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Batting Average

In the 2019 Major League season, the best batting average belonged to Tim Anderson, who had a .335 average. This means that he would get a hit roughly one out of every three times he would come up to the plate.

Hugh Duffy, the diminutive Hall of Fame player, holds the record for the best single season batting average of all time. In 1894, he had a .4397 average, which means he got a hit from less than half of his at bats.

#BostonStrong

These aren’t just people doing the job professionally. These are players who are the elite of the elite. And they still struck out more than they got on base.

Because even when you’re among the best at something, you’re not infallible.

So if you hold yourself to impossible standards, or feel a deep frustration with how many times your best efforts wind up with little to show for them, there’s no time like now to stop.

I’ve had students telling me that they don’t understand why they can’t push themselves to do work up to the quality they held themselves to back in February.

I’ve seen it in myself, wondering why it is that even when I can clear some time off, my focus isn’t as strong as it could have been a few weeks ago.

Any number of people I’ve spoken with have talked about the sense that there may be something wrong with them since they’re not one of the people who have taken to this quarantime with aplomb.

Those people showcasing their bread, crafts, writing, music, community organizing, or hilarious videos? That’s not everyone. Not by a long shot.

There’s the line of thought that we should just snap back to normal after adjusting our lives to staying at home, staying safe, and confronting the realities of a pandemic. But we can also see this as an opportunity to reflect, and re-evaluate the things we’ve taken for granted before we were forced to choose what’s essential and what commands our attention.

And one of those things I’ve been revisiting is the idea that one bad day doesn’t need to mean all that much in the grand scheme of things.

Which is what brings me back to batting averages.

Under the best of conditions, with a singular goal and a life built around pursuing it, professional baseball players still regularly strike out more than they get on base.

So no matter what goal you’re pursuing, one bad day doesn’t hurt your average all that much. It doesn’t deserve your anger. It doesn’t deserve all that much of your focus.

You need to work for the average. Play the full season.

From that view, even a string of bad days isn’t that disruptive.

So if you feel like you’re in a slump, or that things aren’t moving as quickly as you’d like, or that today is just another example of why “I cannot do The Thing That Matters To Me,” stop.

Breathe.

Remember what game you’re playing.

And remember that even Hugh “Nobody Has Had A Better Single Season Batting Average Than Me In Over 100 Years” Duffy wound up back on the bench more times than he got on base.

Get back up. Tap the dirt from your cleats. Keep swinging.

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Birthday party planning in the new now

The other morning Sprout was hovering by my elbow while I got Button out of his nighttime pajamas and into his daytime pajamas (because, after all, pandemic fashion is all about cozy comfort) and she started planning his birthday party at the end of summer.

“We can invite all of his friends to video face chat!”

I reminded her that he’s not even one year old, so most of his friends are family members, but she was breezed past that.

“We’re going to have to order his presents early so they can get here. Because we can’t go to the store.”

She made all these logistical pronouncements in a matter-of-fact way. She’s not sounding anxious or disappointed at the idea that maybe we wouldn’t be able to have family members over to our house, or get together with people in person for Button’s birthday.

She’s just internalizing and trying out a new sense of normal based on how things are going currently.

She’s had weeks of only seeing cousins, grandparents, her teachers, and some of her friends from school on the other side of a screen. She’s barged in on some of my online classes (as my unofficial TA) and told knock-knock jokes.

She misses people. She misses school. When the sadness comes, it hits in waves: peaking fast, then subsiding.

But there’s a streak of resiliency coming through as she adjusts to new routines.

Can’t have school recess with all her friends? Then every day there needs to be backyard recess with Dad. After dinner must be Family Time, lunch needs to fit a routine, and so on. She has blocks of time that make up the schedule of her day, and she even wants to stick to it on weekends.

Because right now for her, what even are weekends?

It’s not always easy, but I’m glad to see those moments where she’s rolling with the punches and finding her footing.

And I hope, as I have to adapt to the changes still to come, that I can greet the logistics of it with the same straightforward, beginner’s mind that she’s started to use.

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Tomorrow could be better.

It’s not much, but that’s the idea that sustains me.

