“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I will learn.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” ~ Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum
“At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents.” ~ Jane D. Hull
I think learning to communicate is a rather difficult thing to do, especially if you are constantly being told to shut up and listen. We are supposed to learn communication from our parents and siblings. Some parents are fantastic at teaching this skill, others not so much. But I believe most parents want to have clear lines of communication with their children, they just don’t know how because they were never taught.
My youngest sister, Celeste and I have been talking about writing a book about how we learned not only good communication skills, but critical thinking, and understanding human behavior from our conversations about movies and TV with our father.
When I suggested writing this book together, I didn’t have a clear idea of how we could structure it, except to reconstruct the questions Dad used to ask us after watching a movie. This morning it came to me what genius practice my father, and mother too, used to keep the lines of communication open with us even through our teen years.
The secret is: They were truly interested in our opinions.
I was proud of the fact that we had the “cool” parents. Our church, and even school friends liked coming over to our house and hanging out because our parents were interested in them. They wanted to know what they were doing in school, what their passions were, and what their plans were for the future. Our friends loved that they could ask questions on any subject and our parents were willing to talk about the ins and outs of any problem. That wasn’t always the case for them at home.
My father in particular was fantastic at exploring every facet of an issue. He was never afraid to say that he didn’t understand all the implications of a situation. And he and my mother were also willing to tell us when they had been wrong.
I think Celeste will agree with me when I say, I always felt safe in our home, because I was a valued by my parents.
One of the primary ways our parents taught us good communication skills was by watching movies as a family and then discussing them. It was a fun and non-threatening way to examine why people do what they do, how to look at the deeper implications of events and then try to find meaning in them. And it gave all of us an easy way to learn to communicate with respect for every family member’s opinions.
Because our father watched movies with us individually as well, Celeste and I watched the news with him. It wasn’t particularly comfortable watching the news when we were growing up. There was lots of unrest with the Civil Rights movement, and all the violence surrounding that, the Vietnam War and the protests against that, and the women’s movement for equal rights. There were so many opportunities to ask questions and discuss current events with Dad that we learned to think critically about the motivations of politicians, business owners and even everyday people who did not want things to change.
The thing I remember most about having a discussion with my father was the constant questions he would ask himself and me as we watched together. His questions invited both Celeste and me to think and I will be eternally grateful to him for that.
So, Celeste and I are going to write this book. We’re not sure what we’re going to call it yet. It will be part memoir, part guide to talking with and listen to children. I’ve learned from my students that sometimes they have more wisdom than we give them credit for. And as far as Celeste and I are concerned, we can always use more wisdom in the world.
Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. Have a glorious weekend, and if you live in the U.S., don’t forget to vote.
Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news on the audiobook version Lucinda is working on. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.
“Our culture encourages us to plan every moment and fill our schedules with one activity and obligation after the next, with no time to just be. But the human body and mind require downtime to rejuvenate. I have found my greatest moments of joy and peace just sitting in silence, and then I take that joy and peace with me out into the world.” ~ Holly Mosier
“Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.” ~ William S. Burroughs
“Stop a minute, right where you are. Relax your shoulders, shake your head and spine like a dog shaking off cold water. Tell that imperious voice in your head to be still.” ~ Barbara Kingsolver
This morning at 7:00 a.m., on the day I’m writing this, I got a ding on my phone. I wasn’t even out of bed yet, because my husband doesn’t work on Fridays and it’s a sleep in day. It was a long Facebook message about Social Security and how I needed to pass this along so that we can protect Social Security … etc., etc., etc. I ignored the message knowing that things may look dire, but I believe I live in a friendly universe, so no matter what, I’m going to be all right. Some people may think I’m delusional. That’s okay. I just see the world differently than they do.
One of the privileges of growing older is the fact that I’ve seen and experienced a lot of stuff. When I was younger I used to get upset when things seemed to go wrong. I’d bend myself out of shape, and make myself sick with what I THOUGHT was going to happen. As it turned out most of the time, what I had imagined never came to pass. I had made myself sick for nothing.
So now I know that, first, nothing is good or bad except thinking makes it so, to paraphrase Shakespeare. And second, especially where governments are concerned, nothing happens over night. They may pass bills to gut Social Security, or take away our health care, or yada, yada, yada, but none of that is going to happen tomorrow. AND there are always people whose purpose it is to safeguard our rights and I can rely on them to prevail.
Over the last few months, I’ve withdrawn from groups on Facebook and other social media that continually post dire warnings. I do this because I don’t see the world the same way they do and I don’t need their negative energy clinging to me throughout the day.
