Thank you for the nagging

I’ve got a bad habit. A fairly harmless one, that many people do. I know I need to work on it, and yet I justify it. ‘I need it to cope.’ ‘I am working on it… a little.’ ‘I’m working on so many midot (traits), I’m just not up for this one yet.’ ‘I’ll be counterproductive, cuz I’ll just end up being resentful and doing it more.’ These were all valid points; I gave the matter some thought, and they went from real excuses to a battle plan for the future. But still, I was doing pretty poorly in the here and now.

Let’s use an example, for simplicity’s sake, and say this trait was complaining. I don’t whinge about the little minor things ‘oh, we have to share a bus with xyz’ or at least, what I call the little things (I guess the vending machine not being plugged in when I’m falling asleep and want soda is kind of a medium thing,) but I didn’t think I’d ever be one of those people who just quietly absorbed whatever life threw at them. a) They’re all tazadikeses and b) It just wouldn’t work for me. I need to get stuff out of my system, in order to stay healthy and sane. My friends have learned to live with it, and I’ve learned to pick a new friend each time I want to vent (or whatever my bad habit really is.)

So all the anti-complaining messages I’ve been hearing pretty heavily the past year (in a general sense, eg. school-wide campaign, never directed at me) just dropped my self esteem, left me defensive, made me resentful and justifying everything, and on occasion, left me in tears. (Inadvertently. It wasn’t her fault, she was only trying to help.) I just told myself everything you read above, and it was true. But it also seeped in.

I still indulge in my bad habit; I know I just need to let my feelings out. But I’ve also started paying more attention, in small sometimes subconscious steps. ‘Ok, so she needs to know I was sick for a week, but can I say it in a more positive way?’ ‘Ok, I need to vent, but how quickly can I change the topic?’ ‘Can I push off saying this for five minutes (at which point I will promptly forget it?)’ ‘Can I ask about her day first?’ I think it has less to do with a shift in behavior, and more just to do with having a more positive mindset, and realizing that my friends don’t always need to deal with this, even if they’re happy to. I just try and ‘vent’ in a more positive, long term, cheerful tone, and it takes the edge off. I’ll catch myself as soon as I feel better and not go on any longer.

So, this is a very long post to say a very short thing; To all the persistent, annoying, cheerful, inflexible, nagging people/messages over the past year, thank you for being that. I guess that future time I was going to start changing is now. Now, to work on my procrastination… let’s discuss it later 😛

A need for thanks

Saying thank you for a favor is easy. Saying thank you when you know you’re admitting to the world that you’re vulnerable and you know you couldn’t have managed without is harder. Nevertheless, I have to thank my vice principal today, for not just helping as she has had to so much recently, but how she helped.

I’ll make a long story short and just say I ended up in the office sick for the second (or maybe even third) time in a short while. The Vice-Principal is the one who usually deals with sick people in our school, and knows a lot about my medical history. In the past, when I end up in her office, I’m so worn out that after waiting it out a while, and a few protests and tears, I agree to be sent home. This time, though, I put up quiet the miserable fight. Someone was counting on me to be there today, and I didn’t want to let them down. These days, being sick has put an even bigger burden on everyone around me than before, and I let all my misery out to her. Another caring person who tried to help made things much worse and she dealt with it discreetly and properly.

The whole thing is a blur in my head, but I remember her thoughtfulness, her humor, her trying to accommodate me and help me stay as best as possible. I vividly recall that even when I was acting like a baby, she still talked to me like I was sane, and when I was ‘with it’ again, she talked to me as much like an adult as a Vice-Principal ever would to a baby-faced student. She made the whole thing less painful.

I didn’t just want her help, I needed it. And therefore, though I might not want to share my painful experience, I need to.

Constructive Criticism 1

It’s somewhat sad to write about something that you wouldn’t even notice is a good and positive thing if it weren’t that so few people did it. But the fact is, we all notice the bad things anyway. I choose to also highlight the good.

I overheard two girls today talking about a particular teacher and a particular class. But what made them different was that they weren’t griping, exaggerating, blaming, or speaking lashon harah.

Rather, one told her friend that she was having xy and z issue, and that this was why. She added, in a reasonable, calm voice, that she knew she should respect this teacher, and she did, but that nevertheless, this was still an issue, and she had no clue what to do about it. Her concerns, I can attest to personally, were valid, and it was an issue. But the way she handled it showed maturity and respect.

Though poor behavior cannot be denied to exist, I also choose not to highlight it. If you don’t understand why this was music to my ears, kol hakavod for you.

