Humans, Yeah…But Love Them Anyway

A fellow blogger recently reminded me of the following: a “poem” that circulates around the intarwebz under the title “Anyway” and is generally attributed to Mother Teresa. After doing some research, I discovered that the original was penned by one Kent M. Keith and entitled “The Paradoxical Commandments.”

It seems worth reblogging.

The Paradoxical Commandments

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

~ Kent M. Keith

(A version of these was made famous by Mother Teresa.)

The last two “commandments” stir up a lot of thoughts and mixed emotions in me. On one hand, every one of these resonates with me, and I want to shout, “YES! The world would be a glorious place if every one of us believed these things and acted on them!”

On the other hand, I struggle with setting healthy boundaries. The fight is not as tough as it once was, but there are still areas of my life in which I know my boundaries are ridiculously shoddy. (And I have a hard time not beating myself up about this.) So, to someone who has difficulty with drawing a firm line in a healthy place, Mr. Keith’s final two “commandments” can feel intimidating.

At what point do I withdraw (not my love but my self)? Where do I need to draw the line so that I’m not enabling instead of helping? For I know that there are, indeed, situations in which loving someone means not giving them my all. How do I know when I’m approaching the need to set that boundary? How do I know when I’m right on the line?

How do I know when I’ve crossed it?

These aren’t questions anyone can answer for me. The answers depend on the situation, on the people involved, and on my level of comfort (which, again, also corresponds to situation and persons). Relativity strikes again, I suppose. I just have to keep reminding myself to be patient — with me. It’s frustrating to have come so far in learning these boundary-setting skills…and then discover that I still have so much to learn.

But. In the meantime, “The Paradoxical Commandments” are good ones to live by, and I stand by the truth of that statement. Even the final two will, I think, lead one into a more meaningful and intentional life.

And that, really, is the kind of life I want: one that’s deliberate, intentional, infused with meaning. I don’t want to look back at my life and see a woman who has let fear or complacency or apathy rule her. I don’t want a life in which individuals or society have determined my choice, my direction, my goal.

Every one of Keith’s commandments resonates with my desire and my passion to brighten the corner where I am.

Every one of Keith’s commandments resonates with my desire and my passion…

“…to live deliberately…to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,
To put to rout all that [is] not life and not when I…come to die
Discover that I [have] not lived.”

~ Henry David Thoreau
(adapted)

Loving people “anyway” — not giving up on them, not casting them aside — seems like a good way to do that.

Good days aren’t easy.

So.

There are “good” days, and there are “bad” days.

It seems to me that we humans tend to define a “good” day as: day in which life proceeds as I’d prefer.

It seems to me that we humans tend to define a “bad” day as: day in which life does not proceed as I’d prefer.

Maybe in my today, life has proceeded as I’d prefer.

But in your today, life has proceeded straight into a pile of crap.

I’d call today “good.” But you would call today “bad.”

And we would both be right.

Considering this, I posit that there’s no such thing as a good day or bad day.

All there is is a day.

And what we choose to do with it.

Today, not all of life proceeded quite how I’d prefer.

Some of the Not-Like-I’d-Prefer was emotionally draining.

Someone might choose to dwell on this tiredness and, as a result, call today a “bad” day.

Me, I choose to dwell on the overwhelming beauty of witnessing a whole kaboodle of other people choosing to do something good with today.

Even though not every moment of today was easy, I feel like I, too, did something good with today.

So.

It’s been a hard day.

But it’s been a really good one.

Courtney’s Most Official Rules for Living

Once upon a time, I started keeping a list of “rules” I wanted to remember. These were tidbits and insights I picked up from daily life and might need more than a mental record of. Writing them down would let me refer back to them at a moment’s notice.

So, I snagged a used notebook my mom had inherited from a student at the end of the school year, ripped out the used pages, and got to notating.

As of this writing, I’ve noted 220 Official Rules. I likely have a few more to go.

So, without further ado or adon’t, here are a few of my personal favorites:

From “Courtney’s Most Official Rules

7. Never apologize for your beliefs.

8. Never apologize for your opinions.

9. Never be condescending to small children — or to anyone else, for that matter.

10. Remember that the direction of the toilet paper is over the roll, never under.

11. Eat vegetables.

13. Always make sure there is cold milk in the fridge.

14. Remember that there are two sides to every story.

15. Don’t spread rumors.

20. Never pull the labels off a friend’s coke bottle.

25. Be nice to cats and dogs.

26. Be optimistic.

28. Don’t lay wet clothes on dry shoes.

29. Don’t lay dry clothes on wet shoes.

31. You can buy chocolate, but you can’t buy money.

32. Never forget to wear underwear.

33. Don’t sneeze on your roommate’s clean laundry.

34. Ask permission before doing disco housecleaning.

35. Never buy $25,000.00 trucks you can’t afford.

36. Never say goodbye.

37. Always say au revoir.

38. Never do today the projects you can put off until the night after they’re due.

39. Always tango in the kitchen.

43. Don’t let the room intimidate you.

44. You can never own too many pairs of underwear.

45. Grow science experiments in the bottom of your refrigerator. Cheese and veggies work best.

47. Don’t use your pillow to bludgeon your roommate in your sleep.

49. Burps are better than farts.

53. If you let someone dare you into eating a worm, you must get them to believe that you enjoy it.

56. Take money from your spouse — taking it from strangers could make them angry.

57. Wear clogs.

60. Sing along to elevator music.

62. Communicate.

That’ll do for now, I think.

But don’t worry.

There’ll be more sharing of Most Official Rules to come. ; )

I Was a Weird Kid, and Here’s Proof

Or: My Parallel of Trout Fishing in America.

 

Or: Snail Hunting in Germany

Once upon a time, my parents and I moved to Darmstadt, Germany, two weeks before my 3rd birthday, and that’s where I grew up.

From ages 3-6, I attended Kindergarten. (In my early 1980s Germany, “kindergarden” was basically the American equivalent of daycare. We played, we did crafts, we had field trips, and at least one of us acquired a foreign language from her fellows and from her teacher, Frau Apfelrock [Mrs. Appleskirt {I swear I am not making this up.}].)

At age 6, I started Grundschule, German elementary school.

Grandpa: She doesn’t get eaten by the eels at this time.

The Grandson: What?

Grandpa: The eel doesn’t get her. I’m explaining to you because you look nervous.

While in elementary school, I attended an afterschool “daycare” called Kinderhort. Kinderhort was within walking distance from school, and it was designed for kids whose parents worked fulltime. This way, we didn’t have to go home to empty apartments and get ourselves into trouble. ; ) At Kinderhort, they fed us lunch, we had extensive playtime indoors and out, and we had to sit down every afternoon and do our homework. After late afternoon snacktime, parents arrived to pick us up.

The Plot Thickens

One day, probably in 3rd grade, it was time for our first overnight Kinderhort trip. If I recall correctly, it wasn’t just overnight, it was several overnights. I remember feeling vaguely apprehensive over being away from my parents for most of a week, but I don’t remember saying anything about this out loud.

My parents, however, perceptive people that they are, must have known which jig was up, because they sent this note along in my suitcase:

Yes.

You read it correctly.

To bribe me into participating fully in a fun-filled field trip, my parents promised that we would go snail hunting once I got home.

Because that was what I liked to do.

Snail Hunter Extraordinaire

Even as a kid, I hated spiders. Bugs held no fascination for me. I did enjoy the roly-polies (amusingly known as Kellerasseln in German) we occasionally found beneath rocks and rotten branches, but it’s not like I wanted to take them home with me.

Snails were a different matter.

Forget the “sugar and spice and everything nice.” I had the spice, all right, but other than that, I was “snips, snails, and puppy dogs’ tails all the way.”

I HEARTED SNAILS ALMOST BEYOND COMPREHENSION.

I found them, and I brought them home. Pink shells, yellow shells, striped shells, big, little, medium. I made homes for them in terrariums (terraria?): potting soil in the bottom, sticks and stones to crawl over, shallow containers for water, and all the lettuce and cucumbers they wanted. Once a day, I misted them with water from a spray bottle. The top of each terrarium I covered with mesh held in place by rubber bands.

Do please click to embiggen cuteness.

I read books about snails. Like, the educational kind of books. I learned about how they eat, how they sleep, how they mate, how they repair damage to their shells. When some of my snails inevitably got frisky with each other, I watched the whole process and felt amazed. When the snails laid eggs, I researched carefully how best to care for them. When the eggs hatched, I suddenly had tiny escapees all over my bedroom and had to find a tighter mesh with which to cover the terrariums/a.

Me with my pets, ca. 1985. Click to embiggen.

When my friends came over, I couldn’t understand why they didn’t just want to sit there and watch the snails.

Hmm.

Most of my snails hailed from the large courtyard between our apartment building and the surrounding buildings. They were fairly common garden snails, common enough that the parents frequently had to make me set some of them free. And, of course, there was the occasional death in the snail family, which generated space for the occasional new addition. (Yes, I mourned the death of each gastropod.)

The one snail that lived with us consistently for several years, though, was The Big One.

