Everyone has a reason to live

Jacques Lusseyran went blind at age 8. When he was twice as old, in 1941, he founded one of the key organizations of the French Resistance. His memoir, And There Was Light, has been on my wish list for years! (Kathy Brown mentioned it in a Brain Gym course, Vision Circles, and I finally ordered New World Library’s beautiful new edition. Bless you all for bringing me this book.)

I fell in love with this book from the first paragraph: “When you said to me: ‘Tell me the story of your life,’ I was not eager to begin. But when you added, ‘What I care most about is learning your reasons for loving life,’ then I became eager, for that was a real subject.”

I knew I would tell you about this book, and encourage you to write about loving life, especially if you have ever found that difficult. I came to my computer and found two of you offering the same message.

Josie Thompson battles bipolar symptoms to get out of bed, and she has traveled the US and Italy to ask people what gets them out of bed, what brings them joy. Now she is going to the Philippines with the goal of bringing joy through humanitarian service. She says she discovered long ago that she does not have to be healed to help, and she wants everyone to know, “Everyone has a reason to live.”

Josie Thompson, the 444 Project
Josie Thompson, the 444 Project

Exuberant performer Shaun Parry founded Promethean Spark to teach life skills through dance in developing nations, including the leprosy colonies of India. Did you know we could eradicate leprosy in one generation by overcoming the cultural stigma, seeing it as a treatable disease instead of a curse? I was especially touched to see beautiful young dancers from these colonies represent, in one of their dances, their loved ones’ experience with leprosy.

LIFEDANCE performance
LIFEDANCE performance

There’s your assignment. Love your life, write it, film it, dance it. Share your light.

__________________

Gwyn Nichols, WritersResort.com 2015

Don’t think of a purple giraffe (and what else not to say)

giraffe-skin-background-purpleA company I admire allowed an employee to blog, “You probably don’t want to come to our conference, but here’s why I think you should.” Really? I don’t want to come to your conference? Now that you mention it–I guess I don’t!

Are you telling people what you don’t want them to think, or don’t want them do? And then are you surprised when they (your customers and clients, your children, the general public) think and do the opposite of what you wanted?

When we tell a child, “Don’t touch!” what does the child do? And at lightning speed?

Toddlers hear our command as “Touch!” The “Don’t” does not register. Grammatically, that is the imperative. And our tone makes it an urgent command. To negate what we commanded–do NOT do what we forcefully said–is linguistically sophisticated, over their tiny heads.

Even mature brains take longer to process a negative, thinking, “This–no, NOT this.” And even if ignored, negative words retain subliminal impact: “You probably don’t want to come to our conference.” “These are not the droids you are looking for.”

If we want people to understand us, possibly even do our bidding, then tell them what we want them to do, not what we don’t want.

Say your cat or your antique vase are endangered by tiny hands. Guide the tiny hand as you say and demonstrate, “Touch it gently. Gently.” You might want to supervise and remind, “Gently,” or remove the object of interest, but the child’s joy and cooperation will amaze you.

Sometimes we need to warn. If it is a hot stove, we can say, “Hot! Owie!”

ADOT (Arizona Department of Transportation) used to warn, “Don’t drive drunk!” That message includes “Drive Drunk!” That is like telling a toddler, “Don’t touch that stove!” I wanted to scream, “No! Tell them what TO do–like Designate a Driver!”

Not long ago, ADOT switched to “Drive hammered, get nailed,” which prompted at least one attorney to post billboards: “Got nailed? Call us!”

And finally this week, ADOT got it right. The signs now read, “Designate a Driver. Avoid a DUI.” YES! Give that reviser a raise! I expect the revision to prove more effective than checkpoints alone.

It’s easy to write, “Don’t think of a purple giraffe,” and forget what happens in the reader’s brain. What’s your favorite Purple Giraffe?

5 Love Lessons to Use In Your Business Videos

Happy Valentine’s! Enjoy this fun advice from Lynn Ruby of Ruby Marketing, from Greater Phoenix SCORE.

5 Love Lessons to Use In Your Business Videos.

The Worst Birthday Card Ever

I’m excited to be turning 50 soon, and my friends are celebrating early–even Aetna. They sent a card: “Happy Birthday!” it says, with fourteen lighted candles. It says “aetna” in a font twice the size of the greeting, which somewhat braced me for the message to come.

Aetna birthday card 50 front 09 2012

The interior begins, “Wishing you a very happy birthday” and continues “and offering an important screening reminder.” Naturally. No surprise there. They do insure me, at a high deductible followed by extremely high coverage in case I ever get severely maimed, or I fail to kill a cluster of my own rogue cells. Can’t you just hear the cancer scare coming?

It’s all one sentence, with a poetic line break, allowing a nanosecond to pretend that, together, we celebrate my life and health.

Aetna birthday card 50 interior 09 2012

The type gets tinier, on a card with more white space than type, like a legal notice, a disclaimer, a space to admit that the cure is worse than the disease, the prognosis is poor, and results may vary.

Breast cancer, I assume, since we women are daily hexed that we should worry about that until we take our inevitable turn.

