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friendship, giving

Listen Up!

I often talk about active listening skills in professional settings. I often challenge many participants (especially males) in those environments to engage in activities that test their ability to actively listen.

It may not be every male who can’t listen but it is definitely a higher number than women by far. I often think about the why of this…

Listening is the greatest gift you can give to another human. Anyone can give quick advice when somebody has a problem but those who are actively listening can hear your emotion, feel your pain and generally connect with you. Listening takes time. Listening requires one to be patient.

When I think of my own life and frustrations, I think of how my spouse doesn’t listen a lot of time. Doesn’t engage or empathize with anyone who has an issue or struggle. This makes me think back to something my mom taught me at a young age. Never pass judgment on somebody until you have walked a day in their shoes.

In order to be supportive or helpful one has to be willing to set their own feelings to the side, get down on your level, listen and really relate to your issues or struggles. This doesn’t even have to occur face to face!

If you are struggling and you text your life partner, one would hope they could read your words and really listen to your hurt. Unfortunately, I have seen first hand that many close to me are grossly incapable of doing this. 

I think this honestly comes down to their inability to get down on your level. Feel the hurt. It’s a lack of genuineness. Ask yourself, who do your reach out to when you need to talk? Is it your mom? Your best friend? Your sibling? Your spouse? Who?

Then ask yourself who will listen to you when you feel troubled? Is it the same person? Maybe it’s more than one person. The point is you are never going to reach out to the person who lectures you, passes judgment on you, or just brushes you off.

In order to be a better listener you need to give of yourself. You need to put the phone down and listen to the person in front of you. Maybe you need to stop playing a video game to read the words of a loved one.

Today more than ever our words are powerful. In today’s digital world words are a big way of communicating. Sending a note of praise. Sending a text of good will. Even sending an emoji with a smile is positive communication. We are all capable but not everyone does it.
Positive communication opens the door for building trust. One day somebody may need you. They may need you to hear or read their words. They may need you when they are struggling.

If you are not capable of using your active listening skills you may never hear or read those words. It’s unfortunate that many I know struggle in this area. This why I am opting to write this post.

If one person can make a change based on this blog, I feel like I have made an impact. Listen up. Turn on your antennas. Today’s world is hectic and crazy. We are all busy. We are all trapped in a digital world. But we are all capable of listening to words spoken or words written or even emailed / texted if we just slow down, pause and think about what another is saying. 

Remember “tell me more” offers the one person with words hope that somebody is there to listen to them. Offering hope is free.

I know I am making it a point to listen more listen to all around me and I encourage you to do the same. It’s a new year. Why not make it a goal to be a better listener?

Listen up!

perspective

Doctor Doctor

A not-so-well-known fact about me: I’m a doctor. No, not the kind of doctor that prescribes medications or carries a stethoscope. I’m a doctor of the mind – a PhD. Earned in 2012 in Language and Literacy Education from the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!)

Why do I bring this up? Recently I read an op-ed and surrounding arguments about our incoming First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, and whether or not she should own her “Dr.” title. The author raised all kinds of small-minded reasons why she should drop the Dr. title, even calling her “kiddo” at one point, as if her using the title she earned was childish and deserved a patronizing pat on the head. The arguments he made only showed his own shallow thinking and aren’t even worth reviewing here. Still all this made me mad, and also made me reflect on my own title.

I’m not going to bother to defend the work it took to earn my title. Six years, countless courses, teaching, publications, awards, etc. I have an obnoxiously long academic vita that does that. In some ways the PhD is a measure of stubbornness and I earned that through and through. I also won’t argue that all Dr. titles are worth the same. Especially now, when we see even more brightly how health care is heroism, I can’t even begin to equate what I have with what they can do.

