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Do Something Easy

Hello,


When my oldest was in third grade he took the New York State Assessments for the first time. There is always so much hoopla regarding state assessments in New York and though I’d been connected to them as an educator, this was my first time being connected as a parent.


“So, how was it?” I asked Nolan.


In true kid fashion, he said, “Fine.”


“Was Day One hard?”


“No. It was easy.”


“That’s good. How about Day Two?”


“That was easy too,” Nolan matter-of-factly stated.


“Really? I hear from a lot of people that Day Two is hard,” I said, trying to see what he really thought.


“Not for me,” Nolan said with the ease and unburdened conviction of an innocent child.


“Okay. So, if Day One was easy and Day Two was easy, what’s hard?” I asked expecting him to tell me something related to the test or school.


Nolan thought for a moment and then declared with wisdom beyond his years, “What’s hard is not doing something easy.” 


I was so struck by this quote that not only did I write it on our dry-erase board in the kitchen, but I added it to my signature at the end of emails for a while.


I’m very familiar with doing hard things; no one would characterize me as someone who takes the easy road. When I was younger, I busted my hump in school. In college, I was an honors student. While that could have meant access to higher-level courses, it also meant I could take more courses. Every semester, I took as many credit hours as I could because it was the same cost if I took 12 or I took 20, so I took 20. I started grad school at the same time I started teaching. During that chapter, I taught full-time and attended school full-time. I didn’t know the difference and full-time for grad school was 12 credits, which I didn’t realize was entirely more intense than 12 undergrad credits. After getting my Master’s Degree in just over 16 months, I took off a semester, got married, and immediately started to get my admin certification. While taking classes, I was encouraged by a professor to get my Ph.D., so I said, “Sure.” In that doctoral program, residency was required so I again had to go to school full-time for two semesters all while I was working full-time. The difference was that in addition to work and school, I was also pregnant with my first child. This pretty much encapsulated my teens and twenties.


Fast forward to my thirties when my youngest son, Oliver, was in kindergarten. He was a struggling reader. Since his brother and sister went to the same school two and four years earlier, respectively, I knew that every month there would be a word list of about 12-15 words. I already had flashcards with the words on them. When I’d show them to Oliver, he’d often get upset and frustrated. I would say to him, “When things get hard, we try harder.” I realized that as an adult, I really didn’t need to try that hard anymore. Adults can eliminate many things in their lives that are hard. Doing taxes is hard so hire an accountant. Changing the oil or tires or brakes on a car is hard, so hire a mechanic. You get the point. There wasn’t much in my life at the time that felt hard. Coincidentally, I had recently heard of the app Coach to 5K. Despite having no physical restrictions or disabilities, I was never a runner. Why? Because it was hard. If I was going to tell Oliver, “When things get hard, we try harder,” I had to practice what I preached. So, I set out to run a 5K using the app Roun Double (which I highly recommend).


By the time I got to my forties, I was excited. It was the proverbial chance to have a clean slate to avoid the pitfalls of my earlier years and course-correct through applying all of my hard-fought learning. Well, here I am in the middle of this decade and I have faced circumstances that were more difficult than anything I encountered earlier in my life. Trials that have caused traumas that are too personal to elaborate on that knocked me to my knees. It had nothing to do with my age, but it happened in this decade of my life. 


Anyway, this is who I am. Someone who has opted into hard things and someone who has faced the hard things that came my way. Nevertheless, based on a recommendation from a friend, I recently read the book Do Hard Things by Steve Magness–probably because I was expecting to feel validated.


(Quick side note…I didn’t pay attention to the name of the author when she told me the title of the book and accidentally started reading a book by the same name by Alex and Brett Harris–a pair of teenage brothers. Their book’s subtitle is, “A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations,” which was categorically not the book my friend recommended. We had a good laugh when we realized my mistake.)


As I read the Magness’ book, I realized two things. First, his book is less about encouraging or motivating people to take on challenges but is really about how to make the challenges you face more doable. In other words, an alternative version of the title might have been, “Make Hard Things Doable” or “Things Don’t Have to be Hard.”


The second realization was that I really would prefer to have things be easier. Life is already hard. It’s like this meme:



A good friend of mine is known to quote his wife in times when there are choices and he has offered me her advice, “Make it easy.” I love this. It’s a reminder that you get to pick wisely and your choice can be the easier thing.


When my philosophical son at eight proclaimed, “What’s hard is not doing something easy,” he was right. However, I wish at the time I recognized how easy it would be to slip mindlessly into doing something hard when with a little more thought, I could have made things easier. I wish I had told myself and him that it’s okay to “make it easy.” It took me some time and I’m still growing, but I believe now more than ever how healthy it can be to embrace finding boundaries and the ability to say no because even though it's hard to set boundaries and say no, trying to get them right will ultimately make things easier.


~Heather


 P.S. As I shared last week, some of the books I’ve read in the past few months have been a little lackluster. As a result, I reread a book I knew I liked and I stumbled across a book that was very good and I’m sharing both as this week’s Catch of the Week.


I borrowed Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri last year and loved it so much that I caught it and encouraged Oliver to read it (he had to do independent reading for school). It’s a winner of multiple awards but I didn’t know that when I borrowed it. It’s a story that will both break your heart and make your heart swell with love. I highly recommend the audiobook because it’s read by the author, himself.


"A patchwork story is the shame of the refugee," Nayeri writes early in the novel. In an Oklahoman middle school, Khosrou (whom everyone calls Daniel) stands in front of a skeptical audience of classmates, telling the tales of his family's history, stretching back years, decades, and centuries. At the core is Daniel's story of how they became refugees—starting with his mother's vocal embrace of Christianity in a country that made such a thing a capital offense, and continuing through their midnight flight from the secret police, bribing their way onto a plane-to-anywhere. Anywhere becomes the sad, cement refugee camps of Italy, and then finally asylum in the U.S. Implementing a distinct literary style and challenging western narrative structures, Nayeri deftly weaves through stories of the long and beautiful history of his family in Iran, adding a richness of ancient tales and Persian folklore.


Like Scheherazade of One Thousand and One Nights in a hostile classroom, Daniel spins a tale to save his own life: to stake his claim to the truth. Everything Sad Is Untrue (a true story) is a tale of heartbreak and resilience and urges readers to speak their truth and be heard.


The second book, Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters is also award-winning (though again, I wasn’t aware until after I read it). It’s a beautiful novel about identity, trauma, and love.


July 1962. A Mi’kmaq family from Nova Scotia arrives in Maine to pick blueberries for the summer. Weeks later, four-year-old Ruthie, the family’s youngest child, vanishes. She is last seen by her six-year-old brother, Joe, sitting on a favorite rock at the edge of a berry field. Joe will remain distraught by his sister’s disappearance for years to come. 


In Maine, a young girl named Norma grows up as the only child of an affluent family. Her father is emotionally distant, her mother frustratingly overprotective. Norma is often troubled by recurring dreams and visions that seem more like memories than imagination. As she grows older, Norma slowly comes to realize there is something her parents aren’t telling her. Unwilling to abandon her intuition, she will spend decades trying to uncover this family secret. 


For readers of The Vanishing Half and Woman of Light, this show stopping debut by a vibrant new voice in fiction is a riveting novel about the search for truth, the shadow of trauma, and the persistence of love across time.


P.P.S. Please remember to...


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