I’m sorry for the quietus. There are things I’ve wanted to share with you but whenever I sit down to write, I wake up with the keyboard imprinted on my face.
We’re talking serious fatigue here, folks. The kind that isn’t remedied by sleep.
However, I will take a break from my all-consuming, thought-foreclosing exhaustion to talk about praise. I’ve been thinking about praise a lot lately and will offer up the following two stories.
At my job, I sometimes have to interact with people I can’t seem to interact well with. I’m impatient and, you know, have an ego. But lately I’ve been trying to play nice with others. I’ve been acting in ways that are not entirely characteristic. And for these gestures, I’ve gotten some praise from some other people I work with. So, like any creature of little brain, I want to repeat behaviors for which I am praised and phase out the ones no one likes. I have a new dog—I’ve mentioned this—and clearly we are not much different. I have been fascinated by the ease with which I’ve been replacing what comes naturally to me just because someone fluffed me up about it. I’m not talking about throwing out my moral core here—not yet, anyway—but still. Fascinating.
The street outside my daughter’s school is rather narrow. At pick-up, you never know if cars are going to be able to get by yours, which is some cause for anxiety. When it snows and the banks extend into the street, this problem is compounded. Most of the other parents have big American Ethos vehicles. SUVs made in China. I have a small Subaru (make of that what you need). The AE parents often drive up on the curb at pick-up, which ensures adequate passage next to them. I am too scared to do this. I don’t actually know how to do this. In my head, if I try to drive up on the curb, I’m just gonna slam into the curb. So, a couple weeks ago, after a snowstorm, one of the AE dads tells me I need to drive up on the curb and when I tell him I’m scared, he says, Come on, you’re a great driver. PRAISE. The next day, I’m driving down the street, see all the giant cars hopped up on the curb and, suffused with this praise, I attempt to drive up on the curb as well. A few minutes later, this same dad is telling me that it’ll only cost me a few hundred dollars to fix my busted fender and light and, man, who knew the snow was gonna be that hard.
Implicit in these two looks at praise and its fallout is a lengthy disquisition I don’t have the energy for. So do it for me! And make better choices than me, please.