I found great humor in reading Joe Queenan’s article A Word to the Wise in today’s Wall Street Journal. In it, he describes how people in the United States like to ask for advice that they never take and give advice that never gets taken. He comments on how the one piece of positive, life-changing advice he took, was from a stranger. He never thanked the person.
I actually like getting suggestions from certain people. I am more open to advice if it is from someone I know, who doesn’t give it often. That usually means that it is thoughtful and compelling enough for them to feel the urge to share it with me. I am more open to suggestions from people who are doers and don’t start their suggestion with “You should…” Doers are people who are doing stuff in their lives who happen to glance into my life, notice something and share their observations. They also know what I love and what I’m good at and suggest things along those lines. When someone gives me a helpful suggestion I always acknowledge them for it.
My sister, Janna, is ten years younger than me and has been a yoga teacher for twenty years. She doesn’t know that I take many of her suggestions and off-the-cuff comments to heart. I often act upon them to great success. Before a recent family trip she told me she’d planned out a different yoga and meditation session for each day for our group. My sister is the best teacher I have ever had and it is a real treat to do yoga with her.
Since we were staying in a house in Mexico there would be a lot of down time. In fact the entire trip was down time. I asked myself, Like Janna, what can I do each day on the trip to enhance everyone’s enjoyment? Art, of course. It is what I studied, what I spend most of my time creating and what I am good at. To do this, I needed to be able to fit all of my supplies, including tools, into one suitcase. I did a little research and discovered I could do endless projects with paper. I packed up paper, pens, scissors, glue, and a glue gun. It was a tremendous success. One day, I spent four hours working with an assortment of kids and adults on one project. My art has moved into a new direction because of this experience.
Last Thanksgiving, I was feeling a bit of anxiety. It was the first time in about fourteen years that I was required to cook dinner for my family. I have been fortunate enough to have either been on a family vacation during Thanksgiving or gone to my sister’s home. Last year we were staying home. Not only do I not like to cook but I don’t like Thanksgiving food. I happened to mention my dilemma to my sister-in-law, Martha, who is a fabulous cook. She said, “You love miniatures. Why don’t you make a mini-Thanksgiving dinner?” Bingo! I spent so much time baking mini-pies and scouring shops for mini-ramekins, stuffing tiny Cornish hens that masqueraded as turkeys, that my family was shocked. They’d never seen me spend so much time cooking! They were duly impressed, especially with the tiny crescent rolls! Thank You, Martha!
The reason why I am open to suggestions is because of the training that I received in art school. In every studio class I took, I was required to present my work to the class for a critique. These critiques could be beautiful and brutal. I saw many students cry. The feedback I received was so helpful that my work improved exponentially.
My sister called me yesterday and said “I’m taking a page out of your book.” She had read my Jailbreak blog about playing hooky with your kids. She was pulling her middle guy out of school to take him on a special outing to the Lego movie. I got tears in my eyes when she texted me a photo of the little guy with the big smile in front of the movie theater. It made my day that I had a part in giving a little kid a special day with his mom.