Saturday, December 1, 2012

Journeys with Holden

I re-read Catcher in the Rye this past week.  If you haven't read it as an adult, you might try it--it might make you crazy (Sadly (sorry J.D. Salinger), Holden reminded me of a smart Bella (from Twilight fame), and I was reminded that she, too, in her teen-angstiness was a tad crazy-making).  However, I had to sheepishly acknowledge, that even though we're not quite so dramatic about it (usually), adulthood is wrought with the same types of highs and lows and questions as adolescence.  

I've been considering the idea of the "slinky" metaphor a friend shared with me when I wrote about whether life was a straight line or a circle. She reminded me, and I definitely am awed by, how many things we cycle back through.  I started to bemoan this idea, but then it hit me that each cycle, each coil, brings with it more and more spaciousness, if we're lucky.  So maybe it's a slinky whose diameter is stretched wider and wider as it curves on?  

It took 24 chapters to get there, but, finally, I got to the moment in Catcher in the Rye where Mr. Antolini says, "Among other things, you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior.  You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know.  Many many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now.  Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles.  You'll learn from them--if you want to.  Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you" (p. 189).  And you realize that Holden really will move through another couple of chapters.

And maybe it's the widening of the perimeter (if we let it) that widens perspective so we can learn from others?  We will never escape our lived-experiences, no matter how often the scenery changes;  I don't want escape.  We are afforded opportunities to move differently than we have before in our environs because we carry our past with us.  I don't mind that my experiences cycle back on themselves.  I don't mind that I've (once again) given away the bulk of my belongings and am slowly replacing things I've had before.  I like the intentionality of the collection after the purge.  Just as I like the intentionality that comes with the processes behind the widening perspective.  I like the clean spaces and empty drawers, that I can choose to leave that way if I want.  And I like Salinger's metaphor of a carousel for this same process... it's just a ride...  And I love the image of Holden, as he watches his sister ride around and around on the carousel:  "I was damn near bawling, I felt so damn happy, if you want to know the truth.  I don't know why...I wish you could've been there"  (p. 213).

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Infinite Possibilities

For the past couple of weeks, I've been walking by an apartment with a cardboard sign in the front window, with the words "infinite possibilities" stenciled on it in black formal script.  Today on my way home from yoga,  I finally noticed a "for rent" sign attached to the balcony to the left of it, but for these past weeks I kept thinking that someone was sending all of us a daily reminder.

I am recurrently reminded that we only see infinite possibilities in moments between flurries of motion.  I am reminded that these possibilities, in fact, only seem to exist in the spaces we open up for them.  I paused between breaths and poses today, recognizing that the volume level on the chatter in my mind has been turned up high for the past few days, and that if I didn't mute it, or at least quiet it, I would not be able to open spaces for anything, let alone possibilities.  And so I do.  I exhale, I move intentionally, and I quiet.  And I repeat the process when the chatter re-enters, as it always does.

Two children were attempting to walk a slack line in the park today as I passed by.  One child said to the young gentleman who had set it up, "Is this impossible?"  And he said, "No, it just takes practice."  And I thought, "I'm pretty sure that's true for everything that seems impossible."

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Another Iteration

I created a playlist for my friends upon leaving Tucson last month entitled "Another Iteration."  There was no goodbye.  There was no belief that I was magically manifesting a new destiny or "new" me.  I believe in magic.  I don't believe in magical solutions, and I don't say goodbye to people I love.  I do acknowledge that the way we interact and the spaces we inhabit will be different, but I can't quite see things as true "beginnings" or "endings" any more. Life is a little too fluid for that.  And I'm grateful for this perspective.  And I'm grateful for the realization that many of the best moments are in the spaces in between here and there and where I am and where I am going.  We're all in motion, and I am in such beautiful company.  I wrote a note to a friend a couple of weeks ago that said, "It seems that it's all simply a process of letting go."  The response I received was a simple, "yes."

