Setting Intentions

I’m continuously looking for ways to stay positive. It’s difficult to do sometimes. Stress, two jobs, shortages of time, and chores all make it easy to feel gloomy. And somehow, gloom-and-doom is just simpler—at least for me.

Negativity isn’t the way, though. It weighs us down and eats at our insides till it takes over anything else that could have been. It draws on any creative energy we might have had to take it over for itself.

So, the title of this article comes into play—setting intentions.

Setting your intention is an idea I learned about (at least in name) when I was reading about the Wicca faith many years ago. But then, I saw it come in a book on mediation, and later in my Philosophy 101 in college.

What does it mean to set intention? It is different things, surely, in all of these situations, but in general they all lead back to the same thing. Setting intention helps you see things you might have missed, and gives an aim and appreciation to your actions and to your day.

What would your intention be? It doesn’t have to be complicated.

I think back to a day earlier this week. It was a day I needed to go to both of my jobs, and upon waking up, I just didn’t think I was going make it.

I decided I must set my intention for the day: to feel gratitude for what my life is now and to complete my day’s tasks to be able to see it continue.

I made a list of what was going to happen that day—for days when I have both of my jobs to go to, I can easily seem to see things have slipped my mind. My day job topped the list. Next would be office hours with two stacks of writings from my students to finish grading. After that I would go on to teach two sections of class, pick-up dinner on the way home, and finally outline some writing ideas. It was a daunting list.

My intention was not necessarily a goal. That seems to me to be more long term. But with the full rundown of what had to all happen on a usual Tuesday gave me focus of what I ought to do to keep things on track for myself (my mind and my soul, I mean) while going through the motions of everything else.

My jobs take a good deal of time, yes, but I find both rewarding in some way every day. I can assist people who need help from getting them benefits from the Commonwealth to giving my students new ways to better express themselves in a language that isn’t their first one. I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to do both of these things. I see that they are not just a means to an end of financial security for my husband, the cats, and myself, but they’re fulfilling in a spiritual way, even if they often take all of the energy I can muster.

An intention can be simple—finding one small bit of beauty in a tough situation—or it could be more extensive, such as trying to work towards helping your community on a large scale through your actions. Just let it be something that you value and that you feel strongly about—let that be your intention each day.

Marcie is a bilingual caseworker by day, a university adjunct by night, and an aspiring writer at times in between. An import to NEPA, she has been active in the arts for many years from theatre to forensics to music. Her interest in the arts continues as founder of Ink, an area writer’s group, a founding member of Voce Angeli (NEPA’s only all-female chamber choir), and as a columnist for Thirty-Third Wheel. She loves all things Pittsburgh, particularly the University of Pittsburgh where she earned her Master of Arts in Linguistics. She lives in Scranton with her handsome husband, Pete, and their horde of cats: Napoleon, Gimli, King Ajax, Sam, and Dean.

Pop and Positivity

There’s a lot of talk anymore about self-care.

I have mixed feelings on this topic. Part of me thinks it’s sort of a crutch people use to get out of responsibilities and obligations. But I can see the other side of self-care, too, and can embrace the idea that there are times when you need to do things to re-group and prepare yourself to keep facing life.

Self-care is self-treatment, according to Merriam-Webster’s medical dictionary. I think most of us see it more in light of what Dictionary.com said when I looked it up there though: “..[it is] care of the self without medical or other professional consultation.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson share something that I feel applies here–and while it doesn’t entirely embrace the idea of self-care, I think it’s on the right track, He writes:

“Nothing external to you has any power over you.”

Emerson’s idea extracts any medical sort of connection. I feel this is the best place to start for self-care–in your mind.

We’ve all had tough things to get through. But you can use your mind to work on a lot of these things at the onset.

In February 2006, my maternal grandfather (always affectionately known as “Pop-Pop”) passed away. He had been in the hospital, but I still hadn’t thought his death would be the ultimate outcome of the situation. I was a mess. No one had cared for me as I believed he had. A black loneliness encompassed me for months to come. I was worried that I wasn’t going to make it back to the usual light life has to offer.

