To them.

I’m still here, and despite their fickleness, so are they. Flitting like butterflies. And lighting on the flowers of my mind. Creating connections, if only for a moment.

2023_BlogPrompt #33 – Silence

These days, life is so busy, and silence can be such a powerful tool. Sometimes, I feel that there are forces in society that want us to stay busy and distracted so we don’t take the time to realize we have shifted. We are no longer creating meaning in our lives; we’ve shifted to creating content. Silence is so important to ground ourselves; it’s a space in which we can examine where we are going and where we want to be. How might you use silence? If you take up the challenge and want to share, please add a pingback to this prompt.

My head is full of mush. I am taking a line out of that well know children’s book: “and a head full of mush.” Sure, these are not the exact words, but they are close, right? A head full of mush is a bit more debilitating—and less nourishing, perhaps—than a bowl full of mush.

I have not had [made, maybe] the time to sit in silence recently, so I have not been able to absorb the important lessons that silence can teach. I have been moving non-stop and have not taken the time to slow down. I am under deadline on a project that is nearing completion… at least in its first iteration.

But silence shouldn’t be something we “fit in” when we’re not busy with other things. No… silence should be a daily ritual—one around which we build everything else. And I would say these days, in particular, silence is imperative. The world keeps us so busy we can’t move beyond the surface level. Unless we stop. And listen to Silence.

In silence, we can reflect on what we’ve done and how we might do better.

In silence, we can listen for the pieces that aren’t quite fitting together to determine what’s bothering us.

In silence, we can find, evaluate, and redirect our missteps.

Silence creates greater focus and intention.

Silence pushes us to grow beyond our comfort zone.

Silence teaches us who we are.

I hope you will take some time each day to sit in silence and absorb the messages you find there. It might be uncomfortable at first, especially if you haven’t spent much time in silence. But soon, you will see how sitting in silence can change your life.

2023_BlogPrompt #32 – Grief revisited

Life is full of a wide range of emotions, and grief is among them. Grief is universal—something we all have to deal with. What is your experience with grief? Sometimes writing about it can help us to deal with it. If you take up the challenge and want to share, please add a pingback to this prompt.

Grief stopped by for a visit last night. It’s been just over six years since my dad passed, and still, the grief comes by, new and fresh and raw at times. And even though I think I’m better, I’m over it, grief has a way of letting me know it’s still there.

Last night, I learned of the sudden and unexpected passing of someone I’ve known for years. His children grew up with my children. And as I thought of these children, who are now adults, I was right back to that moment six years ago, on the phone with my sister as she told me of our father’s passing. There was a shock and momentary paralysis as my mind floundered through the conversation. I searched for the quickest escape route from what was a normal environment in a very abnormal moment. I remembered the drive home, and the tears that stayed with me for months, ready to fall at the slightest atmospheric shift.

I thought about how difficult it is to lose a parent unexpectedly and how that pain never truly leaves your body. I thought of the days and weeks of numbness that I pushed through, acting like I was fine and life was normal until my reality slowly morphed into a new normal. A normal that is no longer shrouded in constant grief, but grief still visits now and again.  

Since that time, I’ve come to realize that grief only comes from love. Without love, there would be no grief. And given the choice between a life without love or a life in which I have to face grief because I have loved, I would choose the latter any day.

2023_BlogPrompt #30 – Hyperbole

Somedays, I tend to use a bit of hyperbole. Today was one of those days. Do you ever use hyperbole in your speech or interactions with others? As always, if you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.

It’s been a long week. What I mean is, it’s been a crazy long week here on the ground in New England. In a meeting this morning, I told someone I thought I might go home and sleep for three weeks. He said he felt that was a very long time to sleep, but I’m not sure that’s hyperbole. I am exhausted and if today weren’t Friday, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t make it to Friday.

This week, we became fully entrenched in the double-digits of February, a phenomenon I learned about years ago when I worked in a boarding school. These are dreaded days, especially for those of us in education. Winter is getting old, and spring is still far away. While there’s a bit more daylight, it’s still dark when I get up and dark when I leave work. Cabin fever isn’t as bad as usual this year, especially since we’ve had a couple of spring-ish days.

