Knowing Better, Doing Better, and GETTING IT

As a continuation of Monday’s article, “Knowing Better and Doing Better,” Kathy posed a question.

First, to summarize, I shared that “When You Know Better, You Do Better,” or so says Maya Angelou.  And most of the time, I would hope it works like that.  But in fact, that’s not always the case.  Why is it, that in some cases we know better, but we actually choose not to do better?

After reading the article, Kathy asked:

“What if we really don’t know better?  What if we can state what we should do or how we should be and even tell others what it should look like but we still just haven’t gotten that final experience or aha moment that changes everything for us and now we actually do know better so we can do better?  In other words, we can state it out loud, we can understand it in our minds because we have learned it, but we still just haven’t gotten ‘it’.  I wonder if when we finally ‘get it’, is that when we truly are able to do better?”

Did you follow?  Here’s my response to Kathy with a couple of examples to help illustrate.

I think of a smoker.  He/she knows better.  Perhaps he quit months ago, but he really, really wants a cigarette.  He knows better, I believe he ‘gets it’, but he chooses to smoke anyway.  He weighs his options and makes a trade off – and he does it on purpose, knowingly.  That’s the thing with this FREE WILL we’ve been given.  [Perhaps not the best example, I realize, because it gets into addiction, and that’s a whole separate thing.  So I offer this next example, again as a continuation from the last article.]

I thought of my son and what motivated his actions that landed him in the principal’s office.  It was partly peer pressure (a desire to appear cool in front of a classmate), but also a need to stand up for me;  he wasn’t about to let someone in his grade say something ugly about his mother.

I considered his actions.  How I’m guessing he justified it in his head, then figured he wouldn’t get caught.  He knew what he was doing was wrong, but chose to go ahead.  I believe he probably weighed all of it, and took the risk anyway because it was worth it.

He knew better, chose not to do better, and in my opinion, no, he didn’t ‘get it’.

The part of ‘getting it’, in this example, I believe translates to something different than in the first example.  I think the turning point in ‘getting it’ occurs when he comes to the realization that it doesn’t matter.  Once my son realizes that it doesn’t matter if Little Boy A thinks he’s cool or not and it doesn’t matter what Little Boy B says about his mother having had cancer, then that’s when the shift occurs from Knowing Better to Doing Better, and that’s also when he’ll ‘get it’.

I believe this is what Kathy means by ‘getting it’ – – when one wholly understands the essence of something.  In this case, when my son ‘gets it’, he’ll Let Go, realizing it doesn’t matter and therefore he cannot be impacted by others’ words.

The thing is, for each example you come up with, there may be a myriad of contributing factors: addiction, peer pressure, justice, etc.  The common denominator remains the same though:

I believe when you ‘get it’ you Let Go of assigning your stuff to it, whatever that stuff may be.  You come to Know, on a visceral level, that you are not what others are attempting to cast upon you.

I heard it said this way last week from a woman named Rita, “I no longer think that it’s possible that other people can hurt me.  They’re just giving me their observation and I’m giving it meaning.  And so I get to choose what that meaning is.”

Yeah, I think Rita ‘gets it’.  You get to choose what that meaning is.

And by the way, I think ‘getting it’ goes hand in hand with Trust.

Thank you for the question, Kathy.  Please keep them coming!!  It’s through our sharing, that we continue to learn and grow.

Knowing Better and Doing Better

In my last article, “JOY and SORE,” I wrote of the joy I felt deep down inside.  It was a joy that had been going on for several days.  That joyous feeling came to a train-wreck sort of a halt when I picked up the phone later that afternoon to hear that one of my sons was in the principal’s office.

As my son came home later that afternoon, he wouldn’t look me in the eyes, too ashamed of his actions.  No doubt he already had some idea of the impact his actions had had.  I felt sad and disappointed and he knew it.

The next morning, I decided he and I would watch some of Oprah’s LifeClass series on her new network OWN.  We watched a beautiful show on Finding Your Purpose.  We engaged in dialogue about what he truly loves to do and what brings him joy.

We followed that show by another LifeClass where the lesson being taught was, “When You Know Better, You Do Better.”  We sat and watched in silence, both sipping our tea.

When the show had ended, he was very clear on the message.  We discussed it at length and it was apparent that he felt truly penitent.

Later that day I wondered something.  Clearly, he already knew better.  If he hadn’t known better, he wouldn’t have exhibited the shame he did.  He wouldn’t have cried what I’d call ‘sorrowful tears that stung’.  He would have justified and made excuses.  But the thing is, he did know better.  Yet, he chose not to do better.

