challenges, dare to be different

Don’t Say Gay

“I am not gay!”

…the cry came from behind the swings. Then the young man came streaking across the playground toward the tall trees. “I am NOT gay! I AM NOT GAY!” Screamed with the terror of trying to outrun the boogie man, a cloud of cooties, a wild black bear and the abominable snowman all at once.

This summer, I am teaching third grade students. They are 9 or 10 years old. This is one interaction I witnessed this week on the playground.

I started the calm walk over to talk with him and the other boys who had been taunting him.

“What is going on?” I asked them. The conversation quietly began. One sheepishly admitted to calling another one gay. The one who used the word hung his head as he fessed up.

I hear over and over again that if we talk about gay families or students in elementary school, we are exposing them to this content way too early. Here’s the thing this playground taunt reminded me: THIS SO-CALLED “MATURE CONTENT” IS ALREADY THERE. It is already in our schools.

Some of our students have same-sex parents. They have siblings who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community, not to mention aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Then there are relationships they see in the media. Some of our elementary students even know they are in one of these groups, even if they don’t have the words for it yet. The vast majority of kids in our schools already know about this through observation and experience, just as they know about heterosexual relationships from a huge variety of sources.

Here’s what I know: if adult professionals in schools avoid talking about this topic at all, it is allowed to run rampant with misconceptions and ignorance. When I told these young men (really, they are boys) that being gay is not an awful thing, it’s just how some people are, their eyes popped and their jaws dropped. I could tell they had not heard that before.

I can’t allow students to run around on playgrounds and call people gay as if that is the worst thing they could be. How would a gay classmate feel, or a classmate with same sex parents?

Is it any wonder the rate of suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts is higher among LGBTQ young people if their identity is used as an insult? And adults just stand by and watch it happen?

I get it…It’s not always easy to talk about for people of many ages. One of my daughter’s friends who came out in the past couple of years saw me at a party recently. She said “Miss Beth, you forgot to wish me a Happy Pride Month!” I hugged her and wished her Happy Pride Month with a smile. I love seeing her come into her own and embrace her truth.

Then I showed her my watch face, which made her eyes light up. I have my Apple Watch set on one of the new Pride faces. It may seem little, but even small signals to young people that they are seen, accepted, and embraced for who they are matter. And I will continue to say it and show it in whatever ways I can.

awareness

I Am

In today’s episode of “words matter…”

Watch how you speak about yourself.

A family member of mine recently had surgery. It was pretty major, requiring him to take a serious step back from his hard-working, able-bodied lifestyle. He went from working 60-80 hours a week in a physically demanding job to passing most of his waking hours sitting on the couch, healing. He went from managing many tasks for multiple businesses and family members to needing help tying his shoes and buttoning his shirt. It would be a long recovery.

A couple of days after the surgery, as he slowly slumped up the stairs to move from couch to bed, I heard him clearly mutter “I am pathetic.”

To which I responded, no…you may not feel well or energetic, but you are not pathetic. You are healing. You are making progress. You are doing the best you can. You are doing what needs to be done.

I hear it in the words of my friends often, too. I am so stupid. Why am I this way? I am such an idiot. I am such a dumbass. Whatever insult you feel you deserve in the moment.

Does this gloss over every mistake? No. But it’s the “I am…” that we have to look out for. Don’t mistake how you’re feeling for who you are. Don’t confuse an error you made with your identity. Watch how you speak to and about yourself. Don’t put that energy out into the universe.

Instead, tell yourself you are strong. You are on the right track. You are figuring it out. If you screwed up, own it and vow to do better. “I am ready to learn and improve.” Whatever you need to say to and about yourself, keep it positive. If you make a mistake, you can remark about the action, not about who you are as a person.

Words matter, use them wisely, even when you’re just talking to and about yourself! Today’s healthy mindset hack. Watch your language!

challenges

Wordle Sucks

I love a good word search. I love a clever word. I enjoyed Wheel of Fortune when I was a kid. I even like Scrabble. I generally like words, but my word depth is average at best. Now my writing partner is more of a word wizard. The one who knows all the words and their meaning in the English language. Me not so much.

About 15 days ago my word wisdom was tangled with my writings not with games.

Enter the stupid game of Wordle that I now play daily because I’m a bit neurotic. Yes, my oldest man child tossed me to the wolves on day one with the introduction. Didn’t really go over the rules but I muddled through it. I felt like I was playing Wheel of Fortune minus the fortune. He said he does it first thing in the morning to stimulate his mind. Okay, I said I will give that a try. I think he tricked me.

Those who know me, understand how much I dislike phone games. However, this was a way to stimulate my mind and enhance my word library possibly or that was how he pitched it. I fell for it. Well, I don’t have time to stare at a screen and get angry especially at the beginning of each day. This is mainly why I don’t turn on the news. 

Wordle has sucked me in and if I forget to Wordle I get that text reminder from 1 of 3 pals. It’s either a success or failure text. That sparks my curiosity. I have to try. Then when I complain about them contributing to my delinquency I get this.

Gal pal text:

It’s not a waste. You’re using brain power.

