How can I make the most of this renewed generativity?

In his theory of psychosocial development, Erik Erikson describes eight life stages and their associated conflicts. Erikson asserts that the conflict of adulthood is one of generativity vs. stagnation. This makes perfect sense when we experience adulthood as a time of responsibility, or steadiness, as we establish our own families and lives. Since I’ve had children, I’ve been so focused on survival and day to day living that my inner life, my creativity, has totally stagnated.

It would be easy to fall into the trap of feeling too tired to write. But just like with exercise, I realize that im too tired not to do it!

Over the past couple of weeks, since I’ve been attending to the discipline of writing every day, blogging 365 questions, I’ve had a renewal of energy and ideas…Of generativity. I’m enjoying my job, having a great time coming up with new and invigorating lesson ideas. I’m reimagining the rooms in our house, coming up with new ways to use old spaces. I’m full of ideas, and because of that I’m feeling fulfilled. I’ve even caught myself smiling for no reason a couple of times! No doubt this energy will ebb and flow, but in the meantime, I’m feeling affirmed about the benefits of pushing my thinking every day in modest ways–the benefits of questions.

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January 12th: How can we bring out the best in our children…even when they refuse?

There’s a lot of pressure out here in the Midwestern suburbs to have your children in the right activities, and that pressure starts WAY too early. I want to take advantage of the opportunities that we have to enrich the lives of our children, but at the same time, I don’t want to push them. I want them to find activities and hobbies that they love and can enjoy for life. So I’ve hung back. While some of my son’s four year-old peers have taken everything from tennis to swimming to music, we’ve chosen a different angle on enrichment. We go swimming together as a family. We have impromptu jam sessions as a family. And we throw tennis balls around and chase them on the court–you guessed it–as a family.

Unfortunately, it seems like my son might have become a little too comfortable with this set-up.

As social as we are, we’ve always noticed that our little guy hangs back in social situations. Lately, he becomes flat-out paralyzed. At birthday parties, even with his friends, he won’t participate, insisting on sitting on our laps or being held, hiding his face instead.

We decided it was time to build some confidence, so we enrolled him in a local martial arts class–just five sessions, 12 kids his age, four instructors, and right by our house. Pretty non-threatening, right? I didn’t go, but apparently, it was a disaster. The gap between his behavior and the appropriate behavior of all the other kids was, for my husband, a source of great discomfort and concern. I’m not trying to push my kid to be a blue belt by age five here. I just want to see him act like the other kids his age and be part of a group. And that’s not happening.

We spoke with him about his feelings and experience, and he says he will participate next week. So while I might choose to be optimistic (or to dismiss the significance of this experience entirely), I know my son’s patterns. So I’m left with a big question. How can we build up our child? Especially when he has no interest in building up himself? Of all the questions I’ve explored, on this one, I feel furthest from an answer.

Becoming A Fountain Of Ideas

2HelpfulGuys

I’ve been going to the gym for about three years now.
Wait, that’s a half truth

The first two years down my muscle building journey I was inconsistent. I would work out with a strict regimen for three months, then I would fall off track and miss weeks at a time. I repeated that cycle over and over again without seeing the results I really wanted to.

Now that I have been going to the gym consistently for just over a year I have seen results that I never imagined possible. I still have a long way to go, but now I see constant improvement. I can lift more, run more, and my body looks completely different.

Last year I decided that I wanted to become a never ending fountain of ideas. I wanted to have a hundred ideas to overcome any obstacle that came my way.

Heck, I wanted…

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January 11th: What is the value in blogging 365 questions?

The premise behind 365 questions is that I use this blog to reflect on one central question that arises in my life each day for the entire year of 2015. But here’s what I hadn’t counted on: sick days!

I spent a good part of the last couple of days in and out of sleep on the couch, feeling guilty that I couldn’t get the energy together to write. When I had the mental energy to consider it, I asked myself, why am I even doing this? What am I getting out of writing my thoughts like this?

Originally, I decided that if I commit myself to writing a little bit each day, rain or shine, I’ll push my thinking and spur growth in ways that I may not expect. For this reason, I so enjoyed the 2HelpfulGuys post from today on exercising our creativity–if I can figure out how reblog it (who am I kidding–if I can figure out what reblogging is), I will!

Additionally, the reason I chose to write in this format, and not just keep a private journal, is because I find value in the limitations imposed by a potential audience. By blogging my 365 (or so) questions, I’m forcing myself to review my actions and interactions in order to find one central theme, one question, to reflect on daily. Throughout this process, I’m also forcing myself to craft and review and reconsider my thoughts, even when it’s difficult to do so. We don’t always do our best writing when we have to do it. It would be easier to sit around and wait for inspiration, only writing when I knew that my words and ideas were gold. It would be easier to say, “you know, today didn’t teach me very much,” rather than digging for those questions even when they don’t seem so obvious.