Don’t get me wrong, I will stand up for people in my daily life when they need it, but I’m not going to waste my time ranting and raving about the big stuff that happens, because I am thoroughly convinced that change happens from the ground up. Each individual who chooses to chill out, to get a new perspective, to go with the flow, or even point out inequities, helps us create a friendlier, more stress free environment a little bit at a time.
I think there is an ebb and flow to history. We happen to be in a time when there is a great deal of turmoil. But if you look back at what has happened in the past, it’s often those times, when people with differing ideas clash and cause the most innovative advancements to happen.
Here’s an example. I’m reading a novel right now that takes place in 1150. The church had tight control on almost every aspect of life. One of the characters in my book builds a paper mill. That may not seem like such a big thing, but in 1150, most people did not read, so the church controlled information by telling people what to think. With the advent of readily available inexpensive paper, more people began to have the opportunity to learn to read and write, and not pay the church scribes to create their documents, and make copies of or write important books. Of course, the church did not want this to happen and took drastic measures to retain their control on the flow of information. The creation of inexpensive paper did lead, eventually, to the invention of the printing press. That broke the stranglehold the church held on education and the flow of information. Boy, have things changed since then. Now almost everyone can not only read and write, but the entire world is connected by the media and the most ordinary person can express their opinion for the world to read.
There was a great deal of struggle involved to get us to where we are now. Lots of people died in that struggle, but would you want to go back to having the church control information? I don’t think so. As a result, I thank those who volunteered to push for change both then and now.
Having written all of the above, life is a mystery to me. I don’t know why I’m living a happy fulfilling life, while millions of people are stuck in refugee camps, or live under oppressive regime’s, or on the streets. What I do know is that we each have our part to play, and it seems to me that mine has to do with spreading as much joy as I can.
I know that in the long run if a situation looks really bad, it’s just not worth getting upset about. I’ll do what I can to help, of course, but most of the time, as my dad used to say, “In a hundred years, it won’t make any difference.” And the things that we will remember one hundred years from now will be worth the sacrifice.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate your likes and comments.
Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel. It’s available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.
I became an artist, and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.” ~ Viola Davis
“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” ~ Aldous Huxley
“Our minds influence the key activity of the brain, which then influences everything; perception, cognition, thoughts and feelings, personal relationships; they’re all a projection of you.” ~ Deepak Chopra
One thing I’ve learned is that we each see the world from our unique perspective and often, because of our personal filters, what we think is true, isn’t true at all.
I first began to consider this through someone else’s story. This woman is a kind of mentor figure to me and she told me of an incident with one of her children. They were reflecting on some event when he was young and she said to him, “And do you remember the love?” to which he replied, “No, what I remember is the condemnation.” This was, of course, a shock to her.
As she and I talked I understood that no matter what happens to us, we interpret the events through the filters of the way we feel about ourselves, and through our responses or reactions to what has happened to us in the past. My friend taught me to take a step back when I was in conflict with someone else. I had to take a breath and ask myself, through what lenses am I seeing this situation? Is my perspective affected by my reaction to past events? Asking those kinds of questions is a vitally important communication tool.
With that in mind, here is another short section of The Space Between Time. In this scene, Jenna and her new friend Jack, have gone to a barbecue with some of her high school friends. Here Jenna finds that maybe she had been wrong about her mother’s reasons for being distant. Perhaps her mother did love her and one of the ways she showed that was to support Jenna’s school activities. There is more to that backstory, but you get the idea.
Let me know what you think, and don’t be afraid to point out any errors, or improvements that I could make.
During dinner, Jenna was surprised when the conversation turned to her mother.
“Remember the sleep overs your mom let us have?” Matt said.
Jenna crinkled her brow. “Sleep overs?” She had no idea what Matt was talking about.
“Well that’s what we called them. You remember, when we had a deadline for the paper. Sometimes Mr. Stevens would have to go home to be with the kids because his wife had the night shift at the hospital. When that happened, we’d go to your house to finish the mockups.”
Gina chimed in, “Those were fun nights. All our parents knew if we were at your house, we were okay. And your mom was great bringing us snacks and making suggestions. She would stay up all night with us, then feed us breakfast before sending us home to get ready for school.”
Jenna was stunned. She didn’t remember those times at all.
Fred said, “You had the cool mom. We loved hanging out at your house. It’s sad she’s not here to see you become a writer. I think she would have loved that.”
