Saturday, November 15, 2014

You Find What You Look For

** This is my second in a series of essays for Jack, our oldest son who will be graduating from college in a few months. These are just rambling thoughts of a mother whose only gift she can think of are words. **

"Look and you will find it, what is unsought will go undetected." -- Sophocles

If I could tell you one thing that would help you on your journey it is this:
you find what you look for. 

For some reason, when I go on my quote walk-about searching for the right thing to place here, I always find it comforting to find that the Greeks had virtually the same idea all those years ago.

We're not that different.  
Those ancient Greek philosophers and you and me are pretty much on the same journey...
they just have cooler ways of saying it.

So, back to finding what you look for...or in the more Tony Robbins-esque way of saying it:
You get what you focus on.

It really is as simple as that.

I found this truth to be true in all aspects of my life but profoundly true -- powerfully, weirdly, prophetically true -- in the classroom.
The days that I made up my mind that I had the best class ever -- the most inquisitive, hard-working, clever group on the planet -- lo and behold, I did.  I found them cooperating, and answering tough questions and focusing in amazing ways.
The days that I decided my group was tough -- that they were low and difficult and energy-sucking...miraculously, they were.

It wasn't them.
It was me.
Almost every time.

I remember the day I discovered it.
I had had the most amazing morning.
My group was working hard, sticking with the tough problems and asking great questions.

Then we went to lunch.
And I had to deal with a car insurance company that didn't want to help in any meaningful way.  My insurance was going to cover nothing and I was going to have to figure out how to buy two new tires and I didn't have my paycheck coming for another week.

I came back from lunch and my group was inattentive, goofing around and making me crazy.
They could do nothing.
The more I looked, the more I found students who were causing trouble and flat out not paying attention.
It was a hard afternoon to say the least and I let them go and exhaled at my desk after school obsessing on my tires and my class and their terrible ways and like some sort of Oprah moment it all came crashing down on me.

My class hadn't changed.
MY focus is what had changed.
MY interest.
MY engagement.
MY level of connection...

and they felt it.
Like a giant mirror, they reflected it back to me perfectly.

As soon as I realized this, like some sort of mystical force, I could see it happening.
I had the awareness...which meant I had the ability to change it midstream if I wanted to.

As I've gotten older, this has become my life's mantra.

It's so obvious it can be painful at times.
Watching a parent create a self-fulfilling prophecy for their child.
Watching a teacher create the negative, non-supportive classroom that they most want to avoid.
Watching myself continue in a down-ward spiral even as I know it is happening.

Last night was a perfect example.
There we were with you at a delicious authentic, cozy Italian restaurant.
Our tastebuds were delighted in every way.
The candle light was flickering in just the right way to make the moment feel dream-like and joyful.
We were laughing and relaxed.
We leave the restaurant and Patrick gags.  He gets ready to throw up.
He throws up outside (but not terribly) and the magic is erased like a bibbity, boppity, boo swish of a wand.

It really wasn't that bad.
He really didn't make that big of a mess.
He just really needed fresh air...and a little extra room in his tummy.
He regained himself and we made it back home...but the moment was lost for me.

I decided to get angrier and angrier.
I kept reliving that one split second over and over...forgetting the million previous magical moments.

I lost the night...because I chose to focus on puke...
instead of my precious time with you...
instead of the conversation,
the laughter, 
the comfort of family,
the kindness of our driver,
the ability to take deep, cleansing breaths of fresh air.

All lost.

So, my sweet son, I beg you to see the power of your focus.
Your attention.
Your efforts.

Today, I choose to focus on the beauty, the grace and the time I get in your neck of the woods.

Like some sort of metaphor, the vomit is cleaned up and the day is sparkling and crystal clear.
What will I find?
What treasures will unfold?

I can't wait to see them...with clearer eyes.

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