Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I am watching the world of education become so seriously derailed from what's right and good that I can hardly see straight any more.  I've taken the year off from being overly involved in any sort of systemic thinking about education.  I've needed to get really clear on what exactly I'm fighting for in this world.  And each day I work with students and teachers who remind me just how imperative this all is.  And it's not an argument about teacher salaries, unions, privatization, or even about what classes students should take.  It's an argument for creating spaces where students can think critically and creatively, where we can have real conversations about real topics, and where students can learn that their voice matters, and that a carefully constructed argument and confidence trumps bling or a fist fight any day.  

Unfortunately, I also live in an area that has let itself become mired in politics and not what's best for students.  I watch and listen to some of the most ignorant people I have encountered make decisions for our future.  And I shake my head at the agendas being put forth.  We are surrounded by people who operate out of fear, and who insist that their belief systems are "correct" if any of us can find any one viewpoint to set above all others at any given time.  

And my professional feelings spill into my personal life.  I realize that I'm becoming increasingly sensitive to people whose agendas overrule who they are, whether these be a desire to be perceived as something "more" than they are, or a desire to prove that they are "cool"or worth loving.  I am not 20 years old any more.  I don't want to one-up you, or feel the need to.  And I don't want you to position me as if I should. We all hope that we've moved past this by now.  (NOTE:  I wear my own insecurities on my sleeve, as I do my feelings...and I am just as susceptible to ego as anyone else...).  There are people who are able to live without blaming; these people are also able to find a way to take responsibility for their own actions.  And these people are happier, believe it or not, than those who shove everything deep deep inside and project only their feigned confidence.  I promise.  I want to scream:  "Have the courage to be imperfect for christ's sake."  Shake the facade.

That's what I really really want these days.  I want every person to say, "Hey, that one was me.  I own that" when they should.  And I want these same people to say, when they shouldn't be shouldering the shit they are, to say, "Nope, I won't carry that.  I am going to let that go."  And, then, maybe, we could have some realistic private and public discussions about what's real in this world.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stepping Into...

Sometimes it's necessary to fully step outside of everything to be able to stand fully in your life again.  I love the gift of a hiatus.  I love the days of no alarm set, of random motion, of pausing to stare at nothing and everything, and of letting thoughts flow in and out with no need for focus.  I am reminded, in these moments, of the necessity of being receptive to the world around me.  Tonight's yoga practice highlighted  the importance of simply stepping into the spaces that offer you opportunities to receive the gifts available--whether these gifts are those of a yoga practice, of nature, or the quiet of your own company.  These gifts are not finite.  I can step into the sun, I can bask in someone's smile, and there's always more love--a renewable resource.  Amazing how that works.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Going Undercover

This quote is one I sent to a friend years ago.  I did not write out the attribution, nor do I have any idea where I stumbled upon it.  This friend, however, sent it back to me recently.  We haven't talked in years.  But the message was a timely one for me:

Go outside.
Go away.
It's all the people making you lonely.
Pick a spot on the horizon and head straight for it.
Weave your way through a stand of redwoods.
Kayak an ocean chain.
Peer over your toes at the edge of a canyon.
Go to your favorite place...Again and again.
This is what you need to do.
Not just because it fuels your independence.
But because it reminds you you're a part of something bigger.

I have spent the past months reconnecting, asking for support, asking for time and energy from others.  I have loved being in touch with so many people from different facets of my life whom I love.  I have appreciated every single moment and every single word of kindness.  And, obviously, I'm still sharing in a public way how I'm moving through and thinking about life and the world.

This being said, however, it is time for me to return to the "wilderness."  My "wilderness" not only includes where, but how I operate in my days.  I have sought too much solace from others instead of owning the fact that I need to tend to myself--there comes a place and time when you have to hold your own hand, pull yourself up (or let yourself crash to the ground, whatever the case may be).  I simply need to quiet and be.  To listen carefully.  It is time for paper letters sent out into the universe with no expectation of a speedy reply.  It is time for dark, starry nights with only my dog as company.  It is time for me to shake the fears that are showing up in my nightmares recurrently.  It is time to shake the dust.  It is time to reclaim what I believe and what I need.  It is time to acknowledge that sometimes, truly, things can go on too long.  And the toll is too much.  And too much is too much no matter who you are.  

Gretel Ehrlich, in The Solace of Open Spaces says, "We fill up space as if it were a pie shell, with things whose opacity further obstructs our ability to see what is already there" (p. 15).  