“Yeah, I miss her,” was all Jenna could choke out. I had the cool mom? Why had she blocked out those memories? The swirling telescoping feeling she had the day she stood on her mother’s front porch after the funeral came back. Guilt engulfed her. I have blamed you for my unhappiness all these years. She couldn’t wait to get home to her journal to process her tumultuous emotions.
I wanted to include this little scene in my book because I, like many of us, blamed my parents for things that happened in my childhood. But, as children, we never know what our parent’s are dealing with. We don’t know their whole story. We forget that they have challenges and emotional baggage too. Most of them are doing the very best they can. I wanted to show that Jenna was finally growing up and able to understand her mother a little better just as I did my parents.
By the way, I had the “cool parents,” and I loved that.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” ~ Bryant H. McGill
“The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication, and clear communication is necessary to management success.” ~ James Cash Penney
“Efforts to develop critical thinking falter in practice because too many professors still lecture to passive audiences instead of challenging students to apply what they have learned to new questions.” ~ Derek Bok
“Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work.” ~ Adrienne Rich
Every few semesters, I revamp the classes I’m teaching. I think it’s boring to teach the same thing over and over again. I’m in the process of revamping the acting class materials for this fall and I decided to incorporate more exercises in listening. It’s a great skill for acting and for life in general. In fact, my first instructor in good listening skills was my father. That skill has served me well both in my work in the theatre, but also in teaching, and in life.
To me listening is much more than just hearing the words someone is using to express their ideas. Deep listening involves matching what the person is saying with their body language, facial expressions, and the emotion behind their words. In a way, listening involves our entire body. Empathy is part of it but trying to decipher all the physical, emotional and cognitive messages is part of it as well. It’s such an important skill I wish we were using it more.
It’s sad to say, but in a way we read the memes, or the one liners coined by the media and think we understand what someone is saying. We think we understand their point of view. But what my dad, and theatre have taught me is that there are many layers of meaning behind what someone says, and you can’t sum it up in a headline. When we do that, we belittle that person in our mind. It’s disrespectful. That’s why it’s important to listen to what people from a political, religious, or social group are saying, and to actually consider their point of view and why they feel the way they do. Which means critical thinking is a big part of listening. It takes a great deal of worthwhile effort to even remotely understand another person’s perspective. When we take the time to try to understand another person, even if we fail, it honors both them and us because we learn something.
Listening also helps us distinguish between propaganda and persuasion. When I taught American Lit at the high school level, I designed a unit on the difference between the two. Sometimes the lines between them get blurred. We all fall into those traps of believing the propaganda, thinking that we know the truth. The bad thing is, propaganda is subtle brain washing. That’s why listening and critical thinking skills are such important things to teach ourselves and our children. In my opinion, not knowing how seductive propaganda is might be part of why we’re in this weird situation this political season.
I won’t go into all of the propaganda techniques here, you can look them up for yourself, but advertisers, the media, and politicians use propaganda to get us to buy their product, believe what they are saying or vote for them. It takes a lot of diligence to sort through the red herrings, attempts to divide us, or buy into their false causes.
Images can also be propaganda. I showed lots of examples of posters which use images, mostly from WW II, to skew the audience’s thinking about the enemy. Now we have social media to spread images which divert our attention from the real issues at hand. And that brings me back to deep listening.
It’s important to watch people as they talk, and to try to understand exactly what they’re saying. What emotions do they express? Does their body language and do their facial expressions match their words? Are they really saying anything of consequence? If we practice deep listening in our work places, with our loved ones, in chance encounters, and to people in the media, we might learn something important about them and ourselves.
So, I’m making it my mission this semester to teach my acting students better listening skills, and I hope that they use them long after the class is over.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate your comments and hope you share this post with your friends.
This is the third installment of segments from my upcoming novel, The Space Between Time.
Set Up: Jenna has moved back to her hometown to recover and regroup. In this segment, from Chapter 7, She’s unexpectedly confronted by her ex-fiancé.
“She hadn’t been out of the house much since the funeral. No doubt on this little trip she’d run into old friends, and renew acquaintances. It was still difficult receiving condolences, but being cooped up in the house all the time wasn’t good. She grabbed her purse and keys, opened the door and ran into Sam.
Jenna’s stomach clenched, “Sam. What in the hell are you doing here?”
Leaning on the door jamb so she couldn’t get out of the house, he said. “You hung up on me, Babe. I needed a chance to explain,” Jenna wasn’t fooled by the look of mock contrition on his face.
