I’ll take it under advisement.

You know how sometimes someone gives you a thought or anecdote and you appreciate it, but move on, but sometimes someone gives you a random thought or idea and it REALLY sticks and kind of changes everything for the better?

This is that.

Several months ago, I sat in a therapy session discussing a really frustrating pattern I had been having lately.

“I KNOW it’s not a big deal if I wake up really anxious or really down,” I said. “But a part in me kind of panics and is like Oh my god this is a really big deal because what if you don’t ever feel better and what if this lasts forever and how will you ever get things done and be a good wife and be a good mother some day and we have to worry about this and solve it right away and only focus on this.”

“Well,” she responded. “It sounds like your Self is trying to say, ‘It’s okay, don’t worry’. But this other part of you is trying to protect you by ensuring you think about each possible horrible outcome. And it’s very sweet of that part to do so. The problem is, it’s creating fires where they don’t exist, and trying to solve a non-existent problem in a very unhelpful way.”

“YES!” I agreed. “Exactly. And my Self believes all those things: I can be where I am, feelings come and go, this moment is just this moment, but then I start to worry and spin and before I know it, I’ve only been awake for ten minutes and I’ve already come to all these dramatic conclusions about the probability of how successful I’ll be in my life and what the hell is up with that?”

“So, let’s acknowledge that little panicky part,” she said. “Because really, it has good intentions. It’s trying to protect you. But you don’t really need its constant chatter. So allow it to speak, hear what it has to say, and humor it. Respond to it and say, ‘Thank you for your concern. I’ll take it under advisement.’ It’s up to you if you actually take its content to heart and spend the rest of the day pouring over the worries it brought to the table. But this way it’ll be happy, because it got heard, and your Self is still the one making the decisions and calling the shots, so it’s a win-win.”

I loved it.

And I’ve been doing it constantly. Rather than getting upset when I have a thought, or a worry, or a fear, rather than immediately following its instructions (We need to worry about x, panic about y, analyze z) I calmly listen to the suggestion. Because after all, it’s a part of me. And has anyone really had success with internal hatred?

(Years ago, in the midst of a panic attack, I said to a friend, What the f***! I shouldn’t be feeling this way! I just need to snap out of it, this is so stupid!!  She responded with her loving sarcasm: Ohhh, so you’re going to berate yourself out of a panic attack? Yeah, let me know how that goes. Right. Point taken.)

So anyway, yes, I listen. And then I play the role of Leader of the Council Board, and I acknowledge it. Telling it, “Thank you for your concern. I’ll take it under advisement.”

Only, usually, I don’t spend any more time on it than just that. And I move on. Because I am the leader, and I call the shots, and while I am an excellent listener, I certainly don’t have to take all of the suggestions I am given.

Not anymore.

“I will always love you, Bob”

[I could use this post to write about empathy, pretend play, imagination, special education…..but really, it speaks for itself without my commentary.]

A little figurine of Bob the Minion sits on my desk (thanks to my wonderful husband who knows toys are the way to my heart….), with a magenta stuffed turtle, and a little Pinkie Pie figurine, and several others.

At the end of our session on Friday, Polly chose her sticker and was putting back the sheet of stickers when she glanced at Bob. She sees him each time she’s in my office, often referencing how much she loves the Minions, sometimes asking to pet him on the head (obviously that’s what he wants), and sometimes just acknowledging his presence.

Today, she suggested, “I think we need to write him a note. So that he feels happy and doesn’t feel scared.”

“Okay,” I agreed. “What should the note say?”

“It should say ‘I will always love you, Bob.'” Then he will know that you love him and he will be happy!”

She got out a post-it note and handed me a pen.

After angling the note so that he would be able to read it, Polly was satisfied.

Bob

Musings

I’ve started weaving words together, into sentences. I’ve started toying with the idea of it. I’ve started thinking, “This is what I would say if I told my story.” I’ve started thinking what I would include and what I wouldn’t. I’ve started thinking about how the way in which I write it is more important than giving all the details.

