Thursday, September 23, 2021

Still Words to Live By

What follows is perhaps one of my favorite blog posts from 2017 (April 22) and I wanted to update and adapt it for this September as part of our Throwback series of posts.  I hope you enjoy it.


I admit to being a bit of an introvert.  Ok, I am very much an introvert.  That's why writing a blog like this makes so much sense and so little sense all at the same time!

Someone sent me sayings that many introverts could relate to and I found one in particular that stood out with me:

When you are an introvert and try to say anything in a group of extroverts - 'Please be quiet, I'm really very interesting.'
I guess I can relate to that just as I can also relate to being surprised when people actually DO find me to be interesting.  When that happens - what's an introvert to do?   Oh great... they actually do want me to share with them... eeek!

Another thing that rang true in those sayings was the recurring theme that many persons who exhibit introversion tendencies will contemplate things that were said by others far longer than many who are extroverted in nature.  Maybe it is a function of the nature of many introverts to say less and listen more, all I know is that I have a number of things running through my head that have become 'words to live by.'

A "Happy Little Tree"

I know I am not the only person who still thinks fondly of Bob Ross and his Joy of Painting episodes that appeared (and still appear) frequently on Iowa Public Television.  Bob would talk about 'happy little trees,' 'happy little clouds' and he would encourage people to be creative ('this is your world').  

Our new-ish horse chestnut in the front yard appears to be happy

 The most important part for me was the tone of these shows.  I always started to relax, no matter what was going on, as soon as Mr. Ross loaded up his brush and started painting.  I am not sure I fully realized how much the serenity this man exhibited in his shows affected me until I found myself dealing with a nasty virus in 2017.  I could not sleep and felt generally miserable, so I flipped through some of our limited TV channels and found Joy of Painting on IPTV.  

I fell asleep for the first time in a couple of days almost as soon as the words 'happy little tree' left his lips and I dozed to the sounds of his brush hitting the canvas.

Why did I finally fall asleep?  It isn't that I think his painting is boring.  In fact, I usually can't help but be riveted by the process.  But, I needed some serenity.  Some sense that things could and would be ok.  And, how can you be without hope when the trees are happy?

You Meant Well 

Sometimes a little backstory is necessary - so I will give a bit of one here.  I was very frightened of talking in front of people (introvert - remember?) and was dismayed by the choice I would have to make for 9th grade... Speech or Debate.  

There was no getting around it, you had to take one or the other.  So, I opted for Debate.  Why?  Because I knew it wasn't very popular and there would be fewer people in the class.  Then, a strange thing happened.  I showed an aptitude for public speaking - and took Debate the next three years of high school.... as an elective!
Frank Kruse and Kate Kolb

For three of those years, Mr. Kruse was our debate coach and one of his pet sayings was "you meant well."  Initially, I don't think those of us in his class fully understood all of the nuances this phrase could hold and I suspect most of us thought he used the phrase to console us when things didn't go as planned.  But, as we gained some experience, we started to understand that the context of the conversation and the situation had as much or more to do with the meaning of "you meant well." 

Of course, Mr. Kruse was not the sort of teacher who would spell everything out in the simplest terms.  He took joy in challenging us to consider meaning and variations in meaning.  

"You meant well" could console you that you did your best with the resources you had and there wasn't much more that could have been done in your situation.  It could also imply that someone else did not "mean well" by exclusion.  

And, of course, it could be used to point out that you were operating on false assumptions and the harm that had occurred as a result wasn't what you were working towards. 

In the end, the biggest lesson I took from Mr. Kruse and this saying was that good intentions do NOT always carry the day.  You may have "meant well," but your failure to do your work properly or your unwillingness to think through your actions and consider the fallout can result in a bad situation regardless of the results you envisioned.

In the end, it is both enough and not enough to mean well.  We can do better and do no better than to mean well.  I can be absolved of blame and be wholly responsible for the same when I mean well.    

Do or Die!

That's a "do or die" weeding job if I ever saw one!

I learned a few years ago that Coach Rowray had passed away and it reminded me of the single year he served as baseball coach on the Junior Varsity (JV) Newton High School baseball team.  Playing on that particular team with that particular person as coach was one of my more positive experiences in baseball.  

I may not have appreciated all of the 'pole to pole' running he made us do at the time, but I always appreciated his fair and balanced approach to handling the diverse personalities and talents on the team.

Baseball practice often consisted of 'situational drills' where the players trained to respond to given scenarios.  One of Coach Rowray's favorite was the "Do or Die!" drill, which was focused primarily on the outfielders (yes, I was one of them).  

With the bases loaded and less than 2 out, the outfielders were trained to charge a ground ball that gets through the infield as hard as they could.  The idea was that we needed to pick up the ball cleanly and get the ball to home plate as quickly and accurately as possible.

If you could get there quickly, pick it up, throw it accurately (and low enough so it could be 'cut off'), you were able to "Do" and if you didn't... well... you get the point.  I guess I was particularly good at this drill since he would say "watch Faux do or die!" during practice and then make me do three to five of them in a row.

At the time, I wondered if he thought I was deficient with my "doing or dying" because he kept at me with it.  But, I figured it out soon enough.

Clarity came after this scenario actually occurred in a game.  I charged the ball, picked it up and...
Threw a hard strike to the catcher standing on home plate.  We very nearly caught the guy coming home from third because he wasn't running as hard as he could.  

And as the dust floated out of the catcher's mitt from the impact of my throw, Coach Rowray jumped out of the dugout and yelled "THAT's the way to DO or DIE!!!"

Coach Rowray was building me up as a model for others to follow.  He was encouraging me to work on a strength and make it even better.  He was reinforcing something that was good and using a person who was surely not the best athlete (but a passable one) on the team to do it.

Coach Dave Rowray 3rd from left

While I don't walk around telling myself or others to "do or die" this memory reminds me that preparation to succeed is part of success itself.  And, I learned from Coach Rowray that sometimes success isn't flashy like a home run, a diving catch or a pitcher striking out the side.  

Success is doing the right things in the right way and doing it even when the situation is difficult and maybe even in situations where it didn't seem to make a difference. Success often comes because of the things that happen when no one else is looking.

And then one day, you "Do."

I Like You Just the Way You Are

This last one may also ring true with a number of people who read this blog.  Are you feeling a little beat-up?  Maybe a little depressed by things that are going on?  Maybe you feel like you've messed up or you aren't what you're supposed to be?

Listen to Mr. Rogers for a second or two:

A simple show teaching important concepts - among them: self-acceptance and acceptance of others. 

When I watch this video, I instantly feel better about myself and the world I live in.  And, I was reminded that if a person I've never met and only seen on Iowa Public Television can make me feel this way by saying "I like you just the way you are," just imagine how much power this statement might have if you tell someone you know the very same thing.

A picture of two Dr's in one GFF field - cool!

And, I like them both - just the way they are. 

And some farmer friends.  More people I like - just the way they are.

And my family.  I like you all just the way you are.

And I like you.  Just the way you are.


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