A vindicated truth and the downside of being right

A vindicated #truth and the downside of being #rightEarly in my high school experience, I had the joy of returning to my locker only to discover that someone had broken in and stolen not only my bag of gym clothes but a stack of three ringed binders as well containing all my homework.

Afterward, I took to carrying the full day’s notebooks, other day-to-day critical supplies in my backpack all day rather than trust the locker with anything that might affect my grades. Unfortunately, this left little room for my larger textbooks, which I would then have to load up in my arms and carry home separately as needed.

Therefore I was thrilled when it came time to study Shakespeare in my English class. My mom was (and is) a bit of a British History buff and possessed a huge volume of Shakespeare’s complete works, meaning I wouldn’t have to lug my textbook home for weeks. Oh, happy times!

The selection was Romeo and Juliet, specifically the balcony scene, and the assignment was simple; memorize the entire speech. For the next several nights, I read my mom’s book over and over, practicing the words out loud. On the day of the test, my pencil flew across my paper as I recited the lines in my head, and though I wasn’t the among the first to turn in my paper, I was fairly certain I’d aced it.

A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool. – William Shakespeare

Only when the tests were handed back, a large X crossed through a full section of my response. The words I’d used, well, they weren’t supposed to be there. Comparing my test with the others in the class, my response an entire extra paragraph and more. It was as if I had invented the lines, except, I know I am NO Shakespeare.

Flabbergasted, I took my paper home. Compared to my mom’s book, it to be a word for word copy. What in the world? I dusted off my textbook and opened it to the same scene. Sure enough, the words that I saw so clearly in black and white in one text were missing in the other. My jaw dropped as I realized my fellow students and I were being censored.

I struggled in light of this discovery with what to do. Surely my English teacher had to know the real contents of the play? He was supposed to be teaching it after all. But maybe not. Would he really accept that my version was the correct one? I’d have to admit then that I wasn’t using school approved books and the assignment had been to memorize the scene from the textbook.

In the end, I did point out to my teacher that my version was from another source, but didn’t challenge the grade further when my teacher didn’t immediately whip out his grade book in light of this evidence. It was okay, I told myself. It wasn’t like I was in any jeopardy failing the course over a few missed points.

Later, once we’d finished the section, our teacher rewarded us by playing the movie. The class sat back as the lights went down while the Montagues and Capulets exchanged verbal barbs. Juliet walked out on the balcony. A girl in my class started speaking along with the actress followed by another. I bit my tongue. The movie was suddenly exponentially more interesting.

The girls in my class stopped talking. However, Juliet didn’t. Instead, lines which appeared on my test paper, but not on theirs, poured from Juliet’s mouth. A general sound of huh? went up in the room. And there it was. I was vindicated.

But still my grade remained exactly as it was.

I found myself in the midst of another quandary. I knew I had just been indisputably proven right, but the only other person who knew that was my teacher. I could push again for a grade adjustment and shame him with the video evidence backing my claim, but in doing so I would have also proven the rest of the class, those that didn’t go rogue (for the sake of convenience) and memorize forbidden uncensored text, were as wrong as our teacher was. In short, I might get an A on one test, but I would have turned the entire class, as well of as the teacher, against me in short order.

I learned a long time ago the value of picking my battles, and this wasn’t one of them. Validation (this time) simply wasn’t worth the price.

I may have abandoned an unwinnable fight, but I didn’t, however, abandon my truth. The experience, so early on in my high school career, taught me the fallacy of believing everything you read, or trusting in one single source, no matter how credible they might seem. The truth is we are all human and humans make mistakes. And humans, even those with an education, a position of authority, and/or the best of intentions, can be equally lead astray.

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” – Socrates

In the age of post-truth, it is easy to lock yourself in a bubble, surrounded by mountains of evidence that support all the reasons you know your truth to be right. So I challenge you this year to occasionally play devil’s advocate. Allow yourself to try out being wrong from time to time and see how it fits. Ask yourself, is your version of the balcony scene complete, or might there be other lines, unwritten?

While I don’t expect anyone to change their mind from the experience, I hope that by doing so you might be able to identify the gaps in your truth and become more willing to ask questions than accept a story at face value.

We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future. – George Bernard Shaw

* quotes courtesy of http://www.brainyquotes.com. Image courtesy of http://www.pexels.com

Never doubt a dog in the snow

Never #doubt a dog in the snow - www.alliepottswrites.com

“Don’t knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn’t start a conversation if it didn’t change once in a while.” – Kin Hubbard

The white death dropped over the weekend, covering my home and the surrounding area in a blanket of ice and snow, which melted and only to become more ice. Lamont and I debated how or dog would take the change in weather. I maintained that having spent the first few years of her life as a stray, she would turn a nose up at the stuff now as there are reasons I refer to her as Her Royal Highness.

