Apr 14, 2017

Six Impossible Things.

"Alice laughed There's no use trying, she said. "One can't believe impossible things." I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Lewis Carroll



Do you believe impossible things? Have you ever even tried? I love to believe impossible things. You know things that our dear friend Webster says are "not able to occur, exist, or be done." Things that are, "utterly impracticable." 

I cannot describe to you the frustration and bewilderment that wells up inside of me when someone says something cannot happen. It honestly feels like they are talking another language when they say things to me like;

Oh, you do not have enough time for that.
Oh, that is too far.
Oh, that will never work.
Oh, I think that is going to be too hard to figure out.
Oh, the weather will be bad.
Oh, aliens will come.

I smile at them when they say it. I carefully listen and acknowledge their very logical and good reasons. But I really hate hearing it all. As I am giving them my very best interested, kind, benevolent look, I am thinking to myself how sorry I feel for them, how I wish I could change their mind, and how I cannot wait to prove them wrong. I often wonder if something is wrong with me because I am pretty confident that whatever it is is possible. I guess that means that I am on team, anything is possible. Is it just a matter of if there is a will there a way? I think of impossible things all day long, it is probably why I am alone most of the time. I am not sure that believing in impossible things is a good thing. It is most likely not something you would put on your resume. Maybe I annoy the team reality crew?

Lest you think I am always accomplishing impossible things let me tell you of a recent moment when I second guessed and ruined things. Before spring break a few weeks ago I thought about something that seemed very possible to me, going to Fort Bragg in California to see the Glass Beach. I desperately wanted this to be possible. I had two free nights and a full day and a half to work with. I kept double checking the time it took to get there and the mileage.  I kept gathering information and voraciously reading about it. I kept asking my dad, who is an expert on where things are in California, hoping his answer and belief that it could happen would change.

 My resolve wavered but I booked an Airbnb in Crescent City, California anyway. I told my girls that we would have to wake up pretty early in the morning if this was going to happen. It was 4 hours and 28 minutes from where we were. We had one day to drive there and back and still enjoy the Glass Beach. It was going to be tight. NOT IMPOSSIBLE, just tight. The morning of the aforementioned attempt of the impossible my girls slept in and I let them. Before spring break our lives were out of control and it was so nice to have this lazy morning in an Airbnb in Crescent City California that I just let them sleep. By the time they got up the plan truly was impossible by all accounts. I did not give up and we still gave it our best shot. We got past Eureka before my nemesis reality appeared and I knew I could not push any further. It was not going to happen. I am not sure if I have recovered from this blow to my little world. I keep muttering to myself that I should have kept going.

I have something to tell you that is going to make you shake your head in wonder. So quick run to the bathroom before I make you laugh too much. For my profile on the dating website I wrote that I need someone who can think of 6 impossible things before breakfast. Yeah, I should probably change that to something like, I love to clean the house, snuggle, fix meals, and exercise all day long. Surprisingly, I have had boys from the dating website show interest in me but interestingly they all have some "impossible wall" that stops the relationship at some point and they declare:

Oh, we live to far apart.
Oh, I am too old for you.
Oh, you are too old for me.
Oh, it is too hard to blend families.
Oh, no one could really love me I have too much baggage.
Oh, we need more money to be happy. 
Oh, are families will think we are crazy.

Sigh. Reasons, reasons, reasons why things cannot happen. Can you tell it makes me grumpy? There, I said it, reality makes me grumpy. We have never been that great of friends.

If something is impossible it is;

futile
hopeless
unattainable
and my personal favorite, unreasonable.

The opposite of impossible are all these soothing words like; 

logical
believable
hopeful
sensible
practical

All the quotes in the world (well at least all the ones on google images) claim nothing is impossible. Anything can happen.So why do we even have the word impossible? My 17 year old nags me every day for a kitten, a car of her own, and our own place to live. All these things feel fairly impossible right now. So, maybe we just have moments where things are impossible.

What six futile, hopeless, unattainable, unreasonable things you think of before breakfast?

My 17 year old's list is:
her own car
a kitten
and our own place to live

My 14 year old's list is;
a horse
a horse
a horse


My list is;
my own house
Someone who likes me just the way I am right now
teaching high school business classes
hiking the applachian trail
going on a cruise once a year

Apr 10, 2017

Mind Over Matter.