“About what? That you were cheating on me? And don’t call me Babe.” She pushed him out of the way. Then shut and locked the door. She brushed past him starting for her car wishing this encounter would soon end. But Sam’s car was parked behind hers. She’d have to deal with him.
Knowing he’d trapped her, he smirked. “I always call you Babe.”
Jenna turned, walked back to him and put her face close to his. “I’ve told you time and again I don’t like it when you call me that.”
Surprisingly he took a step back. “I don’t remember that.”
“Of course not, because you never listen,” Jenna said through clenched teeth.
“Now, Babe,” The look on Jenna’s face made him amend his approach. “I mean Jenna, aren’t you gonna let me talk to you?”
Oh, if only he’d go away. Keeping her eyes on his face and putting her hands on her hips, she said, “What for? You said it yourself. Neither one of us was happy, so it’s over.”
Pulling himself taller to pretend confidence, he said, “I know I said that, but, I’ve been thinking. I might’ve been wrong.” He had that I’m-innocent-of-whatever-you-think-I’ve-done look on his face she’d learned to hate long before the break-up.
She looked at him, trying to formulate the response that would make him leave. The moments slowed. For the first time she noticed muddy waves emanating from and surrounding his body. Her instinct was to back away from the unwanted onslaught of his murky energy, but before she could do so, it touched her own energy field. She nearly fell over as dark feelings of self-doubt swept over her. The image of a wounded wolf flashed through her mind. Somehow she knew exactly what had happened that brought him to her doorstep. “Ah, what happened, Sam? Did she leave you? I know you hate to be alone.”
The dark energy was sucked into Sam’s body and he stuttered “I – I don’t k-know what you’re talking about. There’s never been anybody but you.”
“Oh? But, you know I heard her in the background when we talked on the phone!” She faced him square on, “Now, please get in your car and go back to L.A.”
Suddenly Sam took Jenna by the arm, and clamped down hard, “It was a one night stand thing. I was hurt that we broke up.” Dark gray and brown energy shot out at her again. This time she thought to shield herself and her own aura in red, orange, and yellow shot out to block what was coming from him.
Gasping from the pain, she tried to get her arm free. “You were hurt? Oh, yeah, I see that now. You’ve been wounded from the very beginning, but I was too dazzled by the bling to notice. Now let me go!” They struggled. Sam grabbed for Jenna’s other arm. She tried to back away, and slid on a mossy patch on the sidewalk forcing her to sit on a porch step.
Just then an unmarked police car drove up. Sam’s back was to it as Detective Spade got out of the car, putting his hand on his gun.
Walking toward the struggling pair, Detective Spade said, “Let go of her, Sir!”
Sam turned around, still holding onto Jenna’s arm. “Who are you to interfere in a private matter? She’s my fiancée,” Sam said as Jenna continued to struggle to get her arm free.
Advancing on Sam with his hand still on his gun, Detective Spade said, “That’s not what I heard, Sir. Now back away from her.”
Sam puffed up like a rooster in the ring, but he let go of her arm. Jenna moved away. Sam turned toward Detective Spade saying, “What you gonna do, shoot me?” Jenna heard the fear underneath the bluster for the first time. With a snarl, Sam said, “We’re having a private conversation. That’s all.”
Detective Spade had stopped a few feet from Sam. “It didn’t look that way to me, Sir. Is that true Miss Holden?”
“Miss Holden? So, you’ve met before. Who is this? Your new boyfriend? You didn’t waste any time,” Sam said with a sneer.
Detective Spade was surrounded by a clear yellow and green aura. He was relaxed, though cautious. Jenna knew she could trust him, but Sam was getting angry. She saw the wounded wolf image surrounded by dark gray and muddy brown fog emanating from him again, and knew if she didn’t do something he’d become dangerous. She saw that Detective Spade knew it too.
She took a few steps closer to him. “Sam, are you drunk or something? He’s a police officer, and he’s got a gun. Do you want to get arrested? What’ll that do to your precious career?” Sam’s countenance changed, and the swirls of muddy energy retreated close to his body.
Now that she looked more closely at him, Sam did look a little unsteady on his feet. She hadn’t smelled alcohol on him, though, so it must be drugs.
Taking a deep breath, Sam said. “I’ve been on the road for twenty hours with not much sleep before that. I guess I’m crashing from the wake-up pills,” he said as he sat abruptly onto a porch step.
Taking his hand away from his gun, Detective Spade gently took a hold of Jenna’s arm and moved her behind him. “I’ll need to see those pills, Sir. Are they in your car?”