So here’s what I wondered: “Why, when we know better, do we at times choose not to do better?  Why do we repeat actions that we know to be unloving, forging ahead anyway?”

I believe there are many reasons why we do this, each different depending on the circumstance.  But in time, my hope is that we lessen the frequency of these blunders.  That we learn along the way and continue to grow from such experiences.

As much as I wanted to dole out severe consequences, I sat back and looked at the bigger picture, at what I know to be true.  I know him.  He is a good kid who made a poor choice, and truly felt remorseful.  This was not a repeat of some prior action.  So why pour salt on the wound?  He felt badly enough all on his own.  (That’s not to say he didn’t have certain privileges taken away; I wouldn’t be doing my job as a parent if he didn’t.)

Knowing Better and Doing Better.  Sometimes it takes a few go’s before we get it right.  But if you Trust, Trust that there is a bigger picture, a bigger Knowing driving what IS, I believe you’d concur we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be on our path.

It’s that Trust that gives me comfort.  It’s that Trust that I hope gives you comfort.  And although my son is young, and perhaps doesn’t yet have the maturity to fully understand the concept, I hope that in time he comes to feel that same Trust.

Trust on that level is Freeing.

Wilted and Parched

I spent the most relaxing weekend in Austin with a girlfriend.  No kids, no schedule, no demands, no nothin’.

When I arrived on Friday, my friend was bringing a plant back to life.  As she gingerly placed it in the sink, she called me over to look at its sad, sad state, wilted and parched.  As she drenched it in water, she was quite convinced that it would revive and resume its beautiful state.

I had my doubts.  (A few hours later, she had her doubts, too.)

There have been times in my life when I’ve felt wilted and parched.  As if no amount of rest or sleep could plump my skin or satisfy my thirst.

During my teens and 20’s I didn’t even realize when I was feeling depleted.    So I would just plow on.  And the more I pushed through, ignoring the warning signs my body was giving me, the more depleted I became, until finally I’d come down with a cold or strep throat or something that forced me into bed to rest.  I remember one time, I had neglected myself so, that my husband took me to the hospital, only for them to hook me up to an IV; I was severely dehydrated.

Our immune systems become weak the more we tax them.  Lack of sleep, an improper diet, as well as repeatedly exposing ourselves to negative thoughts, all have an impact on our physical bodies.

Wilted and parched.

The answer was so simple:  Stop.  Rest.  Drink some water.  Engage in activities that fed my spirit.  And although the answer was simple, I’m embarrassed to say it took me years to learn the lesson Life kept trying to teach me.

I must confess, lately I’ve been feeling wilted and parched.  I’ve sensed the slowly rising need to recharge my battery.  Hence, my weekend trip to Austin.  I was the wilted and parched plant.

It’s incredible what a weekend of Amy’s Ice Cream, sipping tea and chatting, carnitas, zero demands of me or my time, and a pitcher of sangria on a HOT July afternoon can do.

On a similar hot July day, seventeen years ago, my mother-in-law pulled me aside on her deck and shared this bit of advice with me, “Make sure things are right with Mommy first.  If things are right with Mommy, things will be right in your house.”

And although I wasn’t a mommy yet, I knew what she meant.  I saw the ‘house‘ she referred to as something both concrete, the traditional noun picture of a house, but also an intangible house, more like the temple where body and spirit reside.

As I sit here typing, sipping tea, my friend still peacefully sleeping, I look over at the plant.  Although it took several more hours to revive than my friend had anticipated, it has, indeed perked back to life.  It was sorely wilted and parched.

This weekend with Kelli has been wonderful.  I laughed so hard yesterday, I had tears streaming down my face – – on two separate occasions!!  And no, this was not even remotely close to when the sangria was being consumed.

This weekend has been a nice kick start.  But like the plant, who took easily twice as long to perk up this time around, I have more replenishing to do.  These next several months I’ve decided to dedicate to feeding my spirit.  To healing.  I’m embarking on a new chapter in my life, one which is sure to be filled with many new life experiences and lessons.  And although it’s with a slight hint of reservation, my gut is urging me to share these upcoming experiences and lessons with you.

So, I thank you in advance, for embracing my writing and allowing me to share with you.  It’s through your encouragement of my writing that I continue to learn and grow, and for that, I am very grateful.

Temple Grandin! (Different. Not Less.)

