Tag Archives: emotions

Walking in Circles

Did you know that we walk in circles? Without a visual reference to follow, we will walk in circles (“We can’t help walking in circles”), research has proven it. I learned of this fallacy in boy scouts. On the first weekend camping trip our Scout leader instructed us on how to use a compass, but also informed us of the tendency to walk in circles. Especially if we got lost and panic set in. 

One of the reasons we walk in a circle is because of the imperfections in our gait. I personally know that my left foot hits at an outward angle greater than my right foot. Another factor that contributes to us walking in a circle is not having a clear visual cue to follow and adjust to. This was an important factor when I was in boy scouts and we would go hiking in the woods.  Hard to see the sun, and the trees started to look the same, especially when we would be in a dense part of the woods. A compass was an important tool but we also learned how to use the landscape around us to stay on track.

I’ve been thinking about this phenomenon because I’ve noticed we can walk in circles in emotional and mental ways, too. I see it in students, adults, and the culture. Walking around and around, just repeating the same thoughts and emotions. People are in motion, so they feel like they are getting somewhere, but in fact all they are doing is covering the same ground. When nothing changes, panic sets in. Anger and frustration sets in. And then things just get worse, and someone can spend years, decades, covering the same ground, over and over and over.

The most important factor needed to keep from walking in a circle is having a clear visual cue. This allows you to adjust your path. The same holds true for our mental or emotional paths. These markers can be developed in different ways. My family decides on a word each year. I have constructed a vision board before. Or simply writing down a goal on a 3 x 5 card and taping it to a mirror is a cue. It allows you to adjust your path.

The marker has to be visible, though. Too many times we simply state a change we want in our mind, or we know we need to be a better person, yet we just keep that in our hearts. And then we walk in circles because we have no visual cue to help us adjust our steps. 

Without any guidance we all walk in circles. Even if we are walking with someone. Our lives are meant to be traveled across the landscape. That is the beauty of life, the places we go and the scenery of the world around us. Same holds true for our mind and soul, for our emotions and wonderment. But we need a visual cue to keep us on track, whatever that cue may be. So find it, write it down, print it out, set it and start walking toward an incredible life.

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Thank You, Tears For Fears

On March 16 I sat in a meeting on how school was going to be continued in an online environment. Students would be let into the school in waves to get their stuff the next day. Life was changing fast. I returned to my classroom to get things in order. Like many people, I turned to music to help with the situation. I sat down at my desk and turned to the music of Tears for Fears. Honestly, I don’t know why… maybe subconsciously I was thinking of the song “Mad World”, but I started out with their album The Hurting and played through their discography.

That was over a month ago, but I haven’t stopped listening to Tears For Fears. Even this morning on my walk, I listened to the album, Elemental. Now, I have listened to other artists during this time. In fact, I may be listening to more music than I have in a long time. Music has a powerful way of helping us deal with our emotions. During this time, the music from Tears For Fears has been a part of the way I have dealt with this moment in time.

So, as a thank you to them, I thought I would write a blog post sharing a song from each of their albums that I connect to during this time. Grab your headphones, sit back to enjoy some music from Tears For Fears and some writing from me. And Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith if you get the chance to read this: Thank You for the music.

Album: The Hurting

Song: “Change”

Yes, “Mad World” would totally fit our times. But “Change” connects with me because of the idea that there will come a time in life when it is too late. Too late to mend a relationship. Too late to follow a dream. The song has that repeating line though, “You can change.” Just a touch of optimism.

Album: Songs from the Big Chair

Song: “The Working Hour”

The build up of the layers of instruments in the first two minutes of the song just put me in a deep thoughtful mindset. Then comes the lyrics, “These things that I’ve been told / Can rearrange / My world, my doubt / In time, but inside out” address my state of mind right now… honestly, I think it does for all of us.