This past month has been one of constant readjustment and some pretty intense moments of...not clarity (I'm acknowledging that clarity, for me, requires a little more stasis than I've had of late), but deep breaths, breakdowns and breakthroughs (I'm hard-pressed to tell the difference between these two any more), singular experiences, frivolous experiences, and laughter that comes from a deeper place than it has in a while.  Changing my geographical location will never solve anything in itself (I manage to bring myself everywhere I go), but the freshness of new surroundings?  The realization that routines are not familiar, that navigation has become problematized and complicated? For me, this leads to realizations that I don't reach in other ways. And it reminds me of the importance of letting ourselves be exactly who we are in any given moment.

Some e.e. cummings that struck me recently:
"To be nobody but
in a world which is doing its best
day and night
to make you like everybody else
means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight
and never stop fighting."

I like the idea of each of us fighting to be exactly us.  And to be willing to support one another in doing just this.  That, to me, is love.  I guess it all is.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Remembrance and Intentions

I'm afforded a week to sort and finish packing (the most fun part of the purging is done and now I'm down to minutiae and trying my damndest to make sure I don't throw some hugely important document away).  It's been a long year, but do you ever notice that despite the fact that you've been looking forward to something with great anticipation, when it arrives, it's like, "oh, shit, really?  Already?"  That's how I felt on the last day of school.  I remain so completely filled with love for the students I was lucky enough to spend time with this year...and the beautiful colleagues without whom I would most likely have lost myself in teen angst and exhaustion.  And, so, remembrance--that there is no present moment that I would wish away.  Easier said than done.  I wake each day with the intention of living in the present, pausing to notice beauty, promising myself I will choose my words carefully and move gently.  And I continue to work on being gentle with myself.  It's a constant struggle, but one that will prove to be a practice worth the effort in the long run.

I've decided that I need physical reminders to keep my intentions in the foreground:  a new tattoo is in order to help me with this effort.  I will wait till I arrive in my next destination, but I need a physical touchstone that will be with me always--  reminding me to live with love and not fear.  A tiny reminder on the pulse spot on the inside of my left wrist.

I'm enjoying these last weeks of yoga practice in studios that have become my physical reminders of living with love...with friends whose presence next to me on the mat can make my heart sing open.  I walked out of class last week and realized without a doubt, that as long as I could find respite in a yoga practice, I'd be able to find my way back home to myself and to love.  I carry it with me, but it sure gets buried sometimes without intentional actions.

I will continue to refine my intentions.  I will revise my routines to make space for them to live out loud.  And I remain steeped in gratitude for the presence of those around me who, with a simple smile, a tilt of a head, a laugh or a twinkle in their eye, can surface all that is good and true throughout.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Answers are in the Data

I've hit a wall in the past couple of weeks.  Maybe I've hit a couple of walls.  All I know?  Is that the forward momentum that I would love to be seeing is at a stand still.  Or maybe it's simply incubating.  Who knows?  My fellow dissertation writers know this feeling.  All of us know this feeling.  You're moving moving moving forward and suddenly, seemingly without any reason at all, you fall flat.  Thankfully, I'm at least aware enough to acknowledge that this is not a permanent state.  (I hope....I believe...I trust...I try and remind myself...)

So, at this moment?  I focus on some concrete things that actually seem tangible.  I reflect on miniature butterfly hair clips as fashion statement, the taste of a mango-pineapple smoothie for breakfast, a moment of laughter coupled with an eye roll at a student's behavior.   I reviewed a couple of hours of video data this evening.  I reminded myself that my students and I have a story that people should hear and read.  I reminded myself that this work is all for a greater purpose than me.  I think.  I hope.  I believe.  I trust.  I remind myself.

I know there are answers if we look closely.  We can draw conclusions based on close observation.  And so I look.  I look around at what's true.  And the truth keeps shifting on me.  Do you have those moments when your true north feels slightly skewed?  When your belief system is shaken just slightly?  This is where I return to when I'm feeling this way:
Watch it.  Really. (Buddy Wakefield's "Information Man" on You Tube)

I haven't revisited Buddy Wakefield in some time.  BUT, he helps me move forward.  He helps me recognize just how tenuous truth is, and how much reality hurts, but how beautiful it all is.

"There is a distance the size of bravery"--and at moments, I feel like I am not brave enough to cross this distance.  You know that's the distance between here and now and what you have imagined as truth and where you're headed.  It's a combination of fear and loathing, and a dream of the future.  It's as simple as a dog panting by your side and as complicated as an emotional wound you can't seem to reconcile.