What my PhD shows is that I have learned how to think. I have learned how to collect data, analyze it, theorize it, and write about it at length. When I earned that title, I knew that it was one of the few things no one could take away from me. I am one of the two “Drs.” in my building. Maybe it won’t surprise you that a school actually makes a big deal about a doctorate. Yes, my kindergarteners call me Dr. Friese. (Sometimes, with a wink at Southern custom, they call me “Miss Dr. Friese.”) For a while I wondered if the students should use my title or if it really mattered, but now I think it’s good for students to see that thinking is valuable in all areas of life. If they love that kind of advanced-level thinking and intellectual work / play, it can be pursued in countless contexts. Doctoring isn’t just in an office or hospital. We don’t all wear scrubs (and special props to those who do!) The more people see different possibilities, especially kids, the better.

On the flip side, Dr. has its downsides. I can be a total snob about things. I can’t unsee typos on a professional document. I ask too many questions at times, which can lead to the “analysis paralysis,” or being so stuck in overthinking I don’t get anything done. (I’m trying to remedy this with my OLW this year: DO!)

I also know that titles aren’t everything. Several people I know are much smarter than me learning from the school of hard knocks or lessons from in the trenches. I’ll be the first to argue that my classroom smarts doesn’t always help me “in the streets.” I embody the absentminded professor stereotype in many areas of life. Many will make a better living and a happier life taking paths that don’t necessarily lead to titles, certifications, or initials. So a Dr. isn’t everything, but it is something and it was the right challenge for me. Whether it’s initials or just more digits in your bank account, I’ll honor what you have earned.

What bothers me most about how this writer treated Dr. Biden is the tone and the underlying sexism of it all. As if being First Lady should make anything else she does or has done take a back seat. As if prioritizing her work as a highly educated educator is sort of laughable. As if the title conferred by marriage is the one she should favor over the one she earned for thinking, writing, and persisting. How many times have I gotten mail directed to Dr. and Mrs. instead of Mr. and Dr. or even Dr. and Mr.? Why does doctoring default to men? Why should women minimize what they earned when it takes nothing from anyone else? Sometimes I even minimize what I have earned myself, if I let the opinions of others invade my mind and erode my confidence.

When I taught at UGA, my students called me Beth. It was a personal choice and I had my reasons. These days, if someone calls me Mrs. Friese at work, I don’t correct them but my bosses often will if they hear it. Although my interests have taken me elsewhere, all this has revived my thinking about that title, what it means, and what it’s worth. Some might say I don’t use my doctorate, but in many ways I use it daily. I think. I write. I argue. I reason. I plan. I observe. I analyze. Every. Single. Day.

So yes, you may call me doctor. If you don’t, it doesn’t change who I am or what I’ve earned. In the mean time, I won’t waste energy worrying about what you think of me or my title. I’ve got too much to plan and DO to fret over small-minded guys.

challenges

PSA #42

I’m not a doormat.

I don’t appreciate being taken advantage of.

Your lack of planning doesn’t constitute an emergency on my part.

I have a schedule. 

I have feelings.

I have a to do list like most people.

If you ask I’m willing to help anyone.

If you demand I help, see where it gets you.

Are you a giver in life?

Have you felt like a doormat before?

Did you let others know how you felt?

I did.

They didn’t like it.

Will they change?

Who knows. It’s really up to them to look in the mirror and decide for themselves.

Did I change? Yes I did. I’m less trusting. I’m guarded. I’m bitchier. I’m proud of myself.

Today I gave to many. Unfortunately many close to me took advantage of me. My time. My mental energy. My talents. My pride. My joy. My rest. My smile. It was replaced with anger, frustration and grief. Did anyone even notice?

Overnight I have to glue myself back together. Dust off my crown and smile big tomorrow. For I have people relying on me in many facets of my professional life. I do all this over and over again. Sadly the people closest don’t see how their own selfishness impacts me in many ways. 

Part of me thinks they just don’t care. Other parts of me think they just expect me to do, do, do because I always have.

Did I put a sign on me that said I’m a doormat go ahead and wipe your feet? I don’t recall doing something so absurd. Not sure where this happened but it did.

I’m tired of entitlement.