Album: The Seeds of Love

Song: “Famous Last Words”

The music starts slow. The lyrics set the scene of lovers in the future, just being together, but then at about the 2:20 mark in the middle of the line “And we will carry war no more” the sound explodes, making my heart jump… in desire to have a time to sit with the people I love and have the chance to “Listening to the band that made us cry / We’ll have nothing to lose / We’ll have nothing to gain / Just to stay this real life situation / For one last refrain”.

Album: Elemental

Song: “Break It Down Again”

This song makes me happy, in a sad intellectual way, especially the lines “And all the love and all the love in the world / Won’t stop the rain from falling…” It may seem odd, but I enjoy thoughtful lyrics, even if they make me feel sad. I enjoy analyzing songs, movies, and even though this song isn’t totally about that, it reinforces for me to break it down.

Album: Raoul and the Kings of Spain 

Song: “Sketches of Pain”

This song speaks to my poetic side. How art often reflects our pain, our heartache. Art can bring beauty to our pain. This moment in history is providing me with a different kind of muse. This song reinforces the need to share my writing with you.

Album: Everybody Loves a Happy Ending

Song: “”Closest Thing To Heaven”

Even during these troubling times (which is the setting at the beginning of the song), there are good things in my life. The line, “Make love your destination,” is a powerful motivation to choose love every day. Family and friends, making new recipes, watching Miami Vice, is heaven right now.

Music helps us through tough times. For me, Tears For Fears is the music I need. Thank you, Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith for your music.

Let me know what you are listening to during this pandemic.

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Reading is Cool!

I know what you are thinking… You are a writer, a teacher, of course you think reading is cool. 

But hold on, this post is not just about how reading helps in academics or in writing.

Even though it is true… this post is about how reading is cool.

The first reason reading is cool is because it generates unexpected thoughts. When reading a new book you will come across a line or section that makes you think about something you would not have thought about on your own. A simple line can set you off on deeper paths of thinking. A paragraph can elicit emotions or bring you to a new understanding of yourself or the world. I’ve experienced this lately.

While reading a book of poetry by A.E. Housman I came across the line above. The line challenged me emotionally, so much so I had to make a creative picture quote of it. Poetry hasn’t been the only text to challenge me. Stephen King’s book, The Outsider, has generated a sense of frustration. And that is a good thing. Without giving away the book, the story is a great example of Dramatic Irony, where the reader knows something the characters of the book don’t. By reading I get to understand myself a little better because of this emotion. I get the chance to work through why I am frustrated. Reading gives us opportunities to be challenged, to learn more about ourselves. That is cool, but it is cooler to share that experience.

The second reason reading is cool because it can be a shared experience. There is nothing like handing a person a book to read, then talking about it later. There is a different connection when people read something together because of the emotions and thoughts that they can share. One of the cool things I enjoy as a teacher is reading with students. Even though there are grades involved with studying literature, most times students enjoy the discussions that center around their thoughts and emotions.

The shared experience goes beyond the classroom, I shared in a past post (“The Why”) how a former student had a dad moment that spurred a memory from a book we read in class. The shared experience of reading is timeless. It is like a literary photograph. We can mention a book or poem and the memories flood the conversation.

Reading is important for a number of reasons. But reading is cool! Reading allows us to think of ideas we wouldn’t normally consider. Reading can make us feel emotions. Yet, the coolest part is reading can be a shared experience that connects us through those emotions and thoughts.

Below I share 5 works (in no particular order) you can read to connect with me, then share your thoughts in the comments. I can’t wait to read about what you thought.

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L is for

The L in L.I.F.E. stands for love.

And I mean all aspects of love; romantic, sibling, friendship, and humanity. I have written about the power of love before (Why Love Series), but this post is centered on three ideas that make love a foundation to a great life.

  • First, love is action.
  • Second, love is showing a person that their life matters to you.
  • Finally, love is a choice.

All three work together to create a powerful life. Before I dive into the aspects I just mentioned, I want you to know that I also know that there is a magical aspect to love, an unexplainable power that no blog post can express. There is an emotional aspect of love, a crazy stirring in our hearts when we gaze into the eyes of our partner. Or a joyful pain in our chest when our children hug us. But the power of love is not just in those magical moments. Love is a factor in our lives when we choose to act so that another person knows they matter.