The desert has provided me with an unobscured landscape to dwell in for the past twelve years.  I do not like the desert.  I am not cozy and comfortable here, but apparently, there is more for me to learn before I leave.  I have committed myself to this space for another year.  I have resisted the urge to cut and run many times.  This particular wilderness is one that forces me to shift my perspective on a regular basis--as the lighting and time of year shifts, so does my appreciation for my surroundings.  It is a good place to recognize, without anything to sugar-coat the experience, that you are there no matter where you go, and until you sort that out, well, no lush landscape will do it for you.  We are each moving through alone, no matter how much love surrounds us (or how little).  I hope to go back to the idea of simply doing no harm as I move through.  That's a valiant enough goal for me right now.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Looking Closely

The desert is often more beautiful when it's seen from a distance.  When I'm looking around me as I hike, there doesn't seem to be much to see (not in a lush, running water, tree swaying kind of way), but the distant layers of purple mountains upon mountains and the lighting at sunset are pretty damn striking.  However, when you look most closely, and you notice tiny barrel cacti hidden beneath a scrub oak, or pink flowers poking their way out of cracks in a rock formation, or orange ocotillo tips, then the beauty makes itself apparent.  As I was hiking with a friend this evening, he mentioned that this was kind of like people:  from a distance they're all beautiful, at a certain level of remove they can be annoying, but when you look even more closely, and understand them most deeply, there's surprise and unexpected loveliness.

A yoga class with MC Yogi, in a warehouse studio on Mission, Thursday night provided me with an opportunity to have an experience that I could view from a distance, and to feel intensely close to.  I was able to practice anonymously, but to feel as if I was truly part of something more intimate.  And the class is still with me, in a "to be continued" sort of way.  I sweated.  I swayed.  I cried.  I smiled.  I laughed out loud.  I walked away in a daze.  I walked away with the words "be who you want to be now."  "Stop chasing who you want to be and just be it.  You want to be more?  Be more."  I realized, in that moment, that I did not know what I wanted to be, nor am I clearly seeing myself or the world around me.  I need my vision to both expand out and to zero in carefully, so that I don't miss out on details that may just provide unexpected moments of clarity and opportunities for celebration.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Shakespearean Counsel

I am braving a reading of Romeo and Juliet for the last text of the year with my students.  We will see if we survive (nothing like a little Elizabethan language in a room full of students for whom English is an additional language to learn already...).  However, as I'm digging through Shakespearean quotations in preparation for a writing assignment I'm designing, I realize that he may have said everything that needs to be said.

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so" (Hamlet). 
I'd swear this is a favorite of therapists everywhere, and a statement that makes me want to scream, "Of course it's fucking bad!  I want to place some judgment on that action and I want to now!"  And, did I mention I've been playing with the idea of "anger" lately--whether or not it can be a productive feeling or not?  Anger is tricky for me:  1)  I don't really approve of it in general; I'd prefer to think I'm so above anger; 2) It sometimes sneaks up on me and says, "hey little girl, don't you want to try some anger?  I think you'll like it," and for a moment or two, I do.  I feel self-righteous; I feel like I'm on the right side of things, and then I realize that just like a cheeseburger (or a third glass of wine) it always makes me feel like crap afterwards.  BUT, this being said, I think anger can be productive.  It promotes taking action, taking a stand...and sometimes it's the only thing that can propel me forward and beyond the need for it.  I do think that most of us were taught from an early age that anger was simply a sign of weakness (and, for women, that it should not be directed at men, ugh.)  Anger is sometimes justified.  I'm not saying I want to live in a perpetual embrace with anger, but a quick kiss on the cheek and a wink can help me move past slights tossed my way.  I try not to say too much until anger has passed...when I'm not angry, I have an easier time taking the advice:  "While thou livest keep a good tongue in thy head."

"Love all, trust a few.  Do wrong to none"  (All's Well That Ends Well).
I was having a conversation earlier today with a dear friend I have known for more than half of my life.  We both agreed that it would be lovely to think that we had never done harm. (I cringed as I reflected on some ridiculous antics of my own that very definitely did not take anyone else's feelings into consideration...)   I think most of us grow through phases where we are totally self-centered and destructive.  As adults, it seems, we reserve most of our destructive tendencies for ourselves--in various forms:  self-loathing, addiction, refusal to wake up, refusal or inability to step forward without question when others are in need...I'm most scared of adults who, for whatever reason, don't grow through, and who refuse to see their actions for what they are.

However, I will continue to love all.  I will be a little more cautious regarding who I trust.
"The lady doth protest too much, methinks" (Hamlet). Yep.

"And since you know you cannot see yourself,
so well as by reflection, I, your glass,
will modestly discover to yourself,
that of yourself which you yet know not of"

It is my hope that we all have "mirrors" in which we can see reflected infinite possibility.  My "glass" thankfully is a multitude of amazing people who are very happy to hold themselves up to me and let me see what I would never have otherwise.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Inverted Perspectives

I'm waiting for a storm to blow into town, and the wind is stirring up a need to hole up and hit the pause button on my life.  I can't stay paused, but I'm going to embrace this for at least a moment or two.  Tonight I am quiet.  I'm taking an intermission.  I found myself too quick to react this week.