Now–don’t worry–I haven’t forgotten Mr. Emerson. It so happens that several of the lessons my Pop-Pop taught me applied directly to Emerson’s idea of controlling your life for yourself.

Pop was a man of action. He didn’t stop to warn you that a lesson was coming. He just gave it. The first one from him that applies here is “trust your gut, but check your facts.” If it seems like a bad idea, it likely is. If someone seems negative all of the time, in relation to you or others in general, they probably are a negative person. Their words and actions are proof of what they are truly like as a human being. Don’t fail to trust yourself. Keep positive things around you and focus on the good.

Next, he also taught me to “keep priorities in check.” Sometimes, that priority in life has to be you. But help others all you can. Get involved. And, at the same time, know where to draw the line to keep from being spread too thin.

Third: “Work through it.” This one doesn’t seem as if it’s in your mind, but it ends up it’s true, and it can apply to many areas. Work through problems to solve them, indeed, but with regard to yourself, don’t underestimate the alleviation of just doing something. Whether it’s a job, or a hobby, or charity work, keep your hands and yourself from being idle too long. It’ll add to your confidence, self-worth, and give your mind a chance to work through other things while you’re keeping yourself occupied. Remember the last bit from lesson Number Two from Pop as well–still be mindful of when you need to stop.

Lastly, my grandfather exemplified the idea of “mind over matter.” He was as close to a Stoic as I think I might meet, mostly because he knew not to broadcast every emotion on his face. But do you have to do this? No. I know I couldn’t. But you can think of that technique to try to keep problems or anger from getting the best of you. Think through things fully (if possible) before you just act on a whim. You can control those external factors, or at least “fake it until you make it.”

By keeping your own positive outlook in check, you may find it easier to share with others.

Marcie is a bilingual caseworker by day, a university adjunct by night, and an aspiring writer at times in between. An import to NEPA, she has been active in the arts for many years from theatre to forensics to music. Her interest in the arts continues as founder of Ink, an area writer’s group, a founding member of Voce Angeli (NEPA’s only all-female chamber choir), and as a columnist for Thirty-Third Wheel. She loves all things Pittsburgh, particularly the University of Pittsburgh where she earned her Master of Arts in Linguistics. She lives in Scranton with her handsome husband, Pete, and their horde of cats: Napoleon, Gimli, King Ajax, Sam, and Dean.

Fate Up Against Your Will?

I’ll be honest. I was leery of posting this– because it will have to make me more accountable. But I’ll get to that.

The title of this piece is a line from an Echo and the Bunnymen song, “The Killing Moon.” It got me thinking on the way to work today.

How much do you consider your will? For me, it is an ever-present entity, and one I constantly struggle with in many ways. I blame my will, or willpower, for the weight issues I’ve had a good portion of my life. I’m the first to admit that some chicken and waffles or a Tart ‘n’ Juicy IPA are nigh impossible for me to refuse. Often, I blame my lack of willpower when it comes to these decisions.

But this is a paradoxical idea, for I know with certainty that I have a strong will. I push myself. I relish challenges. I work two jobs—one to pay bills (mostly) and the other because I love teaching others about language.

So what’s the problem otherwise? Why don’t I want to challenge myself to deal with this weight thing once and for all? It’d be easy to blame it on fate and say to myself, “It’s just going to be like this.” But I’ve done that before, and don’t want to do it again.

I tried to come up with a list to guide me. Let’s get to basics here:

Step One: Make a goal that motivates you.

What will your goal be? More exercise? A vacation to someplace you’ve always wanted to see? To reconnect with a loved one?

Step Two: Make the goal specific and measurable.

Don’t make it too broad—the more specific it is, the easier to will be to keep track of it. And think about how you can measure your goal. Think about what will show you your progress.

Step Three: Make it relevant and attainable.

A relevant goal makes sense. Have it be something you actually want in your life as change. Yet don’t make it so daunting it’s not achievable. If it’s not attainable, start with a smaller first goal as a step to the bigger one.