Change is good

When I cry out to G-d in a fit of frustration, it seems that the most often comment is– “Why so soon after the last test?! Can I not be allowed to breath freely or smile without worry for a minute?!” It seems that the tests come one after the other– as soon as one finishes, the next is less than a day away, and sometimes hours or even only 30 minutes past the last one. And I’m not talking about little things. I’m not going to get into an objective ‘is this an issue or not’ because we could spend all day topping each other; but to me at least, these are very big things. Things outside my ability to handle that can often take months to resolve.

The past two days have been the first two days of school. And, looking back, I really have had that break I asked for. Sure, I spent the first day back telling people not to hug me because my guts might fall out onto the floor (yes, I really was feeling that sick at first, and it was beyond hilarious when I said it to an over-enthusiastic teacher); I had a dilemma with my lunchbox and a horrible time with my safa diagnostic test, and I still don’t have my new headphones. But all of these, in the grand scheme of things, are pretty minor. Most importantly, I had the resilience to treat them as such.

But I’ve never laughed so much on the first day of school before. Ever. Or nearly any day, in fact. It turns out I can take better care of myself then I though, and so my health’s basically been stable. (To the utter shock of the resource room director, who’s known me for a while.) I won’t say the past two days have been so easy, but they’ve been amazing fun, amazing growth, and a lot of a lighter load then I’m used to getting from Above.

No doubt, even if I wasn’t ‘due’ for another test right now, writing this will seal the deal. But that’s ok. It won’t erase what a wonderful start of the year it’s been. I hope I’ll cherish these simple sweet memories for a while.

It’s ok to get upset when bad things happen. For me, acknowledging it’s hard, and that each test pushes me past what I think I can do, even as I usually come out ok, is how I get the strength to pull together and move on with life. But there’s a flip side. You have to knowledge the good. Believe it or not, I just did.

Thank you G-d, from the bottom of the healthy heart You gave me, written with the fingers that feel pretty good today, recognized with the amazing brain You gave me to use, on the computer that works well, for a day that was good not just in hindsight, but right here and now.

Artistic Visit

Today we had the privilege of having a guest speaker in our careers class. She volunteered her time to visit her old school and speak for close to an hour, two consecutive classes

Not only was I impressed with her speech and the information she taught us, I was also impressed with her career. Makeup artist is often seen as such an external-related, physical, gashmiyusdik occupation. Hearing her speak gave me a totally different mindset.

First of all, in contrast to the gashmiyus of the makeup industry, she was dressed impeccably tzniusdikly. Her own makeup was subtle and very tasteful—in fact, clueless me is just assuming that she was wearing any at all. The glow of her skin was concentrated only in the areas that were visible

She described using makeup for the most spiritual of purposes—to make brides look amazing and feel confident on their wedding days. She talked about how the flexible hours allowed her to work even after her own marriage (Hashem should bless them both with everything). She emphasized how thrilled she was to finish school and work with the frum community.

Thank you for many lessons, well taught.

Noteworthy

One of the staff members at my school has been having a hard time lately, and one day I guess it really showed. We all politely waited for her to compose herself and move on with her speech.

A day or two later, at our daily assembly, she publically thanked whoever had been the kind person who left a very thoughtful note in her office. She did this publicly, because in spite of the benefits of being on good terms with an influential staff member… the student hadn’t signed her name.

(Great) Hair Day

I walked into school today for the first time with a major haircut I got over the break. Truth be told, I was a bit nervous, but I couldn’t exactly stick it all back on, right?

It would have been normal for everyone to comment. But not only did almost everyone I know everyone point it out– they all had something nice to say! Which tells you a lot about my former ‘style’ :)…

…but also a lot about how nice my ‘school-mates’ are. (And the teachers.)

Holy Machlokes

We learned a most inspiring peice about Machlokes today. Why can Yidden not just stop arguing?!

Suppose someone at your workplace was doing something wrong. It wouldn’t have a major affect on you, but you thought you could help them correct it. After a few persistent ‘no’s, maybe even a few ‘my way is better’s, you would probably give up.

But say your brother or sister was doing something simmilar. Something that might bother them, but wouldn’t really have such a huge affect on you. Would you still try to help them? Of course!!! If they’re in any form of danger– spiritual, financial (as in our previous case), physical– you would do your utmost to stop them.

We don’t fight because we think everyone else is wrong and we’re right. We fight because we want to help all our Jewish brothers and sisters do the very best that they can!

And, like all other siblings, we might beat eachother black and blue within the family. But when an outsider threatens? “No one messes with my baby brother!” Please– in times of peace, may they come soon, lets remember how we feel about each other when the bigger threats loom.

Should you help people grow spiritually? Of course!!! (That’s a subject for a later post.) But if you’ve ever cried bitter tears over the ‘wars’ within– there is hope! We fight because we care!