Sunday, February 27, 2011

Stop, Breathe, and Take a Break

Hello everyone!  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend.  This past week I was stressed-out.  Mid-terms and graduate-school applications had me pulling my hair.  Have you also been stressed-out lately? Well, maybe this poem, “How to Leave the World that Worships should” by Ros Barber, will help. 

How to Leave the World that Worships should by Ros Barber

Let faxes butter-curl on dusty shelves.
Let junkmail build its castles in the hush
of other people’s halls. Let deadlines burst
and flash like glorious fireworks somewhere else.
As hours go softly by, let others curse
the roads where distant drivers queue like sheep.
Let e-mails fly like panicked, tiny birds.
Let phones, unanswered, ring themselves to sleep.

Above, the sky unrolls its telegram,
immense and wordless, simply understood:
you’ve made your mark like birdtracks in the sand -
now make the air in your lungs your livelihood.
See how each wave arrives at last to heave
itself upon the beach and vanish. Breathe.

I hope you enjoyed the poem.  Here is what I believe Barber has to tell us:

Sometimes our lives become hectic.  We have numerous tasks to complete in little time.  We throw up our hands and scream, “Give me a break!”  However, our oversized-to-do lists tell us that we have no time for breaks.  Thus, we suck it up and keep on working, only to crash later down the road.   

But Barber tells us that when our tasks become plenty, we should stop, breathe, and take a break; for not doing so causes us to become stressed and prohibits us from doing our best.    

Therefore, when our tasks get out of hand, we must remember to take a break.  In addition, we must remember to actually enjoy our break and not worry about our tasks.  (Worrying about our tasks will not get them completed.  They will still be waiting for us once we return.  Thus, it’s ok for us to forget about them for a while.)  After our break, we will be able to return to our tasks with alertness and enthusiasm.      

So while you’re writing your 20-page paper for class, finishing a memo for work, or constructing the guest-list to your wedding, remember to stop, breathe, and take a break!  You will get your tasks completed.  Trust me, you will.  BUT! Don’t take a break for too long (I know, there’s always some catch isn’t it?).  Remember that our tasks can’t complete themselves (although if they could, that would be awesome).  Sadly, we are still the only ones who can finish them.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Be an Outcast!

Hello everyone!  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend.  This week I chose to focus on one of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets: “Be Nobody’s Darling” by Alice Walker.

Author and poet, Alice Walker

Be Nobody’s Darling by Alice Walker   

Be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Take the contradictions
Of your life
And wrap around
You like shawl,
To parry stones
To keep you warm.

Watch the people succumb
To madness
With ample cheer;
Let them look askance at you
And you askance reply.

Be an outcast;
Be pleased to walk alone
Or line the crowded
River beds
With other impetuous

Make a merry gathering
On the bank
Where thousands perished
For brave hurt words
They said.

Be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Qualified to live
Among your dead.

I hope you enjoyed the poem and found its message inspiring.  Here is what I think it could teach us:

I would like to begin by asking you a question, and in answering this question, I ask that you be honest.  How many times do you jump on the bandwagon and follow the actions of the crowd?  Never?  Every now and then?  Sometimes?  Remember that you are to be honest.  Are you having a hard time arriving at an honest answer? If so, let me help you.  We jump on the bandwagon and follow the actions of the crowd more often than we realize.  For example, think about how frequently you have purchased clothing according to the latest fashion or have obtained technical gadgets because of their increasing popularity among others.  I know that I am guilty of following the crowd, and if you are honest with yourself, I believe that you will be guilty as well.  The truth is that we are humans, and as a social species, we are more inclined to follow the crowd.  However, is being a follower always beneficial? 

Although being a follower may provide us with the benefit of social acceptance, it prevents us from being outcasts.  You may ask, why should we be outcasts?  Allow me to give you three reasons:

First, being an outcast allows us to define our sense of self and enhances our self-esteem and confidence.  It allows us to channel your inner creativity and pursue our dreams and desires.

Second, being an outcast differentiates us from the bunch and makes us stand out among the masses.  This is helpful when we are applying for jobs or for school admissions, as most employers and admission representatives often consider the candidates who stand out the most within the applicant pool. 

Third, being an outcast allows us to make our mark on the world.  We can’t greatly impact the world by being followers, for in following others, we are drawn into the black pit of oblivion.  We essentially become nonentities.  History has shown that the most successful people on earth were those who dared to be different.   

Now that I have informed you about the benefits of being an outcast, you may have wondered why is it so difficult to be one.

I believe that we have difficulty in being outcasts simply because we are busily trying to live up to others' expectations.  How often have you altered your actions according to what others may have wanted you to do with your life? I know that I have many times.  We try to please those we love and are strongly connected to: our parents, friends, significant others, and anyone else who may be important to us.  Although it may seem like the greatest love we can offer, to sacrifice our desires for the desires of others, we must acknowledge that we are who we are and that we have an obligation to live our lives.  When we live our lives being who we are individually and uniquely, we are happier and freer.    

