Making meaning 20170312

Over the past several months, I’ve been reflecting on how I’m living my life, both as as librarian and as a person trying to live a more complete, fulfilling, meaningful, and positive life. The emphasis on the positive has been both intentional and fairly exhausting as I create new habits to seek information about the world that goes beyond sensational headlines. It’s utterly depressing how much of the daily news and information we encounter is negative. I’m choosing here to share back the positive I encounter, particularly the great good that people do and create in the face of horrible things.

Part of what I’ll be sharing comes from what I’ve read and listened to each week, along with my excerpts and insights. My motivation is partly selfish, in that I want to be more mindful and reflective about the information and stories I consume. But I also want to share the wonderful voices a perspectives that have enriched my life. Here we go!

On Being (one of my go-to weekly resources for inspiration and positivity) had a fantastic episode this week – How trauma lodges in the body with Bessel van der Kolk. The notion that trauma (and chronic stress, I think) are experienced in the body as well as the mind opens up avenues of treatment for many of the physical manifestations of our lifestyles. As I think about the millions of refugees, black Americans, Muslim Americans, poor women and other folks experiencing a daily onslaught of stress and threat to their very existence I wonder how we can help them to make sense of these experiences, even as they continue to experience stress and trauma. Is it even possible to begin processing and dealing with trauma that is ongoing? Yoga and rolfing and EMDR sound like promising alternatives to medication, particularly medication that doesn’t work or causes side effects to be treated with other medications.

Brain Pickings is another excellent blog that exposes me to writers and ideas I wouldn’t typically encounter. Personally, I tend to obsess about time in unhealthy ways, so the recent post about Herman Hesse resonated. A colleague recently shared this interview with the authors of The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy. As someone who is very goal-driven and interested in practical, applied research, I’m unclear how this applies to my own work. But I think higher ed and industry need to get better at recognizing the value in diverse models for creating knowledge and exploring the world. Basic science gave us penicillin, electricity, and graphene, to name just a few. Applied research that examines our systems of government, education, healthcare, transportation, among others is also crucial, for different reasons.

“The high value put upon every minute of time, the idea of hurry-hurry as the most important objective of living, is unquestionably the most dangerous enemy of joy.”

Yesterday, I finished reading Ta-nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me. I don’t have anything to say about this that hasn’t already been said more eloquently by others. It was eye-opening and visceral, more even than I anticipated. I simply don’t know a way forward – how  we can acknowledge our past wrongs as a country while talking about how to build a better future that includes everyone in this country. As I try to fill the gaps in my formal education, particularly about race and class in America, I’m reading to help me understand the history of the country we really live in. Next up is Waking Up White by Debby Irving. Thanks to Twitter, I’ve discovered voices unlike any I heard growing up, even in a relatively diverse family. Writers like Ijeoma Oluo, who writes at The Establishment and The Guardian, open my eyes to injustices that exist in my country, in my own community.

Professionally, I tend to read several books at once, annotating and using them to answer specific questions or needs relevant to my work. Working on a lit review of program evaluation and service assessment in libraries, I came across a fascinating book that I’m slowly absorbing – Researching your own practice: The principles of noticing. It’s written for teachers, but so much of it has been applicable to librarianship. The professional practice of noticing is rooted in Eastern practices like Zen mindfulness or presence, which is a practice I’ve been cultivating. It was surprising to think about practicing mindfulness in the classroom, but I’m going to try it out the next time I teach a workshop. I can see how the practice can also be useful for reference and consultation interviews and meetings.

Onto parenting! One of my favorite and creatively inspiring blogs is Posie Gets Cozy. She is far more creative than I could ever be, plus I’m not a sewer, so this blog doesn’t feed my tendency to do all the things! . I can just appreciate the pictures and stories. She does have a crochet pattern called Honey Bunny that is adorable. My family photos are nowhere near as good, but hers inspire me to see the beauty in our everyday lives – in waking with up with E in the middle of the night, in making dinner at the end of a long day, in trying to work as I do 5 loads of laundry.

Something I’ve been pondering over the last few days. How do we invite people to be their whole selves at work and school, instead of asking them to leave pieces of them behind?



One comment on “Making meaning 20170312

  1. I don’t have a good answer to your last question, but I’ve always rebelled against the notion of “work/life balance.” It seems to me to foster the kind of splitting of selves that you’re suggesting (quite rightly, I think) we need to push against. As dedicated as I am to my librarian life, I’m no less devoted to being the husband, grandfather, musician, seeker after enlightenment, that I’ve always been. I bring all these selves with me everywhere I go. What I seek is not the balance of a false dichotomy between work and life, but a way of living that integrates all of these selves so that they mutually support each other. When I was a boss I tried to encourage and support people to do the same but I’m sure I was never as effective as I would have hoped to be. The societal imperative encourages us to subdivide ourselves. I’m glad to see that you’re finding ways to do better at keeping your self whole.

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