In German, she’s called a Weinbergschnecke: literally, a wine mountain snail. Extrapolating from the “Berg” (mountain) part of her nomenclature, I named her “Bergie.” Why did I decide that this snail was female? No clue. Except that she looked like a girl. And like a Bergie. (Snails are actually hermaphrodites.)

Bergie was a helix pomatia, also known as “escargot snail.” That’s right, she was one of the edible ones, and I kept her as a pet. I always felt right courageous for having rescued her from a terrible culinary fate. Besides, she had a damaged spot on the top of her shell when I found her. Though she’d already repaired it, I knew she needed a little extra TLC.

At some point — I don’t remember why — it came time for me to set all of my snails loose, and I knew I wouldn’t be acquiring more. When I placed them carefully into the damp underbrush in the big courtyard, they slimed happily away without a clue that they now found themselves in a bigger, more dangerous, and yet more variegated world. I said goodbye to them all: pink, yellow, striped, big, little, medium.

But the only one I truly regretted was Bergie. She poked her head out, unrolled her eye stalks, and looked around as though she knew exactly what was going on. I was sad, but I thought she might be excited about this new adventure. I watched her for a few minutes as she got acclimated. Once she was well on her slow, meticulous way into the grand expanse of Untamed Flowerbeds Plot Next To Stone Wall, I went home.

Some time later — it might’ve been a few months, it might’ve been a year — we moved away. A few days before we left for good, I went hunting in the courtyard one last time. Sure enough: There, under the well-drenched leaves of a stinging nettle, sat a Weinbergschnecke with a telltale scar on the top of its shell. Bergie! Weird kid that I was, I grinned like an idiot.

But I didn’t bother her. If she had forgotten me, I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by making her remember.

Bergie

(Click for what’s pretty much life size!)

O Failure! Thou Art Glorious

Hey there, dearly beloved,

I have no idea when I first ran across the two sites (links are below) that inspired and informed this blogpost. I only know that both resonated with me enough that I tucked them away for future reference. Their content is of the Things That Make You Go Hmmm variety, so my subconscious needed to ruminate on them for awhile.

Humiliating Failures

The first inspiration came from blogger Lachlan Cotter, who listed his many humiliating failures in chronological order, beginning with his being 3 weeks late to his own birth.

Mr. Cotter’s tongue-in-cheek rendition is entertaining. I’m not certain I could infuse my own list of failures with a tone that would keep you reading without wholly depressing you, my dears, so I’ll spare you that. But Cotter’s list does bring to mind plenty of my own failures…and the things I learned from them.

Or didn’t learn.

Because sometimes, I don’t get it in the first round.

Or the second.

*sigh* Or the third.

So, there are two of my failures already:

1. Not being able to craft a List of Humiliating Failures well enough to entertain you.

2. Repeatedly not learning from my own failures.

Concerning #1, I promise that my reluctance does not stem from not wanting to out myself. I could tell you about the time I, at age 11, beat up Sven, who was 10 and scrawny — and I later found out he was an abused kid. Go, me. Or the time I bragged to a classmate that I would never EVER name a kid “Ingeborg” because it’s such a terrible name, and he turned to me and said, “That’s my mom’s name” (which, if you recall that I grew up in Germany, is not far-fetched at all). Go, me. Then there was the time in 8th grade when I, the opera singer’s naturally talented daughter, got the German equivalent of an “F” on a music test.

Go, me.

Honestly…even though I know it’s deadly to compare myself, good or ill, to other people…honestly, the only thing that keeps me going sometimes is the knowledge that other people screw up just as much as I do.

Okay, not the only thing. As I mentioned above, The Learning of Things from Failure has quite a bit going for it, too.

I learned to protect instead of attack those smaller than I (and, later on, I figured out that “smaller” didn’t just apply to physical size).

I learned to find out where others are coming from before spouting off my own opinions (Rule #214. Meet them where they are.)

I learned that natural talent doesn’t mean squat if you don’t couple it with hard work.

From other failures, I learned to stand up for my artist self — the part of me that’s created to be creative. I learned that when I defend that part, I am a happier, more wholesome, more giving, more forgiving person. I learned that when I defend my artist self, other people are happier around me*.

From further failures, I haven’t yet learned just where my personal boundaries should be in interacting with certain people. And since I don’t know the exact location and definition of these particular boundaries, I haven’t learned how to set and defend them yet. But, as I fail over and over (andoverandoverandoverandover…) again, I’m figuring out the wheres and hows one little bit at a time.

But the one thing I have learned from NOT learning from my failures is that figuring it out one bit at a time is perfectly okay.

Let me restate, because this is important:

You don’t have to figure it all out in one go. Screwing up over and over and learning a little bit at a time is perfectly okay.