I'm finding that the high points aren't static; I am trying to embrace this, lest I [gasp] become someone who doesn't notice the high points.

I'm sitting with the idea of "inversion" this week--the idea that when turned upside down, things don't always look better, but at least they look different.  I've always been a fan of multiple perspectives.  I have a vision of myself simply kicking into handstand anytime events occur that seem utterly ridiculous or untenable; it's not realistic, but metaphorically might work.

Earlier this week I was consumed by some "What if?" feelings.  I was reminded of wise words shared with me:  "Whatever decision you make is right, because it's the decision you make."  Seems simplistic, but who can argue with that?

I occasionally allow myself the indulgence of the "what if?" In the past week (which has quite possibly been a year) I've thought: (in no particular order and not related) Why didn't I marry that absolutely lovely computer scientist I dated?  Why didn't I become a lawyer?  (duh, it's boring, however, writing checks each month to my lawyer has forced me to reconsider...)  Why have I spent my life looking for something more exciting and not paying attention to red flags (even those glaring, wildly flapping one's) in romantic relationships?  Why did it take so long for me to figure out that I was the "greater good" that I should be sacrificing for?  But, I am reminded, by many brilliant folks, that we truly do the best we can with the information we have.  And, I don't want to go back and alter anything, for fear that exactly who I am now is exactly who I'm supposed to be...lessons learned from great 80's movies should not be discounted.  [Consider:  Back to the Future]

I wonder if I could have ever learned what I have this year without it occurring in such a surreal and incomprehensible (to me) way.

Gratitude is a strange thing. Sometimes we realize we're grateful long after an event has occurred.  I prefer the more instantaneous feelings--where you don't have to figure out why a particular event was a gift...but I learn a lot more from events that take some time to figure out.  Over a decade ago I packed myself up and headed south, away from people and a place I loved.  I have never regretted it; I remain grateful for the experience,  but I had some really fabulous full body, snot-bubble producing cries during that journey.  And who isn't grateful for a snot bubble once in a while?  Inversion.  Snot bubbles generally produce laughter, which leads to perspective, which leads to new opportunity, which... leads to the recognition that the truest moments of complete happiness I have are in response and in relation to nothing at all, or everything all together.  And they most often occur after a low point.  Hmmm...inversions occur naturally, I think.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Shattering Numbness

"Find your voice.  I hear too many echoes," said Cornel West on Friday evening.  I'm certain he's said this line many times before.  But I do think he's right in repeating it. Maybe we all should. What I know to be true, and I'm discovering, slowly but surely, is that I have a voice that may be returning, and I sure wish each and every one of us would find ours.

Tonight's yoga theme addressed the idea that comfort is found through discomfort...and this was not a new idea to me, but one that I do need to be reminded of a time (or two or three) as I move forward.   And I'm realizing over and over the value of being "unsettled" as human beings.  I've sought out work and life experiences that unsettle me--whether it's dropping myself into a new culture or space, or trying on a new professional role.  And each one has left me alternately invigorated and exhausted, but with something new within me that allows me to continue to question and grow.  The only space I (naively) thought was going to be my anchor was in home and partnership.  Letting go of this has also allowed me to see relationships (romantic partnerships) for what they are--opportunities for growth, with no more certainty than anything else.  And I like that.  (Lest my more romantic friends be saddened by this comment, please know that this will be constantly in revision as is everything else in my world.)

But there are truths that I don't think we should deny:  that we have developed into a society that is not critical enough, that we have become "well adjusted to injustice and adapted to indifference" (Dr. West, 4/1/2011); that we, in our desire to be perceived in certain ways, have lost our capacity for empathy or understanding; that we have listened to the same voices, over and over, feed us prescribed lines for what is "right" or "true."  These ideas pervade not only our society, but our individual lives and beliefs ("weapons of mass distraction").

As an educator, as a person who has devoted her life's work to public education, it is daunting to think that there is so much to fight against--and for.

It is amazing when all facets of your life point you in the same direction:  Wake the fuck up.  Feel.  Be lovestruck.  Shed a few tears.  Seek out poetry and music that will shatter and rebuild you.  Find the discomfort.  Acknowledge that when you don't let the suffering speak, there is no truth.

I'm intertwining the personal and societal here, but I don't think societal change can occur unless we deal with our own person-hood (and I'm not talking corporate here).

"Your worldview rests on pudding." (Thank you, yet again, Dr. West.)  Ready to sink into and swim through.  I'm not optimistic.  I'm hopeful.  This takes a long view.  I've got the time.  I've never been one for the quick fix (the quick escape, maybe...but never have believed in a quick fix).

And I love these moments when there is fire and urgency.  And that it becomes apparent.