OK folks, I’m doing this one lightning-fast, because I’m in training all week and am about to climb onto the Beltway for all that mess. (More on the training in a later post.) So I apologize for any typos.
And… Ten for Tuesday only has seven things today. OH WELL!
This week features some light fun as well as thought-provoking stuff–just because.
“Every year a mother duck lays her eggs in the courtyard of Bozeman High School. When the ducklings are ready, she taps on the door with her bill until someone opens the door. Then she leads them through the school to Mandeville Creek.”
Thank you to Arianne Lehn for sending this my way this morning. Poem by Ada Limón
More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.
Read about Twin Falls, Idaho (home of Chobani!), and how they seek to be a “neighborly city” toward refugees. Heartwarming and fierce.
The actions were in response to more than a year of controversy and negative stories in right-wing media and assorted comments sections, a trying time for a city that’s accepted refugees for decades but found its image sullied and citizens threatened. It’s an example of how the worst elements on the Internet can bleed into everyday life, and a cautionary tale of how the charged politics of immigration can play out in a community that believed it was doing the right thing by welcoming families displaced by conflicts in distant countries. After three Muslim refugees — all children — were charged in a sexual assault on a 5-year-old girl, right-wing media conjured up a lurid crime wave among the Muslim immigrants in the community. Breitbart embedded a reporter in Twin Falls to look for stories that “[don’t] fit the narrative about the benefits of diversity that the media and politicians try to spin.”
Twin Falls weathered sensationalized charges, grotesque threats and a militia group’s anti-immigrant demonstration. And the community has become the venue for a defamation lawsuit by yogurt maker Chobani, one of the area’s largest employers, against conspiracy monger Alex Jones, for stories with headlines such as “Idaho Yogurt Maker Caught Importing Migrant Rapists.”
After a long two years, Twin Falls residents didn’t recognize the city that was being portrayed in the media — so they decided to do something about it.
The first time you came to my poetry reading. After, while the room stood and clapped, I walked back to my seat beside you. You clutched my hand, your eyes red and wet, and said, I never thought I’d live to see so many old white people clapping for my son.
I didn’t quite understand until, weeks later, I visited you at the nail salon and watched as you knelt, head bent, washing the feet of one old white woman after another.
9. Imposter Syndrome
Don’t know where this originated, or even which of my social media friends initially posted it.
If I were writing a clickbait headline for this graphic, I’d say “You’ll never believe who struggles with imposter syndrome!” But really…
I also think “I just went where I was sent” will preach somehow.
Already posted to Facebook, but in case you missed it. I plugged in all of my favorite “drop of a hat” movies (i.e. films I’m always in the mood for), and only one comes close to a 50/50 split in dialogue: Stranger Than Fiction.
Lesley Stahl: Did you meet a lot of people who perpetrated war crimes who would otherwise in your opinion have been just a normal, upstanding citizen?
Benjamin Ferencz: Of course, is my answer. These men would never have been murderers had it not been for the war. These were people who could quote Goethe, who loved Wagner, who were polite–
Lesley Stahl: What turns a man into a savage beast like that?
Benjamin Ferencz: He’s not a savage. He’s an intelligent, patriotic human being.
Lesley Stahl: He’s a savage when he does the murder though.
Benjamin Ferencz: No. He’s a patriotic human being acting in the interest of his country, in his mind.
Lesley Stahl: You don’t think they turn into savages even for the act?
Benjamin Ferencz: Do you think the man who dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima was a savage? Now I will tell you something very profound, which I have learned after many years. War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.
You’ve heard it said, “Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.” We know people’s Facebook personas aren’t completely authentic, but it’s easy to forget that when we’re tangled up in our own insecurities.
A fascinating exercise, to compare what gets shared publicly on Facebook with what people search for in the relative privacy and obscurity of Google:
The Las Vegas budget hotel Circus Circus and the luxurious hotel Bellagio each holds about the same number of people. But the Bellagio gets about three times as many check-ins on Facebook.
