Thursday, February 18, 2010

Little Buddha

“People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.” Andrew Carnegie


Every now and then, Little Buddha steps into my path and sets me straight.

Older. Wiser. And definitely smaller. Little Buddha, my confidante with double initials, knows precisely how to make me pause, reflect, realize my purpose and my potential. Each of our colloquies is truly a catharsis of my spirit for our tenets are so closely aligned.

And so when I spoke with Little Buddha earlier this week, our conversation lingered with me for days. Why? Because I am currently in need of mutual affirmation and commiseration in my belief that we have little use for people who do not contribute to the overall purpose of their charge, those who plod along through rote and repetition, those whose standards fall short of rigor.

This, as my inner circle knows, is the “Minkie” factor.

We all know Minkie. We know the indolence. And it is masked through a web of feeble attempts that Minkie weaves. However, those with diligence easily see through Minkie’s façade. And we simply shake our heads at those who choose to take the easy road, particularly when it compromises the journeys of others.

In his book The Four Agreements, author Don Miguel Ruiz writes: “If you do your best always, over and over again, you will become a master of transformation. By doing your best, you become a master.”

But what about those who proclaim they are doing their best, and it is greatly underwhelming? Does that still make them a master? If so, then what, a master of mediocrity? And what if one simply cannot subscribe to that type of promulgation? I’ve been fortunate to watch Little Buddha at work in her environment; I’ve seen the challenges set forth, the high expectations, and the returns that Little Buddha’s efforts have yielded over the years.

Little Buddha knows that I invest as much as I can in my efforts. But, it’s difficult to continue at this point, right now.

By the time I left for work at 6:45 this morning, I had already run six miles (three at nearly race pace), did a core workout, baked cookies for Grace, folded one load of laundry, washed another and threw it in the dryer, unloaded the dishwasher, showered, ironed my hair, and made breakfast. Despite my chest pains, back cramps, and plantar fasciitis, I hobbled in, graded about 20 assessments, taught a double English, created and copied two tests, led three writing workshops, wrote a letter of recommendation, chiseled away on a major novel unit test, counseled two students on career options.

And I didn’t complain. I just did it because that’s how Little Buddha helped shape me.

As in all aspects of life, pushing yourself means that you should always remember a few things: A steady salary should not be an invitation to mediocrity. A steady home should not be an invitation for ignorance. And steady health should not an invitation for complacency.

I’ve never had to conquer as many hitches and hindrances as Little Buddha, but if the same challenges are placed before me, I hope I can master them with the style, elegance, and tenacity that she has, even if it means giving breast cancer the middle finger in the most serious fashion.

She is one of the sharpest and strongest souls that I know. She will always be there to push me, even if I no longer have the benefit of seeing her stunning face each day, of hearing her words of praise of my writing, her words of empathy of a wandering child, her words of understanding of a blended family, her words of compassion for my frustrations. And I love her so dearly. (She is why 10 years ago I passed over a lucrative job offer in a suburban district to take less money in an urban one, just so I could work with her.)

She is one person who has helped me flourish as a woman, a mother, a teacher, a writer, a learner.

As Ruiz writes: “The human mind is like a fertile ground where seeds are continually planted.” That’s quite true; however, this will not happen without farmers who are continually willing to work the soil.

When I grow up, I want to be someone’s Little Buddha, only taller.

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