"But tonight, I am going to get the answer..."

Or not.  But at least I know I'm looking for one.

The beauty is knowing there is someone out there reminding me that we all have questions.  Regardless of our pursuits--research, life, love, is a question.  And answers are fucking elusive.

"Even at your worst, you are fucking incredible.  So return to yourself.  Even if you're already there.  'Cause no matter where you go or how hard you try or what you do, the only person you are ever gonna get to be, and I know it, thank god, is you."

Thank whoever you want.  I'm grateful for every single one of us.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"I Don't Know Nothin'..."

"...except change is going to come"--Thank you Patty Griffin.

This is one of my favorite songs of all time.  "I don't know nothin' except change will come.  Year after year what we do is undone."

The one thing I do know?  Is that we're walking in the right direction.  There isn't another.  I think the essential piece will always be surrounding yourself with people who will encourage you to pursue your own direction and in your own way.

I'm realizing more and more of late that "it don't come easy," but it certainly does come.  Persistence.  Intentional practice.  Willingness to pick yourself up and try again.  And again.

I have so many people in my life who are willing to remind me of what's true...over and over and over...And I hope we can all offer this to the people we love.  And to the people we encounter.  It's simple, really.  We listen.  We support.  We regain our perspective.  We see the facts as facts.  We manage to suspend judgment and simply acknowledge.

And we do a really happy jig when we acknowledge that it's all exactly as it is, and we wouldn't trade.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Paradoxes and Wide Open Spaces

One of my favorite Story People stories is:  "feels like some kind of ride, but it's turning out just to be life going absolutely perfectly."  And my favorite moments in life are when I can sit back, laugh a bit at myself and realize that I'm finally able to see the truth of the perfection.  I'm a fan of letting go with both hands, clearing space for whatever is coming, and moving forward knowing that anything is possible.  It's scary as hell sometimes, but it sure as hell pays off big when I trust that the outcome will serve.

I wasn't prepared for the level of bliss that closing on my house this past week and selling my things would offer.  I haven't been able to stop smiling.  I've reclaimed my own ways of moving through the world...and my belief that everything we put out into the world will always come back to us.  Generosity of spirit, of time, of energy is never wasted.  And I am so grateful to so many who have shared their spirit, their time, and their energy with me when I've needed them.  These feelings of gratitude are both humbling and expansive.

I think I've finally given myself permission to look forward and shrug off any last bits of debris (aka  responsibilities) here.  I have a dissertation that can be finished in the next months from anywhere I choose to be.  I have an amazing series of professional experiences that I'll tuck in my belt and walk away with.  And, truthfully, in retrospect?  Not one regret.  I put my whole self in, all in, all the time, to everything I took on.  And it's paid off.  And now?  I teach another month, I write, I pack, and I drive away.  And I smile.  The ride, despite some momentary crash and burns, has gone perfectly.  I will leave here with the experiences I came here for, and now it's time to see where those lead me.  And things feel wide wide open.

Last week at yoga, one of the themes was "paradox"--as in the ability to see the beauty that surrounds us even when we're feeling sad or dark.  And I think that this whole ride is a continual paradox:  the world can be harsh and ugly, but there, in a moment of darkness, is a hummingbird, a smile from a stranger, a moment of utter peace even when everything feels like it's crumbling around us-- these moments are truth. These moments are our core.  These moments remind us that despite indications to the contrary, life is going absolutely perfectly.  Everything is always precarious in the day to day.  It is our core being that keeps us on course.  And happiness always returns.  Always.  We can step into wide open spaces knowing, trusting, that there is so much that will fill us up, and so much that we can offer.

And if I can continue to move through the world in the ways I believe in, and if I can hold my course to what I believe to be true and right no matter what else is happening around me?  And to recognize that this is going to grow and change as I do?  Then the paradox is a blessing.  And the wide open spaces go on and on.  This drawing in and expanding out--simultaneously --seems to be the balance we continually walk.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Purging and Finding

There are treasures and minefields lurking behind every closed cabinet door. When I was young, I would have found this process an adventure.  I would have snuck to Narnia beyond the panel in my linen closet.  I would have run far and free in snowy fields never wondering if I was going to make it back.  Maybe, however, there is some part of me that still thinks this is going to happen as I slowly empty the contents of armoires and night stands that I will sell at next weekend's garage sale.

