You May Have Noticed

That I pressed pause two weeks ago. It wasn’t a planned break. I always try to be observant and to listen before “speaking”. Recently, I just haven’t felt any need to speak. I am fine, just contentedly observing and listening.

And against all odds, the humble blog’s regular readers continue to flourish.

Monday Required Reading

You Can Learn to Love Being Alone.

“People who pursue solitude of their own volition ‘tend to report that it feels full — like they’re full of ideas or thoughts or things to do. . . . In this way, it’s distinct from loneliness, a negative state in which you’re disconnected from other people and it feels empty.”

Putin’s Bloody Folly in Ukraine.

“As Putin spills blood across Ukraine and threatens to destabilize Europe, Russians themselves stand to lose immeasurably. The ruble and the Russian stock market have cratered. But Putin does not care. His eyes are fixed on matters far grander than the well-being of his people. He is in full command of the largest army in Europe, and, as he has reminded the world, of an immense arsenal of nuclear weapons. In his mind, this is his moment, his triumphal historical drama, and damn the cost.”

The style and substance of South Carolina basketball’s Dawn Staley.

“‘She loves on them hard,’ associate head coach and longtime confidante Lisa Boyer says. ‘She’s playful with them, she’s hugging them, she’s there for them. I think they sense the fairness. I think they sense the genuineness of her. She speaks to them — it’s not some fairy tale. She’s telling them the deal.'”

“‘I owe basketball,’ Staley says. ‘I’m forever indebted to it. It engulfed my life for the positive. The game has gotten more of my time than my friends and my family. I feel like on a smaller or larger scale, it can impact my players’ lives in some kind of way.'”

A Renowned Community of Quilters is Taking on Copycats—and Winning.

“’We put a lot of work into it, and it’s about our life,’ Charley says of quilting. . . . We used these quilts for warmth. It was about our struggle, and our survival.'”

“Charley might feel differently, she offers, if these makers — who may have, say, studied textiles at art school — sent some of their profits back to the community that inspired them. But that doesn’t happen. “This work is ‘inspired’ in your mind, because you see the quilt pattern,” Charley says. “But you don’t know my story. And you’re going to try and duplicate it — and go to Joann Fabrics to do it?’”

Paragraph To Ponder

“Today the teacher who digresses is frowned upon; everything in a lesson is supposed to move toward a specific measurable goal. Teachers are supposed to announce the objective at the start of the lesson, remind students of the objective throughout the lesson, and demonstrate attainment of the objective at the end. Such a utilitarian view of education has a long history, but in recent years it has overtaken education discourse. It can be attributed to the introduction of business language and models into education, and the resultant streamlining of language. Schools and industries have become less concerned with the possible meanings of words, their allusions and nuances, than with buzzwords that proclaim to funders and inspectors that the approved things are being done—goal setting, ‘targeted’ professional development, identification of ‘best practices,’ and so forth. Thus we lose the means to question and criticize the narrow conceptions of success that have so much power in our lives.”

Diana Senechal, Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture, 2012.

Weekend Assorted Links

1. Trump flip-flops fly off the shelf. To the creative go the spoils. (thanks DDTM)

2. Best iPhone photos from around the world.

3. Try doing nothing for awhile.

4. The Seattle Mariners lead the league in this every year.

5. I turned 57 a few weeks ago. This reflection on “the spiritual black hole of upper middle age” couldn’t hit much closer to home. (thanks SMW)

6. How to adapt this to upper middle agers?

7. At what level of wealth do you lose your soul?

Weekend Reading Recommendations

Missouri Man Continues Goal to Finish 5K Run Each Month in 2015.

First pitch-ers are skewing older.

• Seymour Hersh’s, The Killing of Osama bin Laden. 10,000 words.

Seymour Hersh on his critics. Lots of f-bombs.

Why You Should Really Start Doing More Things Alone.

The best bike pump in todo el mundo.