Step Four: Give yourself a time limit.

This is a challenge, and there’s nothing like an approaching deadline to keep you on track.

Step Five: Make yourself accountable.

Write it down. Consider keeping a journal of your progress. Or mark that deadline on a calendar and note each day what progress you’re making towards the end goal.

Step Six: Delineate your plan.

When you write the goal down, add in what things you need to accomplish the goal within your time frame. Or put it as a reminder in your phone’s calendar. Do what you have to in order to keep track of what’s happening.

Step Seven: Stick to it.

Make yourself keep track of the goal—even if it’s only for a few minutes each day. Write down successes. Track struggles so you can watch out for them as the process continues, and learn how to try to counteract them. Leave motivational quotations related to your goal in your phone’s reminders or in your journal. Do what you have to do to keep from slipping up.

Will you have slip-ups? Undoubtedly. We are all a work in progress. However, increasing our consciousness of how to improve ourselves is part of the idea, and knowing these things should help you cultivate strategies to keep working towards other goals in the future, too.

Set that goal for improvement.

No more letting fate have its way with us.

Marcie is a bilingual caseworker by day, a university adjunct by night, and an aspiring writer at times in between. An import to NEPA, she has been active in the arts for many years from theatre to forensics to music. Her interest in the arts continues as founder of Ink, an area writer’s group, a founding member of Voce Angeli (NEPA’s only all-female chamber choir), and as a columnist for Thirty-Third Wheel. She loves all things Pittsburgh, particularly the University of Pittsburgh where she earned her Master of Arts in Linguistics. She lives in Scranton with her handsome husband, Pete, and their horde of cats: Napoleon, Gimli, King Ajax, Sam, and Dean.

A New Rule of Thumb

Ramadan is coming to a close this weekend as I’m writing this piece. It’s gotten me thinking about things related to it. I had resolved to learn more about it this year, as I teach primarily Arab students who from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia who are Muslims.

Wilkes University has had a large Arabic student population since I began working there again in 2007. In my opinion, the school was taking a wise, if risky, choice in bringing these students to northeastern Pennsylvania since it’s not always the most welcoming and open kind of place. They have much to offer the area, but intolerance was a fear I had for them.

Luckily, the majority of the students I’ve interacted with at Wilkes who come from other countries have had mostly limited experiences with close-mindedness in the area. I’m glad for that as they are eager to be here for school and they long to learn more about the United States and what it means to be an American.

The Arabic students are not the only Muslim students I’ve met at Wilkes. Many have passed through my class from various parts of the world. Without hesitation I can say that the one characteristic they all share is compassion. I bet they learned this quality participating in the fast of Ramadan.

Ramadan is the ninth lunar month and a month-long fast for devout Muslims. The fast each day begins at dawn and continues until sunset. I know about this fast—I’ve even gotten to help my Muslim friends break their fast with kind words, laughs and rich Medjool dates. But I hadn’t really fully understood what the purpose of the lengthy fast was until recently.

Sawm is a pillar of faith for the followers of Islam. This is the fast of Ramadan. Its purpose is to teach compassion for the downtrodden. Muslims fast to know poverty and to understand hunger, and in turn, better understand the plight of those who are less fortunate than they are.

Isn’t this a lesson we could all benefit from? Being able to see things empathetically can only add to not only our self-betterment, but more importantly, it can help us see that there are others in the world who need our help. Help is cheap. It only takes a little spare change, or an hour or two of one’s time. But help, for the recipient, could pay out better than the lottery.

People are afraid of what they don’t understand—I’m no exception. But different doesn’t equate bad. We’re all alike and it could just as easily be us in the hard situation praying for a hand from others to help us get back up again.

One of my students this semester taught me an Arabic proverb that stuck with me:

Even the five fingers on your hand are not the same.

I can’t recall the context he used the maxim in, but to me it means even though we’re all different, we’re still all fingers—fingers that are connected by the hand that can make life a bit better or easier for all of us collectively when we work together, offering that hand in a gesture of kindness.

Seems like a good new rule of thumb to me.