Someone said to me, “You’ll get there, you’ll be ready.” I told her, “I AM ready.”

Which made me pause.

What’s stopping me? If I am ready, truly ready, to do this, to say what I feel is necessary, for my own reasons, then why am I not typing it out and pressing “Publish”?

Because of others! Because I don’t want to offend! Because I don’t want to upset! Because I don’t want conflict! Because I don’t want disagreement! Because I don’t want negativity!

Oh.

As the Queen of Feeling Other’s Feelings, and working to step down from the job of Head Security Guard for People’s Well-Being, my fears go something like this:

What if reading it makes someone upset? What if it hurts them? What if someone thinks I should’ve been more or less specific? What if someone I love is disappointed in me for sharing? What if they don’t understand? What if they tell me I shouldn’t have done that?

What I’m reminding myself over and over again in the hopes that it will internalize: People can choose what they read. People can stop reading at any time. People are allowed to have different opinions. People can have different reactions. My job is not to avoid doing what I believe in my heart to be right – but rather to do it, in spite of the fear. This blog is mine – mine. I write for me, above anything else. People don’t have to agree with that. It’s all good.

I have lived my life saying and doing, or not saying and not doing, based on how it would affect others. And I’ve justified that under the umbrella of “I am a considerate person who thinks about others’ feelings, which is what makes me a good human.” But as with anything, it isn’t black and white – it CAN’T be black and white. It’s not obsess over it vs. never think about it. In reality, it’s a middle ground, where you take into account other’s feelings, balance them with your own needs and feelings, and make a decision.

But middle ground is scary. 

Yes. It is. Because it’s vulnerable. And I am striving towards vulnerability. Isn’t this whole blog about vulnerability? A year ago would I have ever dreamed of writing the words, about the topics, that I have today? Would I have ever imagined I’d write candidly about anxiety, depression, grief? Haven’t I relished in the feedback I’ve gotten about it? Haven’t people come out of the woodwork to talk to me about things I’ve written about, to share their own secrets? Haven’t I meant it, truly meant it, when someone has told me that they haven’t read a blog post because it’s too emotional or upsetting and I’ve responded, “That’s okay”?

And this – this back-and-forth, this messy excuse of a blog post – this is reality. This is vulnerability. This is it.

All propelling me forward. To write more, to share more, to tell more.

Because I can’t stand the silence anymore. The fear and the shame and the sadness and the loneliness that so many people are drowning under. I know how that felt, I lived it, and I can’t bear the fact that so many others do, too. I sit in meetings, look around at conferences, and know that of all those faces I see, some are feeling it too. Living in that place.

Each voice that speaks heals a piece of anyone who hears. Chips away a bit at the shame. Erases a bit of the stigma. Glues back a bit of the brokenness. Kindles a bit of bravery.

And so.

It’s almost time. Whatever form it takes. However many words I write. However cryptic it needs to be.

Because one person, or the world – it doesn’t matter which –  is waiting.

Pro vs. Noob

With nearly all of my kids, we talk so much about “smart guesses” vs. “wacky guesses” – a concept that applies in social situations as well as academics. For example, if someone tells you, “You’d better bring your umbrella today,” a smart guess about why they said that, is, It’s probably going to rain today. A wacky guess would be, It’s going to be a beautiful sunny day. If a history book says, “By the end of the war, the population was down 20,000 people,” a smart guess about why would be, People died from the fighting in the war, where a wacky guess would be, All of those people moved away to Antarctica.

Essentially, we’re talking about inferences. Situations where information is not explicitly stated, but you use your prior knowledge plus situational information to make a guess about what’s going on. We do this all the time and don’t think twice about it. Our kids have a much harder time with it step-by-step, let alone automatically.