But students are antsy. They can almost see Spring Break, but not quite. They are still bogged down in the work that comes with midterm time, and they are anxious and emotional. In between meeting with my regular students, I run from one commitment to the next, from this meeting to that like my hair’s on fire. And it was cloudy and rainy all day, at least until this evening when it decided to snow instead. All these things combined have led to exhaustion. Seasonal exhaustion, if there is such a thing, sort of like seasonal allergies.

When I finally get to bed tonight, perhaps I’ll sleep for three weeks, or perhaps I’ll only sleep until tomorrow. Either way, the double-digits of February have me tightly in their grasp. And I can’t wait until they let go.

2023_#29: Weird Word Wednesday – Doozy

This week’s weird word is doozy. The definition of this word, according to Merriam-Webster, is “an extraordinary one of its kind.” Not what I had intended to write today, but there you go. Got a good weird word? If you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.

My cat

It’s been quite a week, friends. Today was my second—oops! third—day of nearly back-to-back meetings. Imagine my surprise when I was able to leave my office just a tad before 6:00. The sky still held a bit of pink on the horizon as I drove up the highway. I was looking forward to an evening of writing, completing a couple of tasks that needed to be done, and getting to bed early.

But the universe had other plans.

When I arrived home, I fed the cats, but I was missing one—the most food-motivated of my clowder. I set out on a search of the house, afraid of what I might find. I found her in the litter box, apparently stricken with some bladder issue or another. A call to our go-to emergency vet revealed they were at capacity and wouldn’t be able to see her until maybe 11:00. Yes, that’s PM. However, they suggested that the new veterinary urgent care (much closer than all the other emergency vets around) might be able to see her, I called.

They make appointments!!

So now, I’m home writing my Weird Word Wednesday post on a day that was definitely a doozy of a day! And I’ve still got to go back to the vet to pick up the cat….

2023_BlogPrompt #28 – Discarded objects

If you’ve ever spent much time examining trash on the side of the road, perhaps you have wondered about the objects that are discarded. We’ve all seen the shoes in the middle of the road, the coffee cups, the cassette tapes—all most likely placed on the top of the car and forgotten. But some things, they are a little harder to explain. Have you ever found an object on the side of the road and wondered about it? As always, if you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.

Photo by Jasmin Egger on Unsplash 

I have spent a fair amount of time navigating the side of the road. I was a runner for many years, and I learned the literal ups and downs of the sides of the road in four or five different states.

But even after all these years and thousands of miles logged, there is something I have yet to figure out. The strangest things end up on the side of the road, and I am deeply curious as tohow they end up there.

Last Friday, for example, it was crazy cold outside. I was out for my morning walk, and I was on a stretch of road where there are no houses. On the side of the road, I passed a clear plastic egg carton—the food-warehouse super-size container that holds 18 eggs. It was just sitting on the side of the road, as if it fell out of someone’s car. Through the plastic, it was obvious that many of the eggs were broken, and the inside of the container was smeared with frozen yellow yolk.

So I ask you this. How do you lose a carton of eggs on the side of the road with no houses in sight? Are you driving along and have an argument with your passenger and start tossing the just-purchased groceries out the window? Because you would have to actually have a carton of eggs in your car to lose one out the window, and that’s only likely to be the case when you are on the way home from the store. Are you out walking and just happen to be carrying a dozen-and-a-half eggs with you when you slip on the ice and fall? HOW do you lose eggs on the side of the road?? I have a deep curiosity and need to know.

Then again, one day long ago, on this same stretch of road, there was a pair of discarded dress pants. I made up a story about those pants. But the eggs… I’m just baffled.

2023_BlogPrompt #26 – Reading

Reading. One of my favorite activities, and one that has followed me through my life. Perhaps one day I’ll write about my life through the various books I’ve read because it’s a fun and fascinating journey. What is your experience with reading? As always, if you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.