Action is important. Yes, saying that you love someone is important but love is expressed through action. A date night. Playing My Little Pony on the living room floor. Taking a walk. Watching a movie (without a phone). Dancing in the kitchen. All relationships need action to grow. This is the most powerful way you show someone they matter to you; spend time together.

Action isn’t the only way that you can show someone you care about them… how you talk is important, too. How you talk to a person and how you talk about them with other people makes a difference in the relationship. I’m learning that how you talk about a person to others is a factor that builds or destroys a relationship over time. A powerful factor. If you tear down a person to others, if you bring up all their faults, just vent to others, that negativity will filter into your view of that person. You’ll soon find that negativity move into the way you talk in the relationship. That’s not love.

We are not perfect. We all have flaws. We all are works in progress. Our words either build or destroy people. That includes text or social media. The way you speak shows people how much they matter to you. Your words are one example of how we choose to love.

The most important factor is to be honest about how much of love is a choice. You decide to open your heart. You decide to be respectful. You decide if you are going to love someone. There is an emotional aspect to love, but those emotions can be generated by the actions you take. It doesn’t matter what type of love or relationship it is.

Want your relationship with your partner to be more romantic? Do something to generate those emotions, like buy flowers, or dance in the kitchen. Want to have a better relationship with a friend? Do something. Send them a handwritten note or go out for coffee.

It sounds simple because it is. Love is choosing to act in a loving way to the people who matter to you. And that is part of a great life of a great relationships.

Below are a few media recommendations that correlate with this blog post.

Books

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom is a must read for so many different reasons. But at the heart of the book is the idea of how important love is in all relationships.

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman is a great book to consider how the people in your life view actions as a way of understanding love. The book will equip you with ways to express love to people.

Movies

Hoosiers is more than a basketball movie. The movie deals with the idea of forgiveness, family, and why it matters to do the right thing in relationships.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a great movie that highlights the importance of action in life. Now, I don’t endorse missing school, but can’t deny the message about friendship and living life.

Songs

Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw is just a great song!

Tim McGraw on Stage

My photo of Tim on stage singing the song.

Share this post with anyone you feel would enjoy it.

I is for… (you will have to read the next post).

 

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Was it worth it?

Ever have one of those days?

You know, when you are in a bad mood and you don’t really know why, but you still slam the cupboards or the utensil drawer so that everyone in the house knows you are mad.

Maybe you hit the steering wheel as the crossbars light up for the oncoming train. Maybe you walk down the hall, head down, frowning while people move out of your way.

Was it worth it?

Was making sure everyone knew you were in a bad mood worth it?  Was the time you wasted on negative energy worth it? Did the train pass quicker? Did your family enjoy your attitude at dinner? Did life just magically get better because of your mood?

Was it worth it?

I recently read the book, Life Is Short, Don’t Wait to Dance, by Valorie Kondos Field, the UCLA gymnastics coach. In the book she discuss why choosing a positive, high energy attitude is one of the keys to the team’s success. The book expands on the idea, but the core idea is that we choose our attitudes. And she is right.

For our everyday lives, our attitude is a choice, and we pay a price for those attitudes. We might gain something from it or we might damage something from the attitude we choose. I hate to admit it, but I have lost my cool with my children before, and felt guilty as I watched their eyes turn down and their brow change to the question, “What did I do?”

I have seen athletes miss opportunities because of attitudes. Same for students who bring in a difficult attitude in to class. I’ve wasted time with family and friends because I wanted to brood in my bad attitude. It wasn’t worth it.

Every attitude we choose has a cost for our lives… you decide if the attitude is worth your life.

 

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The Work it Takes

The college is replacing the light poles in their parking lot.

I have written about building a foundation before, in different ways, but as I walked past the hole the workers created, a different thought came to mind.

We can’t actually build a foundation until we have done the work to prepare to build it. For the workers, they had to remove the old foundation, remove dirt, and deal with the wires. Then they had to dig the correct sized hole to build the new foundation.  Let’s use this process as a metaphor for our own development.