“Yeah, go ahead. You won’t find any drugs. They’re the over the counter kind,” Sam said as he ran his hands through his hair, then deflated like a balloon and rested his head on his arms.
“Sir, is the car unlocked?”
“Yeah,” came the muffled reply.
Detective Spade looked over at Jenna and indicated with the jerk of his head to follow him as he went to Sam’s car. He kept his eyes on Sam. She opened the driver’s door and moved back so Detective Spade could investigate. He’d put on latex gloves, pulled the trunk release, then examined the open briefcase that sat on the passenger seat. The pills were in the briefcase. After searching the car and trunk, he approached Sam. “You’re telling the truth, at least. Did you read the instructions, you’ve got to be careful not to take too many of these things. How many did you take?”
Not lifting his head, Sam said, “I don’t know, one or two whenever I got tired.”
“Just as a precaution, I’m going to take you to emergency to get you checked out.” Detective Spade took Sam by the arm and led him to the police car. Miraculously, Sam didn’t object. Putting Sam in the front seat, he turned to Jenna. “Is it okay if we leave his car here?”
“Sure, I’ll move it. I was on my way out. Does he have his wallet?”
“I got the wallet out of his briefcase. The keys are in the ignition. Do you want me to make sure he doesn’t bother you when he comes back for his car?”
The adrenaline was beginning to wear off and Jenna was feeling shaky. She tried to lighten the atmosphere by saying, “Feeling protective, Detective?”
“It’s my job, Ma’am,” His handsome face lit up in a big smile.
Smiling back, Jenna said, “I’m much obliged to you, Sir, but I think I’ll be fine.” Then breaking the spell of their moment, she said, “Say, why did you come?”
Sounding disappointed, he said, “Oh, I came by to tell you you can pick up the things we found in your mother’s car. Just come by the station anytime and sign for them.”
“Oh, I thought maybe one of the neighbors called the police.”
“No. I was in the neighborhood, and thought I’d stop by.”
The look on his face made Jenna think there was more to it than just a friendly call, but she let it go. “I see.”
Looking at his rugged face, a tingling sensation started at the top of her head and moved down. Ripples of clear lavender, yellow and green energy swirled around him. She felt safe. Even so there was an awkward moment as if they each had something they wanted to say. Sam broke the spell by yelling something incoherent. She looked over at him. Detective Spade turned toward the car with reluctance. Jenna said. “I know he’s a jerk, but thanks for taking him to the doctor. You don’t have to stay with him do you?”
“No, he hasn’t committed a crime … yet.”
Jenna laughed. “No, he’s not the type. He’s insecure, but also very ambitious. I don’t think he’d do anything to harm his precious career.”
Detective Spade looked back at Sam leaning his head back against the head rest. “He doesn’t look too tough right now.”
Laughing, Jenna said, “No, he doesn’t. Will tomorrow be okay to stop by the station? I’ve got an appointment with Jim Marshall at the paper. I could come by after that.”
Smiling, Detective Spade said, “That’d be fine. I should be there most of the day.”
“Great. I’ll see you then. And thanks for the rescue, Detective.”
“My pleasure, Ma’am.” Detective Spade tipped his nonexistent hat and got into his car and waved as he drove off with a wilted looking Sam in the front seat.
She moved Sam’’s car then left on her errand.”
There is a scene between these two segments, but for the purposes of this post I cut it.
“When Jenna got back to the house, Sam was leaning on his car. Jenna still had the keys. Her heart sank. This wasn’t over. As she got out of the car, Sam came up the drive. “What’d you do, break bail?” Jenna asked.
“You’re boyfriend got me checked out right away. There wasn’t anyone in the waiting room. All I need is some sleep. Can I crash here?” Sam put that, aren’t I irresistible, look on his face that Jenna hated so much.
“Nope. There are some nice hotels downtown, or you can find a motel out by I-5.”
He frowned. That look usually melted women. “So, I’m not yet forgiven.”
Jenna rounded on Sam and poked him in the chest as she backed him toward his car. “Not even close. But even if you were, I still wouldn’t let you stay here. You cheated on me! I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past couple of weeks. I let you walk all over me because I thought we loved each other, and that’s what I was supposed to do. Now I see things differently. I deserve better, someone who knows who he is and loves me just because I’m me.”
