Tag Archives: rebuilding

The Discomfort of Unlearning

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This is LaDonna, a student at MCC who kindly let me paint her as she did her homework.

Today, I worked with a student who needed assistance with an essay. Intelligent and conscientious, this woman — let’s call her Alecia — makes thoughtful comments regarding the assigned reading material; however, because she writes the way she speaks – in urban English — her writing hasn’t been earning top-notch grades from her professor.

“I be askin’ him what he wants me to do,” she said. “He told me come here.’”

Together, we’re working to get her to recognize some of her most common grammar errors.

“I be writing like this my whole life!” She rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. “Gettin’ good grades, too. How come nobody teach me this?”

When she expressed frustration about not being able to consistently catch her grammar errors, I encouraged her to be gentle with herself. “You’re learning a second language.” I told her. “That doesn’t happen overnight,” I said. “It’s going to take practice.”

Practice.

In our instant-gratification world, we want to be good at everything today.

Right now.

But it takes time to learn new skills.

And people are creatures of habit.

We learn something, do it for a while, and it becomes second nature.

We can unlearn a behavior or a habit, but it takes time. The longer we behave a certain way, the longer it takes to change that pattern or habit or behavior.

Unlearning is hard.

But it is possible.

Over the last few semesters, Alecia has been developing her book smarts.

Meanwhile, after living in an insulated bubble for my entire adult life, with only minimal exposure to people from outside my predominantly white, suburban community – I’ve been developing my life skills.

Over the last year, I’ve learned:

1) It’s possible to live alone. For the first time in decades, I’m making my own decisions about everything: how I want to live, where I want to live, what I want to do for fun, the type of people with whom I want to associate. A homebody by nature, it’s really lonely without having anyone to come home to. I need to get a cat.

2) It’s necessary to make new friends. When my marriage ended, nearly all of my friendships died.  One woman with whom I’d had a 45-year relationship actually shouted at me when I cried about being separated.

“You’re going to have to figure out a way to be happy and stop complaining about how hard it is to be alone,” she hollered. “No one wants to hear about this anymore.”

It was a clarifying moment. There was no “I love you” or “I’m here for you” or “This sucks” or “What do you need?” or “You’re not alone.” I was crushed, and had to realize that – despite out long history – that person was not a supportive friend. So I’m meeting new people by participating in activities that I enjoy. I joined a divorce support group, several art groups, and I’ve invited people over to my place to play old-fashioned board games, to paint, and to talk. It takes a long time to develop intimate friendships, but I’m doing it.

3) I’m not conventional. Conventional people have jobs they attend mostly Monday thru Friday from 9-5 or any other combination that equals a minimum of 40 hours per week. They have a certain number of weeks of vacation days each year. They marry and have 2-3 children. They look for happiness in things and enjoy shopping and accumulating stuff like computers, cars, homes, and cell phones. They are born in one country and remain in that country their entire lives. They own many televisions and use them regularly. They say things like “Be realistic” a lot. They don’t question authority and believe in doing things the way they’ve always been done. They criticize people who are different. What can I say? I have minimalist values. I don’t believe in big corporations or big government, and I can’t bear the idea of doing the same thing every day. Being unconventional means having the courage to stand up for myself. It means doing out of the ordinary things and, oftentimes, going against social norms.

4) It’s important to invest in myself. Somewhere along the way, I stopped doing things for myself. I became the person who did the shopping and the laundry and the cooking and the cleaning – and I stopped writing and reading and painting and riding horses and playing on swing-sets. I also stopped laughing. I’m trying to connect with the person that I was long ago. She’s in there. Somewhere.

5) Having feelings is normal. For over two decades, I lived with a person who was unable to express love, sorrow or pain. Unwilling to cry, he physically left the room whenever I tried to discuss an emotional issue. He often called me “crazy” when I showed even the slightest bit of anger or sadness. With the help of a great therapist, I’ve learned that I’m not crazy. I’m a whole person who feels things deeply.

As far as I’m concerned, Alecia and I are both warriors: learning how to take what has happened to us, good or bad, think about it, and learn to improve from it.

What unlearning have you done lately? What new idea/practice are you incorporating into your daily life?

*STBX = soon to be ex

tweet me @rasjacobson

 

 

 

Lessons From Ants: Rebuilding After The Storm

photo from Jason Bolonski via flickr.com

Have you ever watched ants after a storm? They don’t stand around. There are the egg-movers and the sand-shifters. Maybe there are a few complainishy-ants who stomp their six legs or shrug their thoraxes, but I suspect ants just accept things. Their instinct tells them to get to rebuildin’.

It’s what they do.

By now, most of my regular readers know my last computer died in August.

If you are new here, you need to know I was stupid and didn’t have a single thing backed up.

But let’s go back to the ants, shall we?

Unlike ants that tend to construct what appears to be essentially the same structure after each storm, I realized (after a lot of crying) in being forced to start over from scratch, I was given an opportunity.

My blog was unaffected by the great crash.

Don’t get me wrong, I lost a boatload of unfinished blog posts that I had not yet uploaded to WordPress.

But as I waited for the new computer to arrive, I realized I could just keep going along as I have been.

Or I could use the opportunity to shake things up here, too.

