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Nobody’s Watching You

A therapist friend recently asked me for advice.  (No this isn’t the opening remark at the American Psychiatric Association convention.)  She was feeling remiss about starting, and not keeping up with, a blog.  What with her practice and her actual life, her energies didn’t seem to be directed into blogging.  I actively listened (until she took a long breath, I’m only human after all) and asked her “why do you want a blog?”  “I guess I don’t, I just thought I should” she replied.  I assured her that no one is watching.

Doing things that have no (positive or negative) impact on anyone else because you feel you should is exhausting.  Time and energy is in fact finite, and to habitually spend any of it on activities that simply don’t resonate for us seems rather self-sabotaging.

Of course I don’t mean to suggest the key to a self-actualized life is to only do what one wants.  Not at all.  There will always be things we must do (i.e., teeth cleanings, insurance wranglings, tax filings, etc.)  There will always be things we do because doing so means something to someone we love.  We will attend partner’s high school reunions (and duck out frequently to text friends back home) we will be by the bedside of a sick and frightened loved one, we will babysit a “I have a permanent marker and I’m not afraid to use it” toddler so his mother can get her hair cut.  Relationships by definition are two-way streets, and no doubt people similarly treat us with generosity.

There is a difference between engaging in the world and with our loved ones and reacting to trends or external pressure.  The tricky part is that the only way to detect what actions resonate for us personally is to listen very closely.  There are some people who love nothing more than staying up until midnight making 60 homemade cupcakes frosted with each classmates’ initials.  These people no doubt love the sense of creativity and accomplishment that comes from such an activity.  But the person next door might be doing the same thing because he/she thinks it is expected.

By whom this activity is expected is an interesting question of course.  No one is watching.  Do we project an exacting parent’s expectations onto strangers?  Maybe.  Do we really think that the world cares that much about what we do or don’t do?  Maybe.  Do we look at the world in a very critical manner ourselves and therefore assume everyone else does as well.  Perhaps.

Not much good can come from living one’s life as if on stage.  Humanity is far too wrapped up in their own lives than to sit and watch ours.  If you find yourself dragging your feet or having a gastrointestinal disturbance when faced with an activity; take a moment.  Are you going to book club or yoga because you love the experience, or because you feel ‘this is what I should do?”  There are enough built-in “should do”s in grown-up life.  Read whatever book you want.  Find a physical activity that makes your heart soar (literally) and blog only if all the words in your head desperately need to get out.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Well-Being

 

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Reading, Writing, Rigoletto

There is enough bad news (or at least, not such good news) about the state of education to go around.  When a story comes out, no matter how small, I feel like a Who shouting loudly, for one and for all.  Imagine my joy as I woke to discover, that teaching of arts has edged out Red Rover.

According to a piece today by Kyle Spencer there are city schools offering arts “electives” during traditional recess periods.  Music, art, dance and theatre are being taught in elementary schools.  Adult volunteers are creating mini-book clubs.  Yes, it is only a handful of schools (for now,) but it is so very encouraging, no?  Before anyone gets all “what about their unstructured playtime of recess” on me.  One need only consider the climate of primary education, to realize there is not a whole lot of unstructured activity being encouraged.  I don’t think (and I could be wrong) there is a lot of creative organic play happening in the school yard during recess.  I think what’s happening are the same dull or painful games of my youth (including standing around in clusters determining whom to ostracize.)

Having children exposed to music is invaluable.  Even if one doesn’t see a value in culture, there is no denying the mathematical component of music education.  The same cross-disciplinary benefits can be had in visual arts (science) dance (biology) and theatre (history, English.)  I would argue that we can no more afford to raise a generation without math, science and language skills than we can, without a cultural education.  Future doctors, business people, public servants and parents, need more than test scores.  They need to understand the world in which they live and those that lived before them.  There is no better vehicle than the arts to make all of that come alive for a child.

I grew up during a glorious time of robust educational resources and an engaged artistically oriented community.  It is because of that great fortune, that I champion the same for children today.  My 5th grade play was The H.M.S. Pinafore.  Are any schools still performing Gilbert & Sullivan?  Do children even “get” the Simpons’ Pirates of Penzance references?  Are any schools still mounting any production that doesn’t involve head microphones, hair extensions and copious amounts of make-up?

Art is substantive.  If we want a generation of people who can discern between quality and clever marketing, we need to expose them to the real thing.  There is nothing wrong with fluff, but it is the peanut butter beneath it where the nourishment lies.  Ideally the arts should be integrated into the curriculum, and not seen as an “elective.”  Until that time however, I will shout from the rooftops with glee that children are learning embroidery!

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2011 in Childhood, Education

 

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