growth · reckoning · shortcomings

What’s Your Superpower?

9.11.18As I head into a discussion today with a trusted advisor, reckoning up my past, diving into where my misperceptions, fears, and self-abandonment have created unbalanced relationships in my life (just a lite chat!!), she’s had me question how these habits could be used for good.

What is the gift in my porous empathy for others that, when misused, creates stress and insomnia in me?  What is the gift in my desire for order and structure that, when misused, creates perfectionism and alienates me from others?  What is the gift in my insta-judgment of all I survey??!

In sum:  How are these superpowers?

How can I turn this water to wine, this lead to gold?  What alchemy can I invite in?

If, in my own perception, I can feel what others feel and detect imbalance, how is this skill useful?  I have thus far used this skill to detect your “errors” and thereby attempt to change you or me to “fix” those errors — but what other options are there for this skill?

Before I switched to English Lit, I was a Psychology major.  But I knew I’d become impatient when seeing what (I thought) was wrong with someone else and then having to guide them in their own time to their own (aka my) conclusions!  Furthermore, a career of attending to the needs of someone else—how I considered it then—felt anathema to a woman who consistently side-lined her own needs and feelings.

I didn’t think I’d be a good therapist.

As an office/project manager, I used my ability to see things from a 30k-foot view to orchestrate projects and usher assignments from start to finish.  (I also got to choose the office coffee maker!)  While being the puppet master of an office was satisfying to my Order Gremlin, it wasn’t satisfying to my Worthiness Gremlin.

Office manager out.

So, here I am, a Teacher which in many ways is an ideal balance for my OverEmpathetic sponginess, my Order (and Pace-I-Determine) Gremlin, and my Worthiness need.

But I get the feeling that there’s a “next” place, another rung (or several) on my life’s ladder.

“What I know for sure” (to quote Oprah) is that what I’m learning here at this intersection of my gifts/curses is imperative.  I know learning how to create healthy emotional distance between myself and my students will improve my own health, efficacy, and energy.  I know learning how to ratchet back my Order demon is imperative to balancing my voice with others’ and allowing softer manners take the helm.  I know, too, that settling in to feelings of competence and worthiness are imperative learnings before I move up that ladder.

So while I know that there is a ‘next place,’ I know, too, that this place—where I’m acutely aware of my faults—is critical to my development and burgeoning.

This uncomfortable place is my Fortress of Solitude where I learn who I really am, come face-to-face with my shortcomings, and stem the energetic hemorrhages before I move forward.

What are my mortal flaws?  How can I turn them into superpowers?  And how can I use those powers to best serve myself and the world?



The Beat Goes On.

One of the items on my To Do list recently was to look up music shows.  It’s been ages since I’ve seen anything live (see above: May 2016!) and my heart is suffering for it.

I set aside money each month for “Entertainment” so that when events come up that I want to go to, I have the money ready.  The irony is that even though the money is there, earmarked for just such occasions, I tend to not spend it.  I tell myself, There may be something else you’ll want to do more, or This isn’t important enough, or, with a sneer in my own head-voice, Is that really what you want to be spending your money on?

Well, yes.

I’ve been compiling a mental list of all the live music shows I’ve been to in my life, and the list is long and vast, though of course not as vast as I’d like.  Which necessitates the question, Why then would I ever tell myself “No”??

I count a value of my life to be music—listening to, performing, viewing.  Yet, if in one breath I tell myself that music is a pillar of my life need, and in the next breath I sneer that I “waste” my money on it, then frankly it’s no wonder I don’t go as often as I want!

How is it “wasting” money, if that’s precisely what I’ve saved it for??

This habit of accruing money for particular needs and desires, and then putting them off is a common one for me.  It’s as though there is something sacred or pious in delaying what I’ve promised to myself.

Sure, Molly, you can see a music show, I know how important they are to you, just not this month.

*One month later, when even more money is in the accrual account.*  Sure, Molly, you can see a music show, I know how important they are to you, just not this month.

*One month later, when even more money is in the accrual account.*  Sure, Molly . . .

What is it that I’m attempting to protect?  What scarcity-mind bullshit am I being a sucker for?  How is denying what I have said is important to me keeping me “safe”?


fear · humility · vulnerability

Be vewwy qwiet…

It’s really uncomfortable to bear witness to others’ humanity.

What happens on the flip-side of that is I don’t generally allow others to bear witness to my own.  Not the struggling parts, the messy parts, the parts that don’t have it all figured out.