Things Have Changed

Some of the information on my blog is not up-to-date. First of all, I’m not currently teaching. And while it hurts my head and my heart to call myself a “former teacher,” I have to get over that and face reality. Right now, I don’t have a classroom. Or students.

And helping my niece with her college essay last weekend doesn’t count.

(Or does it?)

When I started my blog, my initial concept was to create a place where education and parenting collide. I wanted to tell stories about great teachers and teachers who bit the big one. I wanted to share my favorite stories from the classroom from decades ago and explain what I was seeing in the classroom now.

I wanted people to know that on any given day anyone can be a teacher, and the guy with three PhDs can be the biggest doofus in the room.

And that worked. For a while.

But then I found I had other stories to tell.

Stories that were not education related.

And if they didn’t fit at Teachers & Twits, I felt compelled to post them elsewhere.

Like I could be funny at Ironic Mom’s or Jamie’s Rabbits. Or I could talk about the grittier aspects of my personal life at The Monster in My Closet or I Survived The Mean Girls. Or I could be naughty and expose my inner chipmunk at Go Jules Go.

And while guest posting has led to wonderful cyber-friendships, I want my blog to be the place where I feel like I can write about anything.

Last year, best-selling author and social media expert, Kristen Lamb, told me I needed to rename my blog. She even gave me the tagline! It went with the book I was writing and it would have allowed me a lot of freedom to write about anything and everything.

But I was scared.

I wasn’t ready.

The crash has provided me with time to think.

What do I want? How can I be better? What do I want my blog to look like? What are my writing goals?

I looked carefully at my blog and my content.

What Did I Learn?

  1. I’m terrible about following up on posts that could use follow-up.
  • For example, after I wrote Helplessly Hoping David Crosby Notices Me, something magical happened at the concert! Did I ever write about it? No! Why? I don’t know. I mean, I do. I was planning Tech’s bar mitzvah and time got away from me. And then it felt like it was too far away. But still, I think I should follow up.
  • Oh, and remember I’m Sorry The United States Postal Service Wrecked Your Christmas? I wrote that when the package I sent to my niece and nephew never made to them. Yeah, there was follow up there, too. And I should write about that. But maybe I should wait to tell you until it’s closer to Christmas. See? That’s what I do. I have to just write the piece and not worry about the timing of the post.

2. I need to get better at following up and linking up to people who inspire some of my posts.

  • Recently, MJ Monaghan wrote a piece about internet problems and shoes. And Mark Kaplowitz wrote about really expensive high top sneakers. And I just wrote about my new boots that are effing killing me. Well, I need to remember to link up to those people! But I forget. How do people remember to do that? I need a strategy. Meanwhile, feel free to check out these pieces now. Great writers., the both of them.

3. I need a hook. Something that people know is my thing. Something that I can write about all the time and that I can love enough to commit to writing about regularly. I have ideas, but I’m open to suggestions.

4. I can’t realistically post 3 times a week.

  • I am a very slow typist. It takes me a ridiculously long time to craft a post.
  • I am a busy mother and wife.
  • Over the last few years, real-life friendships have suffered because of the hours I spend sitting at the keyboard. I am a hard worker, but I need to nurture real-life friendships, too. And exercise.

5. I am fortunate.

  • I was able to afford a new computer.
  • My husband realizes how important my writing is to me.
  • My son is a miracle. He set everything up – including my new external hard drive — and I’m pretty sure he could earn a solid living right now by offering twits like me technical support.
  • So many people helped me during this difficult time. Kelly at Dances With Chaos offered to have her husband take a look-see at my hard-drive before I sent it to Temple, Texas where it is currently being checked for signs of life. Kathy Owen checked in with me regularly via Twitter and telephone to make sure I was okay. Amber West introduced me to Google Docs and has captivated me with a new project! Gene Lempp responded in great detail to a comment I’d left on his blog, offering feedback that has my mind churning. In a good way.
  • And El Farris of Running From Hell With El managed to dig up a copy of my fiction manuscript from before the crash and was gracious enough to send it to me. So I have a place to start with when I’m ready to start working on that again.

Nobody freak out, I’m keeping my URL.

No links will be broken.

I’m still rasjacobson.com.

But.

I’m also renée a. schuls-jacobson.

Welcome to my blog.

Come sit over here. I have cupcakes. 😉

Some other changes are a-comin’.

And I’m excited.

But nervous.

Like a wee ant, I am starting from the ground up.

So the task feels big and scary.

And I want to get it right.

I watched a lot of Laverne & Shirley growing up, and there were plenty of episodes where one or the other of them would end up crying over something that seemed monumental at the time, but that was actually not that big of things given the larger scheme of things. And one of them would end up singing to her friend, to remind her that she could do whatever it was that seemed insurmountable on that day.

I guess I’m Shirley singing to Laverne.

Or that ant singing to myself.

Or something.

I hope you’ll stick around and hold my cyber hand as I slowly roll things out.

I’ve already made a few, do you see them?

I’ll be making changes slowly over the next few years weeks.

I’ve got high hopes that the decisions I’m making are good ones. Maybe.

When’s the last time you squished an ant? Cuz they are pretty freakin’ smart. 😉

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