What is the work we need to do to create the space for our new foundation?

What dirt do we have to dig into? The first step is dealing with emotions. Fear, doubt, and even anger have to be dug into. Addressing what emotions are involved is an important step. It doesn’t mean you will eliminate them. And you shouldn’t try to remove emotions, but you should address them. Talk about them with someone. Understand how those emotions are affecting your actions. By addressing them you can build your plan, which is the second step.

I believe a working plan is the best. Meaning that we have goals or milestones to reach but we need a plan that is flexible so that we can adjust as our lives change. Even as a father, I have a plan this year to make sure my oldest son is ready for college. There are milestones we want to cover with him so that he has a strong foundation for next year. Some of those include budgeting, servicing his car, and other aspects of being on his own. Having a plan is important because of the last step, dealing with expectations.

As I pondered about writing this post, a deeper insight emerged. Whatever foundation we want to build, we have to dig a bigger hole so that we can build that foundation. That means we have to deal with emotions, plans, and consider more of our lives than just that foundation. We have to dig the right size hole to fit our new foundation. If the hole is too small, we might be able to get a foundation built, but it will not be as strong as we need it to be. If you dig the hole too large, the foundation can be built as planned, but our life is affected. Sinkholes will appear. We will spend more time fixing those, instead of building our foundation.

There are a number of foundations in our lives. As time goes by we build new ones and have to replace old ones. Just remember the work you need to do before you construct a foundation: deal with your emotions, plan how to build, and dig out the correct space to build your foundation.

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First Year, Again

The only time I totally lost my cool with a class was my first year of teaching.  I threatened them all with detention.  I even slammed my hand down on my desk.  That first year of teaching is such an eye opening experience.  All theory seems to evaporate in the controlled chaos of everyday life of school.  That year challenges you, makes you dig deep into your creativity, resolve, and meaning of it all.  Thirteen years later I am experience that again.

Instead of standing in front of a class of new students, a clean marker board behind me, walls decorated with motivational posters and first day jitters; I sit at a desk in front of a HD camera, 50 inch TV and students who are attending schools miles away.  I have taught distance-learning classes for the last nine years, but have always had a room full of my own students.  It is not the system that is challenging; it is the loss of any person-to-person contact.  I am purely a teacher on the TV to them.  All theory seems to have disappeared with that little red light on the front of the TV.

This year has challenged me in ways I wasn’t expecting.  In so many ways I am again a first year teacher.  My creativity is challenged in creating lessons that can bridge the technological divide between the students and me.  I am challenged to work through all the bumps in the road, from technology issues, to student apathy. To be honest, some days I feel like a total failure at this and wonder if I am even doing anything worthwhile for the students and my own life.

My own personal struggles got me thinking about the other aspect of my job, working with teachers on integrating technology into their curriculum.  I have had the privilege of already doing a school wide workshop, presenting at Nebraska Distance Learning Association’s conference and helping ESU 10 colleagues with their workshops.  Through all these events, I realized that sometimes when we talk about getting technology into the classrooms and getting teachers to use technology more, we forget that in a small way we are asking them to go back to being a first year teacher.  Obviously it isn’t as extreme as a true first day of school, but it has some of the same challenges.

We are asking them to stand in front of their class as a new teacher.  That is exciting, but it is scary.  Teachers take pride in their lessons, they teach to see their students grow and learn.  Nothing makes a teacher smile more then when a student’s face lights up with understanding.  Even though we know not to take it personally, it hurts when a student says a lesson is stupid, or walks into the class announcing they hate English (the class I teach).

Technology integration asks teachers to go back to that first year, but now they have tools and lessons that have worked for them.  Lessons that have brought their students to that light bulb moment.  We cannot ignore that we ask them to be a first year teacher.  We need to address their fears… but also tap back into that other feeling which all teachers had that very first day as they stood in front of that class, took a deep breath and thought, “I’m ready to make difference in these students’ lives.”

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