Churchy friends–I had the sad privilege of attending a memorial service on Saturday for Jeff Krehbiel, a friend and minister colleague here in the DC area. It was a wonderful celebration of his life. Jeff was a community organizer as well as a pastor, working with the Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) on all kinds of initiatives with the people of Washington DC. He also wrote a short book connecting scripture with organizing. Here is an excerpt. Beautiful and wise. He will be missed.
I got to see Fun Home at the National Theater in DC a couple of weeks ago. What a fantastic show–about coming of age, coming out, and coming to terms with a family secret. Here’s a little taste from the Tonys a few years ago. (Sydney Lucas. WHOA.)
OK, this is a running link, but I promise it relates to “real life” as well. The author, Greg MacMillan, argues that we get stronger by stressing the body. The body adapts to this stress, and we improve. But we have to stress it the right way:
The optimal rate of adaptation occurs when the body is stressed to a tolerable level, allowing it time to adapt without having to draw on every ounce of its physical and mental reserves. It gradually adapts and is at far less risk for injury or burnout. At the end of a training run you feel pleasantly fatigued but also know that you could have done a little more.
Thus, the challenge during speed work is not to give the old 110 percent, or even 100 percent — it’s to train at around 90 percent. Great coaches such as Arthur Lydiard, David Martin, Bob Larsen and Bill Squires advocate this method of “controlled” training. You’ll find that your body is never overstressed and adapts gradually but progressively, always leaving you hungry for more. A little control will make training more enjoyable and lead to greater overall improvement and, most importantly, better race performance. I call it finding your sweet spot in training. Once you do, you’ll never have so much fun with your running.
See what I mean? How many of us work right up against the red line, pushing through exhaustion, and crowing “Eh, I’ll sleep when I’m dead”? We need to calibrate our activity level better. I heard a different coach say last week, “It’s better to be 10% undertrained for a race than even 1% overtrained.” Good advice for running and life.
I love the Improvised Life blog–they feature all kinds of creative, inspiring artists and thinkers there. This week they were singing the praises of the Cool Tools catalog, which we have and have enjoyed as well.
I am on a big Athena kick lately (I’ll explain why in a future blog post), and I loved Badass of the Week’s romp into Greek mythology. (Rated PG-13 for language; you’ve been warned, so don’t send me letters.)
OK, I’ve been sitting here trying to excerpt just one piece of this blog post, and I can’t. I can’t. It’s all awesome and badass and again, PG-13 so REALLY don’t send me letters, but go read it.
10. Wonder Woman!!
Speaking of strong goddess-women, I am so stoked for this movie. (Also worried they’ll mess it up–like the Pop Culture Happy Hour team, I’m feeling some “antici-ppointment”).
I’ve also added the song “Warriors” by Imagine Dragons to my running playlist. RAWR!!
This reflection went out to my email newsletter last week. I can never predict which reflections will touch a nerve, but this one did–I received a lots of responses, so I thought I’d share it here as well.
If you’d like to receive reflections like this a couple times a month, subscribe.
It has been a lovely and full spring. I am currently with a group of clergy for “preacher camp,” a week of study using papers that we write about the scripture texts for the coming year. It is a rich week, with lots of laughter. We begin each morning with a short informal worship service, which I’m leading this year. The theme is PLAY, and we are doing improv games together! It’s been a fun experiment to get out of our heads and into our bodies.
Speaking of bodies…
I wanted to share with you a moment that won’t let me go lately. I recently took my kids to see the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson. I was expecting to enjoy the movie for what it was—a fun diversion on a low-energy afternoon of Spring Break. I didn’t expect to receive a deeper back story for many of the characters, including the staff of the Beast’s household, now trapped in the form of various household objects. There’s even an explanation for why they were cursed along with the Beast. And unlike the 1992 animated movie, in which these talking objects were kind of cute and funny, I found myself feeling great empathy for these people whose flesh and blood had been taken away from them and who were now… a clock. A feather duster. A harpsichord.
