What Dan the Electrician Said

We’re all at home doing the social distancing, the self-isolating, the quarantining thing. We were plunged into this suddenly back in March and now that it’s been two months I can say that I have shimmied myself into a way of being that isn’t terrible, but I have someone to thank:  Dan, the electrician.

I’m a high school teacher ( I will elaborate on the details of teaching and writing in a separate blog post) and one of my favorite places in the school is the maintenance lounge.

Here’s why:

  1. Often there are snacks on the table and the guys share.
  2. The chairs are super comfy.
  3. They have the cleanest bathrooms—duh.
  4. It’s really close to my classroom.
  5. It’s full of good, funny, kind people.

Before C-19 sent us all home I was walking by the lounge and saw the door was open just a little. That’s code for come on in. So, I did.

“Hey guys—” Nolan was taking a load off, leaning back in his comfy chair snacking on almonds. He offered me some. I accepted.

Dan, the electrician, was also on break.  Dan is not our usual staff, but he is contracted with our school board so I see him from time to time.  He’s in his early thirties, a handsome young man, with that solid blue collar vibe—a good guy.

The teacher

I popped the almonds in my mouth like candy. Dan began, “She may have an opinion on this. Ask her?”

“Ask me what?”

“Well, I think that reading is a thing you get better at with practice and Nolan thinks it’s a thing that some people are good at and some are not. Thoughts?” 

“I’m totally on board with the practice makes better theory. I think some brains, can, maybe, focus better but even the brains without a lot of focus, with practice can stretch the reading muscle.” Nolan leaned back. The bag of almonds was replaced by a tennis ball.  “Really?”


Dan agreed with me. “Right.”

The lesson: mornings matter

Then he went on to say “I think the brain is super powerful. You just have to train it. Did you know that the first thirty minutes to an hour of every day is the most important part of your day for setting the tone to how it’s going to go? Like—if you wake up and go straight for your phone it’s going to set a tone. You’re going to see bad news on social media. Someone’s going to make a comment that pisses you off. You’re going to get annoyed at something. Don’t do it. Don’t grab your phone. Grab a book.  Use your brain first thing in the morning. Drink some water. Really! You need to drink water. It’s the longest run of no liquid in your whole day—eight hours. Take a few deep breaths.  Think about something good. The minute you start doing that you’ll see the whole day changes. And give yourself a few extra minutes. Don’t cut it so close that you’re stressing out.”

Time to reevaluate

I turned my head and stared at Dan, the electrician. I was taking in his mid-morning lesson and hoping my mouth was not hanging open like a mouth breather!! 

I was thinking comparatively about how I started my days. And, sadly one of the first things I was doing was grabbing that digital device. Wrong.  Definitely wrong. I was waking up too late. I was rushing to work. I wasn’t having water—just coffee. It was not a peaceful time.

Dan was onto something.

I had to make changes—not because Dan said so, even though he’s right, but because I know better.  As soon as these morning habits were pointed at I saw them clearly. 

The suggestions made sense, however, sometimes we need a teacher to point to the lesson and say “see this? It’s important…No it won’t be on the test but you’ll thank me later.”

“Don’t you agree–Ang?” Dan interrupted my inside head voice. I jolted out of my internal dialogue.

“Yeah—totally.” I smiled.

Nolan asked what I came into the lounge for. I shrugged. “I forget.” Nolan laughed.

“Thanks man.” I address Dan.

“Any time.” Dan leaned back in his chair.

I honestly think that there is a wickedly keen need to pay attention to people because they are offering us life lessons all the time. All. The. Time. And each moment, each interaction is a potential lesson.

Lesson implemented

Since the schools closed and I am working from home my schedule has become my own.  It is an opportunity to change the way I start my day and enter into it very consciously. I don’t reach for my phone. I pick up a book. I stretch. I breathe and I make my bed. I drink water.  Then I have coffee and writing. 

Eventually time passes and I do use my device. This morning, across my screen came a quote that said “what you read, hear and see within the first 30 minutes of waking up will profoundly influence the rest of your waking hours. Remember to surround yourself with positivity from the start.”  This was not Dan the electrician’s post but it was another reminder.

Do it your way

I think we owe it to ourselves to do what ever we need to for a start that is sculpted for us, something that gives us a peaceful, grounded beginning to the day. Even just one thing.

It’s so basic and so worth it.

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