Jenna was surprised that Sam was letting her poke him without fighting back. Maybe meeting Detective Spade made him cautious. He looked around to see if any of the neighbors were watching. Jenna jabbed him three times as she said, “That’s not you. Now, get out of here.” Sam started to interrupt, but Jenna cut him off. “No! It’s over! Now I’ve got work to do, so you can just take your keys,” she put them into his hand with a slap. “Get yourself back to L.A, and may you be happy there.”
Sam just looked at Jenna for a second, then twirling the keys, his expression changed back to his usual expression of self-absorption. “You’re a bitch! You’re blaming me for everything. I don’t know what I ever saw in you. You’re pathetic. I hope you’re happy with your sad little life and your cop boyfriend. I’m off to bigger and better things. You’d only drag me down, BABE!” He got into his car and screeched off, leaving the smell of a burned up relationship, cremated into vapor.”
Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.
“If your vision is one year, plant rice. If your vision is ten years, plant trees. If your vision is one-hundred years, educate your children in the arts.” -Chinese Proverb.
“Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.” -Oscar Wilde
“An artist is not paid for his labor, but for his vision.” -James Whistler
“There IS no weakness in having a theatre background. There is only strength.” -Brian Sibley
Every once in awhile something happens that prompts me to get up on my soap box about how under appreciated the Arts are in this country. The other day I was at a meeting of English, Communication and Theatre instructors at the local community college where I teach part-time. One of the instructors brought up the fact that English and communications are required classes for every degree. But I was thinking, why aren’t the Arts also required. In my humble opinion you can learn a great deal about yourself by creating a work of art.
I agree with Brian in so many ways, it’s almost as if I wrote the blog post myself. Theatre teaches critical thinking skills, how to think on your feet, how to gain insights into what makes humans tick, how to be resourceful, and creative. It also teaches, self-discipline, self-awareness, and self-esteem.
The common wisdom is that playing a team sport does all those things for you, and I’m not saying they don’t, but sports are about competition. The performing arts teach cooperation. Dr. Brené Brown writes in Daring Greatly, “We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.” That passage resonates with my life experiences. I feel bad when I’m in competition with someone, and good when we’re cooperating. After a theatrical performance, there are no riots, because one actor did a better job than another. Most of the time people leave the theatre feeling good, thoughtful, and enriched with a new perspective. I’m not sure we have those feelings after any kind of sporting event, especially when our team loses.
Okay, enough complaining. Since we live in a bottom-line culture, I’ll get to the bottom-line of why having two theatre degrees has been good for me.
It’s helped me in my personal and work relationships. Actors and directors learn to analyze the motivations of the characters in the play, which helps us understand the motivations of the people we come in contact with every day. Understanding human nature helps me communicate better. I’ve also learned how to read body language, which comprises 95% of our communication. We think words are of vital importance; we learn more from non-verbal clues, if we’re paying attention. Theatre also taught me how to express myself in more effective ways, because part of the acting process is to listen, think about what was said, then decide how to respond. That’s a good practice in every day life too.
One of the most important things I learned from my theatre experiences is to think critically. A group of people take a play look at all the “problems” that have to be solved in order for the production to be a success. They tackle each one, and little-by-little the production comes together until opening night when the audience tells them whether or not they did a good job. This kind of work is internal. It doesn’t show up on a spread sheet in neat little columns. To quote Brian Sibley, “You have to make tremendous inferences and intellectual leaps…” to make the production a success. In other words, you have to think outside the box. In my opinion, we could use a lot more of those people in all kinds of business endeavors.
Finally, I have to mention how good being involved in the Arts is for self-esteem. I’ve had students who were shy, or not interested in school, or who needed a place to belong, who blossomed as a result of taking drama, or getting involved in their local theatre troupe. Being an artist uses a very different skill set than being a scientist, mathematician, jock, computer nerd, or working with your hands. In most of those fields, the work that’s done is quantifiable.The effect of a work of art on both the audience and the performers isn’t measurable. Yet, would we give up going to the movies, concerts, art galleries, dance recitals, or plays because we can’t define what it is we get out of those events? Every parent who goes to see their child perform, is proud beyond measure, and that’s as it should be. Their pride and the child’s achievement can’t be measured, but it still enriches.
So, the next time you’re thinking that your school district should cut the art, band, choir, dance or theatre program, just remember that you’ll be denying an entire student population of that school district a chance to gain confidence, and learn some great skills that they will use their entire lives.
And I’ll end by saying, I think every college and university student should be required to take theatre classes as part of their degree program. After all, aren’t we tired of the lack of communication in business, and particularly in our government. People in every profession can use the empathy and critical thinking skills they could learn from involvement in the Arts.