My empathy came to a head at the end of the movie, when the teapot, Mrs. Potts, is released from her curse. Her son Chip, who has been a teacup all this time, is nowhere to be found, and Mrs. Potts begins desperately searching for him. Finally they find one another and collide into one another’s arms, overjoyed to be whole again. In the flurry of this reunion, Mrs. Potts (played by the amazing Emma Thompson) says a line—so fast that you could easily miss it—that made the breath catch in my throat and tears spring to my eyes. (Darn you Disney!)
The line was, “You smell so good!!”
Like Mrs. Potts, I am the mother of a young boy, and the top of his his head is one of the best, sweetest, earthiest smells I know. And for now, my nine-year-old’s crown of tousled hair reaches right under my nose—I know in time I will need to ask him to bend down to let me have a whiff of it, and by then, he won’t want me to. I have also known parents who have lost children, who miss so many things about them, and who would give anything for one more inhale of their child’s fleshy uniqueness.
For much of my life, I was oriented toward pursuits of the mind: I was diligent in school. I’m a writer. I study theology and scripture. I also grew up in a church whose theology taught that the body was connected to sin and shame. As a result, I often viewed my body as merely the container that carried my brain around. Now I am a runner and triathlete, and I do improvisation, a very body-oriented pursuit. I reject that body-shaming theology of my childhood.
Part of that journey has been coming to terms with my body’s limitations, which only increase as we age. I’m spending way more time with doctors on preventive medicine than I used to! But there is also great joy in becoming more “embodied”—in enjoying simple physical pleasures of life. A perfect little piece of dark chocolate. The feel of cool bathroom tile under bare feet in the morning. Laughing so hard with friends that I literally fall onto the floor. (Those were all this week!)
What about you? What simple embodied joys are catching your attention lately?
When George Shultz was secretary of state in the 1980s, he liked to carve out one hour each week for quiet reflection. He sat down in his office with a pad of paper and pen, closed the door and told his secretary to interrupt him only if one of two people called:
“My wife or the president,” Shultz recalled.
Shultz, who’s now 96, told me that his hour of solitude was the only way he could find time to think about the strategic aspects of his job. Otherwise, he would be constantly pulled into moment-to-moment tactical issues, never able to focus on larger questions of the national interest. And the only way to do great work, in any field, is to find time to consider the larger questions.
Pondering what this would look like for me. I work from home and set my own schedule, but find myself as beholden as anyone to the constant churning of social media and emails.
Even after two too many after-work old-fashioneds, Jim Talbott, 33, sensed that the woman on the Brooklyn-bound L Train was not quite as attracted to him as he was to her. She didn’t smile or thank him when he told her, slurringly, that her dress was “real nice.” Instead, she plugged her ears with ear-buds and turned the volume all the way up. “Is that Beyoncé?” he asked, twice, to no reply. He guessed he should probably stop talking to her, should stop staring at her legs, should absolutely not follow her off the train when she rushed out at First Avenue. Nevertheless, he persisted.
I am an unapologetic Brene Brown fangirl (she’s the big sister I need and deserve) but this is so, so important.
I post this image without necessarily endorsing it. I have spent some time with it as a tool for contemplation and discernment. However, it’s pretty privileged to even have the luxury of thinking that what you love and are good at is something the world will pay you for. Many people are just trying to get by on the jobs that are available. Even if you’re higher up on the pay and privilege scale, you may be geographically limited or constrained due to familial commitments. In which case, I’m a fan of blooming where you’re planted, aka improv. Still, I can’t quite let this image go.
This is not to say that one must always be positive to be healthy and happy. Clearly, there are times and situations that naturally result in negative feelings in the most upbeat of individuals. Worry, sadness, anger and other such “downers” have their place in any normal life. But chronically viewing the glass as half-empty is detrimental both mentally and physically and inhibits one’s ability to bounce back from life’s inevitable stresses.