Marcie is a bilingual caseworker by day, a university adjunct by night, and an aspiring writer at times in between. An import to NEPA, she has been active in the arts for many years from theatre to forensics to music. Her interest in the arts continues as founder of Ink, an area writer’s group, a founding member of Voce Angeli (NEPA’s only all-female chamber choir), and as a columnist for Thirty-Third Wheel. She loves all things Pittsburgh, particularly the University of Pittsburgh where she earned her Master of Arts in Linguistics. She lives in Scranton with her handsome husband, Pete, and their horde of cats: Napoleon, Gimli, King Ajax, Sam, and Dean.

Dawn’s Lesson

Last night, I saw one of my best friends and his teenage daughter bestow scholarships on graduating seniors at my high school alma mater. The scholarships were for students who had overcome a personal hardship, but are determined to pursue careers in the health profession. The awards are in memory of my friend’s fiancée who passed away in 2014 after a lifetime of illness that ended in pervasive cancer.

This isn’t all that positive a start to something meant to be motivating and uplifting, I know. But my friend Dawn was extraordinary—and this is her story. Sadly, it has sorrow in it.

I met Dawn in sixth grade—Mrs. Hintz’s class—when she moved back to Danville after living with her dad in Montoursville. I can see her sliding into her desk to the left of the table where I sat. Her glasses’ frames were as large and owly as mine. I knew we were going to be fast friends.

And we were –through middle school and beyond. From the start, I admired her. She was forthright, tenacious, bubbly and –most wondrously—she was EVERYONE’S friend Dawn. That boggled my mind, particularly in middle school when friends I’d thought were true turned tail on me, leaving me floundering in tween terror awaiting others to come along.

Dawn was there. Not just for me, but for all of us. She made friends with people who sat by themselves in the cafeteria. She invited the loners to come to socials with the rest of us. She gave succor to those who most needed it without fail.

Her compassion kept on through high school and nothing stopped her from reaching out to our classmates. She was in multiple, varied afterschool activities. She strove for a high GPA. She had a baby brother to help her single mom care for at home. She had part-time jobs. Still, she was undeterred.

That was her best trait and the lesson she was here to teach of all of us—determination. But we didn’t realize it until she went off to Penn State in the fall of 1995. She was preparing to study theatre and make the sax line of the famous Blue Band.

It wasn’t meant to be. Dawn began having serious kidney issues, restricting her vivacious, lively activities considerably. Her health was chancy from there out, but her resilience never wavered. Goals changed for her, but didn’t diminish despite two kidney transplants, autoimmune difficulties, and the cancer that finally beat her. She still had the determination to master nursing classes, healthy eating kicks, three adorable cats, a fiancé, a stint in cosmetology, and to still be one of the most fashionable friends I’ve had throughout.

What was the lesson that she gave us? I remember discussing it in the bar after her memorial service with our friends and classmates. It was simple. Don’t ever give up. While Dawn never denied the troubles she had to face, she never let them get her down. She joked. She wrote pen pal letters. She ate her favorite circus peanuts and Whoppers with extra pickles. She wore a toy eye patch to make people smile. She drank. She danced. She found the silver linings hidden in tiny apartments, traffic jams, and Mets baseball tragedies. She loved. She lived.

She showed us what to do to make it through before she left. Watch that reality TV show if it makes you happy. Keep others on their toes trying to guess what you’re going to do next. Help anyone who needs it. And don’t give in to adversity.

Marcie is a bilingual caseworker by day, a university adjunct by night, and an aspiring writer at times in between. An import to NEPA, she has been active in the arts for many years from theatre to forensics to music. Her interest in the arts continues as founder of Ink, an area writer’s group, a founding member of Voce Angeli (NEPA’s only all-female chamber choir), and as a columnist for Thirty-Third Wheel. She loves all things Pittsburgh, particularly the University of Pittsburgh where she earned her Master of Arts in Linguistics. She lives in Scranton with her handsome husband, Pete, and their horde of cats: Napoleon, Gimli, King Ajax, Sam, and Dean.