The One with the Peanuts Wisdom

I must interrupt part two of the harrowing and riveting tale of my encounter with the Goddess Pele to tell you about A Tale of Two Comments.

The first was what I’ll call the Worst of Comments. A few weeks ago, a negative (and anonymous) remark came from a student in one of the creative writing classes that I teach. Of the hundreds of students I’ve taught over the years — in person and online — I’ve never before received such a hurtful statement in a course evaluation. I’ll spare you the details. I’m all for constructive criticism. In fact, I seek out helpful, focused remarks because I know there’s always room for improvement, and I want students to feel that they’re benefitting from the lessons. Suffice it to say that this was a personal (rather than a curriculum based) assault. I heard the faint call from the pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey in the freezer.

But then I saw a Peanuts episode this holiday season. Schroeder plays the piano while Lucy asks if he’s going to take her to the party.

Schroeder: Musicians don’t dance. And anyway, I’ll be playing the piano at the party.

Lucy: I don’t mind the rejection; it’s the smile that bugs me.

Indeed. It’s the smug satisfaction that so many people get from self-righteous criticism which really sticks in my craw. This isn’t only in the classroom. It’s online at places like Yelp and Amazon and practically de rigueur on  pundit “news” programs. But, hey, that’s another post. In this case, I’d done my best. If the person was that unhappy, he/she should have come to me (in a mature, non accusatory way) sooner. Or, as Dickens put it: “I am no more annoyed when I think of the expression, than I should be annoyed by a man’s opinion of a picture of mine, who had no eye for pictures; or of a piece of music of mine, who had no ear for music.”  So thanks to Lucy (and Charles) I left the pint of ice cream untouched.

Image via Wikipedia

Solidarity, sister. Image via Wikipedia

Then, as if to prove my mother’s old saw that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar: the Best of Comments. Just a few days later, two lovely notes arrived via email. One was from a fellow student in the same class who wanted to let me know much he’d learned and that, through the exercises, he’d gained confidence in his writing. The other was from someone who had come across some of my stories and essays and enjoyed them enough to send me a few words of encouragement. How amazing that two people took time out of their days to reach out to me, which made it all the more special.

I don’t think this feeling is limited to writers or artists. Anyone who puts themselves out there whether through a creative endeavor or raising children or submitting a proposal at work, whatever it is, opens themselves up and hopes to be well received. That’s not to say we should be praised indiscriminately, but isn’t it nice to know that someone recognizes and appreciates the effort we’re making?

Back to Peanuts.

Peppermint Patty: Have you made any New Year’s resolutions, Chuck?

Charlie Brown: Yes. You know how I always dread the whole year? Well, this time I’m only going to dread one day at a time.

Image via Wikipedia.

Image via Wikipedia.

I believe that the energy you send out comes back to you. Goodwill begets goodwill. So here on the first day of 2014, I’m making a plan (goodness, please don’t use the “R” word!) to spread that happy, shiny feeling. I started a few years ago with my Shine series and I’d like to pick up where that left off. Once a week, I’m planning to drop a note to a fellow writer or anyone who brought a little inspiration into my life to let them know that I appreciated their efforts. I hope to keep my gratitude list going so that by the end of the year, I’ll have sent notes to 52 people.

Are you making any of those things that rhyme with “evolutions”? How do you spread goodwill?

Happy New Year, everyone!

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31 comments

  1. That sounds like a lovely idea! Forget about the haters, I always enjoy your writing, I make a point to look for your posts every Friday! You are confusing me with this Wednesday post! Happy new year Jackie :-)

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  2. Wow, this is frustrating. So sorry to hear it happened.

    I got my first negative comment in over 19,000 just before Christmas, mine from a US expat living in Cuenca. I was so surprised by the source. He called my an ugly American because I joked about the Kleenex in Ecuador. Did a post last summer called “Head Cold Hell: Nose Blowing in Ecuador.” He totally didn’t get the joke. Oh well.

    Sara and I have had guests from the US and have been traveling. Getting ready to board a flight from Quito to Cuenca in about an hour. Hope you and Reggie had a great holiday in Tennessee.

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

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    1. Reggie and I had a wonderful time in Tennessee. He loves to run around the backyard — a novelty for him. Around and around and around he goes. So much joy!

      Wishing you and Sara (and Ralph and Lucy) joy and peace in 2014!

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  3. What a lovely resolution :) I guess mine is to quit quitting stuff ;)

    You can join my new political party – ‘Haters gonna Hate’ ;) I’m used to getting the odd negative comment but lately, it’s been kind of extreme! But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? Keep doing what you’re doing – I really like your writing!

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  4. You’re so right, Jackie, it IS the smile. Why do some people get so much pleasure (wish I could italicise that word) out of being unkind? It’s sad.
    I love your resolution – it’s by far and hands down the best one I’ve heard yet: so selfless.
    Keep being you. :)

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  5. First of all, Happy New Year Jackie!