Over the past two weeks I’ve been extremely busy, each day my tank inching closer and closer to  empty.  My big plan last night for re-fueling was to sit all alone and indulge in the simple pleasure of watching a movie.  No interruptions, no distractions, just me, dog at my feet, cuppa tea warming my hands, and a movie I had been wanting to watch for weeks.  Until I interrupted myself.  As the movie began, Claire Danes stepped out as Temple Grandin (the main character of the movie by the same name).  Within her first sentence, I knew this was something special.  I said WITHIN the first sentence, not after the first sentence, within it!

I paused the DVD and popped my head out into the playroom.  EVERYONE in my house had to see this!  As I hollered for my then nine and 12-year old sons to join me, I caught a glimpse of them peering over their shoulders at me, with looks that said, Are you kidding me?  We saw the cover of the movie box, and we are NOT interested.  Reluctantly, they left their video game, and at a snail’s pace, ambled past me in the direction of the movie, mumbling something unintelligible all the way.  My husband paused the golf channel downstairs, and gave me ‘a look’ as he approached.  Was that his “this had better be good” look or his “I’m humoring you” look?  Maybe a little of both.

I was very clear:  If, after ten minutes, they weren’t thoroughly entertained by Claire Danes and company, they were welcome to leave.  Heck, I didn’t want them sulking through a movie and ruining my me-time.  As it turned out, not a soul left, with the exception of one trip to the bathroom.  As my older son made a mad dash for the restroom, he begged us to pause the movie, to which we all responded with a simultaneous, “Shhh!!!”

Meeting Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin grew up in a time when we knew very little about autism.  Her story is one that is truly amazing, inspirational, and the definition of a ‘must see’ film.  I won’t give anything away, but do want to share with you something that my older son embraced from the movie in a way that he owned — something Temple’s favorite teacher said, then her mother repeated, and later Temple echoed herself:

In describing Temple, each said she was, “Different, yes.  Not less.

My son liked the way that sounded.  Looking over at him in the dark, as he took in the simplicity, yet boldness of it, I could have sworn I saw him sit a little taller.  “Different, yes.  Not less.”

When you grow up visiting as many doctors as my son has over the years, I imagine you can start to wonder if you’re less than.  Less than perfect?  Less than normal?  Less than… something your peers are not faced with?  By the time he was ten-years old, he alone had more “ologists,” as he called them, than most families do, their distant relatives included.  It wasn’t until the addition of his hearing aids in the third grade that the first real teasing occurred.  Luckily, it has been kept to a minimum, but with the start of each school year there is always that one new student who comes in, and inevitably, makes an insensitive remark.  In times like those, remembering, “Different, yes.  Not less.” can come in real handy as a mantra.

We Are All Different.  Not Less.

Here’s what I believe:  We all have our ‘thing’ (or thingS).  Your kid may be autistic.  He may have ADD, dyslexia, asthma, peanut allergies, warts, be a bed wetter….  The list, as you know, is endless.  We ALL have our thing, kids and adults alike.

There are those who deem their particular thing as being better or worse, lesser or more, on some imaginary scale of injustices.  But regardless of what our thing is, we have it for a reason.  And as I’ve stated before, we don’t always know the why’s and how’s of it, nor do we need to.  See, whatever our thing is, it’s there to serve a purpose.  We’re supposed to learn from it, otherwise, we wouldn’t have it in the first place.  Our thing makes us who we are.

This is where Trust comes in.  Surely, it’s the Trust or the Knowing that Temple Grandin spoke of when she stated, “If I could snap my fingers and become non-autistic I would not do so.  Autism is part of who I am.”

There is no resistance to What IS in that statement.  I hear a person who has embraced who they are and exactly the way they were brought into this world.  There simply is no fighting What IS.  Now, she fought like crazy for what she believed, and in most cases, fought an uphill battle, especially in the profession she chose.  But she didn’t fight who she was or the condition she was labeled with.  She never gave up.  And she never saw herself as less than.  Her Will and her Spirit simply could not be broken.

Look at yourself.  Look inward.  What is your thing(s)?  How about your child?  Can you discuss your child’s thing with them?  How does understanding your label, yet not becoming it, differ?  How have you been able to compensate?  Perhaps even excel?  To learn?  To grow?  And after your learning and growing, how have you shared with others to help them on their journey?

If you’re struggling with any of these questions, start with Trusting in a higher power.  You are not alone.  And you are not less.  Simply different.  No one else comes with your unique gifts and talents to offer to the world.


Thank you, Heather, Ginny, Robin, and many others who chimed in to sing this movie’s praises and introduce me to Temple Grandin.  TLT readers, rent it!  You won’t be sorry.

Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin cattle structure

One of Grandin’s LARGE contributions

If you enjoyed this article, please click on the ‘Share’ button (or any other button that strikes your fancy).   Thank you!!   Love, Leslie