I’m leafing through the pages of an old, outdated textbook, not paying attention to what I’m doing. Words on the page. Page after page. So many words. How many of these words actually matter? How many of these words build meaning and insight? Perception and critical thinking?

When I was a child, my parents read to me nearly every day. Those early moments with books instilled in me a love of reading before I could even read, back before we could get information from anything but books and magazines and newspapers and journals. And an hour a day of television news—30 minutes of local news followed by 30 minutes of national news. If you wanted substance, you had to read—books, encyclopedias, newspapers—often on microfiche. You had to read.

And so I did. I spent hours at the local library, first in the spacious children’s room and then in the little pass-through room that housed the teen books, before they were classified “YA.” It was a small room—an in-between space for those who were no longer children but not quite adults. Then we moved on to the general book stacks which filled a large back area. My younger days were loaded with books.

There are some books I remember vividly—scenes and characters. Things that happened and the way I felt when I was reading. Some were silly, like Pippi Longstocking. Others were deep and sorrowful—Across Five Aprils comes to mind. There were some books that were just okay and some I barely remember.

Then there were the magazines, the articles, the newspapers, the long days spent deep in research for paper after paper as I learned how to distinguish fact from fiction. I learned to parse words, sentences, and paragraphs. I analyzed text for the important elements so I could use these to create impact in my own writing. I learned to take the ideas of others and weave them together with my own to build and support an argument so I could discuss topics more deeply with others.

As I leaf through this old textbook, and I stare at the words, I don’t really have to wonder how many of the words matter. How many of them build meaning and help develop critical thinking. I already know the answer.

The answer is all of them. All the words I’ve ever read—they matter. They taught me how to distinguish the good texts from the bad. They taught me to move beyond the fluff to the depths of the text. They taught me to dig deep, to find meaning, and to persevere.

But the most important thing words taught me? How to make magic. When you pick up a book, study all the black squiggles on the white page, and produce a mind full of colorful images and vivid stories, fascinating characters and music and laughter and a full range of emotions, you realize reading is truly a magical experience.  

2023_BlogPrompt #25 – Adjustment

The word of the day is adjustment. We all have things in our lives or ourselves that need to be adjusted. Or maybe we have had to adjust to something we didn’t anticipate. What adjustments are you making or have you had to make? As always, if you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.

Photo by Laura Ockel on Unsplash

I’m working on an attitude adjustment.

Seriously, sometimes we begin to realize things have gone sideways—in fact, they might have been going that way for a while. It is then that we realize we must focus on re-direction, a process that always starts from within. It has to.

Now, I know I’m not so far off track that major adjustments are needed. No, as I evaluate the issue, I see that some gears have become misaligned. I may be moving sideways, but I am doing so in a forward direction. Therefore, I’m not moving forward as quickly and smoothly as I might be.

So I’ve gathered some tools and rolled up my sleeves. I’ve stepped into the “machine room”—where the workings of my brain can be examined—and I’m digging in. If you’ve ever seen those movies or scenes of movies that take place inside the clock face of a clock tower, this is what I’m faced with. Mechanical pieces that are large and cumbersome. Massive gears constantly (albeit slowly) moving. But in here, I have a chance to walk around and inspect the parts to find those that might need adjustment.

Here, I see some rust has built up on some of the cogs, and I carefully scrape it off, adding a bit of oil for good measure. I make an adjustment to two pieces that don’t seem to be seated quite right, and I straighten out some parts that have bowed and bent a bit from the stressors of everyday life. Then I go through and clean and polish everything, so it looks nearly as good as new. Finishing touches are often the detail that brings clarity and confidence to the process. Not only did I do the work, but the work looks good because of all that I’ve put into it—the sweat, the frustration, the love, and the tears.

One thing I’ve learned, if nothing else, is that the good and the bad, the easy and the hard, the happy and the sad… they are all inextricably intertwined in all tasks that are worth completing. Re-adjustments are not always fun, but sometimes they are necessary.

And the learning that comes through the examination and evaluation process? That will be the key to a more efficient adjustment the next time!