The registered shock from coworkers when I share I’m barely holding it together, that I’m making it up as I go, that I don’t feel like I have it all together reinforces my inextricable adoption of the “Look Good.”

“But you seem so confident, you seem always on top of things, you seem so ‘together.'”

It’s all a facade, I tell them with a laugh and a smirk.

But what is that facade?

What is the protective layer I anchor around myself so that others can’t see me squirm?

I always want to clean up others’ mess.  I take on more at work because I think there’s a cleaner way.  I’m told to (literally) “Stay out of his closet” by a close friend when I dated a man whose home was … gross.  I bear witness to someone’s suffering, but hold my breath so I don’t catch any.

I want it all neat and tidy because it’s so hard to be with the mess.  The mess of others, and the mess of myself.

It’s. So. Vulnerable.  To tell someone I work with that I’m struggling.

I once worked in a job where I was told to buy a digital camera for another coworker.  Because I didn’t know how to go about that (it was the early internet days), and because I didn’t have a budget or specifications, I kept putting it off.

I would get calls from that coworker asking for its status, and I would say I’m working on it.  Though I was totally frozen on how to move forward, I did not say that.  I put on my Look Good and said I was on it.

About a month later my big boss came to ask me if it were true that I hadn’t gotten the camera yet.  I froze.  I don’t remember what I said in the moment, but I do know it was within that week that I quit that job.

Yes, the job was not my dream one, but the idea that in order to avoid feeling caught, seen, vulnerable, or “stupid” I would quit a job to protect myself from being a visible mess??  Wow.

I went out with a group of coworkers after school yesterday, and I felt like I didn’t have enough to say, enough to share.  I didn’t have a list of cool things to tell them I was doing.  I didn’t have a list of national parks I’d been to.  I didn’t have kids to talk about.

I felt awkward.  I was fine (I assume they didn’t notice because my Look Good skills are cold steel), but it reminded me of that first/last date I had a month ago where I felt like a cement-tongued wallflower, unable to name one cool thing I was up to… or one real thing about myself.

On the phone this morning with a friend, she said there’s consistently a ton of stuff that I can and want to share about.  “You write a blog every day!” she exclaimed.  Clearly, I’m not at a loss for what’s going on with me, what realizations I’m having, or how I’m bumping against things or overcoming them.

But somehow, that fact never shows up in answer to, “What are you up to?”

Sharing that stuff feels … inappropriate?  Like I won’t be met, so why bother?  Like, nobody wants to hear about it, so shut up?

Ugh.  The ugliness of how we treat ourselves.

I went to graduate school, in part, to begin to move my writing from “the page to the stage,” to get out of the quiet cocoon that is a notebook and begin to share with an audience.  In those moments, I felt like my humanity was valuable, but only because it was for similar people involved in similar projects.  In the “outside” world — in person — is my writing of value?  Are my insights “appropriate”?

If I think my own messiness and vulnerability and humanity are gross and need to be shielded off from the urbane eyes of the world, then I will never launch into my life in the way I desire to.  If I look at the mess of others, personally and professionally, and judge their messes as disgusting and in need of immediate repair, this is just a mirror of how I think they will perceive my own.

I hide and alienate when I want to share and connect.  But to share and connect is to be vulnerable, so I hide and alienate.  Repeat.

What is the value of humanity?  What is the value of messiness, of the power of our flaws and vulnerability to connect us?

What value is there in a Look Good if all it does is look good?


awareness · balance · overwhelm

A Hole in the Sidewalk

9.7.18.jpgThere’s a parable I’ve heard (which appears to be a longer poem) that goes something like this:

Life in 4 Chapters:

1. I walk down a street and fall into a hole.

2. I walk down the street, see the hole, and fall into it anyway.

3. I walk down the street, see the hole, and walk around it.

4. I take a different street.

The message remains clear: even if you see a pitfall, that doesn’t always mean you’re able to avoid it.

I have fallen down a hole.

When I worked at a non-profit several years ago, I would often sit in staff meetings, taking notes as was my job, and listen as the folks with higher roles discussed what was upcoming and what needed doing.  In these meetings, I observed one person repeatedly taking on multiple roles.  This person was already in charge of a whole host of things, but what would happen would be a task would come up for someone to take ownership of, and there would be crickets.

In those crickets, it was a two-fold happening: this person was now expected to jump in to take that task on and they would jump in to take that task on!

It became a bit of chicken and egg: Were people stepping back because they knew this person would step forward, or was this person stepping forward and then everyone would step back?

In either case, the result was that at the end of each meeting, the list of tasks for this person was egregiously longer than the list of tasks for everyone else.