Imagine my surprise when they chose to focus on colorectal cancer. I laughed. Of all body parts that could possibly be endangered by cancer, this is the guest of honor–and the only one–chosen for my half-life celebration?

It gets worse: four bullet points on why this matters, three more on the types of tests I should be requesting. I spare you the grisly details. You can probably read them on the image above.

Obviously, Aetna didn’t hire me to help them word this, but they should have.

First, I’d wipe Aetna off the cover. Clearly, we all remember who you are, having paid you often enough. Go for the sneak attack. Let us think it’s a real card from an actual friend, then sign it: “Aetna.” Or better yet, sign it in real ink by a live person representing Aetna. (Signature machines count.) I would give bonus points for offering this live person’s direct phone number.

Second, knock it off with the medical hexing. Promote health, not cancer.

Personalizing it would be nice. You managed to put my name on the envelope.

And Keep It Simple, Sweetie. Here’s a draft for you. “Gwyn, we wish you the best of health, and look forward to partnering with you each year to protect it.”

If you can’t leave well enough alone, you might say, to minimal offense, something like, “We are proud to cover many (most? all?) of your annual screenings at no cost to you. Please call me if you have any questions about your coverage or screening recommendations.”

The ad on the back is fine. You could even add a chart of recommended screenings by age. (Our medical records do include gender, so it would not be hard to personalize that as well.) Be sure you cover at least forty more years in the range; suggest that you believe we’re relatively young and want us to outlive life insurance as well.

Better yet, offer the top ten ways to promote health after age 50–eat more plants, exercise, meditate–things that do not involve lab techs and radiologists–the attitudes and activities that could make your bottom line and our bottom ends equally healthy.

Have you received a corporate birthday card you actually enjoyed?

_______________________

Text © Gwyn Nichols 2012. All rights reserved. WritersResort.com
Images: Scans of Aetna’s Age 50 birthday card. Used for critique. Please don’t plagiarize their work and ruin your own customer service reputation.

Hamlet in Prison

This American Life Hamlet in Prison, screenshot

Jack Hitt’s hour-long report  for This American Life on Hamlet performed by prisoners, originally broadcast in 2002, has inspired me all week with its deep insights about Hamlet and encouragement for my own students, a few of whom have come from prison.

Nobody points out the ex-cons in my classes–I wouldn’t know that detail if they didn’t confide in me themselves. A couple have broken my heart by returning to prison or to the streets, but most are determined to take their second chance and become a blessing to their families. Like this reporter, I don’t necessarily want to know what they’ve done in the past. For me, their life begins here and now.

And I’d love to have all of my students think of my class-as one prisoner/performer said of his experience with teacher/director, Agnes Wilcox–“For a few hours a week, we get to feel human again.”

_______________________

Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011

A Newsletter Worth Reading

One e-mail newsletter I actually read is BK Communiqué from Berrett-Koehler Publishers. They publish engaging nonfiction, and their newsletters not only promote their own releases, they usually include interesting publishing industry news as well. Now they’ve sweetened the deal, offering free e-book downloads for 48 hours each. Today it’s Brian Tracy’s classic Eat that Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastination and Get More Done in Less Time. If that sounds fun to you, here’s where you sign up!

Berrett-Koehler Masthead
Berrett-Koehler newsletter

 

_______________________

Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011

Image: screenshot of BK’s newsletter

Thanks, I Needed That!

WordPress showcased “10 Prolific Post a Day/Week Participants,” and I’m one of them!

Shall I tell you what this meant to me?

I realized today how burned out I’ve become in the last few weeks. New quarter, new classes, new students, new preps, new circadian schedule, forecast of 116 degrees and no rain, no summer vacation. When students whined, I felt their pain all too well, and my short fuse required amends. Already, life had been warning me so strongly of impending burnout that three of the four classroom projectors I had touched in the past week had refused to shine, and today, the fifth worked barely long enough before burning out. Colleagues comforted me, assuring me that vulnerability is wonderful for my growth as a teacher, and my students received me better in that vulnerability. The spill gates had opened and I came home weepy.

My son is writing a musical, Invincible, in which he explores vulnerability. (He’s wise beyond his years. And we were discussing it way too late last night.) So maybe I can receive the message now?

So here is the unvarnished truth: I came home, looked at my computer, and resented my blog for the sixth blogging day in a row. I hadn’t even been here in a week. I wasn’t being consistent anymore, felt I’d lost my stride, and had nothing I wanted to say in public. Vulnerability schmulnerability. (There, Drew, we’ve finally rhymed it.)

Here I’ve been writing all year to encourage your writing fluency and confidence–and my own had fizzled out.

I did check e-mail this evening, where I found several congratulating comments on this recognition. It could not have been better timed. This challenge itself has been a blessing in my life, and today, when I hit that wall and wondered whether I should quit, there you were, handing me a cup of water and cheering me on. Bless you all!

I look forward to visiting the other nine. Maybe one of them is as thirsty as I was today.

WordPress Daily Post
WordPress Daily Post

___________________________________

Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All Rights Reserved.