I wouldn’t understand this if I hadn’t already made a total idiot of myself. Lotsa times.

Morphing from Mistakes

This learning-from-failures stuff relates quite well to an article I found to go with Lachlan Cotter’s Failures List: “Goalar Energy” by Marney Makridakis. Here are the quotes that particularly resonated with me:

“Instead of ‘measuring by milestones,’ I found great relief in ‘morphing from mistakes.'”

You do this task first. Once you complete it, you can move on to the next task. Finish that one, then on to the next. And so on. I suspect that’s the message most of us get from society, from our inner circles, and from ourselves. It’s likely the message many of us preach to others: Take it day by day. Hour by hour. Minute by minute, if you have to.

A few paragraphs ago, I was talking about learning from my failures one step at a time. But maybe it’s not a step-by-step thing? Maybe it’s a process of transformation — in which change occurs one step at a time, yes, but at such a slow pace that one “step” is indistinguishable from the next.

Maybe the process of “learning” from humiliating failure is simply to let it all be an amorphous, unattractive blob for however long it takes until something glorious coalesces from it.

“Maybe all I needed to do was simply shine…and trust that forces greater than myself would take care of exactly where the light fell.”

I operate from the assumption that forces greater than I are reality and that they are trustworthy. Thia doesn’t mean that I’m always able to trust them — which says far more about me than it does about them. Yeah, yeah, I am Eternal Optimist Woman and all that (have you heard me roar?), but verily and forsooth, I do believe that the universe operates by benign principles. And one of those principles, I believe, is “let there be light” just where it needs to be.

So, I’ve screwed up. I know that if I “brighten the corner where I am, I will light the world” (Dean Koontz)…but I also know that when I screw up and darken my corner, the darkness has a ripple effect into the lives of others. I’ve failed in some way, and now the darkness is spreading. I can watch it. I can see what it’s doing as it ripples along. How can I trust that the light will ever dispel the darkness again?

But I do trust. I do believe. And I do believe that the light is always stronger and farther-reaching than the darkness.

“Whereas the old books had instructed me to ‘be direct’ as I focused on a goal, I found that ‘be dreamlike’ worked better for me.”

When I consider my worst failures, I see that they all involved my causing someone else pain. That’s what made these failures so humiliating: not that I made a fool of myself in a slapstick way, but that I hurt someone else and damaged (or ruined) a relationship.

Unfortunately, I had to go through quite a few such humiliating failures before I learned to go with the dreamlike instead of the goal-oriented. Morphing from these failures meant recognizing that it’s not my job to fix things for others — or to fix others, period. I can dream with them even as I dream with myself…but I must give up this idea that I have the answers they need.

Does “being dreamlike” help me avoid failure? Maybe. Maybe a better question is: Should I even try to avoid failure by being dreamlike?

What I’m getting at (and what I have to remind myself of again and again) is that failure is not by nature a bad thing. It’s only a bad thing if I don’t use it as a tool for transformation. If I’m going to be dreamlike and allow my mind and heart to follow what-ifs, I have to accept that some of those what-ifs will lead me to screw up again.

And when that happens, the best thing I can do is facepalm and carry on: admit the failure, make amends if possible and where necessary, and morph from the mistake.

After all, I have a corner to brighten.

_______

*NOTE: It is not my job to make other people happy. Others’ happiness or unhappiness depends entirely on their own emotional choices. However, when I am more authentically me — when I am what customer-delight specialist El Edwards calls “more youier” or “me-ier,” I guess — a side benefit is that my happiness spills over to others. Conversely, when I am not authentically me, my resulting unhappiness spills over to others as well.

We are all connected, y’know. : )

Writing Means Creating Hay

So. As far as significant blogposts go, I honestly got nuthin’ for ya today, y’all. The reason for this is that I’ve spent every possible moment of the past 36 hours working on the sequel to Rethana’s Surrender.

The goal, in case you hadn’t already guessed, is to get this sequel ready for editing before the baby comes. I feel like I’m pretty well on-track to accomplishing this; but still, I remain aware that time groweth short. So, with much aplomb, Ima make hay while the sun shines.

Over the past 36 hours, the creation of said hay has been: finishing up an entire chapter of new material and editing into submission two chapters of material I last tinkered with four years ago.

I LOVE MY JOB. : )

That is all.

Kindlebook Writer (sing it!)

So. A couple of months ago, I blogged a post entitled Paaaaperbaaack Wriiiiiterrrrr (sing it!). There might have been more or fewer “a”s, “i”s, and “r”s there; I haven’t counted them. But, in case you couldn’t tell, I was referencing the old favorite, “Paperback Writer,” by The Beatles.