And this person was harried, stressed, and a bit manic all the time!

Yesterday at my weekly meeting with my supervisor I realized… I have become that person.

She reflected back to me that, considering my Type A personality wanting things just so, I have begun to take them on.  Further, people in discussions of who can do what now throw my name in the hat because … I take them on!

UGH!  I have become the harried, stressed, manic woman!!!

It’s a bit ironic to me, as someone who is a recovering wallflower.  When I was growing up, I had people snide at me, “Don’t you ever talk?” or like the first high school party I ever went to where I kissed a boy and later overheard him say: “She’s cute, but she’s too quiet.”

So you can imagine my own SMH (shakes my head) realization that the wallflower has become a tornado.

During our meeting yesterday, there was more irony — this of the, “You spot it you got it” variety:  there’s a student who has a lot of trouble working together in groups and wants to be the one to present to the class instead of learning as a part of it.  This student raises my hackles.  Sit down, yo, and learn like the rest of them; you’re not better.  Learn some humility.

As I listened to my boss reflect some of what she was seeing back to me, all I could see was this student: chiming in, making “suggestions” which were really orders!

Dude. No wonder I’m not sleeping well … again.

I used to view my old coworker as a glutton for punishment.  If that person would just step back instead of step up, they would have a little more breathing room, a little more time to not be a whirling dervish.

Oh god, that I am a dervish now.  And apparently, I’m not the only one who sees it.

Before it becomes too ingrained, my boss suggested that I practice, basically, letting things go — and saying, No.

Just after that meeting, someone asked me to lead something, someone else wanted to have a “standing meeting” while I was running to class, and someone else asked me to share a resource with them that was accessible to them without my having to do anything.

So: I said no to leading the thing (though I suspect that it actually really is something that belongs to me — still learning); I told the standing meeting person that I wasn’t available right then (though they told me the synopsis anyway as my hand was on the doorknob out of the room, and I repeated I couldn’t hear that right then, and they gave me a grimace/smile, because hearing No can be hard when all you’ve heard is Yes from me); and the person who asked me for the resource, I told them how to find it themselves, instead of what I had started to say which was that I would find it and share it with them.

Va voy.  3 people in 30 minutes asking me to take things on.  If it were 3 hours before, would I have said yes?  Probably.

My attempts at stepping back are bound to be awkward and graceless.  I will probably push back at places where I need to say yes and say yes where I need to say no.

But I am pretty sure (hopeful?) that one day, I will find the balance and presence of mind and humility and stability to take another darn street.


growth · humility · TEACHING


9.6.18.jpgWhen my students say sorry, I respond: Don’t be sorry, be learning.

As a phrase, “sorry” is thrown around a lot, but doesn’t seem to do very much to prevent that same behavior from happening in the future.  It’s my intention to show my students that it’s okay to make mistakes — it is okay to “be sorry” — but if that’s where you stop, then that’s not far enough.

We’re heading into the season of the Jewish calendar that emphasizes a return to self, to “goodness” perhaps, and to the start of a new year.  A fresh slate, a new page, a beginning.  Who do we want to be as we head into that year?  Are we being the person we want to be?

As I asked them recently, where have I allowed fear of not being “good enough” prevent me from accomplishing something I wanted to do?  Where have I not been as courageous, kind, or thoughtful as I wanted to be?  Where I have stood aside because it was the “easier” thing?  …  Where have I thrown something in the black garbage bin because a compost wasn’t easily accessible?;)

I don’t only want to be sorry.  I do need to apologize where it is warranted — and I have this year!  (See recent rant.)  But I also need to be learning.   What is there for me to learn from this?  Am I growing from this mistake / misstep?

If all experiences and people in our lives — from the schmo who cuts me off on the highway without looking to the coworker whose shoulder I sobbed on yesterday when I found out my best friend is cancer-free (thank you, god, universe, everything!) — are here to teach us something, can we pause long enough to discover what it is?  Can I allow it to change me?  To inform my actions, to tell me something about my knee-jerk reactions or long-time habits?

Don’t be sorry; be learning.  (Though I suppose the more clunky, “Don’t just be sorry, be learning” is most accurate!)

Shanah tovah, all.


fate · god · TEACHING

“Why do good things happen to bad people?”

In planning my lesson for our 7th grade novel, I’d toyed with the idea of framing the whole book — and perhaps the year — to center around these questions: Why do good things happen to bad people?  Why do bad things happen to good people?

The protagonists in our novels this year are, by turn, a bully attempting to reform, a distraught girl exacting revenge on her best friend, a social outcast hero, and Anne Frank.

