As I have been doing life for these some 40 years, and working at this elementary school…..I realize there are some life skills that everyone needs to know:
Ability to listen to what you least want to hear: Sometimes friends, family and sometimes even strangers we meet, lose their minds and tell us what they really think about life and sometime about us!! Sometimes it’s on purpose, and sometimes it just burbles out due to frustration. In response, we can smile firmly and say, “That’s something to think about!” (While listing in our heads all the reasons this person is wrong, so wrong). Another option? Agreeing with them for a split second, only to go home and suffer a case of spontaneous emotional amnesia or spew at your family like kids or even the dog.
We don’t have to do anything about this terrible, crappy piece of information. But we can just sit there and get used it, sort like how you got used to a college roommate who yelled all night in her sleep and stole your clothes out of the closet. It may turn out that you disagree with her particular opinion, but even so, it improves you when you know about it, because this is how somebody other than yourself sees the situation. Maybe it’s either time to get some distance from that jealous, unkind person or to understand that fear or love sometimes clouds her judgment. On the other hand, you may also end up agreeing with her, which is when you get a chance to listen to yourself—and decide what you want to do about taking some action.
The ability to dismiss “round” one – Round One—whether it’s meeting a friend for the first time or dating somebody for the first time—is exactly when things are most likely be completely awkward, unnatural and even discouraging. Nobody knows what they’re doing. Unfortunately, it’s also the time we’re most likely to toss off a judgment and move on. Those of us who master giving everybody a pass on this chance meeting, are the ones most likely to progress to Round 2 and Round 2002—which are the times when both of you are fully accepted and understood, bad jokes and all.
The ability to cook one thing with cheese – Most people show their love and appreciation with baked goods. Nobody dislikes you after a chocolate chip cookie. However, there are also people on this planet that can’t bake—an activity which requires precision with measuring cups and a little stamping tormenter in your brain who will not let you blow off the word “sift.”
For years, I tried (and failed) to master cheesecake. One day, I said to myself: “Why am I making this stupid cake? I can just buy it at the Cheese Cake Factory!” A little Roman candle of understanding blasted through me: “I don’t like making a homemade cheesecake! I like macaroni and cheese! I like lasagna!”
You can’t create what you don’t dream of—mostly because creations come out of your most intimate desires. Learning to cook a really delicious, decadent thing for others is not just a way to show your affection—it’s a reminder that when you do what you love, you pretty much always do it with excellence.
The ability to recognize the voice in your head – You know the voice, don’t you? It analyzes what you did and didn’t do. Then it analyzes what other people did or didn’t do. Then it complains why everybody else has pulled it together except for you. Then it tells you to worry about your car dying or your kids getting hurt or your losing your job due to a sudden downturn in the world economy, which hasn’t happened yet but will. Then it says you’re wasting everybody’s time by being worried. That voice is your ego talking. The sooner you can recognize that voice for what it is—your thoughts on your life and not your life—the sooner you can start actually living.
The ability to have peacefulness – I’ll admit it: I haven’t mastered this one yet.
Peacefulness is still an illusory thing for me. I imagine it as something similar to how you act when you’re with somebody who you really love and who loves you back. With this person, you’re not concerned with your hair; you don’t have to adjust your tone of voice or your sandal strap. You’re not on stage. What would it be like to be this way when you’re all by yourself?
The ability to whistle with your fingers – There’s no real advantage to this one. Other than it’s sexy. And fun.
The ability to power whisper – A kindergarten teacher I work with, looks out across the crowded, paint-flecked insanity of her classroom, ring a little bell and whispers, “Come, children.” Instantly, all 25 raging 5- and 6-year-olds run up to the carpet, sit down and go completely silent. When you think about it, it makes sense. Why wouldn’t these kids behave this way? They’ve had plenty of people in their lives yelling at them to brush their teeth or to stop hitting their brother. Whispering was different, and so now it is interesting.
The same holds true for grown-ups. We live in the age of the screaming TV, the beeping smartphone, the blaring car alarm. Lowering your volume gives others the uncommon and wonderful pleasure of leaning in to hear what’s being said, of being invited (not ordered!) to pay attention. You want others to want to hear you.
The ability to give a compliment that is not appearance based – Who doesn’t do it? We see people we like, and we tell them we love their haircut or their sundress or their house or their beautiful German shepherd. It makes them feel good. It makes us feel good for making them feel good. And probably, the reason why we engage in this activity to begin with, is that we like the person, and when you like somebody, so much of what they buy, wear, arrange, choose and look like is fascinating.
On the other hand, telling somebody you admire how she kept her self-control and didn’t yell at her daughter after knocking an entire 3 pound sack of sugar onto the floor, or that you loved she explained to the cashier that they didn’t give her the right change back, takes just a bit more effort—and observation. It results, however, in somebody having one of the most amazing experiences on the planet—being seen. When you do this, you prove to them that all that stuff they are doing inside, all that trying to be the best person they can be (despite their past, their flaws, their doubts, their occasional total meltdown) is not hopeless.