Don’t You Roll Your Eyes at Me!

Pokémon Go!

Of course I play Pokémon Go. My kids play. I want to be the cool mom. Easy equation. I knew that even if it turned out I hated the game, if they included me in anything they were doing, that I would at least enjoy the time and conversations with them about their new interest. Thus, I’ve tried a good many types of kid stuff.

The surprise is that I’m having a ball. I love this silly little time-wasting game. It means nothing, profits me nothing, doesn’t sharpen my brain or even my hand-eye coordination. I don’t care. It makes me happy.

Too many adults get caught up in the trap of “not wanting to look silly,” or tending only to the “important stuff.” That’s how we lose our flexibility, our mental genius, our creativity. And our happiness.

Ironic, since we all claim we want to be younger. Silliness is a defining characteristic of young. The ability to play, and enjoy, and be free from all those grown up constraints for a while. Nothing makes you look younger as much as thinking younger.

Playing keeps your heart young. No, not the watch-your-cholesterol heart. I mean the inner you, your soul, whatever you believe keeps you alive and youthful.

So the next time you see children or teens playing, don’t just dismiss them. Join in. Expand your imagination. Give your brain and yourself a much needed break from the heavy stuff. It will invigorate you and lift your spirits like you can’t imagine. Not to mention how awesome it feels to be the cool mom or dad.

New Words, New Ideas

I love language. I love to read it, write it, study it, analyze it, and I love to watch it change and grow.

Recently there’s been a mini-explosion of nouns made into verbs. Things like peopling and adulting. As in, “I just can’t adult today,” instead of the stodgier, “I can’t be an adult today.” This turn of phrase takes the boring to be verb right out of the sentence and places the emphasis on what really is being done. One isn’t just being, one is actively doing. It makes it seem much more dynamic, and therefore possibly more difficult. Instead of merely being with people, peopling acknowledges that people, and having to interact with people, takes energy, must be done, isn’t just something one floats through. Even more so for adulting. Adulting is more than just a state of being. I’m not just “being an adult.” I’m actively doing things that make me an adult.

I enjoy the changing of the language; however, only when the addition or change adds to the usefulness or beauty of the language. For instance, I’m going to mourn the passing of the word whom. It served a real purpose. It gave you another clue about what was going on in the sentence. And in real life. Who acted upon whom. Givers and receivers clearly labeled. But I’m adjusting, slowly. I know, but honestly, I’m still feeling a little sad about the passing of thee and thou. I hate to lose words.

I’m even fine with the use of third person plural (they) as third person singular (he or she) when you don’t know whether you mean he or she. It was already the correct thing to say for a mixed group. (Anyone else have 9th grade English flashbacks just then?) I see the usefulness in this world of making our language less sexist. I just wish we’d come up with a whole new word (like vee, and ver maybe), so we’d still know if we were talking about a group or just one person. And I object to using they or their when a sex is obvious. “They took their children,” is fine. I don’t know how many people were involved, whether they were men, women, or a mix, but I could ask. However, please go ahead and say, “The mother took her child,” when you know the mother is female. Not “the mother took their child,” unless you sincerely are not sure the mother is female. Just because we need sexist-free language doesn’t mean that our world has suddenly become genderless.

While I love contractions and shortenings and abbreviations and acronyms and generally making things easier to say, I am not crazy about things like “R U J.” It was useful for a while, when texting was an odious chore on just a number keypad. Now, with smartphones that have virtual keyboards and predictive text, we can go back to writing like adults.

Many of our words were shamelessly stolen from other languages. Words like sushi, or hors d’oeuvre or feng shui name new things or ideas that enrich our language and our minds. Many, like adulting or scuba or laser, are made up or began as acronyms.

Because English is willing to absorb and create, it is a rich and colorful, flexible language—packed full of words and phrases with nearly the same meaning, but slightly different connotations. It allows us to be very descriptive and specific as well as very comprehensive. Our language is multicultural and inclusive.

The lesson is obvious. If we as a society could just learn from the history of our language changes, if we could learn to accept people the way we accept their words, we could enhance the progress of our society and culture.

What About Them?

Time to introduce you to another of my favorite poets, Dvorah Simon. This poem is from her exquisite book of poems, Mercy. Everyone should own it. As well as a poet, Dvorah Simon is a psychologist and runs the poetry writing workshop, “Words Rise Up From Silence.” And she can be found here:

What About Them?

by Dvorah Simon

Noticing an audience,
I turn to Him.

“What about them?” I ask, gesturing.
“They seem … eager, or something.”

I am not sure what I am supposed to do.
These whispers and rants

were the very definition of private,
my insidest insides.

He roars and I step back, unthinking,
as if there is a “forward” or a “back,” here.

He’s almost choking like a hacking cough.
Dawningly, I realize it’s laughter.

This goes on for a while, long enough
for my own breathing to settle down.

Finally he finishes in a little happy wheeze.

“Did you think you could speak my Name,”
He says, “and no one would hear?”

What Makes Us Great?

Genius, talent, luck. What do those mean? Are they important? Can they be acquired, or are you born with them?

“You’re so talented. It’s easy for you.” Is this a compliment? Or have you just made someone’s ability mean nothing? Have you just demoted an accomplishment down to meaninglessness because of some magic called talent? Did you just tell that person that you know they didn’t really do this great art or music—that it’s just an accident of the universe and they happened to be standing in the lucky line when gifts were handed out?

