Today I’m sitting in that tunnel of mirrors, the barbershop trap, where you’re supposed to be looking at how the back of your haircut looks, but instead your eye gets distracted by the fact that you can see the mirror in front of you inside the mirror behind you, and the mirror behind you inside that…and so on…and so…you nod and say, “It looks good,” but really you haven’t even looked at your hair. You’re too distracted by the myriad reflections.
That’s me. Reflecting in so many scattered ways that my reflections don’t always yield the results that people imagine when they describe a “reflective person.”
This year, as I’ve read the entries on the Two Writing Teachers blog, I’ve seen how much thought some teachers put into choosing a word that will be their “One little word” (OLW) for the year. I took part last year, and I chose the word “citizen.” Most people chose verbs. I chose a noun. I thought, though, that it was a noun that implied action. I don’t know how successful I was as a citizen last year. I voted; I marched; I rallied; I wrote. Was that really enough? I probably could have done more. I’ll reflect on that later.
At the beginning of this school year I chose the word “yet” as the touchword for my year. Again, avoiding the verb, this time I chose a conjunction. Odd, I know. I chose it for its ability to revise and reframe a sentence. In the world of a fifth grader, things are often black or white. Kids say, “I’m good at art,” or, of more concern, they state the negative, “I’m not good at writing.” It can be hard to counter that concreteness, the certainty or finality of their assertion. I tried to focus our first weeks on adding the word “yet” to any negative proclamation. That quality of temporariness made it seem like there were still possibilities. “I’m not good at math…yet.” (Wait, I’m wondering now if that really is a conjunction when you use it that way. This is how I’ll find out if my sister reads these entries. She will know). Whatever the part of speech, I’ll continue to push that powerful word as a tool this year. But now it’s January, named for Janus, the two-headed one who looks backward and forward in Roman mythology, so I’m choosing a new word for this year: reflect (a verb, finally).
I’m determined, though, to be more conscious of how I reflect. I do it naturally, but almost obsessively, at times. As a result, I sometimes don’t use my reflection for more than a chance at admonition. “Well, that sucked. I won’t do that again.” Or, “That didn’t work so well. I should remember to do it a different way next year.” Those reflections, though honest, don’t do much good. Neither do the reflections that keep me from sleeping at night. Those often mix with projections, the things that worry me about tomorrow. This year, I’d like to be more constructively reflective. I think that means I need to leave space to look back more regularly, to look back in a more focused and analytical way, and then to look forward, based on my reflection.
Reflecting is on my mind right now, since I’ve recently spent time reading a memoir that my father is writing. His purpose, of course, is different from mine. Partly, he’s trying to figure out his old self, wondering why he emigrated from Sweden at age 17, wondering why he wandered so much in those years from 17 to 23. Partly he’s doing it so that future generations will know who he was and hear his voice.
Now that I think of it, I probably should be thinking along those same lines. Rather than waiting till I’m 87, with memory failing and energy flagging, it might be wise to figure out myself and make myself known to that generation that hasn’t arrived yet. I could begin a memoir project now, and…
See? This how my flawed and unfocused reflections lead me off track. Now I’ve just given myself a new project. Reflection should clarify and direct, not just add to my to-do list. Here’s my reflection resolution: In school, I will leave time before the end of each day for all of us to reflect on one part of the day. In my reflection, I’ll try to find something interesting or positive upon which I could build, and I’ll try to make note of one specific thing I could do as a follow-up or correction tomorrow. That’s Janus-like, purposeful, and focused. My one little word for 2018 is reflect.
I can do this, even if I’m not good at reflecting…yet.