The Article in My Head

Everything I read mixes with everything else I read until there is an article in my head, composed of many authors’ words and ideas, yet wholly my own creation. I’ll try to explain.

I print out New York Times articles that look interesting and pile them up on a wicker table next to my mother’s old recliner, where they wait until I feel that I have worked enough to deserve to recline. (Yes, I know — that’s a poor attitude to have about myself — to think that I may only recline after I have worked. I’m working on that . . .)

I finally read the latest pile the other day, and one of the articles was Understanding the Anxious Mind.  Among the many topics discussed was the idea of having adaptive responses to anxiety (i.e., if you are worried about cooking a good meal for your Saturday night company, the adaptive response would be to practice cooking the meal. An unadaptive response would be to cancel the dinner party.)

I also read A Fine Instrument, a Classic Instinct, which is about Barbra Streisand’s approach to singing. In it, Ms. Streisand says that the only way she can explain how she is able to hold a note for a very long time is because she wants to. She is not on intimate terms with her diaphragm.

The article in my head is still being written; give me a little more time.

I read a wonderful book, Dating Jesus, by Susan Campbell, who I think I want to be when I grow up, even though we’re about the same age. As she described her journey from fundamentalism to  feminism, I was floored by her bravery and realized she made very adaptive responses as she matured.

I also realized that adaptive responses are what life’s all about: every day we face situations and must react — do we react adaptively and constructively, or rigidly and destructively? For individuals, institutions, and  nations, that’s the big question. And the answer defines what our lives will be.

We’re getting into my article now.

So, Susan Campbell adapted and grew, the “Anxious Mind” article mentioned adapting, and the Barbra Streisand article mentioned instinct. Some things are instinctual; granted, Ms. Streisand still needs the physical equipment required to hold  that note at the end of  “Evergreen” forever but she did not need to learn how to hold it. She held it because she wanted to. She followed her instincts about singing.

Do we learn to be adaptive? My daughter, I am pleased to say, responds adaptively to situations. (I can see that on a report card, as one of the qualities the teacher grades with an O for Outstanding, a G for good, or an E for Effort Needed. The G bothered me the most: what was I missing that kept me from being Outstanding??)

Anyway, I believe my daughter is choosing to adapt in a healthy, constructive manner because we have tried to model such adaption and because it is her instinctual response.  She doesn’t want to cancel the dinner party. She wants to forge on ahead, which is the brave thing to do.

Remember the quote that named this blog? “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” (Anais Nin).

stephaniefacetightSo, I have this kid who is brave, adaptive, and who follows her instincts. She knows who she is and she acts accordingly. I couldn’t be more proud.

Thank you for reading the article in my head.


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