There is always, in this moment of purging belongings, a moment of nostalgia (stumbling upon something you haven't seen in a while; associating memories with it; deciding whether or not to discard it).  Whatever the said item is, it does take a moment, even if it's only a split second, to determine whether it comes along with you on the next stage of the journey, or if it can be left behind.

And I will say that this process of letting go of the material existence that fills my home is a strange mixture of melancholy, a desire for it to simply be done, and a disbelief that years of living can be discarded so simply.  I am a natural purger.  Growing up, we moved every couple of years, and hanging on to lots and lots of "things" never made sense to me.  As an adult I've followed the same pattern.  When I move, I move in my car.  Yes, I know, there are many adults who would choose to rent a moving van, put all of their things in it, and when they reach their new destination, they take them all back again and put them in order.  I can't quite understand the logic of this.  This could be simply because my "large" possessions?  Were once someone else's...and I like the ecology of passing them on again to someone else.

So, as I work through this process of culling and purging...there are moments that stop me short.  A note written tucked in a file that I'm sifting through...a photo of a time I hadn't thought of in a while...a tiny bowl from Italy that I will snuggle in the box of linens I'm mailing to my new destination...and will find there, tucked in flannel sheets, with the same sense of surprise I had when I first found it in a shop in Tuscany.

And there are things I'd prefer not to see again...because they are associated with another time and another belief system that I no longer adhere to.  And that's the beauty.  Someone else can pick these things up, find them beautiful, and walk away with a gift.  It is this fluidity of "stuff" that I appreciate.  I'm pretty sure there's more out there.  We pass it around, those of us who don't insist on buying everything retail.

And there's vulnerability that surfaces when you purge.  There's vulnerability in saying, "Well, I kinda thought this was a forever kind of deal, but look at that, it wasn't."  And there's vulnerability in saying that sometimes, truly, letting go of expectations is a tough thing to do.  And there's vulnerability in saying  that despite the fact that the end result is feeling more than okay, the means of getting to this place didn't.  And sometimes, "stuff" is just "stuff"--and the stories we associate with it are just stories.  And the narrative continues whether we acknowledge it or not.  So we may as well acknowledge the stories, laugh and cry at the appropriate (or highly inappropriate) times, smile, cry, and purge.

And there's vulnerability in acknowledging that this is not exactly what I had anticipated.  I wouldn't trade my current life trajectory, but that doesn't mean that the past two years have been one's I'd like to re-live.  I would love it if the stories of time weren't carved so completely within me.  I would love to be able to place some of them out for sale at my garage sale:  "Would you like to buy a portion of that workaholic phase that didn't serve me at all?"
"Maybe you could go ahead and take that infidelity, resentment, and hostility story-line out of my mind--five dollars and it's yours.  Go ahead, keep it. "  And then these "things" would be gone and not tossing around in me.

I know these lived experiences are not "things" that can be bought and sold.  And, on some level I am grateful for this.  On some level I know they are the foundation from which I operate.  And, on some level, I'm hoping that some of them will leave on their own accord.  Allowing me to find, once again, who I am, after the purge.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Kindness and Facing Forward

A woman spoke at my school this week about a local project for spreading kindness ( She shared her story of losing a child at a very young age to a sudden death.  Her project began as a way to  face forward and continue to live while walking wounded.  And I thought of how many people are out there "walking wounded"--and so often we can't see the wounds.  It's so strange to think about the fact that a person can be broken open, but on the outside look totally "normal."

The smallest signs of humanity can be the things that save us from retreating, turning around, or simply losing ourselves again in the pain of a past experience.  It's hard to keep facing forward.  Hell, it's hard to live in the present regardless of how glorious our past has been.  And there are so few people out there who have not had to stare darkness in the face, pick themselves up off of the floor, breathe deeply and will themselves to carry on.

I don't think there's anything wrong with honoring the past, nor do I think that taking time to mourn when the past surfaces in us is a weakness or a failing.  We just need the constant reminder that the past is past, not current reality.  Remembering is just that; it's not a re-experiencing. There's no truth but that exists in the present, despite triggers that launch us backward into some space in our memory.  And the only person we're truly accountable to?  Is us.  I try to remind myself of this.  When you're harder on yourself than anyone else would possibly dream of being, it's hard to remember to be gentle in this accountability.  But it's necessary.