“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”- Ann Landers
Ack, that whole Duck Dynasty controversy! What a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. I don’t watch the show, but, okay, so the guy showed us who he is. We all do that by what we say and do. He can’t be anything other than who he is and that goes for everyone else. Yes, he’s now a public figure. He’s probably not used to having everything he says and does scrutinized, and he’s not the first public figure to put his foot in it. I’m not saying I agree with him, but crimeny, what did the controversy accomplish? I was thinking about this latest media brouhaha, and then the other day in my writer’s group, we were discussing what can happen when you put yourself out into the world, and you get negative feedback.
One of our members has a new business, Love Based Leadership, with a book and newsletter of the same name. Recently, she began publishing short videos with leadership tips. During our meeting, she told us about some negative comments she’d received about her videos, and her process in dealing with them. Of course, at first she was devastated. We all want to be liked and supported. But here’s the thing, there’s no way we can please all the people all the time. At some point someone’s going to get rubbed the wrong way about what we’re doing, and they’ll say something. This is the thing we agreed upon, when someone says negative things to us, they’re telling us about themselves and their point of view. What they say has nothing to do with us.
Everyone has a unique perspective on the world. So, when I’m talking with anyone in private or in public, I have to remember that there will be people who won’t have the same viewpoint I do, and they may speak up and tell me what they think. The same goes for this blog, or my books. When I get a negative comment, I get to choose if I’ll react, or respond. As Wayne Dyer says, “We choose whether or not to be offended.” Does being offended by what someone else says, serve any purpose? Some people just thrive on controversy. However, there may be times, when speaking up helps raise public awareness, but most of the time it just causes a bigger fracas, which serves no one.
And another thing, when I’m challenged, I have a chance to assess the situation. Am I being challenged by someone who is open minded and willing to have a calm exchange of ideas, or not? If not, I steer clear of that person. They are energy vampires. For some reason controversy makes them feel more powerful. It’s an illusion, of course. What it really does is show their vulnerability and fear.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m not stung when someone makes a nasty comment about something I’ve created. My ego is just as fragile as most people’s. However, I have learned to take a breath and work through my hurt feelings. That’s what we were talking about in my writer’s group. How to overcome those terrible feelings when someone doesn’t appreciate what we have to offer. It takes practice to allow others to have their own point of view. It also takes practice not to be hurt when someone doesn’t like us, but it can be accomplished.
The bottom line is this: When we put ourselves out in the wider world, the negative comments are reminders that we’re doing something right. I mean, who wants to be a milk-toast and never get noticed? I have to remind myself, that what I’m doing is important, even if it’s just for my own soul development. Since that’s the case, I’m determined not to let anyone stop me from following my inner voice. I hope you won’t let anyone stop you either.
“Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.” – John Lennon
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” — Mark Twain
Recently, a debate arose on Facebook among my college friends about the possible elimination of winter term from Graceland University’s educational year. (A note to Elvis fans, Graceland University was in existence long before Elvis’ Graceland.)
It started off by one of my friends saying he thought it was a good thing to eliminate winter term so that students could focus on real learning. He set off a firestorm of discussion. I found out later he’d never attended Graceland, even though it is sponsored by the Church he belongs to, so he’d never experienced the benefits of such a program. In his defense I’ll say, it’s like him to post comments that promote discussion.
Let me explain what winter term was when I attended Graceland. During the month of January, students had a chance to sign up for one seminar type class. These were outside the normal college curriculum. Students could try out a discipline they were interested in, but didn’t have time to fit into their regular schedule, or they could take a trip to exotic places. Others opted to take art or music classes, or classes in their subject area that weren’t offered at any other time. Students were encouraged to play, and explore. The schedule was relaxed and we had lots of one-on-one time with the instructors.
Two good things about winter term: It was a way to ease back into the intensity of the spring semester. And it was a great chance to get to know a new set of people while exploring a new subject area. Yes, some students did a lot of goofing off, however, there were required assignments to do as part of these classes, though the requirements were more lenient. I have to say, I got a lot out of playing and learning at the same time.
Now maybe it’s because I’ve studied theatre, but I think play is a very important component to learning. Our minds and bodies get tired when we work too hard. It’s good to give them both some rest through play. When I taught High School English classes, I’d build in creative projects, or activities that encouraged discussion and an element of fun. It was a necessity since the classes were one hundred minutes long. I did this based on my feeling that play enhances learning. However, I was supported in that notion when I took a series of workshops meant to help ELL students (English Language Learners) succeed in not only learning the language, but learning the information being presented in class. Many of the activities presented in those workshops encouraged us to help the students talk with each other so peer learning could take place. The activities got the students out of their seats moving around and thinking in new ways.