Every since then, it’s been in the back of my mind to write some parody lyrics applicable to our modern e-book age. So, without further ado or don’t, here is said parody. Enjoy!

“Kindlebook Writer”

(Tune: “Paperback Writer” by The Beatles)

Kindlebook writer
Kindlebook writer
Writer, writer…

Dearest Twitter peeps,
Do you Kindle? Nook?
In a month, I wrote
A NaNoWriMo book!

Kindlebook!

It is fantasy,
And it’s really good,
And I need the cash,
So I want to be a
Kindlebook writer.
Kindlebook writer!

It’s an epic story
Of a dragon man,
And his elven wife
doesn’t understand.

His son is working
For the Witches’ Guild.
It’s a funky job,
But he wants to be a
Kindlebook writer.
Kindlebook writer!

It’s three thousand pages,
Electronic-wise.
You can swipe the story
‘Til your Kindle dies.

The sequel only
Took me half a week.
My dear spell-check helped me!
And I’m gonna be a
Kindlebook writer.
Kindlebook writer!

At Amazon
It is now on sale.
You can buy it now!
Come and buy my tale!

Review it now!
Give it five gold stars!
I could use the boost,
And I’m gonna be a
Kindlebook writer.
Kindlebook writer!

Kindlebook writer!

________

Thank you, thank you. ; )

P.S. Just to clarify: Rethana’s Surrender is, in fact, *not* about a dragon man with a cantankerous elven wife and a witchly-employed son. That would make an awesome story, though, so if any of you want to write it, please do!

Freddy Mercury, Painting, and Ennui

Because I’ve had an icky evening (READ: pregnancy is not for sissies), and I haven’t the fortitude for delving deeply into anything, here are a few thoughts on current events both local and not:

Olympics 2012 Closing Ceremonies

º I know I picked up on the meaning of many of the elements because I’ve spent most of my life in Europe.

º I had no clue of the meaning behind many of the other elements.

º This go-round wasn’t as moving as the Opening Ceremonies, but I still enjoyed watching.

º George Michael could tone down his vibrato a bit, but I was still disappointed that he didn’t sing more than one song.

º The members of the apparently newish boy band whose name I’d never heard of and now can’t recall all look like Justin Bieber.

º Whoever that girl was, she’s no Freddy Mercury.

º The giant puzzle-piece John Lennon face was pretty cramazing.

º Also, regarding the last Olympic event I watched this morning: Basketball players are quite tall.

Writing

º I didn’t work on the Rethana’s Surrender sequel this weekend.

º Friday night, I woke up at 4:30am and didn’t go back to sleep until 7:30am. (Yes, I still count that as Friday night. Hush.) At 5:30am, my brain delivered the first line of a new sci-fi short story: “The joke was sleek, fast, and deadly.” And in the next sentence, a woman dies a particularly bloody death.

Accordingly, with the little time I had Saturday morning, I started writing the story. I wrote more than a page. I’m still not sure just what The Story of the story is, but the title shall be “The Joke’s on Us.”

If I can’t figure out where it’s going, the joke will definitely be on me.

º I’m also feeling an urge toward poetry. It’s been a long time since I’ve written any, and I suspect I’m overdue. Once upon a time, I wrote 15-20 poems per year. Now, I might do two. That’s what happens when you turn yourself into a fulltime novelist, I guess. But I shouldn’t neglect the poetic aspect of writing. It affects the noveling in good ways. I shouldn’t forget that.

Politics

 

Media

º Multiple times per day, I check Twitter and Facebook.

º I don’t know if I’m just desensitized or dejected or what, but recently, my internal reaction to both media has been, “I’m bored.”

º Recently, my internal reaction to the intarwebz has been, “I’m bored.”

º Lest you think this were a reaction to my commitment to blogging every day — as in, I’m blogging every day and so am simply dazed with the amount of time I’m spending online — I’ve had ennui regarding the internet for quite awhile now. There just doesn’t seem to be much to do online.

º Maybe this is a feeling I need to follow. I would certainly get more writing done if I did.

Art

º I miss painting. I’ve had a concept in mind for a painting for over a year, and what with cover art and other projects, I haven’t had time to put that idea to canvas.

º Now, considering the 8-months-pregnant tummy, I can’t sit down to paint anymore. And I’m too tired to stand up to paint.

º So will I ever get to paint this picture I have in mind?

º Since I haven’t been able to paint, I’ve been playing with my phone camera and self-portraits. I leave you with one of my current favorites. Please do click to embiggen for the details!

Against the Grain