That’s right, Chickens…we are thundering! We held our own for the 2nd annual spirit of the chicken contest. Check us out:
How often do you think about frogs? I mean, frogs are essential to the ecosystem… without frogs our waterways contaminate, dangerous insects proliferate, medical research stymies, a bioindicator disappears…
And in my learning strategies workshops, I share CollegeinfoGeek, Thomas Frank’s, recommendation to “eat your frogs first” when it comes to productivity…assess the time of day and environment in which your personal energy is greatest and do your most challenging or most dreaded tasks then. Geesh! Poor frogs?!? I mean they get a bad rap, amIright?
As the ASC prepares for the 7th in a series of eight stellar lunch ‘n’ learns focused on mental health…it occurs to me:
Mental Health:Human Physiology = Frogs:Ecosphere
(Take that defunct analogy section of the ACT!)
How often do we think about the state of our mental health? Probably only when it starts to croak, right? Yet it’s there all the time…just under the surface…keeping our system and our environment hinged. Just like every other facet of our being, it requires consistent awareness, attention, and maintenance. And mental health isn’t a concern limited to a “certain” group…oh no…concern for frogs is not limited to witches and royalty. We all…all (yep, you…and you too) need to care for our frogs.
I mean we drag ourselves onto our treadmills, ellipticals and yoga mats right? We choke down lentils and kefir…but we don’t standardize and prioritize our mental-health-care much, do we? Maybe because it can lead us down some pretty dusky paths…force us into some “awkward-family-photos” territory…overwhelm us with the smell of formaldehyde.
But I know what you’re made of Chickens…I know you’re up for a challenge…I know you’re not skeered to ‘jump’ out of your comfort zones from time to time. As my colleague KS will tell you, mental health is a high maintenance dame. If you don’t treat her right – right now – she’ll turn on you until you can’t say your name and destiny takes your child. (Sorry…could not resist.)
Heed this warning, Chickens:
You can start by attending the lunch ‘n’ learn this Thursday @ noon.
But how do we know? And I’m not even talking about others…I’m keeping it close to the chest and wondering how we can be sure we are doing no harm to ourselves?
Let’s first assume we don’t want to harm ourselves… we’re not consciously trying to undermine our own health, happiness or success. We are not masochists, Chickens, plucking ourselves to feel the pinch. No, no…
Let’s assume we have the best intentions (oh what a slippery catfish word)...let’s assume our shared human quest is to climb Maslow’s colorful mountain…
I’m a lucky duck, Chickens…and pardon my imposition of digital intimacy for a minute…to illustrate:
I (and 2.3 million other people) live with MS, multiple sclerosis. My husband…who is, ya know…kind of an okay guy…often sends me MS news blurbs or headlines…If you’re not familiar with MS…just know that it’s kind of like the Bigfoot or Loch Ness Monster of chronic conditions…hard to spot, hard to anticipate and looks a little different each time it appears.
Anyway…recently he sent…40 Foods That Reduce Your Multiple Sclerosis Risk…with the exceptions of caviar, salmon roe (what??), and anchovies…I eat the other 30-some foods pretty regularly.
Obviously, my risk hasn’t been reduced…that ship has sailed…so by limiting my diet…blending up kale, grilling cod, and noshing cruciferous veggies…am I climbing, losing footing, or just holding ground?
Oddly enough, another article sent by my colleague, KA, had me revisiting this dilemma (excerpted from Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado)…
Tirado claims: Because our lives seem so unstable, poor people are often seen as being basically incompetent at managing their lives. That is, it’s assumed that we’re not unstable because we’re poor, we’re poor because we’re unstable.
If I lose my job because my car gets towed and I can’t afford to pay the fees to recoup it…how do I know if I’m harming or helping myself…what (within my control) have I done to harm or help myself?
But are you with me, Chickens? It’s so much gray!
I mean sometimes it’s clear…I studied for a test-I got a better grade (Help). But what about when I study and do not get a better grade? What about when I exercise and not only do I not lose weight…I am diagnosed with some Yeti disease?
The relationship between self-harm and self-help isn’t always easy or apparent or on time.
It’s plodding and risky…and not for those of little faith. But Chickens…collect your eggs…both of harm and help…when our baskets are full…we’ll get together some rainy afternoon over macchiato…and… research publishing houses.
But I do know what I do know. Don’t I? Yet, I do not know what you do know.
And we all know how important soft skills* are in the workplace. viz.: Technical skills may get you the interview, but soft skills will get you the job.
I am in touch with my faults, Chickens…I shout them out…which, of course, is one of my faults…well…I prefer to think of it as “speaking passionately”…around my kitchen table if you couldn’t bring some intensity to the conversation…don’t bother sitting down.
So I’ve made soft skills a personal mission (read-obsession)…if you’ve been in one of my learning and/or communications workshops…you know.
You also know that we talk about listening as a vital soft skill…and it is…oh how it is! e.g.:
I can recite the platitudes like Hail Marys…but I suck at listening. I do.
It’s not because I like to talk, I don’t especially…so I’m just going to be honest…here’s why I’m lousy at listening:
See what I mean…that white space makes you sweat…at least a little…right?
Silence is ‘da soft skills bomb’ they say. If you’re a good listener, “they” say, you are not formulating your response while someone is talking…people puh-leeze…short of patience to begin with…who has all day for meditative pauses after every conversational addendum?!? Maybe I’m just a slow processor…i.e. I am a slow processor. To be effective, my pauses need to be days more than moments.
Don’t get me wrong Chickens, everyone deserves to be heard. As a matter of fact, my mantra with students is always “find your voice,” but part of the journey to find one’s voice is learning how to adapt it – matching our voice to our environment, our audience, our circumstance – and how to refine it – speaking with clarity, purpose, and selectivity. In this way, we develop a voice worth listening to…
There’s a lot of noise in the world, Chickens. So if we want to improve our listening skills, we have to improve our speaking skills…voila′ p’nut butter & jelly.
If no one will listen / Not one…Tell your vision / To a stone.
*personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.
It’s true, Chickens…full disclosure. I feel like we’re at a point in our relationship where we can have these ‘come-to-Jesus’ talks…
So I can tell you that I fought the law when I was in college (probably not all that uncommon) but in my case a little anticlimactic. I wish it was a “Hangover” caliber incident …instead, I was stone-sober…and that’s kind of the crux of it really.
My senior year of college I was tired of the party scene…longing for something a little more substantive…going out for a bite to eat at about the same time the party crowd was rolling out…car after car of raucous, drunken revelers and guess which car gets pulled over?
At that particular moment, the universal scale of justice (in my mind) finally tipped…like Trump on twitter, I let go and couldn’t stop…I “passionately” laid out every frustration and growing pain on these coppers. At first, they seemed amused…but soon enough, I made it personal…I may even have pushed one of them (gasp)…because, in my mind, they stopped me not to serve and protect, but to amplify my feelings of inequity and powerlessness.
In the back of the cruiser, on the way to the local station, I remember listening to radio chatter, the squeak of black leather seats and clinging to the “cage” in melodramatic fashion. When we got to the station…my original car companion in toe, shaking his head…things had mellowed a bit…but they took a mug shot, they did…saying to my companion, “You’ve got your hands full,” as we headed out into the night. Hmpf?!?!
I think of this moment sometimes as I sit with students, Chickens, listening to stories of “life happening” (we like to say in higher ed. circles)…and life happening makes me think of learning…because I do believe that learning happens best when we pay attention to our lives happening.
So what did I learn, you ask, when I fought the law and the law won? A couple of things…
Number #3 is still a work in progress.