     
Placebo Effect

"A beneficial effect, produced by a placebo drug or treatment, that cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient's belief in that treatment."

So this last semester, during week 10 of my Math class we were talking about basic statistics and we were given an assignment to watch a six minute video clip about the Placebo Effect. Of course I had heard about the Placebo Effect and basically knew what it was but I had never pondered much about it. I did not have any feelings about it either way.

This video clip was a follow up on a most fascinating three year study done at the Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center. A doctor named Dr. Bruce Moseley and many of his helpers were trying to study the effectiveness of arthroscopic surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee. They very randomly divided the 180 patients that qualified and consented for this surgery into groups for the study. Two groups of patients actually had the surgery and one group did not have the surgery. They took great care to make sure that the study was very random and that not even the doctor performing the surgeries knew which patients were actually getting the surgery until he opened an envelope after the patient was under anesthesia and on the operating table. They wanted to do their best to make sure all the patients had the same experience with no bias at all. The patients knew there was a chance that they would not get the surgery when they consented to be part of the study.

What stunned me was that seven years later the people who did not have the surgery were still convinced they were better. You watch them being interviewed, crying about the pain that they had been in. Then you see them so grateful, happy that they are able to function again even though they did not even have the surgery. After watching the video clip we were asked to read the article written about the study in the New England Journal of Medicine and it was very interesting. The very last sentence of the study says, "Finally, health care researchers should not underestimate the placebo effect, regardless of its mechanism."

Ever since this information from this study entered my brain I cannot stop thinking about our minds and how powerful they are. I am painfully aware that most of us do not use our minds to their full potential. Does this study mean if my brain believes something then it is so? How many times have my kids said to me;

"Oh I can't do that, I hate the way it feels.
"Oh I can't do that, it makes me sick."
"Oh I can't so that, it is too hard."

So many of us have things we simply cannot or will not do and we are sure we have very valid reasons for why. What if those reasons are not true? What if someone just told us that and we decided it sounded good, we convinced ourselves of it, and never really looked back? We all flippantly say to each other, "Oh you can do anything you put your mind to." Do we believe it? Is it true? Did you know that when we say that we are quoting Benjamin Franklin?

I have always been the kind of girl that gets extremely car sick if I ride in the back of a car. Ever since I was very little I have always had a throw up bag within reach when in the back of any car. My ex husband used to always casually mention that he felt like car sickness was just in my head. That used to make me a little sad. Is he right? If I worked really hard, told myself that I am not car sick, told people I am not car sick, and emphatically decided I do not get car sick would it work? Would I not get car sick? Is mind over matter true? If someone says "mind over matter" they are suggesting that you use willpower to overcome physical problems.

I think of the things that I think I cannot do. I wonder what would happen if I simply started thinking that I could do them and then eventually actually believed that I could do them. How much power do I have? Is it like having the force? Yoda says that, "Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view." So I am afraid of what I am afraid of because of my point of view and that is it? That is all that is holding me back? Do I love rain and gray days because of my point of view? And do you hate them because of your point of view? I see my kids declare that they cannot do things or they hate certain things, or something simply will not work and I wonder is it true? I guess it is true for them therefore it is true.

The doctor who performed the surgeries in the study says in the video that he went from being a skeptic about the placebo effect to a believer and that it is as much or more the patients belief about the surgery that influences the result as much as it is the actual surgery. This doctor had seen people get better purely because of what was in their minds.

Just what we all need is an over thinker thinking about her mind and what she believes. If I believe you hate me, do you? If I believe you love me do you? If I believe I am skinny am I? If I believe Reese's eggs are a vital food group are they? I told myself I could get a B in my Math class and I did what would have happened if I told my mind I could get an A?

Apr 2, 2017

Grit.