I was riding my bike up Mt. Lemmon highway on Saturday morning when a biker pulled up next to me to chat.  It was a man who had coaxed me up miles of mountain a couple of summers ago, and who, through his absolute kindness during that time (and without knowing a thing about me or what I was living through) helped me face forward and move upward--literally.  I remember a day when all I wanted to do was turn around and ride downhill, and his company for a couple of miles boosted me to my highest point on the mountain yet.

And there's the professor I talked with on Friday evening at yoga who congratulated me on my return to my dissertation and the progress I've made.  And the fact that she had been keeping track felt like an honor.  She said, "I know it was a rough time.  But I'll tell you, as someone who's a little bit's just life."  And I said, "Yes, it's just life."  And I realized there's a hell of a lot more of it to go.  It's a little bit easier when we keep our eyes toward what's in front of us.  And it's more than a little bit easier when we know how much more kindness exists out there.  Random or not, kindness is a gift.  And, I'm pretty sure, like love, it's a renewable resource.  Be kind.  Indeed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Staying Awake and Shaking the Dust

My biggest missteps in life have been when I haven't been fully awake.  You know those moments, you're on auto-pilot, the to-do list is your guide, and you just keep moving forward without actually looking around or listening to what's going on inside of you.

Sometimes it takes something really big to wake us up.  Sometimes, it's a lot more subtle.  The subtle reminders are the ones I'm most interested in at this moment.  These are the ones that will sustain me. Subtlety sounds really nice right now.  I feel like a lot of us wake up and make big changes, but can fall back easily into sleep as we try to move through and navigate what's in front of us.  We can make excuses:  I'm just going to push on until _______.  If I can just get _____ done, then I will ______.  I made a promise to myself that I would not go back to sleep, but I'm also finding it difficult to do when I feel like so much of my world is in flux.  A nice, long, sleep sounds pretty lovely... Staying awake, however, is a constant practice.  I don't always succeed.

I am shedding skin of late.   I'm "shaking the dust" (Thank you, Anis Mogjani:  I feel like I'm plucking barnacles off, and saying goodbye one by one.  I have burst into tears randomly (or have wanted to)--as I look out at my students and hear their insights, as I ride my bike home from work, as I settle into deep relaxation at the end of a yoga practice-- and with each "welling up," I realize I'm simply saying goodbye.   I'm saying goodbye to a period of time, a particular place, particular routines, and an experience or two I wouldn't have minded skipping--but many more I'm glad I've had.  And I'm stripping back down to what's essential to me and in me.

I'm trying to remain present, awake, and alive as I continue to move forward and make changes in my work, my living space,  geographic location, my academic pursuits--and there are times when it feels so overwhelming that I just want to coast through the next two months with my eyes closed.  I try my best not to close my eyes:   It would be a waste of a beautiful Tucson spring, for one.  And, for two?  I run the risk of not moving forward with eyes and heart wide open.  It would be a pity to have come this far, to have worked so hard to put all of these changes in motion...and not even be fully awake as the work comes to fruition.   I slip into moments of hiding from it all, shutting it all off, but...I forgive myself for these moments (and sometimes thank myself for them)...and I move on.

So here's the work:  To remain open even when life feels overwhelming.  To be patient in the midst of flux and uncertainty.  To stop and notice when things are beautiful, and to stop and notice when they're not.  To not cling too tightly to any step along the way, because it's all "along the way."  To remember that even when our skin feels like it's flipped inside out, that it's so much better than going back to sleep and going through the motions.

"Walk into into it, breathe it when the world knocks at your front door, clutch the knob tightly and open on up and run forward and far into its widespread greeting arms with your hands outstretched before you...fingertips trembling, though they may be."--A. Mogjani

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Creating Space

I've been purging material things.  My house is on the market as of this week.  I want for very little in my life, and I know this.  I'm aware that I live a pretty simple existence. ( I am by no means claiming to be a simple friends would laugh at me for that.) I like meaningful work; I like playing outside; I like good food and good drink.  And that's pretty much what I need.  A good dog?  Bonus.  My Beautiful Friends?  More than bonus.  Right now?  The ability to run free and without limitation is enough.

