Friday, January 22, 2010


In the Barber home there is a kitchen.
In the kitchen there is a refrigerator.
On the refrigerator hangs a chart.
On the chart are star stickers.
On this starred-chart dwell the hopes and dreams of the Barber house inhabitants, for it reads, "People who need stars in order to do stuff" (or P.W.N.S.I.O.T.D.S. for short).

Priorities in my life seem to be chosen by the rewards I receive for doing them. School is an obvious priority because I have to complete college in order to get a job. When I complete my homework, sit in class, and color inside the lines, I receive scores, thus defining me by a letter of the alphabet, but nonetheless, I earn a grade.

I need money to survive. I work to earn money. When I teach fitness classes, write for the school newspaper, or work in the student center, money comes to my possession and I continue living. A wonderful reason to go to work!

Smiling at people makes them smile back at me. When I'm kind, they're usually kind. When I reach out and take the time for others, the feelings are often reciprocated. I hate to break relationships down to behaviors, but alas, I am friendly because it gets me something too: their kindness.

I drive the speed limit to avoid paying a fine.
I avoid killing people so I don't have to go to jail.
I obey most social guidelines so that I'm not ostracized too harshly.


Rewards drive me forward. If I don't get rewarded for it, if my participation isn't crucial, why bother? This explains my flossing habits, my mental health, my spirituality, and my happiness.

"What if we had a chart where we earned stars for accomplishing our own goals?" Ashley suggested one day (she's smart like that). She offered the idea mostly for me, but I like to think she and Ben wanted in on it too.

Several months ago, I told her of my on-going struggle to take care of myself, those small things that no one gives you a grade for: getting enough sleep, eating well, etc. For the most part it seems no one cares if I'm in good physical or mental health, because much of my worth currently seems to revolve around making grades and making money.

"Yes, please!" I cheered. We began daydreaming about all the goals that would go on our list. I bought the poster board, she got the star stickers, the chart has been on our fridge ever since.

At the successful completion of our star chart, the three of us went on a date to Omaha (I know, I know, but what else is there to do in Nebraska? And besides with such wonderful people, how could you go wrong?) We spent the day together pursuing Half-Price Bookstore, dining at McFosters cafe, and wandering around Whole Foods market (the best place to shop for a plethora of all things yummy).

We just posted another star chart this semester. Good things are happening. Well, sort of. Ben drags his feet coming up with goals. Ashley and I are cruising through our second week of flossing our teeth and more, but Ben has some catching up to do.

Me: Ben, you need to come up with goals for our star chart. You're already a week behind. Look, Ashley and have our goals posted.

Ben: [snobbishly] I'm too busy to come up with goals.

Ashley: Well, we can give you a star on the chart for that if you'd like.

Ben: That would be like Heather getting a star for "thinking" about reading her Bible.

Me: Hey, don't attack me. I've never said that your pursuits weren't worthy of a star. You can earn a star for whatever you want.

Ben: I wasn't attacking you, I was using you to further my argument against Ashley.

Ashley: [dramatically] I feel attacked.

Me: I guess everyone must have their own definitions of "busy" because, apparently Ben's too "busy" drinking his coffee to think of goals.

Ashley: All right, let's compare your busys. [puts out her arms motioning us to hand them over]

Me: Huh? I'm not sure what you want me to show you.

Ben: Yeah, I wouldn't want to see her busy and I definitely don't want to show her mine!

"Accountability" doesn't have to be such a dirty word. In fact, it's one of my favorites (along with transparency, authenticity, balance, hope, and persnickity).
I'm not held accountable because I've been bad, in fact I'm doing really well.
I'm not asking for accountability because I'm incapable, I'm just comfortable asking for help.
I'm not preaching accountability beacause it's for everyone, I mean neither is water right?

Having safe people is good.

I started with a new counselor this week. She kind of looks like Bette Midler. I like her. After leaving her office, I felt lighter, more hopeful, and better able to tackle my problems.

I haven't seen a counselor regularly in 2 years. I didn't realize it had been so long. I wonder where I'd be had I been seeing one all along. I'm convinced that eventually, I could beat this eating disorder by myself. But without help, I'd predict independent recovery to take roughly 27 years. I don't have that kind of time.

I need help.
I need to say that out loud sometimes.
I need people in my life who can gently remind me to take care of myself.
I need colored stars to make the way a little bit brighter.

And it is.


Hannah said...

Usually I love your blogs for a number of reasons, like their sheer awesomeness. They're always relateble, even if they're not always personally applicable. Well, this time it's super-duper applicable and I'll forever (or at least for quite some time) be happygrateful.

I'd heard about your star chart in class. I was excited then. Now, I'm ecstatic.

I'm struggling to quit smoking, and Chels and I have talked to Stan Hardt--word on the street is he's good at helping people quit. He suggested incentives, something I'd never thought of giving myself (my old roommate used to buy me candy, etc. if I didn't smoke).

I couldn't think of a daily incentive that wouldn't be slightly destructive in some way or another (whether to my physical or academic health). Then your stars appeared. TADA!

I'm huge on incentives. And gold stars. And charts. You may actually have helped me quit smoking.

Thanks for embodying and sharing all of those words you love so much. I love them too. Without your transparency, I'd be gold star-less.

just said...

We like this. Shelli would like stars for doing stuff too.

Also, is that an aloe vera plan thriving beside the fridge?

Heather said...

Heck yes that plant is thriving. Do you need some aloe vera, or are you an aloe vera connoisseur?

If so, you should probably talk to Ashley, because I can take no credit for it.

Carley Brown said...

I have shiny colored stars to. And a chart. I'm glad I'm not the only one who likes stars

Megan said...

Heather... this was awesome! Probably because I am a list-maker, goal-setter, award-getter myself. I think that it is the second grader in all of us thinking that a shiny silver sticker will make us feel accomplished!

Oh and is the only reason you don't kill people because you don't want to go to jail?... :)

Ashley Barber said...

Justin, the aloe vera is totally thriving! Funny what a little sun will do for a plant :)

I'm now going to place more stars on the chart for myself. I deserve them!

Ben said...

Heather, Justin gave that plant to Ashley. That's why he brought it up. :)

I also liked this. And I would like to have a star chart for doing things, but I would need to get a star for making the chart, I think, because that just seems like a lot of work.

Michael said...

I'm excited to have a visual of this famous star chart! I'm thinking of doing something similar maybe in a notebook. Or maybe it would be best if it wasn't portable. Hmmm.

But yes, two thumbs up for accountability. I have a theory that it's really affirmation in disguise.