Well here it is. The closing days of winter break. I feel incredibly guilty at how indulgent I have been over this break. My trip to Port Townsend. The views. Lincoln City. The beach. Barking sea lions. Long thoughtful drives. A ferry ride. Days of doing literally nothing. Blogging. Incredible hiking. A dance. Seeing an old friend. Shopping. Sleeping in until 8. Finishing all 5 seasons of Suits. I honestly cannot remember the last time I reveled so much in my free time. I did no homework. I did no piano practicing. I did not wash one school bus. I did make my bed, take showers, and do my laundry just in case you long to start rumors about me.

Tomorrow real life must start again and I confess I am deeply afraid of it. More than I am afraid of spiders. Which is a lot. My two online classes for next semester have been uploaded and I peeked at them and I am worried. Math and Finance in the same semester. Can I do this?  Do I have what this requires? Am I smart enough? Am I strong enough? Is there an end? Will I recognize the end? What if I fail? Is this the right choice? Am I brave? Can I follow through?

Everything has seemed so clear since my divorce. I was astonished at the ease that I figured out how to go back to school. Surprised at how I got a job that worked with being in school and with my children's lives. Thrilled at my ability to get my school paid for. Hopeful about the potential for a relationship. Grateful to my parents who have been so supportive and sacrificed their peaceful, blissful retirement so me and my girls could come here to regroup.

Yet, I cannot describe the worry and doubts that have plagued my mind lately about my decision to go back to school. My decision to give up on finding a relationship. My wondering about whether I should just quit school and get a full time job that I can support myself and my two girls with. Everything had been so clear and then all of a sudden, almost overnight, it wasn't. Doubt and everything that comes along with it have been stalking me for at least a month and a half. Not a day has gone by that I did not ask myself the question, "What is wrong with me?"

Tonight as I was methodically delving into my classes for this semester hidden among the syllabus's, course instructions, grading policies, and announcements was a seemingly innocent suggestion from my new Math teacher to follow a link to a TED talk. I have a goal to follow every link in my classes this semester and to read everything very carefully so I clicked on the link. Not that it was hard because, hello,TED Talk. Who does not love those?

It was short but it was exactly what I needed. It was Angela Duckworth the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. As I listened to her talk about how grit is what makes the difference in who succeeds and who does not I felt the heavy "I am scared about my life" feeling fade away. I had not realized how incredibly heavy things have been. Thinking about grit made me find my resolve and helped me pull out of this feeling that I cannot do anything right. Grit grabbed my determination and said pull yourself together.

I am not sure when I first noticed the book Grit:The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. I love to frequently check up on the New York Times Bestseller list maybe I saw it there. Maybe it was one of those times that I treated myself to wandering through Barnes and Noble? Knowing me it was probably that article about the book in The Wall Street Journal last May. I honestly do not know for sure. I do know that I have almost bought the book a few times but that spending money thing always stopped me. The title fascinated me. I tried to justify the purchase by saying it would be for one of my kids. But I never bought it.

Grit is such an odd word. We rarely use it in everyday conversation. When I hear it I immediately think about the different types of sandpaper there are. You know, fine grit. coarse grit, medium grit. Cowboys definitely have grit. Some people eat grits. Some people grit their teeth. Yeah, a lot of things come to mind when you hear the word grit. What is the opposite of grit? Soft? What is in the middle between grit and soft? If you have grit you have firmness of character. if you have grit you are not afraid to fail.

So I am sure you noticed that I started this blog at the end of Christmas break and...ahem... never finished it. Today happens to be the end of Spring Break and I have come up for air. The semester I dreaded ends this week. I survived my 14 week semester of Math and Finance together. It even looks like I have an A and a B in my classes, but that is not official yet. It was a hard semester, I was right to be afraid of it and wonder if I could do it. I had no idea I could do what I just did. I did not do it alone. I had a tutor. I spent countless hours on the phone with my son in Estonia going over Math problems. I often did not answer the phone when people called this semester I just did not have time. I did not parent anyone the whole semester. I cried and wrung my hands in despair a lot.

If you have grit you have courage, you are conscientious, you follow through, you have endurance, and resilience is there as well. Basically you are a dream team of amazing personality traits. I want to have grit when I grow up. Angela thinks we need to teach it to our children more, stop coddling them. Sigh, I wish someone would coddle me. Do my homework for me. Tell me it is okay to sit and read a book all day. Maybe even give me a certificate acknowledging how well I can do nothing :)