Developing coping mechanisms for depression (and actually seeking treatment) before the world went into a state of isolation and fear is something that’s helping me keep perspective.

No matter what today throws at me, or how disappointed and weary and angry I might feel at the end of the day, I made it to the end.

Tomorrow could be better. I don’t know yet. I have to get there to find out.

Because no matter how hard I think about the things I could’ve done differently in the past to make this a better day, that’s a fruitless exercise.

There’s a name for a mental habit connected to depression: rumination. It’s all about focusing on the past, mulling it over, trying to solve it like a problem.

There’s a passage in The Mindful Way through Depression about it:

When we ruminate, we become fruitlessly preoccupied with the fact that we are unhappy and with the causes, meanings, and consequences of our unhappiness. Research has repeatedly shown that if we have tended to react to our sad or depressed moods in these ways in the past, then we are likely to find the same strategy volunteering to “help” again and again when our mood starts to slide. And it will have the same effect: we’ll get stuck in the very mood from which we are trying to escape…

Rumination invariably backfires. It merely compounds our misery. It’s a heroic attempt to solve a problem that it is just not capable of solving.

Dissecting the day doesn’t make it any better. And analyzing how you would make different choices about today doesn’t necessarily apply to tomorrow, since every day might feel the same (especially now, when so many people are isolating themselves and their families away from the rest of their communities), but it won’t work. No two days are the exact same.

Today is already written. There’s no erasing it or tearing out that page. I can’t make tomorrow simply a more polished revision of today.

So I need to turn to the next blank sheet and start again. Start over.

Because tomorrow could be better.

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Wind Chimes

I haven’t had the heart to take down our wind chimes yet, though they should probably come in for the winter. But they’re a particularly pleasant set of chimes, and I’m predisposed to enjoy music with elements of chance built in.

The sounds from the chimes aren’t predictable, but there’s nothing random about the music they make. A web of cause and effect composes their music.

People designed and manufactured the chimes to produce a certain set of complimentary tones. When we took them out of the box, we chose a spot outside our home to hang them, which influenced where the wind that moves them comes from. Then there’s the wind itself.

The wind pushes them based on air currents, pressure systems, and the surrounding environment. And even those factors are influenced by people, either by the way they alter the environment directly through construction and landscaping, or in on a larger scale by the way human actions influence the climate.

When people tell you everything happens for a reason, often they want you to feel like that your suffering exists to teach you a lesson.

Regardless of how you feel about that interpretation, everything does happen for a reason, but that but it is not necessarily about you, or to guide you.

Nothing truly happens in a vacuum. C happens because B happens because A made it happen, and so on.

If this sounds pessimistic, remember that you’re a part of that web of cause and effect.

Things may not happen just to teach you a lesson or force you to learn and grow, but you can choose to become something other than what you are. You can alter your links in the chain.

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My Daughter Thinks She’s Getting Better At The Floss

The other day, my daughter started dancing to Fred Schneider’s cover of the Harry Nilsson song “Coconut,” and wanted to show us how she could Floss.

It went something like this:

 

Sprout Sort Of Flossing.GIF

Mid-way through her dance, she squealed, “I’m getting good at the Floss!

She’s kind of correct.

I mean, sure, it didn’t look exactly like this,

anigif_sub-buzz-29832-1542385259-2.gif

but she’s got the right attitude about trying to work at something that doesn’t come easy.

Confidence and momentum build from seeing your progress.

She’s not focused on the distance between where she is and where she’d like to be. She’s looking the opposite direction and seeing how far she’s come from where she started.

If you get stuck in the unending Zeno’s Paradox of constantly getting closer to your goal, but never actually reaching it, you wind up with anxiety, frustration, and shame.

You stall out. You feel like a fraud.

It’s something I see in my students, my peers, and myself.

That pull between the optimism of seeing how far you’ve come fighting the pessimism of the long, unclear road ahead.

It’s easy to let that pull you into the mental trap of contrasting and comparing yourself with others.

But when you celebrate your progress, you focus on your personal bests, not on how far you are from achieving a world record. You can measure what you’ve done and add to it.

And you can make the story you tell yourself about how this is moving forward — This is what getting better looks like.