What am I letting into this space that I'm creating?  I'm looking for fierce companions who not only acknowledge their own worth and beauty, but who are willing to truly see those around them.  I will make some missteps along the way and continue to let in people who feign these qualities, but, for the most part, my bullshit meter is pretty attuned these days.  I'm looking for fearlessness, honesty, courage, brilliance, and the ability to be both interested and interesting.  I'm not reserving spaces for anyone in particular, but I am hugely open to experience, and welcoming human connection.  I'm interested in intimacy and connection with people who are unafraid and who are not harboring allegiance to storylines that don't serve them.  I want genuine, authentic connections.  I want rich communication.  I want transparency and the joy and freedom that accompanies this.  This is what I want to fill my space with.  I don't need "things"; I need purposeful and real spaces to inhabit with people who are on this same journey.  If I can meet people honestly, and without artifice?  And they can meet me in this same place?  Then this space I'm creating is filled to the brim with everything I could possibly want and need.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Demons and Destruction and Love

I'm not usually a big one for celebrity gossip, nor do I particularly feel like there's great social import in knowing the in's and out's of people's lives who I don't actually KNOW.  And I fully recognize that the world is filled with tragedy, horrific experiences, and challenges in life that go so far beyond what we, in our western mindset can even begin to fathom.  BUT, if we (in all of our privileged "glory") can't even get it together, then what does that say about us as a culture?

For whatever reason, some things have hit me this year, and have indicated that quite possibly, there is a larger issue here than being a "celebrity" that is causing some amazingly powerful and beautiful women to self-destruct.

And I'm thinking that we haven't "come a long way baby."  I am a forty-something woman.  My cohort was raised by some pretty traditional folks, for the most part.  Regardless of our parents' marital status or their marital happiness, I'm guessing that most of us grew up believing the narrative:  you meet a boy, you get married, you have children, and you're happy.  Even though few of us saw the data that supported the "happy" hypothesis, we bought it anyway.  And pop culture sold, and continues to sell it.  Whitney Houston, the woman who's brought me to my tipping point on this topic, sang, "I want to dance with somebody...with somebody who loves me..."  Well, for crying out loud.  Here's an amazingly gorgeous and talented woman...and she falls prey.  Amy Winehouse.  Demi Moore (not dead, but trying to be).

I spent the bulk of my life rejecting these narrow ideals, but, for some reason about 10 years ago, I decided to give it a go.  A friend of mine, who is very generous, says, "Well, you just had to try it out and make you know..."  And I realize, at this point in my life, that there is nothing that matters but love. But this love?  This love is for self, for friends, for family, for fellow humans who are on this same path of life.  There is no room for fear, for ego, for ignoring those in need.  What if we all just loved as big as we wanted to be loved?  What if we all were grown ups and respected each other?  Not a bad space.  And for those people who are going to run in fear from themselves or hardship?  I think we should create a small colony for them...and insulate them (though I think this might be a large segment of the population--those completely afraid of authenticity).

Put the baggage down. Put the ego down.  I'm tired of fear. I'm sad for people for whom aging is a negative thing.  I'm sad for people for whom the body is their definition.  And I'm sad for those of us who have, at one time or another, been affected by people who can't see true goodness and what is beautiful in humanity.  There's enough ugliness in the world.  I want to revel in my friends' authenticity.  I want to know that beauty goes beyond a size 6.  I want to know that what is inside of each of us is what makes us who we are.  And if you insist on judging yourself or others by their weight?  I remind you that most of us have been at our skinniest when we have 1) developed a drug problem; or 2) have been in the middle of a divorce.

And I am hoping beyond hope that we won't continue to sit back and tacitly accept bad behavior or lack of ethics as "okay."  Every single person on this planet has the capacity to grow, to deepen their understanding of themselves and others, but to sit back and excuse them when they can't behave gracefully?  Or when they do true harm to others?  That's being complicit in their stunted sense of self and the world.  I hope we will all call each other on our shit.  I know my truest friends, and the people I trust more than any one else in this world, will always, always (usually quite tactfully) let me know when I need to make an adjustment.  If only this honesty was extended to all. Our growth trajectories would be significantly more positive.