In my sessions with Nellie, we talk about this constantly. So, when we do reading comprehension practice, we talk about making smart guesses by looking back to the text. When we do social inferencing activities, we talk about making smart guesses to figure out what someone is thinking. We’ve been talking about this for years.

Nellie is obsessed with Minecraft – and she’s good at it. She has her own server, she has responsibility within the game, she is successful and happy when playing it; it’s something that makes her shine. Given the option, she would talk about it for our entire session. She has explained to me that in Minecraft there are rankings, and terms for the levels of players. She is considered a “Pro” – professional. Players who have just started playing, and don’t really know what they’re doing, are considered “Noobs” in Minecraft (“newbies”). Sometimes the “noobs” are spotted easily because they do things that others wouldn’t do – like make a house out of dirt (a very weak material), whereas the “pros” are noticed for using stronger materials and better strategies. She explained how a Noob is someone who just doesn’t know how to do it yet, and a Pro knows the techniques and strategies.

So one day, I forget the context, but we were talking about something unexpected, and I was trying to explain why it’s a wacky thing to do, and Nellie just looked at me and said, “That’s such a NOOB thing to do.”

Boom. Lightbulb. It clicked.

From then on, I switched my language, and she took to it immediately. Everything we did, we talked about the Pro way to do it and the Noob way to do it. Nellie is someone who continues to work on matching reaction size to the size of the problem. She’s a kid who might get grumpy about not going first, despite the fact that she’s almost in high school. She might have a huge reaction if someone bumps into her in the hall. She’s LOVES the silly 911 script. We added to it by saying that having a huge reaction to a small problem (like when our printer didn’t work the other day) would be a Noob thing to do, and a Pro reaction would be to just say, oh, well.

When we do our reading comprehension work now, Nellie makes Pro guesses, not Noob guesses.

When we work with another student, we talk about how making unexpected/odd comments in the middle of the conversation is a Noob thing to do, and a Pro thing to do is hold those thoughts in her thought bubble.

More often than not, she’s the one bringing it up, not me.

She laughs and laughs each time she gets to say, “That’s a NOOB thing to do!” And it’s working. She’ll sometimes see me in the hall and quickly tell me something Noob or Pro that happened.

Our kids always, ALWAYS have a way of learning, a way of making sense of what’s going on. Sometimes they’re the ones that teach us the best way to do it. I never would’ve thought of using Pro vs. Noob terminology – and honestly, if it had been my idea, it probably wouldn’t have worked. This is why following their lead is the way to go. This is why we use their special interests. This is why we build on their scripts. This is why we meet them halfway. This.

Resolutions

Oh, you guys. You know how I feel about resolutions. You know I believe that waiting until the New Year to make a resolution is entirely unnecessary, and that resolutions often set us up to fail. You know that for me, September is my New Year anyway.

But. 2016 is coming, and I can’t deny that. So. In the year to come?

I resolve to be.

To breathe when it’s easy, and breathe when it feels impossible.

To laugh.

To live in each moment, whatever it may be.

To embrace the love, the bliss, the terror, the sorrow.

To embrace each moment, because each moment is this life.

To know that nothing – not the tide, not the weather, not a feeling, lasts forever.

To remember: this feeling will pass.

To go about my life, whether floating on sparkly white magical light, or plodding through dark black muddy clouds.

To trust the ones who say they want to hear.

To speak my truth when it feels safe and right to do so.

To know that my truth is the truth.

To remember that despite how big a mountain looks, each step counts. One step further from the bottom, closer to the top.

To remember my worth.

To remember that I am deserving.

To float, rather than fight.

To live this next year as I lived the last. With twists and turns and joy and grief and light and darkness.

In this coming year, I resolve to be.

Solstice

 

The Winter Solstice is here.

Oh, how I love this day.

Today, after six long months of turning towards the darkness, we began to turn towards the light.

We gain a minute of light each day – and in a time where life can feel very dark, each minute makes a difference.