It would be very logical to bring these two questions to bear on these books.  But as I think into it further, I wonder if the answer I want them to arrive at is too prescriptive: “Because they do.”

There was a time after cancer when I felt that, because my understanding was that I had in some ways brought leukemia on myself by denying who and what I am in the world, in remission I must act in ways that wouldn’t bring down that wrath again.  So, I joined a band, began singing, got real headshots, auditioned, flopped auditions, got cast.

The two years after cancer (following a few months of emotional whiplash: “You’re going to die!  …  Wait.  Looks like you’re not going to die.  Good on you.  Bye!”) became a flurry of activity, in part to embrace that I was alive and in part out of desperate fear to be in that circumstance again.

At some point during those two years, I was on the phone with a mentor describing my terror of “not doing enough” (even before cancer, “wasting my life” was my biggest fear…and remains up there today…).  I said to her that if “G-d” was trying to send me a message to engage in my life, will “G-d” do it again if I slow down?  I was perpetually haunted by this question.

So my frientor (friend/mentor?!) told me this:  “Maybe you need to take G-d out of the equation.”  Less G-d, she said.

Less Fate, less scales in the balance, less sword of Damacles.  Less notching up good and bad, useful and harmful, actions toward live Molly and actions toward dead Molly.

This was a huge relief to me.

It was important at the time of diagnosis and treatment to dive into the idea that I could effect some change on my circumstance.  And, it became important after remission and treatment to absorb the idea that maybe it didn’t have anything to do with me.  Maybe it just “was.”

This, is a very tough pill to swallow.

In a world where we (I) do much of what we can to exact control over our circumstances, to accept the belief that we’re not at the mercy, or benevolence, of a force outside ourselves — a force wherein “things happen for a reason” — can be unmooring.

Sometimes bad things happen to good people.  Sometimes good things happen to bad people.

Sometimes “it is what it is.”

I don’t yet know if and how I’ll bring in these questions to my students.  Are they useful questions?  Or do I have one aim, which is to bring the idea that sometimes they just do?

The present book they’re reading (The Thing about Jellyfish; great book, go read it [Thanks for the rec, Marie!]) is an entire attempt to grapple with the question of “Why?” and itself comes to the conclusion of “Just because.”  So maybe it’s a question to hold up for them for this novel, to help us all see that, while our actions do have consequences, sometimes things do just happen, too.


action · emotions · stagnation

More than a teaspoon

9.2.18    “Don’t you understand how Cho’s feeling at the moment?” [Hermione] asked.
    “No,” said Ron and Harry together.
    Hermione sighed and laid down her quill.
    “Well, obviously, she’s feeling very sad, because of Cedric dying.  Then I expect she’s feeling confused because she liked Cedric and now she likes Harry, and she can’t work out who she likes best.  Then she’ll be feeling guilty, thinking it’s an insult to Cedric’s memory to be kissing Harry at all, and she’ll be worrying about what everyone else might say about her if she starts going out with Harry.  And she probably can’t work out what her feelings toward Harry are anyway, because he was the one who was with Cedric when Cedric died, so that’s all very mixed up and painful.  Oh, and she’s afraid she’s going to be thrown off the Ravenclaw Quidditch team because she’s been flying so badly.”
    A slightly stunned silence greeted the end of this speech, then Ron said, “One person can’t feel all that at once, they’d explode.”
    “Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have,” said Hermione nastily, picking up her her quill again. 

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Among the feelings I’m experiencing today are:

  • excitement about my burgeoning journalism club at school
  • distress at how school-eaten doughnuts aren’t shedding like they used to
  • sorrow at missing my ex
  • determination to not get sucked back into a relationship that was clearly not working
  • resentful that my family expects me to travel Back East for the holidays each year
  • anticipation about getting my small-plane pilot’s license
  • concern over my NJ best friend’s health
  • expectancy for my meeting with my financial advisor
  • chagrin over not sending my brother a timely birthday card
  • hope/hopelessness over these dating apps
  • inspiration toward acquiring updated home decor
  • self-reproach over avoiding my personal writing
  • gratitude and awe in continuing to establish a career path I love
  • curiosity/sadness about who to invite to the opera series I’d bought when I was with J. 

Clearly, I have no problem holding multiple emotions at once!  But before I languish in overwhelm or analyzation, I’m going to get up and cook those 15 pounds of vegetables I purchased yesterday.  Knowing my emotions is awareness; analyzing them is useless.

Out of my head, and into my body.  Go.