Intentions and means of action

This has been a rather intense week. Although I don’t really like this kind of week, I appreciate the opportunity to put into practice what I have been learning the last seven years to try to keep my mind calm and act instead of reacting.

I haven’t always succeeded in keeping my mind calm this week, and as I write this text, I can feel the stress in my whole body but I know, that after some minutes, it will fade away. I am not yet at the level of not allowing situations to affect me emotionally, but I am more able to search for a wider perspective, and it helps.

It helps to always try to understand the mental process behind people’s actions. It doesn’t matter if I agree with this process or not, I can then easier accept and show compassion. This week, I tried to communicate with someone via email. I spent time weighing my words, trying to ‘sound’ as calm and constructive as possible, but I failed. The response was one of [out]rage. I won’t deny that I felt unfairly attacked and frustrated because I was misunderstood. The message that I tried to communicate got lost in the belief of an intention that I didn’t have. However, I think I understand where this person comes from. I think culture has something to do with their strong reaction. Neither this person nor I have English as a mother tongue, and maybe partly because of that, they put other meaning to my words than the intended one. In addition, it is that time of the year where people are stressed, and maybe they receive many emails a day and don’t have time to carefully read them. So, instead of getting angry at them, I just let it go. I didn’t have the intention to attack when I wrote that message, and that, I think is the most important for me: my own intention behind my action. I am at peace with it. I think it is sad my message didn’t pass, but I can’t do much more about it. I don’t have the need to push everyone to believe in what I believe.

I have the values I live up to, and try to act accordingly, if people have other values and misunderstand mine, it would be crazy to spend time and energy trying to change their minds.

However, I have been reflecting on the relationship between intention and means of action/communication. It is also important to pay attention to the means of our actions. Of course, I usually do, but I have to confess that when I sent that message, it was the fastest way to deal with that situation before the weekend. If I had waited until Monday and had a chat with the person involved, I would have avoided the unpleasant response during the weekend. Maybe, I would have had to deal with an unpleasant situation in person, but it would have been easier to explain myself than by exchanging emails. I tried to do this in my answer to their first reply to my email, but their second reply was so harsh that I decided to end the communication by acknowledging that I should have rather asked for a meeting and that I will take their views into consideration in further interactions. I don’t think I need to spend more time trying to correct a misunderstanding that the other party doesn’t seem willingly to correct.

I will never communicate via email with this person again. Rather call and maybe keep my interactions with them to the strict minimum. I will also spend more time reflecting on which way is the most skillful way to act as for what I see good intentions are not always enough. Lastly, I will keep working on letting go of expecting specific outcomes from my actions. I can have good intentions and consider the action chosen as the most skilful and still have a negative reaction, but at least I will be at peace with what came from my side. The rest, is for the other person to deal with.

Making new acquaintances in the neighborhood

Rushed steps
in the night
between enjoyment of the Winter weather
and the wish to
reach the warmth of our home

Under an old bridge
a sudden movement
close to the ground

We freeze
A little fellow
jumps into the crack of the stone wall

Its curiosity stronger than its fear
makes it climb down back to the ground
Furry small and round
Big bright eyes

For a moment it seemed
like it would run towards us to say hello
It stays on its side though
Searching the ground for something to eat

I wish I always had a piece of cheese in my pocket
Is it true that mice like cheese?

The egg and the hen of emotions

Last week, while I was eating breakfast with my family, I noticed a weird sensation in my belly. Some sort of anxiety. I sat and wondered where the feeling was coming from. There was nothing to be anxious about. I tried to be with it for a while, but I also had to continue with our morning routine.

Some minutes later, while I was getting dressed, my husband asked if our youngest had already come down to eat breakfast. I went upstairs to find her still in her pajamas and on her mobile. I took her phone exclaiming that it was confiscated for a week.

When I went back down, I found our son on his mobile while eating breakfast. I took it away and started scolding both our son and our youngest daughter for their bad habits. I was quite angry.

When I went back to the bathroom and calmed down, I realized I had been unnecessarily loud and surprisingly angry for such a mundane ‘fault’. It is then I remembered the feeling in my belly earlier and wondered whether my [over]reaction had something to do with it. Most probably.

Over the last few years, I have been fascinated by my emotions. We have a tendency to believe that what we feel is just the of what we experience in the outer world, but the more I observe and reflect on my own emotions, the more I realize that my emotional reaction to what happens outside myself is directly linked to my mental state.

The simplest way to experiment on this is with sleep or lack of sleep. I know that if I don’t sleep enough, I am more vulnerable and can either move into a space of anger or sadness in situations where I later wonder what the big fuss was about.

Another good experiment is in my role as a teacher. If I meet my students with a calm state of mind, the lesson goes smoother almost no matter what happens. If I come in with an impatient and restless mind, I often end up overwhelmed.

When it comes to emotions and feelings, we can really ponder on the egg and the hen. Yes, there are situations that awaken certain feelings in us: fear, sadness, happiness, and even anger. These are mostly impulsive, but I believe more and more that the intensity of these feelings and the way we deal with them are directly linked to our state of mind.