The earth begins to propel us towards the light, just as the waves in the ocean propel you to shore. We now ride the wave of the earth, as it cradles us and gently moves us towards hope, and energy, and life.

Happy Solstice.


Towards the Light (author unknown)

By moonlight,
or starlight,
or in the sun’s bright rays,
I journey,
guiding my way
by keeping to the light
as best I can.
Sometimes all seems dark,
then I remember
how the poppy turns its head,
following the sun’s passage across the sky,
then rests in night’s cool shadows,
bowing in thanks
to whatever power
makes the stalk
stand straight and strong,
drawing deep from its roots
a wine dark love.
In moonlight,
the garden glows,
silvering the poppies.
And even by starlight
you can tell shades of darkness
if you try.
So do not lose heart
when vision dims.
Journey forth
as best you can—
bloom when you are able,
rest when you must,
keep your faith,
keep always
towards the light.

Bella

When I notice a behavior in a student, I think about it. I spend time analyzing, thinking, hypothesizing. There’s almost always a reason the behavior is occurring; it’s like a puzzle and I want to solve it.

So I’ve been thinking about Bella, one of my little elementary-schoolers – adorable Bella, with significant communication and social difficulties, among other challenges. A lot of the behaviors Bella exhibits, the things she says, or the games she plays, might remind you of what your preschooler says. But that’s not the concerning part. Bella acts the way she does, because that’s where she’s at developmentally. When a child didn’t yet have language, or any sort of interaction skills in preschool, they never got the chance to go through the phases of sharing, turn-taking, cooperation. They might not have had the experiences of having a toy grabbed out of their hands, grabbing at someone else’s toy, crying because they lost a game, getting angry when they can’t go first. So sometimes, we see those behaviors at age 9, because now they’re there.

Bella has been mean lately, to her friends. And I’ve been thinking – trying to figure out why she’s acting mean. And the other day, I watched through a different lens, and it clicked.

Bella and her friend Nicole came into speech the other day. When I asked how her weekend was, Bella told me that she had gone to a playground with Nicole.

“I went down the slide!” Bella told me excitedly, arms flapping.

“I went down the slide, too!” Nicole added.

Bella stopped flapping. She glared at Nicole. I watched.

“I also swung on the swings,” Nicole said.

Bella slammed her hands down on the table. “I swung on the swings! STOP COPYING ME!!”

Nicole looked at me, and then back at Bella. “I’m not copying you, Bella. We went together! We did the same things together!”

Oh.

When I thought back to when Bella gets upset, the pattern emerged. She gets “grumpy” and gets “Mean Jean” in her head when she perceives a friend to be copying her. And during those times, the friend is not copying her. The friend is agreeing with her, sharing a similar opinion, talking about a shared experience, or adding to the conversation.

While we often see kids get frustrated when someone has a different opinion (e.g., You can’t like tomatoes! Tomatoes are disgusting!), this is a little different in presentation. But it comes down to the same principle – understanding that different people have thoughts in their heads. Those thoughts might be the same as ours or different than ours, but everyone’s brain thinks its own thoughts.

So, I whipped up a social story, and the next time I saw her, she and I read it together:

When we were done, we played with some animal figurines, and Bella processed what we had just read by acting it out. My monkey figurine kept accusing her duck of copying me. Then the bear teacher reminded the monkey that two animals could have the same thought. Then during recess, the monkey and duck talked about movies and games that they liked. They realized that when they liked the same things, it was fun.

It’s a struggle for Bella to generalize much of anything she learns. Chances are good that we will need to read this again, and again, and again. And play, and act it out, and give her chances to practice.

The ultimate take home message – there’s always a why. Bella is not innately a mean kid. She’s not going through a mean streak. There is a reason she gets angry and frustrated about certain things.

There are locks, and there are keys, and some are clear and some are hidden, but we look. We don’t ever stop looking until we find them, put them together, and figure them out.

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