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Andrew Birkhead
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Archive for the ‘Blogging as Therapy’ Category

What I learned as a Show-Choir Chaperon

Posted on March 21, 2010 in: Blogging as Therapy, Parenting by Andrew Birkhead

As I’ve previously noted, I learn a lot from my daughter, Sarah.  For me, the key is to keep my eyes open and pay attention to what she’s trying to teach me.  Her gentle instruction recently took me to Lawrence Central high school for a show choir competition.  My stated role that day was chaperon, my covert role was student.  My duties were primarily reminding the young adults what they already knew, and getting keys to lock, or unlock the doors of the changing rooms.  Since my duties were light, I had plenty of time to soak in the show choir culture.  What struck me immediately was the amount of joy and spirit the participants carried with them.  Even at the call time, 5:50 A.M., it was palpable. I observed the Pike High School choirs throughout that long day, all the while discerning what they might be trying to teach me.  Here’s what I came up with:

1.  Encourage others with abandon.

It’s the practice to support the school’s other choirs by making ‘the tunnel’ and cheering them as they leave the changing room for warm up and performance.  This is a wonderful show of encouragement that everyone is expected to take part of.  What struck me though, was the encouragement that was shown to other choirs, even the competition, as they walked by.  Everyone in the Pike area stopped what they were doing and applauded them and said good luck as they passed.

It takes so little effort for me to encourage the people around I’m around.  Friends, family and even strangers can benefit from a little encouragement.  All I need to do is pull my head out of my own little world and look around at the people I’m sharing my space with.  What are they doing?  How can I offer encouragement?  As I move around in this world, I want to look for opportunities to bless, affirm and encourage the people around me.

2.  Support means showing up.

During a competition, it’s the expectation that everyone shows up at every performance.  Every solo performance, every show choir performance, every concert choir performance.  The lesson here is that I can’t properly support someone if I’m not there.  Support means showing up.

It’s so very easy to say the words ‘I support you and your efforts,’ and as I’ve learned recently, those words are incredibly important for others to hear.  Even more important is the language of action.  Showing up and being present is a way for me to show my support, to show that I care about you, and that your interests are important to me.

3.  Success takes focus.

Before each performance, the choirs enter a period of focus time.  This is an intentional transitional period where the performers focus on their routine.  It’s a time to quiet down and receive final instructions for the performance.

I often forget that transitional time is important.  It allows me to focus on a task by intentionally transitioning into that space.  How many times have I rushed headlong into work or family time and been blindsided because I didn’t take the time to properly transition into the space?  Focus time is a preparation ritual that can be utilized by all of us.  Take the time to intentionally transition into the important areas of your life.  It can be as simple as a deep  breath before exiting your car or house and can make all the difference in the world.

4.  Everything worthwhile is difficult.

A show choir competition is an ordeal.  For the Lawrence Central show we arrived at the school at 5:50am and the busses returned to school at 12:30am.  And that’s just show day.  They practice 5 days a week during school and one weekly after school practice.  There’s also choreography to learn, physical conditioning, and an intense focus on constant improvement of the show.  I am totally impressed at the difficult work these young adults perform.

How many times have I gotten discouraged and given up because something was too hard?  How many times have I NOT EVEN STARTED something because it seemed too difficult?  Too many to count.  The members of the Pike choral department throw themselves into show choir season oblivious to the incredible difficulty of the task before them.  The lesson here is that everything worthwhile is difficult, and to not let that stop me from getting what I want.

The Sun

Posted on February 22, 2010 in: Blogging as Therapy, Cool Stuff, life by Andrew Birkhead Tags:

I’ve read The Sun off and on for too many years to count. One of my favorite parts of the magazine is Sy Safransky’s Notebook, short notes about whatever crosses Sy’s mind. After reading it for all these years, I feel like I already know Sy, it’s almost like we’re friends, or could be if our paths crossed. This selection is a good example of the writing that resonates in me:

YES, WE’RE IN A RECESSION. But sooner or later each of us will lose something more important than our savings or our job. Will we have the resilience to deal with sudden illness or injury? With the death of a loved one? With any of the innumerable misfortunes life may have in store? I remind myself that every experience can be a teaching if I’m willing to see it that way; that suffering, too, can be a teaching. In fact, suffering usually gets the teacher-of-the-year award because I always sit up and pay attention when I’m in physical pain or when my heart has been broken or when I witness the anguish of someone I love. To honor the teaching doesn’t mean welcoming suffering with open arms, or looking for the silver lining of a tragedy with the kind of relentless optimism that denies painful feelings. I remind myself that blessings in disguise remain disguised until they’re good and ready to reveal themselves — and even then, the blessing might simply be that a particular setback has taught me to live more fully in the present, or deepened my compassion for others going through a similar difficulty, or underscored the paradox that we’re ultimately alone and inextricably bound to one another.

Divorce Shadow

Posted on January 29, 2008 in: Blogging as Therapy by Andrew Birkhead


The shortcut to understanding Jung’s concept of shadow is anything I hide, repress or deny. I saved this New Yorker cartoon without thinking. As with most things that I do without thinking… THERE’S A REASON FOR IT! The reason is that I’ve been keeping my sadness around my divorce safely tucked away so it would be invisible to myself and the world. Did I already mention, hide, repress and deny?

I hid my sadness to stay safe and to appear strong to myself and others. It served me well by keeping me employed and alive. There is little room in society or business for someone who is perpetually unable to function because of sadness. The problem with many coping mechanisms is that they can turn from useful tool to debilitating shadow when their usefulness expires.

That’s what happed with my divorce sadness. After I no longer needed to ‘tuck away (repress) my sadness’ to function, I continued to hide it. Now it likes to surprise me from time to time. It seems to enjoy hiding behind trees and walloping me upside the head as I stroll by. Then it giggles and runs away while I reach for my big assed bottle of ibuprofen.

How do I deal with a shadow? My first step is to name it: “I know you, you’re my Divorce Grief.” Naming a shadow takes away some of it’s power. The next step is harder. To keep a shadow from walloping me, I must drag it forcibly into the light of day, the light of my awareness. If I’m aware of something, I can make conscious decisions around it. The best way that I know to keep a shadow in the spotlight is to talk about it. If it’s not a SECRET to others, it’s not a SECRET to me!

Happy shadow hunting!

Tuesday Blog Meat

The Daily Saint has a cool post on how to easily live a more spiritual life.

I’ve been meaning to read this post on Freelance Switch about Freelance Accounting for quite awhile. Now that I have, I’m happy to report that I already do most of these.

Teenage Angst

Posted on January 22, 2008 in: Blogging as Therapy, Parenting by Andrew Birkhead

I’m the parent of a delightful 14 year old young woman. The good news is that she talks to me. She still tells her dad the important things in her life. It’s amazing! The bad news is that these things are often very negative. Sometimes it bums me out and I just can’t take it anymore.

This happened again this morning. I drove her to the bus stop and waited with her. It gave us about 10 minutes to talk. I got to hear about how crappy school is, how people mistreat her, and how the best part of the day is going home. My answer to the blessing of her sharing her life with me? Shaming messages about how she should be more positive! My fear is that if I continue this behavior, she may stop sharing her life with me.

What I want, and hold on it’s not healthy, is to have it both ways! I want a daughter who shares with me AND I want her to be like me, trying really hard to be positive!

With that said, my parenting work is to welcome her connection and EVERYTHING that comes with it. My vow is that when I take on negative messages, to examine why I’m taking them on instead of telling her to stop.