But then I remembered a quote that appeared on a plaque given to my by an ex-friend a long time ago. In a move toward reconciliation over–yes–a guy (and one to whom adult me would probably never give the time of day), she came to my graduation party. The plaque she gave me that day said, “You are now becoming what you will be.” Looking back, I realize two things: first, it might have been a word of warning, considering that in those days I was becoming a boyfriend-stealing beyotch with a perpetual hangover. But years later, I realize something else. That quote missed the mark a little bit. It should have been, “you are now being what you were.” Okay, I’ll admit that those words had more of a ring to them through the haze of fever! But the spirit behind it is that it’s what we do NOW, today, that is our legacy. What do I want to have been, someone who was always GONNA challenge myself, GONNA come up with good ideas, GONNA write…or do I just do it already, and to hell with the excuses? So here I am, rain or shine…most days, anyway!

January 8th: How–and when–can I say “no”?

Have you ever felt like you’re doing something not because you wanted to, but because you said you would? And have you ever felt like you said you would…because it seemed like the only option?

For the longest time, I had a philosophy of “say yes!” As in, “say ‘yes’ to the universe, and the universe will say ‘yes’ to you.”

On top of this, I’m a pretty responsible person. (Hey, I’ve made it to January 8th, haven’t I?) and there are undeniable benefits in the world of adults to having “responsibility” as a strength.

But whether it’s an extra project at work, social commitments, or a volunteer opportunity, I’m one of those people who can’t seem to say “no.” This makes me a star employee, a reliable friend, and a general mensch, but it also leads to a lot of frustration.

Well, today, I did it! I said “no!” And nothing happened. I’m still here, And I’m still the same responsible person that I was yesterday.

It’s time to explore the idea that saying “no” might allow me to spend less time doing what I should, and more time doing what I want.

January 7th: How can I be happy on both sides of the fence?

Snow day! A day home with my twin toddler ladies and their four year-old big brother. On any given weekday, this is the stuff dreams are made of! It is an all-too-common feature of modern motherhood to be torn between two worlds, the world of home and the world of working adults. And the guilt is always greater on the present side of the fence!

Although I find my job both fulfilling and enjoyable, I miss my kids terribly and suppress the ever-present guilt of sending them to “full-day early preschool” (daycare). I daydream of how much life would be better, my kids would be better, if I were a stay-at-home mom. And yet today, after the honeymoon period of breakfast, some finger painting, and a few stories, and about 30 minutes into the nap wars, I found myself watching the clock.

I work part-time but occasionally take on additional side projects that offer me flexibility and build my resume. This evening, I’m gearing up for a ten-hour work day tomorrow. I’ll get away for an hour or so mid-day to take my kids to their after-school activity and prepare snacks for the group, and then head off to another work commitment. And that, besides the morning rush, will be the end of my interactions with them tomorrow. And I’ll feel sad. Sad for me, sad for them.

I have little to complain about, and a lot to be grateful for. The choices are pretty clear: working full time, working part time, staying home (and turning my thermostat to 60 degrees, feeding my family ramen, and applying for Medicaid!). I chose working part time, in education, thinking I’d have the best of both worlds. Sometimes it seems like I feel the worst of both worlds, too. But how much of this is in my head? How can I have faith in the “whole package” that my kids are getting, and that I’ve given myself, while being content any day of the week?

Maybe there’s green grass all over, if you look carefully enough.

How can I be better at reading the subtext?

It was a great couple days back at school. Too bad -40 windchills mean that school’s cancelled tomorrow! I care a lot about my students, and I’m bummed to have our great momentum interrupted. One student especially is on my mind tonight.

We sat down with one of her peers to work on a reading passage this morning, and she seemed like her usual confident, spunky self. This young girl, a refugee, is among my brightest. Despite a mild speech issue, she participates enthusiastically in both large group and small-group settings. This is why I was so surprised when she asked me if she could have lunch with me. I asked her what made her think of this, and she said that she’s afraid that no one will sit with her. I said, “Is there something that you’d like me to know about?” And she immediately broke down into tears. As her story unfolded, I learned that a couple of girls in her grade have been giving her a hard time, “since we came back to school.” “After winter break?” “No, in August…well really since last year…”

After following procedure to address the situation, I began to ruminate–how could I have worked with this young girl for so long and missed the fact that something was troubling her? How will I, as a parent, be able to read the subtext below my children’s dismissive responses to “how was your day?”

I tend to be a literal person, but it’s time to work on reading between the lines!