My reply:

I will add your commentary to my blog post. Input sarcasm.

The smarty pants friend chimes in:

I tell my students if they spend their days only doing things that are easy they aren’t growing much. Productive struggle is worth it.

Me:

Begins to pout silently.

Here I am about 15 days later scratching my head at why do I torture myself on the daily. Today was the same five letters and I had the last three. Sitting at the kitchen table on a rainy day. I actually went old school and took out my paper to eliminate options and I couldn’t see it. I knew it was obvious but just could get it. I had to put it aside and circle back.

I asked a family member if they could see the word and they said yes. Boy did that irritate me. Don’t give me any hints. I stewed and stewed. Giant. Grant. Plant. None of which would be correct. R wasn’t in the word bank. L wasn’t in the word bank. I wasn’t available. Stupid game. Stupid me. Why oh why do I continue.

Chant was the word. As annoying as it was, it was done. Now I will rise again tomorrow to start again. The madness. The annoyance. The challenge. The awaking. The brilliance. I am sure I will chant over and over how stupid this game is. 

Do you Wordle? Do you get frustrated? Who put you on the Wordle path? If you are not on it, I hope this post triggers you to try it. May you become as addicted to Wordle as me. I mean there could be worst things to be addicted to, right?

Wordle now makes me think of words differently. It’s also funny how Wordle makes it’s way into my writings. I guess we will categorize this as current events, the word edition since Wordle is all the hype at the moment.

challenges, perspective

A Life Cut Short

Recently, someone in my daughter’s close friend group experienced a great loss. A tragic accident. A death, completely unexpected. Not his fault. A shock out of the blue.

I had met this young man a couple of times. I have photos of him, since he was in the group for my daughter’s high school dances. I had been introduced to him once. Still, such a sudden loss makes every parent in the community shudder.

My kids laugh at them when I tell them to be safe. Don’t drink (and if you do, don’t drive). Don’t do drugs. Stay alert. Make good choices. Check in when you get there. Leave early. Slow down. Assume everyone else is drunk or not paying attention. This young man probably followed every single one of these rules and still, he is gone.

In most cases, you may not know the last words you’ll say to a person. A loved one. A friend. Every time they leave you, every time you hang up, every time you text it could be the last time. Stop and think of the people who mean the most to you. How have you left it with them? Yes, right now. Today. Sure, saying “I love you” to a friend all the time may seem foolish. Maybe you just aren’t that way. But how can you leave things so that you’d be content with those being your last words with them? Think about it. Do they know how you feel? Do they know what they mean to you?

Memento Mori. One of the tenets of stoicism. Remember your death. To some this might seem morbid. Too heavy. Honestly, it is useful for me. It means pay attention to what matters. Keep your shit in order. Don’t drown in the trifling details. Don’t waste time on petty arguments or people who are just not meant for you. Invest in what is meaningful. All you have is now. Don’t waste it.

I watched the beautiful slide show for this 20 year old young man. I saw his smiles. His family vacations. Trips to the university his family loved. The dinners with friends. The light in his eyes when he looked at my daughter’s friend. I wept for him and what everyone who loved him lost. All the dreams that would go unfulfilled. The awful anniversaries that would come over and over and over again. I wept for the life cut short.

Do the important things now. Make a list. Start checking it off. Do them with the people who matter to you. Time is ticking and we don’t get it back. Not fun to think about. But let that motivate you to embrace life NOW. Not next year. Not when you have more time. NOW. Live big. Love well. Embrace life.

Now.

challenges

My OLW for 2022

It’s a new year. I haven’t felt especially inspired to write down goals and priorities this year, except one. This priority has become my OLW (One Little Word) for 2022: Rest. (You can read about some of my previous OLW choices here and here.)

I’ve been thinking about rest (and my issues with it) for months now. I have midlife sleeplessness that I need to work on to improve my wellness. I’ve been bookmarking strategies to work on that for a while. But there are less obvious ways I have noticed I need rest. For example, I scroll mindlessly through social media too often. This usually just fills up space or extra time or just keeps me occupied. A half hour can easily slip by and I feel like I wasted time. Sometimes I even feel tired afterwards even though it’s a sedentary activity. On the flip side, if I go outside and take a walk for a half hour, I feel so much better. I feel refreshed, renewed, and like I did something for myself. Nature has that effect on me. The same thing happens when I take time to do something creative.

Here’s what it boils down to: I’m not just physically tired, I’m often mentally / emotionally / spiritually tired. So this year’s rest isn’t just a focus on more or better sleep. It isn’t just napping or zoning out. It’s more about taking intentional and purposeful breaks. And not just distracting myself during those breaks, but trying to savor those pauses as a part of my health and life balance.

I made a list of all the things rest can look like this year. I may add more. For now, I’m just trying to incorporate more into each day and notice when I am doing it (or not).

Here’s just a few from my list of what rest can look like:

-stretching

-reading / writing / reflection / daydreaming

-meditation

-pulling back

-nature

-saying no to commitments that are too much

-play

-focusing on my breath

We will see how I do in my quest for rest!

Did you choose a word, a goal, or something else to guide your new year?