Jan 2, 2021: Resilience


From the professor’s desk:

I’ve been reflecting on the idea of “resilience.” How are we able to get up and keep going, under the most crushing of circumstances? Is it because we have no choice? Or do we have inner strength we’re not aware of, most of the time?

Favorite refrigerator magnet:

I think resilience, the ability to bounce back from adversity, is like a muscle; it develops through exercise – not of the physical variety, but of the psyche. Most of us pay lip service to the idea that there’s no joy without sorrow (no rainbow without the storm), but given the choice, we’d rather not go through the storm, thank you very much. We wouldn’t go there voluntarily.

The most frustrating thing about 2020 – for most of us – was how our choices became so limited. We couldn’t go where we wanted, when we wanted. We couldn’t interact with friends and family in the ways that we longed for. My students and I couldn’t come together in the classroom for a shared learning experience. In the beginning, I strained against these bonds. I was angry and frustrated. I longed to run, and my feet were bolted to the ground.

A funny thing happens when we stop fighting, stop resisting. We realize we can keep going, we can get through all the “nevers” – “I could never spend a holiday without my family, I could never spend weeks indoors without going anywhere, I could never …” We had no choice but to endure the “nevers.” And the strength, the endurance, is found in the silence, in the going within.

We got to know ourselves, and each other, in new ways this past year. It’s been tough, and it’s still going to be tough for a while. But you’re stronger than you knew, stronger than you were, stronger than you ever thought you could be when living in the mindset of “I could never.” You could. You did. And you can do it again if you have to.

This isn’t about trusting others. It’s about trusting your own strength, and its source.



Jan 1, 2021: Resolutions


From the professor’s desk:

I’m not setting resolutions this year. Instead, I’m going with a mantra: “Perfect is the enemy of good.” I’m not referring to religious or spiritual perfection, but PERFECTIONISM, a habit I’ve always struggled with. Over the past month, I’ve reminded myself: Perfect is the enemy of good. Get moving. Do a “good enough” job.

I also believe in new starts, but we can make a new start any time. We tend to look at a new year, a new month, a new week, as a chance to reset: I’ll start eating right on Monday, I’ll start exercising next month. You can begin again, right now. These artificial beginnings can become an excuse.

Favorite Christmas gifts: Clock, coffee mugs, journal for making lists. Blank journals are the best.

Be kind to yourself and others today, this week, this year. Snap out of perfectionism and do a “good enough” job. Then move on to the next thing.

What’s next for me: Class prep. Write syllabi. Set up course sites. Take car in to get windshield replaced (cracked by a rock kicked up by another car). Medical appointments of various types. Writing. Reading for work and for pleasure.

What’s next for you?



Wellness and movement

From the professor’s desk:

In our Intercultural Communication course, we explored the idea that in American (and much of Western) culture, we equate wellness with movement, both literal and figurative.

Sure, physical movement contributes to physical wellness – many of us try to move our bodies every day. But the metaphor of movement works in a number of other contexts, like work and spirituality.

Work-wise, we’ve been conditioned to think of our careers as “healthy” if we can map them on a linear, upward trajectory. We talk about “climbing the ladder” and “hitting the ceiling.” We judge ourselves, and each other, by vertical moves vs. horizontal ones, and often feel defeated if we have to make a lateral move or start over in a new line of work (thus “returning to the bottom”).

Climbing The Corporate Ladder stock photos and royalty-free images, vectors  and illustrations | Adobe Stock

This way of thinking is limiting. It prevents us from considering the personal growth enjoyed over a lifetime of work, regardless of job titles or “advancement” in the conventional sense. Not everyone can (or wants to) be in charge, be the leader, be at the top of the pyramid. But we’re told we’re supposed to aspire to that. I’m reminded of an episode of Ally McBeal where Ally (an attorney) assumes that Elaine (her secretary) must be dissatisfied with her job because it’s less socially prestigious. Elaine tells her, “Newsflash, Ally – I *like* being a secretary.” Elaine enjoys being the helper and organizer, and taking part in the world of the law firm – she doesn’t need to be a lawyer to do it.

I find it disheartening when friends, family, and students feel like they’ve failed if they get laid off, don’t get promoted, or if their career trajectory stalls.

I’ve started over SO many times. I’ve been a restaurant manager, a retail store manager, a banker, and a host of other things, and was in my 40s before I figured out “what I wanted to be when I grew up” (I’m doing it now). That’s ok. We all know people who’ve had definite career aspirations since they were small. That’s ok too. We all arrive by different roads.

Returning to this idea of wellness and movement, we also explore the idea of mental and spiritual health. What does it mean to move forward in those areas? Again, for many of us, it’s a long and winding road. We try to impose order on it, but it’s not always orderly. And it doesn’t have to be.

The bottom line: Life unfolds, and it can surprise you every day. Plans can get derailed in a second. Unexpected opportunities arise. If we want to find happiness along the way, we must sometimes detach from our planned trajectories and see what happens. And trust that we’ll be strong enough to weather it.

Ponder this: There are times when movement means being still.

How do you communicate about wellness of body, mind, and spirit? Are these messages helpful? How might you rethink the idea of total wellness?



Lessons from the debate


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Dear friends,

The first presidential debate might have been a train-wreck in terms of procedure and process – and voters learned virtually nothing about policy – but there are still lessons to be learned from watching this debacle:

  1. True dialogue begins with a commitment to civility, to honoring the humanity of your “opponent.”
  2. As I’m always preaching to my students, listening is an active process. Shut your mouth and open your ears. Engage deeply with what the other person is saying. Process your thoughts before you respond.
  3. Politeness isn’t weakness. It’s a recognition of social norms that we have formed in order to keep emotions in check, and to facilitate a respectful exchange of ideas.
  4. Rules mean nothing if they are not observed and enforced.
  5. Aggression isn’t strength. In fact, it looks a lot like fear.

I’m thinking of my students in the Argumentation & Advocacy class, and how we discussed these things. We started with the idea that argumentation doesn’t mean quarrelling – it means building and presenting a convincing case for what you believe. What we saw on television the other night was quarrelling. It’s unproductive to participate in, and unpleasant to watch. Let’s reflect on the values of listening and hearing, and honoring each other’s humanity.



Christianity and Quarreling Shouldn't Go Hand in Hand – In God's Image