It seemed like such a good idea at the time - aka before
It seemed like such a good idea at the time – aka before

Opening the door, it was my intent to take a photograph of her reaction to the wintery mix and quickly return inside. I stepped out on our porch wearing only a set of pajamas. Her Royal Highness followed. She took one dignified step forward. Then another. Her nose touched white stuff on the ground. There was no bounding around. No rolling around, digging, or otherwise acting mystified. I knew it! Snap went my camera. “Okay, let’s go back inside,” I called and turned expecting her to pass me, only too happy to return to the warmth indoors.

Her Royal Highness had other ideas.

The frozen ground crunched as she trotted down the street as if it was a beautiful 80 degrees F rather than 20. “Where are you going?” I called. “Get back here now.” I should have saved my frozen breath.

“Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.” – Mark Twain

With no other choice in front of me, I took off after her, bare feet and all.

Her Royal Highness looked up and wagged her tail misinterpreting my presence to mean this stroll around the grounds was now sanctioned trotted further. I shouted her name a few more times. She sniffed a bush. My feet burnt with the cold as I closed the distance between us and could only imagine what I must look like to my neighbors – my hair, still wild from sleep, was now covered in ice crystals and bit of snow. My toes leaving tiny naked prints where I ran. I called some more, repeating the command to return while infusing my voice with my best mom tone. Her Royal Highness, still the embodiment of confidence, sniffed another bush as if she hadn’t a care in the world.

“Confidence is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking tartar sauce with you.” – Zig Ziglar

Great. This is what I get for thinking she wouldn’t be able to handle a bit of cold.

dog in a blanket
After – aka blankets that weren’t offered to me

I was still several feet away when she suddenly turned around and walked, most regally, back to our yard, up the stairs, and inside where she promptly buried herself under a blanket. My boys, celebrating her return, joyously covered her with even more blankets. She burrowed deep and was asleep long before the feeling completely returned to my toes. Clearly, I won’t be making a living wage on the casino floor anytime soon.

“A career is wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night.” – Marilyn Monroe

There are a few lessons to be learned here. There are the obvious ones: don’t let you pet off leash in an open space, even if cars aren’t driving and only nuts like yourself are out and about, unless you are confident they will respond to voice commands or always wear proper footwear even if you only think you will be in the elements for a split second, but the bigger one here is there is no glamour to be had in publicly doubting another and even less fame in doubting one’s self.

*quotes courtesy of http://www.brainyquotes.com. Photography is my own.

An exercise on mindful thinking at the close of the year

An exercise on #mindfulness - www.alliepottswrites.comI decided to go for a jog one morning after feeling a guilty over recent excesses. The air was cool, but not chilly enough to need a jacket or put on gloves. My dog, Her Royal Highness, was happy enough to trot along beside me. The sky was a clear, albeit pale blue and the neighborhood quiet. In short, it was a perfect morning to be outdoors.

Raleigh is home to a greenway system that stretches from one end of the city to another and it is quite easy to forget that you are in the state’s capital when you enter one of the many wooded paths. But that morning, I had a specific destination in mind. If I could jog to a certain point on the trail without stopping, I would consider the run a success.

A slight tension on the leash informed me that Her Royal Highness wouldn’t mind picking up the pace. I ignored her request as I remained focused on my feet. She should understand. A trip or stumble due to a slippery patch of leaves or fallen branch would at a minimum ruin my stride, but could also prevent me from taking her out again for a long, long while. We rounded a corner, passing a walker and another dog on the trail. Her Royal Highness tugged, urging me to stop and say hello. Once again I refused her request.

I am not the fastest on the trail. Nor were there any fans cheering me on from the side of the path. But slow, but steady, I eventually made it to my goal one step at a time. Her Royal Highness wagged her tail and sniffed around as I took in the view.

My muscles in my legs stiffened in the seconds it took me to turn around. That’s when it hit me – the rather large error in my plan. The goal I’d set in mind was the furthest point in my run. I’d forgotten to consider the distance it would take to run back. Dang it.

Her Royal Highness sprung into action, but unfortunately, now that I’d stopped once, keeping up our steady pace was no longer as easy to do. I found myself walking more along the return, but by doing so, I was also able to look around.

The sky had taken on a deeper, richer shade of blue and the sunlight now filtered quite nicely through red and golden leaves. I stopped again at a bridge near the greenway’s exit, only this time instead of focusing on my stiffening muscles, the aching reminder of how far I’d come, or the distance I still had yet to go, I let myself appreciate just being in the place I found myself in now.

I removed my ear buds, and the music that had boomed and pulsed, keeping me inspired to run, was replaced by the sound of a creek flowing over rocks under the bridge. Leaves tumbled down as the trees swayed in the morning’s breeze. I turned and took the scene in more fully.

I might have lingered there longer, but the sound of footfalls on the path of an approaching walker broke the moment and soon we were once again on our way, taking the memory of the moment with us.

At the close of the year, I like to reflect on my accomplishments, and while they aren’t always easy to identify, I know there are always a few. At the same time, I like to plan for the year ahead and set my goals and challenges, just as I suspect many others do too. But moments like this are a good reminder to also be mindful of the present, for there is beauty to be seen in the now if you only take the time to stop and look around.

Autumn creek and #mindfulness - www.alliepottswrites.com