While I was doing my guided meditation this morning, I had a new insight about hard work VS play. I’m one of those people who believed the axiom that to be prosperous, you need to work hard and sacrifice you free time. This morning that was shattered by the knowledge that the opposite is actually true. If I hadn’t been involved in theatre all these years, where it’s fun to do the “work”, I might never have seen the error in my thinking.
What I realized is that, “hard work” is something you do when you’re not aligned with you’re task. It’s a struggle to do the job, because it’s not your highest purpose. Nearly six years ago, I found that I was a good teacher, but it wasn’t my highest purpose and I was exhausted at the end of each day, unless I was directing a play. Then the day ended on a high note and I felt energized.
So, the word play can mean different things. It can mean goofing off and neglecting the task at hand. But, I think the best interpretation of play is, engaging in something you truly love to do, something that energizes and enriches your life. When we play to enrich our lives, we become more relaxed and the creative ideas flow.
The day I knew that I was meant to be a writer was one of the best days of my life, though I didn’t know it at the time. I’ve learned the joy of “playing” every day doing what I love. My life is rich and full and I’ve let go of the need to control events so that I can become prosperous. My little voice tells me to concentrate on perfecting my skills and let serendipity guide me when it’s time to promote and market my work.
I’m wondering, do you play to enhance your life? Are you doing what you love? If not, how could your life be better by doing so?
“Whether clear or garbled, tumultuous or silent, deliberate or fatally inadvertent, communication is the ground of meeting… It is, in short, the essential human connection.” – Ashley Montagu and Floyd Matson
“Talk and change the world.” – Slogan espoused by a group of U.S. Senators who happened to be female. (as reported in Communication Works tenth edition, by Teri Kwal Gamble and Michael Gamble.)
My husband’s six year old computer finally died. He gave it a hard workout with all the high powered graphics programs he uses and it served him well. But, that means he and I are now sharing my computer, which reminded me of when we first moved here. We had only one car. That meant we drove to work together every morning and home together every night. We did that for about six years until we moved out into the country, twenty miles or more from town. Then I took a job forty-five miles in one direction and Barry continued to drive twenty-one miles in the opposite direction. That made two cars necessary and everything changed.
Once we were driving in opposite directions, the nature of our communication deteriorated. We didn’t talk as much as we had before, because our schedules were so different. I had to leave very early in the morning and usually got home three hours before having to go to bed so I’d be fresh for the next day. Every weekend I was working on school projects and Barry had his activities. We barely saw each other and little by little got out of the habit of talking, except for vital communications.
The thing that was so wonderful about driving to work together was that we got an extra twenty minutes to an hour to be with each other every day. Barry and I enjoyed that extra time. If we’d been having a conversation at breakfast, we could finish it in the car. At the end of the day, we could decompress. We both missed that. There’s something cold about going out for dinner, or going to some event and having to interrupt your lovely conversation to drive home in separate cars.
Recently,when I began to teach an introductory communication course at the local community college, I realized that Barry and I had lost some of our communication skills. As the students and I talked about the skills necessary for good communication, I realized that I needed to do as much work to improve my skills as my students did. It takes practice to have meaningful conversations with your spouse, or anyone for that matter. It’s so important to see body language, facial expressions and to truly listen to what another person is saying. It’s also important to be able to put your own feelings aside long enough to try to understand what the other person is saying.
When I look back over the years Barry and I’ve spent together, some of the moments I cherish most are when we’ve had a good talk, or worked together on a project and were communicating well. It’s been a challenge to get our communication mojo back. Fortunately we were lucky to have good teachers in how to communicate well. My dad was an exquisite listener and communicator. By observing how he listened, considered and then responded to people, I learned how to be fully present for someone else. Our home was a great learning lab. My dad taught me that listening is at the heart of good communication. Thinking about what you’re going to say before you’ve heard what the other person is saying is not communicating. Maybe that’s part of our problem at the moment. We don’t listen to each other. We don’t take time to try to understand each other. We don’t trust each other because we think that everyone else should see the world the way we do. But that’s impossible. A good communicator tries to understand how the person their talking to sees the world and then find common ground.
Maybe my communication students are right, we need to redevelop our face-to-face communication skills again. I’m in favor of that. Having good technology skills is important, but being able to understand and be understood by your family, friends and colleagues is so much more important.