Dreaming of Solitude

A “Dear Prudence” letter from

Dear Prudence,

My husband and I met very young and had kids right away. It’s now 25 years later and the kids are off to college, our life together is comfortable. We’re still in love, and everything should be perfect. Except it’s not. I have recurring fantasies of just leaving everything behind, moving to the other coast, and starting over all by myself. I dream of finding a small apartment, furnishing it exactly as I want, leaving a mess when I don’t feel like cleaning up, eating whatever and whenever I want, and basically being a single girl in my 20s, minus the dating and insecurities. I wouldn’t mind if my husband and children visited, but there’s something in me that craves distance and my own space. I have no desire to find another man; I just want to be alone. I’ve been finding excuses to travel solo simply because staying by myself in a hotel is the closest thing to fulfilling my fantasy. I order room service, binge watch movies, and just revel in my solitude. I wish I had an excuse like a job offer or degree program far away to make such a move possible. I would probably want to come home after a while—a year, maybe two—but who knows? I might love living alone too much to give it up. Part of me also feels guilty for wanting this because my husband is adamant that he wouldn’t want to be without me. I’ve tried to talk him into getting separate bedrooms for years, and he refuses. I also imagine that someday I will probably be widowed and have exactly what I’m dreaming of, and at that point I’ll miss him terribly and feel foolish for wanting this now. Is this impulse bizarre and unhealthy? Is it a phase I should just grit my teeth and barrel through? Is it something that will eat away at me until I get off my ass and do it? Can I do it without hurting him too much?

—Dreaming of Solitude (DoS)

Here’s my prediction on most people’s gut reaction to reading this, “What a whiny, self-centered, loser. She’s symbolic of everything that’s wrong with the U.S. today!” I read it differently and not just because I’m a huge fan of solitude. I feel for DoS because her dilemma highlights a central challenge in any long-term committed relationship.

For peace to prevail over time, you have to do two things. First, you have to consciously ignore most of the low-level aggravating things your partner does on a daily basis. For example, The Good Wife has to try to accept the fact that I selfishly turn off the bedroom light at night whenever I’m ready to sleep whether she’s mid-paragraph in her book or not. She has to try to accept the fact that right at that moment I’m thinking more about my running partners waiting outside for me in seven hours than I am her. And she has to do that type of thing every day in myriad ways because I’m a selfish pig.

Second, you have to continuously shake off a steady stream of low-level irritants without allowing so much resentment to build that it eventually bubbles over in grand gestures to have separate bedrooms (where I can be in control of the lighting my own damn self) or to live three thousand miles apart. That balance, having decent enough communication to talk about and work through low-level resentments (The Good Wife, “In the future, could you please ask me if you can turn out the light so I can at least finish my sentence?”) is an exceedingly delicate balancing act that’s easier to get wrong than right.

In my reading of DoS’s letter, the key phrase is this, “. . . furnishing it exactly as I want, leaving a mess when I don’t feel like cleaning up, eating whatever and whenever I want.” Three annoyances that by themselves wouldn’t amount to much or even if taken together for a short period of time probably wouldn’t amount to much. But the longer they’re not talked about in the light of day, they metastasize and drive a wedge between otherwise intimate people.

Imagine if DoS had come clean with her husband about her feelings years earlier. Three separate dinner discussions. The first. “For a long, long time, I haven’t felt enough freedom to decorate differently.” The second, “For far too long, I haven’t felt nearly free enough to be more messy.” The third, “For as long as I can remember I haven’t felt sufficient freedom to eat whatever I want at whatever time I want.” If the husband is as good a guy as he seems to be, he’d be sympathetic and try to be much more understanding of her need for those particular freedoms.

There’s no guarantee those conversations would go so well that the resentment would dissipate to the point where moving across the country wouldn’t be necessary, but not having them is a larger risk. By not having them the husband is in for a major surprise, one he doesn’t deserve if she’s said too little for too long.