All of us admire the gifted, the talented, the brilliant. And yet, some tiny little piece of our hearts will always be just a teensy bit jealous, too. We wanted to do that, or something like it. Why didn’t/couldn’t we accomplish something like what that artist over there did? It couldn’t possibly be that the artist put in hours and long hours of practice or struggle to reach their height of ability. Could it be that the talented artist had the maturity and level of introspection to say, “I can do this better,” while the most of us stop at, “Well, I could never do that”? It’s easier to just pretend talent is some magical gift that falls out of the sky on someone’s head.

Though largely discredited as taking an idea too far, Malcolm Gladwell popularized the theory that talent was built. That 10,000 hours (his magic number) would make anyone a genius. Yet we see plenty examples of that not happening. A person practices years and years, every day on the piano, and indeed becomes perfect—as far as technique is concerned. However, listening to that person doesn’t move you, any more than listening to a machine play the piano would. That person didn’t love what she was doing. She was just working. She got what she put into it. Technical skill.

What does that talented person, that Yo Yo Ma or Albert Einstein, have that mere mortals don’t? That takes an act and makes it art?

Love. And stubbornness. And the ability to honestly examine themselves and to not be afraid.

People who become the greatest at something become that way because they have found something in themselves that they love, and love so much that they are willing to put in all the effort and denial and struggle that it takes to achieve that something. Talent is hard work and sometimes sacrifice. It’s scary, and people are afraid. It’s much easier to say, “Oh I could never do that,” than to be driven to struggle until yes, in fact, you can do that.

Artists who achieve greatness all feel driven by their creative spirit. They don’t think what they’re doing is easy. It’s not. Talent takes that interest or aptitude of a child and pushes him to learn, and create and refine. In the end, the genius (artist, etc.) makes it look easy. But you are only seeing the fine, finished effort.

Michelangelo, the greatest sculptor of all time discovered his love for working with stone at a mere 6 years old. Luckily for the world, he had people and opportunities around him that allowed him to fully explore and practice that love, and a teacher that told him, “Talent is cheap; Dedication is costly,” thus setting him on the road to practicing and commitment. Still, it took 24 years of dedicated learning and apprenticeship to be ready to create his David. What are you willing to put 24 years into? That’s your talent.

I believe we all have some talents or another. It might be painting, or mathematical theory, or baking bread. It’s up to each of us to find that “gift” and to make it a reality.

Talent is not magic, and just because someone makes his or her endeavor look easy doesn’t mean it is.




Hold On to the Light

I went in a cave today. Those of you who know me are sitting there in either dismay or disbelief. I know. Me too. I am not a caver. In fact, caves pretty much embody all the things I hate most: cold, dark, wet, and muddy and feeling trapped. And ticks, which weren’t actually in the cave but you have to hike through to get to a cave. Somehow it just seemed really important to my husband that I get to see in real life some of the things he takes those gorgeous photos of.

Mark (the aforementioned husband) organized a hike, picnic, cave, hike and then reward ourselves with a nice restaurant kind of day. He made it sound even better by inviting all our (grown) kids along. The whole family decided it was a fab idea. The husband and the younger “child” and I met my older son and daughter-in-law near the cave. We took our sub sandwiches and drinks on a hike (longer and steeper than advertised, of course) to the cave entrance where we spread out our picnic blanket (an old shower curtain) and enjoyed the spot. That part I knew I was going to enjoy.

Then, cave time. As a compromise to my claustrophobia and general skepticism, we only went in the “twilight zone,” which is what cavers call the first part of the cave when you can still look back and see the daylight at the entrance. Even if that daylight is just barely bigger than the full moon and you had to stand close to one wall and squint to see it. But I could see it, and knew that in a disaster I could make my way back to the entrance. It kept me from being claustrophobic. Or at least not full on panic claustrophobic. Helmet lights helped it not be so dark, it wasn’t a particularly muddy cave, and there was nothing to do about the hike through the stream but grin and bear it. There really were pretties, not too very far in. Things I’d only seen in photos before. It was cool to get to touch them. Flowstone, rimstone, straws, and bright little gold flecks on the ceiling plus a small fossil or two for a bonus.

Of course, I have two new bruises and another gash on my right ankle. I took a tumble into the water before we even really got into the darkness. I was back up pretty quickly with only one side wet and I already knew my pants were going to be wet most of the way up from the wading anyway. Mark had said the water was only knee deep. Yeah, right. Some giant’s knee. However, he was very solicitous (almost overly worried in fact) and helped me not to fall anymore and gave me a dry jacket to wear. That water was cold! Frigid, icy, shocking, nearly heart-stopping cold.

However, all in all, it was worth it. Not so much to see the formations (though they were quite lovely) but for how happy it made Mark and how it made him appreciate me more.

Sherron In a cave

See that little bit of light in the back?

I could just stand it because I could still see that small little opening behind us with the sun streaming through. Sort of like a metaphor for life. As bad as it gets, if you know there is an end in sight, or a backup failsafe, you can bear it. Maybe not for very long, and maybe not with the aplomb we would like, but living through it. (Bruises, gashes, and all.)

If I can, you can too.