Walker advises us to be nobody’s darling and to not heed to the wishes of others.  She insists that we become the outcasts that we are naturally.  (We essentially are outcasts because we are all so distinctly different!)  We mustn’t allow people to change us into whom they think we should be. We are way too cool to be pounded and molded into something we are not.    

Now is the time to be the outcasts that we truly are.  From this moment forward, we shall live according to the ways we wish.  We will get that funky hairstyle we always wanted but didn’t get because we were too afraid of what others may think.  We will follow that dream that others discouraged us from pursuing.  We will be those walking contradictions.  If down the road, people are shocked by our actions, so what.  We will tell them that we are not like others.  We are outcasts and do not live according to others’ expectations.  We are who we are, unapologetically.    

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Keep Following Your Dreams

This poem was written by Karen Ravn.

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day everyone! This week I chose to focus on a poem entitled “For the Young Who Want To” by Marge Piercy.  Her words are below:

For the Young Who Want To by Marge Piercy

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don't have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.'s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else's mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you're certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

This poem is targeted towards aspiring writers; however, I believe that its message can be applied to anyone who has hoped to fulfill a dream.  Here is what I think the poem could teach us: 

Take a minute and think about one of your biggest dreams.  Do you envision yourself receiving much recognition and many rewards if that dream were to come true? I believe that we each have a desire to do something great.  Motivated to follow our dreams, we eagerly take the initial steps, only to quickly realize that we lack the skills necessary to accomplish what we hope to achieve.  Therefore, as a result, we sometimes grow discouraged and stop striving to reach our goals. 

We often observe accomplished professionals doing or having done what we aspire to do and think that they are talented geniuses who do outstanding work.  We say to ourselves “why can’t I be more like them?”

However, we fail to recognize that what we hope to achieve will not come to term at the very beginning.  Our talent, our genius, and the greatness that we hope other people will  one day attribute to our work comes only after tons of terrible work, hard work, re-starts, patience, and persistence.  For example, if you’re an aspiring writer, your first manuscript may not exhibit a craft comparable to Toni Morrison’s books; or if you’re an amateur programmer, your first program codes may lack the sophistication of Microsoft software.  And that’s ok. 
Piercy tells us that in order to do what we hope to accomplish, we first have to get started and then remain working.  So what if your work stinks.  It’s fine.  Get from under the pressure of perfection.  Be messy.  Make some mistakes.  We only become really good at what we’re doing after much, much, much, much (and did I say much?) practice.      

Frida Kahlo’s first paintings probably began as simple scribbles on an easel.  Yao Ming probably missed his first 3-pointers.  Warren Buffett may have miscalculated some of his early investments.  Albert Einstein’s initial physical theories may have had a few inaccuracies.  (Do you catch my drift here?)  Those great people that we admire are really no different from us.  They too had to start from the very beginning and at one time found themselves in our shoes.     

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sweep Up Those Negative Thoughts

Last week, I forewarned all of you that I would limit the broad definition of life and perhaps narrow the scope of this blog.  I have chosen to do this by writing commentary on poems written by contemporary women poets.  This week, I have selected A New Broom by Witt Wittman:
A New Broom by Witt Wittmann

I bought a new broom today
and swept the cobwebs down,
A thick accumulation of dregs,
a mass of tangles and smut.
I whisked a conglomeration of dust
that forever stuck—inaccessible.
Lifted the rug under which was hidden
years of grime that
Made traversing treacherous
with things that trip you up.

I rolled that rug and cast it off
and pitched the whole mess out.
I bought a new broom today
and mucked about the house.

Gone are the indignities that cannot be untwined
from the unfulfilled goals and dreams,
Cleared the place of bitter resentments
secured with insecurities.
Shackling phobias, permanently pitched
with a flick of bristles strawy,
Dismal doubts and grubby grudges
all brushed not so effortlessly away.

I bought a new broom today 
and swept the corners of my brain.

I hope you enjoyed the poem!  Here’s my commentary on what I think it could teach us:

Accomplishing goals is indeed challenging.  During our climb towards achievement, we encounter numerous set backs and disappointments.  Often times, these set backs and disappointments impact the way we think and cloud our minds with negative thoughts of self-inadequacy that impede our self-motivation.  As a result, we sometimes temporarily stop striving to reach our goals.   

However, in order to jump back on track and once again go after our dreams, we must first take time to do some spring cleaning and cleanse our minds of all negative thoughts.  As Whittman suggests, we must buy a broom and clear away the cob webs of our insecurities, resentments, regrets, fears, and doubts. 

Once we have finished cleaning and can smell the sweet lemon scent of our squeaky clean minds, we will regain our self-motivation and will again be ready to tackle goal-achieving tasks.  Then, we can store away our brooms, because our negative thoughts will be long gone.  However, when our negative thoughts try to sneak up on us again, we shall have no worries; for our brooms will always be readily accessible, in the nearest closet, alert and dressed in armor, ready to perform cleaning duty once called.