Postscript: I thought I had turned the comments back on awhile ago, but learned today I had not. They’re back on. So comment away on Cornell West, Michael Eric Dyson, Ms. Dreaming of Solitude, or whatever you want to get off your chest about those you’re most intimate.


I’m neither introverted nor extroverted. I’m somethingotherverted. Someone on the outside looking in would probably label me introverted.

I prefer solitude to crowds. Give me a quiet dock on a still lake over a Disneyland pass any day of the week. On a Friday night, I’ll pass on the concert in the park for popcorn, the NewsHour, and something interesting to read. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The stories motherdear could tell about my dad’s propensity for quiet nights at home.

Long story short, I lack social energy. But the ironic thing is, when cajoled to attend the concert in the park, I almost always enjoy myself. And often I see people I know and rally, asking questions, catching up, making people chuckle. If you were to eavesdrop on me at the concert in the park, you might even conclude I’m extroverted. That’s why the conventional sociability continuum doesn’t quite cut it.

Some of my close friends are surprised when I half-jokingly describe myself as anti-social because my socialness is most evident in small groups. I greatly prefer dinner parties with a few close friends to large fiestas where I don’t know many people. At fiesta gigante the GalPal, a conventional extrovert, will walk right up to you and introduce herself. Especially if you look like you might not know anyone else. In contrast, when I’m looking at you I’m thinking, “What a sadsack.” That’s okay though because once she ditches me, you’ll be thinking the same thing about me. Kharma.

My somethingothervertedness is evident in my professional life too. I’m guilty of keeping a very low profile in the office and on campus, but I’m alive in the classroom, enjoying my interactions with students very much.

I’m fortunate the GalPal sometimes nudges me out of my self-imposed solitude. She used to try to drag me to events which often caused me to be even more resistant. She’s become more understanding, meaning more sensitive and subtle.

Then again, our 25th anniversary is around the corner. A quarter-century should be long enough to figure out our extrovertedness and somethingothervertedness.

What are you?

Mo Rest, Mo Clarity of Purpose

I almost always teach a course during my university’s J-term, but not this year. Even though the email stream hasn’t stopped, and I’m going in once a week, slowing down and writing at home has been wonderful.

During my last sabbatical I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there were ever deepening levels of rest and renewal. I had assumed I’d reach a rest/renewal point of diminishing returns after a few weeks or months, but I didn’t. You know that Mase, Puff Daddy, The Notorious B.I.G. song on your iPod, Mo Money, Mo Problems . . .

. . . I’m working on one called Mo Rest, Mo Clarity of Purpose. I have the lyrics down, but I’m still perfecting the dance moves. No doubt it will set you back 1.29 once the new iTunes launches. 

Ever spun a light road bike wheel with a primo hub? With little effort it will spin and spin and spin. Takes a long time to come to a complete rest. I feel like a road bike wheel. I can’t say I’ve come to a complete stop, but I’m spinning more slowly than normal. The result is a fresh perspective on what’s most important. 

The single greatest cost of my modern-default pace of life is a loss of perspective on what’s most important over the medium and long-term. For me to think deeply about what’s most important in life, I need to stop spinning. The slower I spin, the more I ask questions about life purposes, the more I ask questions about life purposes, the more appreciative I am of the people around me and the more meaningful my actions.

I wonder why almost everything that’s written about overwork focuses on stress and physical health when the most damaging trade-off is a relative loss of perspective on the “bigger picture.” As a result of this break, I’ve been more perceptive of how we sometimes resist slowing down and thereby avoid questions about life purposes. 

If we watch enough television, read enough fluff, aimlessly surf the net, shop til’ we drop, bounce around Facebook, text and talk on cell phones long enough, we can avoid a question we’ve been highlighting at PLU: What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life? 

I need to be more intentional about unplugging each day to be more mindful of my life purposes and to rise above the tyranny of the urgent.