    Whenever anyone hides behind the cloak of anonymity to rant I automatically think: “What an [orifice].” The orifice I have in mind is not the ear canal. I think it’s so admirable that you’ve taken this touch of swine and you’re converting it into a pearl. As for the R-word and me, Shirley, you jest … but I’ve begun riding my dual purpose clothes rack three times a week and amazingly, I have not needed to enter the ICU nor am I buckled over in excruciating pain. This is a becoming a habit I think I will stick with.

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  6. I actually am making an “evolution” rhymer… to be more organized (following an office cleaning spree)….in hopes to become more productive in a happier way. As for the unpleasant remark, I’m sorry. I have received one 1-star review for my self published book and it smarted. Not so much in the review as in the way it really did seem to be rather a personal attack on my main character if not the author.

    Can’t wait for part 2 of Goddess Pele! Happy New Year, Jackie, and I try to spread goodwill whenever possible through kind words and smiles.

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    1. I was so impressed when I read about your cleaning frenzy. Kudos to you!

      I don’t mind if people dislike my writing or my lesson plans. I know they’re not for everyone. That’s okay, and everyone is entitled to her own opinion. But I do take issue when people cross the line and make it an attack on my character. I have a feeling that you had the same impression about the negative review you received.

      Keep on spreading your good cheer, and happy New Year to you and MEH!

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  7. I love this evolutions bit and glad that something positive came out of such a jackass comment. I love Peanuts. The Christmas special is something we always watch every year. I like how we can get life lessons from Charlie Brown at random times in our lives. It’s pretty awesome. But you know what else is? Ben & Jerrys … it cures everything. I’m all for it, but save it for next time :) And yes I do have evolutions, but I don’t call them resolutions either. I like to call them plans, or Bucket List Adventures, or self-improvement projects … makes them for doable :) Happy New Year! Hope Day 1 went well for you :)

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    1. What I’d like to know is why doesn’t the bag of broccoli call to me when I’m stressed? Or how about the asparagus? Nope. It’s always the pint of Ben & Jerry’s. :P

      PS. I love the idea of Bucket List Adventures!

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  8. Isn’t it amazing how one little negative comment can stick with you and bug you to no end? I totally get it but how nice that you had the other extreme which reminded you twice how wonderful you are and how you have touched people’s lives!!!!! Just to let you know your book made my top 5 list for 2013. :-) Kind of a three way tie for 5th place but still…you made it!!
    !http://bethannchiles.com/2013/12/30/whatcha-reading/
    So there is another praise for you!!!! Love your Shine series!

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  9. Oh I love people who have the courage to bash someone’s work and then hide behind anonymous. I had a student rip me apart in an evaluation once. At least he signed his name. When I gave him his grade I felt guilty, even though he deserved his less than stellar grade. After I read his eval I felt justified.

    I don’t understand why people have to be negative. But I’m glad you received some nice comments to offset the bad ones. Most people are good–I keep trying to remind myself that. And I try not to let the bad ones shine more than the good ones.

    Happy New Years!

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    1. I do believe that also — most people are good. I also try to remind myself that even the people who do negative things may just be having a bad day (or a bad month). You never know what someone else is going through at that moment.

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  10. “I also try to remind myself that even the people who do negative things may just be having a bad day (or a bad month). You never know what someone else is going through at that moment.”—This is so true. Although I never remember it until I’m already hurt by their remark.

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  11. Oh, you didn’t deserve that at all, Jackie. I also think the person may have had a really bad day or is going through emotional “stuff.” You just happened to be the unlucky target that day.

    I’m on Instagram, and am pretty shocked by some of the comments people get. I forget that there are some really tortured souls out there.
    Your R sounds wonderful.

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    1. I’ve also been thinking that if it’s a comment that the person wouldn’t be willing to say to my face, then I can’t put too much stock in it. At least that’s what I tell myself in *calmer* moments.

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  12. Love this post. You’re right that whenever you put yourself out there, you open yourself to nasty criticism. And I’m with Lucy, it’s the smile that bugs me! The sad thing is that I seem to need about 20 good reviews to counteract one bad one. In theory, a lovely, heartfelt complimentary review from someone whose opinion I respect should count much more than a snarky one-liner on Amazon. But it’s the snarky one-liner I pay more attention to, because it taps right into that torrent of self-doubt running beneath the surface. It confirms what I secretly suspect to be true. I’ve bookmarked your post, and will read it next time I get the equivalent of your Worst of Comments. Love your R!

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    1. I have the same reaction! It’s odd that it takes a mountain of positive feedback to overcome the bad feelings and doubt left by one hurtful remark.
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I hope that you don’t get any bad reviews, but in the event that you do, maybe this post will provide that long, deep breath necessary to let it go quickly. (She said, ever so hopefully!)

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