Sometimes, we have this underlying restlessness, sadness, vulnerability, or even dissatisfaction within ourselves that has nothing to do with what is happening outside, and whatever happens, will then trigger a reaction to allow us to vent out the pressure the underlying feeling was causing.

I think this is natural, but not always useful and certainly no fun for those around us. So lately I’ve been thinking that I would like to learn to recognize my inner discomfort and link it to my impulsive mental reaction to the outer world before I act or react in ways that affect others in a negative way.

This is useful for me, because it allows me to take responsibility for my own emotions and stop blaming the world for my inner state of mind, and is useful for my environment because at l do my part to keep some peace.

Easier said than done, I know.

The good news is that the other side of the scale of emotions also applies to this principle. If I make a conscious choice to meet the world with thankfulness, openness, and even playfulness, things seem to go smoother. I experience more positive things and feel more relaxed.

I leave you with a poem from David Whyte called “Sweet Darkness”, I always think of this poem when I am feeling blue:

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb
tonight.

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

Rødgrønn har også bismak for meg

Hvis det er noe jeg liker og respekterer i Norge, så er det ideologien om muligheten for et godt liv for alle. Ideen om at vi alle passer på felleskapet. Utdanning for alle, helsetjenester for alle, og ideen om et system som tar deg imot når livet viser sitt stygge fjes. Ikkke minst, at alle de som kan jobbe bidrar for felleskapets beste.

Likevel, jobber jeg i en friskole som ble stiftet for snart tjue år siden av noen foreldre som ville ha et alternativt til den norske offentlige skole. Den skolen jeg jobber i ble etablert på lovlig viss, og selv om vi har slittet gjennom årene med å ha alle sysakene på plass, så jobber vi kontinuerlig og lidenskapelig med samme formål som offentlige norske skoler: elevenes beste.

Vi er en relativt liten skole med 195 elever fra første til 10. trinn. Vi har utenlandske elever, halv norske elever, og helnorske elever. Foreldre og elever søker seg inn til skolen vår av ulike årsaker.

Jeg jobber med lærere, assistenter og ledere med forskjellige bakgrunn, og den beste og korteste måten jeg kan finne å beskrive dem på er at de er profesjonelle, engasjerte, dedikerte og de brenner for det de driver med.

I år ble det regjeringsskifte fra blått til rødgrønt. Det er bra, syntes jeg til å begynne med, men begeistringen har fått en bitter smak når jeg leser om kutt i statlig støte til allerede eksisterende og etablerte private barnehager og skoler. En gang til ser jeg med sorg or irritasjon at politikerne tar beslutninger ut av prinsipp, og med det som ser ut som mangel på innsyn i konsekvensene av deres avgjørelser. Til våre skoler og barnehager kommer barn som bor i Norge, og som dermed har samme rettigheter som barn som går på offentlige barnehager og skoler. De har fått seg venner, og har blitt kjent og trygge på de voksne som jobber der. Kuttene gjør jobben vår vanskeligere og i verste fall de som kommer til å bli rammet av det er barna. Hva er hensikten med å gjøre driften av private barnehager og skoler vanskeligere? Hva er budskapet? Hva er ønsket? At vi stenger ned? Hvor skal alle de barna som kommer til oss gå til?

Det jeg skulle ønske er at politikerne som frynser på nesa med tanke på skolene som vår tar seg byrden om å besøke oss. Det hadde vært fint at de ser hver lille og mellomstor menneske som hver dag kommer til oss for å lære, for å bli sett og bli tatt vare på. At de ser hvor hardt vi jobber for å tilby det beste vi kan til elevene våre, og at de ser at vi har nok av utfordringene også. I alle de årene jeg har jobbet i lille friskolen vår har jeg aldri sett en nyrsgjerrig politiker sette fot hos oss.

Er jeg naiv eller selvmotsigende når jeg tror og støtter en regjering fra venstre sida men samtidig ønsker å ha bedre råd og dermed vilkår i lille friskolen vår?

Poo under my shoe – or everyday ‘philosophy’

Monday morning
rushing out the door
I discover
poo under my shoe
No time to deal with it
Let's hope the incessant rain
will wash it away

It bothers me
this poo under my shoe
all the bike ride
from home
to work

Off my bike
I stamp my way to the door
Lift my foot up
there's still
poo under my shoe

Already late
I can't deal with it now
I leave my shoe by the entrance
not to bring into the school
the poo under my shoe

Early evening
I find back my shoes where I left them
No big surprise

On my bike ride home
I make a plan
to get rid of
the poo under my shoe

I park my bike
take out the hose
Under this incessant rain
My neighbours must think 
I have gone mad

As I spray the water
under my shoe
I wonder
What is the lesson to be learned here?

Such an awful stink
a bit of poo under my shoe
causes
yet when I spray it away with water
over our garden
the smell disappears

After some reflection
I conclude
sometimes
there is no lesson
just poo under my shoe