As I ring in 2021. I am hitting the pause button on being nice. I’m shifting to me, me, me. I’m really the only one I can count on.  

I guess I’m thankful for 2020 and all its fuckery so I could clearly see what’s been in front of me for years. With the slowdown of life I just had more time to see it happening. In slow motion. Truly sad but true.

challenges

The 2020 Ta-Da List

2020 was a year that upheaved many goals. Maybe it was the rules changing about where we can go and what we can do. Maybe it was shifting priorities from getting out and going to just hunkering down and staying safe. Maybe it was self-imposed or created limits of mental exhaustion and the like.

Whatever the reason, 2020 pulled the rug out from our runway of dreams. The universe laughed at our plans. Goals had to shift. Travel, work, adventure, all kinds of things had to pivot.

I looked back at my goals and in a conventional sense, I didn’t meet them. I’m not giving myself a pass because life got hard. It is what it is. But, inspired by Gretchen Rubin, I decided to make a little “Ta-Da!” list, which reminds me that despite my 2020 challenges, things still got done.

  • I maintained my fitness regimen, moving my body pretty much daily. Most of the time this meant working out at home or in the gym, but I also started hiking more often and put many miles on my bike.
  • I took a more active role in my personal finances, learning how to move money around and make it work.
  • I partnered with trusted friends to purchase the property for 3Splitz Farm. We navigated the first stages of planning and implementing the vision for our rustic paradise.
  • I started a new business of my own.
  • I established a 501(c) and led that organization through a successful first year.
  • I bought a new car.
  • I read lots of books.
  • I parented my kids through a trying and confusing time in their lives.
  • I maintained several of my health priorities: eat well, drink well, connect.
  • I lifted up my friends and loved ones to lighten their mental loads.

2020 wasn’t what I expected, and 2021 won’t be either. Some of these accomplishments weren’t on my radar at all this time last year. This has all informed how I am thinking of my goals this year. Leave a little more room to move, to play, to grow.

I had to stop myself from writing the “shadow truths” about each of these goals. For most of these bullet points, there is something I could have written as a “but…” But ta-da lists shouldn’t come with qualifications. These are what they are, and many are a start. Several appear in my goals for 2021, to enhance, improve, and expand.

What’s on your ta-da list for 2020?

fitness and nutrition

And Just Like That…

I was sucked in. Sucked in to the leaderboard. The invitation. The competition. The unknown. The opportunity itself.

What could I possibly be talking about? I made it to the national leader board for the Masters of the Masters competition. The #2 spot. Who me? Yes you! Boom. The invite hit my mailbox just before the holiday hustle and bustle went into full swing. Should I travel to compete? Should I just be happy with where I made it to? So many questions.

I was on the fence for days. Should I? Should I not? At the end of the day, I took the plunge. I went for it. I signed up for round two of competing and the training. This time in the grand state of Texas. A plane ride away. A different dynamic for round 2. 

An unknown location and facility. A new state which requires a day of travel. Sleeping in a bed aside from mine can impact my preparedness. No community cheering me on. So many variables.

I thrive under pressure. I live for new experiences. I meet new people all the time. I learn and grow when I’m out of my comfort zone. For all these reasons I said yes. Yes to the comp! Now I need to prepare for the unknown. 

I need to dial into my nutrition and commit to working hard the next several weeks. I can do it. I will do it. No matter where I end up on the final leaderboard I can say I took a big step in just showing up.

I’m not fearing the competition movements or my competitors.

I’m not giving into self doubt. I know I can do my best and be okay with the results. Showing up is half the battle.

I don’t know how to quit. That means I will push through even the hard stuff.

At my age, I’m lucky I can move to the extent I do. I’m even more happy to say I’m a competitor. I don’t worry about others judging me because if it was easy everyone would do it. Even if you are not built to compete. You can get moving.

I hope this post inspires someone to start moving to a fitter self. The first step is the hardest, but anyone can move. Look for updates next month on my big adventure.