The “Whadda Ya’ Know?” edition. Here are five things I feel I’ve got a pretty good handle on, followed by five things I’m actively investigating to learn more about:
1. Writing. I consider this an ongoing, evolutionary process – all creative processes are – but I can plan, organize, and compose good, solid, engaging pieces of writing with reliable consistency. That, coupled with the fact that I have enough mastery over the process to teach it well to others, leads me to the conclusion that I “know” how to write.
2. Reading. In my (many) years as an active and engaged student of reading, I have learned how to read in ways that go beyond dragging my eyes over the words and absorbing a story. I’m able to make connections, to see subtleties, and to draw conclusions beyond the covers of the book, and those things make my experience of reading (when I’m not simply reading for pleasure) much richer than it would otherwise be. It delights me that this richness spills into my everyday life, as well; the reading that I do helps me to see things I would otherwise miss in my day-to-day journeys through the world.
3. Cooking. Again, as with the writing, this is an ever-evolving process for me, but my time in the kitchen (and under the guidance and mentorship of some competent and accomplished cooks) has led me to a strong sense of self-assurance when it comes to culinary creation. Though I’m nearly undiluted Scot, I’m convinced that I either carry some genes or am invested of the spirit of some benevolent Jewish or Italian mother; if I love you, I cook for you. For me, feeding each other is one of the highest forms of care we can offer.
4. Driving. I am often inordinately proud of my competence behind the wheel. I am careful and aware, I know, understand, and respect what my car is capable of doing, and I am mindful always that, at any moment and for no good reason, things could go horribly, tragically wrong. I think it’s that combination of knowledge and – I don’t want to call it fear, but you know what I mean – makes me an exceptional driver. Plus, I’m a whiz at working the manual transmission and at parallel parking – first time, every time, Baby!
5. Mothering and Teaching. (Again with the ever-evolving practices! Do we ever really KNOW something? Perhaps that’s a musing for later this week…) I tend to see teaching and mothering as two things that are strongly, almost inextricably, interconnected. I am able to approach each of my children, both biological and academic, as individuals with unique needs and talents. I’m also able (most of the time) to see what they need in order to get what they want, and I’m able to customize the ways I approach those children so they see it, too. Really, though? I think my most significant qualification for these jobs is that I care enough to want to do them as well as I possibly can. I love my kids – both biological and academic – and I want what’s best for them, not what serves me or my ego.
Here are five things I’m working on knowing better:
1. How to argue. I feel consistently frustrated that I’m tripped up by errors in logic (both my own and others’) and my inability to communicate what I’m thinking in ways that make me satisfied that what I’m saying is what’s really in my head. I’m currently reading a couple of books about argument and persuasion, and am trying to get a handle on logical fallacies so I can both recognize them in my own thinking and call them out when others try to use them to derail the discussion. I’m also considering taking a couple of L.U. courses in logic and argument, but I’m not quite there yet.
2. Understanding what I am and what I believe. I have long proclaimed myself a “lefty Humanist,” and the more reading I do about Humanism, the more I think that is a pretty appropriate label for me. I want to clarify my own attitudes and beliefs for myself, though, because I find that if I give any evidence of lacking a strong sense of self, people are more willing to attack ME rather than my argument (another logical fallacy; see above. It’s all connected). I’ve been doing some philosophical study lately (I’m more than halfway through Good Without God and have been brushing up on my Kant and Hume) and am engaging some of the smart people in my life with the questions that come up.
3. Learning how to take better care of myself. I’m over 40 and, as a consequence, some of the “rules” about my physical body are changing. I’ve found myself having to make some pretty significant changes in how I treat my body over the last year or so, and I’m still learning what I need (and what I don’t) in order to get my body in really good working shape. I’m also continuing to tend to my emotional and energetic needs, as well, and while I’ve found a number of things that work to help keep me running smoothly (yoga, time with friends, my own professional development, that sort of thing, though I’d like to have a stronger, more grounded meditation practice), I’m always on the lookout for more ways to incorporate ways to keep my whole self healthy so I can continue to love and nurture the people in my life.
4. Understanding – and being able to teach – history. One of the things that surprised me when I started teaching English is how much history I had to know in order to give the students proper context and background for the novels and stories we’d read. I am profoundly lucky in that I have a lot of really good and very generous friends (hi, Eddie!) who are willing to fill in my many empty spaces when it comes to teaching my kids the things they need to know to really understand what the hell it is we’re trying to do here, both in school and as citizens. I’m working on learning more; I’ve re-applied to the summer teacher fellowship with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, I’m conducting my own investigation of time periods and historical figures that intrigue me, and I’m paying very close attention to the ways in which current events are shaped by the past. It’s really all connected, and until we really figure that out, we’re going to just keep stumbling along.
5. A bunch of insignificant, wouldn’t-it-be-neat kinds of things that, if the opportunity presents itself, I’d probably learn to do. I’d like to be able to do a handstand, and maybe even a back bend from a standing position (I can get into one from the floor, but not from my feet). I have always wanted to learn to drive a tractor-trailer truck (not enough to go and actually do it, mind you; there’s a school in my region that teaches over-the-road trucking, so I could learn this if I really wanted to). I’d like to learn to make my own jewelry, and I think it would be fun to learn how to ride a horse. I’d take a pastry class; the idea of homemade croissants is intriguing, though I think, knowing what I do about the process, it’s something I’d probably only do once just to say I can.
So, Dear Readers; what can YOU do, and what do you still want to learn?