What's concerning me most at the moment, is that there isn't enough love.  Our one renewable resource, and we can't seem to generate enough of it to reach out to one another.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Passion and Play

I read an article in Elephant Journal this week that's been tossing around in my mind... (which I will reference throughout this post)

This is an article by someone I've never met (Waylon Lewis).  But someone who has articulated a vision of love and marriage that hit so close to home for me, that 1) I thought I should probably marry him (or at least meet him, since, truly, I'm really not interested in "marriage" as a formal institution any longer); and 2) made me realize I'm truly "married" to my passions and my work.  And, 3) If I define marriage as a lifelong commitment to loving completely and vulnerably...well, I'm married to quite a few people.

And then I started exploding out this idea of what it means to be fully committed to the work I do and to the love I have for the people in my life, and I started thinking about how much bigger that was than anything else I could possibly imagine...and...well, my mind has been a little blown.  And Maya Angelou's statement that her heart had been broken so many times that it had been simply broken open comes to mind.  I see so clearly that every moment of heartbreak, every moment of pain has allowed for empathy, for strength, for clarity...

Let me back up.  I'm happy, blissfully so...  But not for the reasons I thought I would be.  I'm happy because I have finally stopped apologizing for the fact that I'm on a mission.  This mission is self-chosen.  It's both selfish and selfless.  And parts of it are infinite and there are tasks that are finite at the same time.  When I think about what I'm here to do, I realize I'm here for the work.  Play is fabulous.  It sustains me.   But the work?  It's the driving force of "me." The work is to make sense of our society, to figure out how to make it better, to make the world of education make more sense--in whatever way I can.

And the play?  The play is love.  The play is the outdoors.  The play is new experience.  It's openness.  It's the recognition that in order to take things seriously, we have to have spaces in which we don't.  The play is laughter.  And the work and the play are the same:  It's all passion.

I have realized, as I've been sifting, in the past year, through disillusionment, through anger, through hurt...that what this whole process has been is a re-awakening of who I am.  And there's no fear here.  There's only excitement, and the realization that I didn't so much have faulty logic in a choice in partner, I simply wasn't astute enough to make assumptions  supported by data. (I have finally let go of beating myself up for my choice to marry a person who I wish I hadn't.) Red flags should never be ignored.  I chose a partner a decade ago who I thought was the person who would help me look outward--that we would help each other do so:
"Two friends* facing the same direction together, symbolically east, the direction of the rising sun, as in ever-awakening fundamentally a-ok human nature. Walking the path together. Helping one another to be of benefit." (see Elephant Journal article referenced above)

And I finally realize that my vision of love wasn't misguided, but my choice of partner was.  "I don’t need to go on a lifelong romantic picnic I have things to do."  

Indeed.  I do.  

And my version of work and of love is really big.  I'm here.  Living is hard. It is.  And I can't imagine living without being of service: 

“And while I’m here I’ll do the work.  And what’s the work? To ease the pain of living — everything else, drunken dumbshow”  – Allen Ginsberg

And I'm pretty positive there are a lot of people out there with the same agenda.

We don't have that long.  We aren't here for ever.  I'm reminded of this daily.  However, I also want to be reminded, by the people around me, that we're all in it together.  And that we're all, in our own ways, trying to create spaces and opportunities for a better world to emerge.

I will love big.  I will love without reserve.  And I will not forgo "the work" for a blissfully ignorant view of what real love actually is.  And I know, without a doubt, that I have some pretty fabulous company on this journey.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Refuse to Stay Quiet

I am wondering how many conversations continue to be squelched and how many voices we lose because we're afraid of hearing things that might rattle the comfort of the status quo.  In Arizona,  many of you know, the state has banned Mexican American Studies classes--of both literature and history.  There is so much fear and hatred behind this decision that it's actually difficult to wrap your mind around.  I have a lot of things I'm angry about in the world of education, but studying multiple perspectives and disrupting the belief that history is a single narrative that we can weave neatly in a 300 page U.S. History textbook?  That's not one of the things we should be angry about.

We should be angry about the fact that high school students, specifically students of Mexican American and African American descent are dropping out of high school at rates that should alarm even the most callous person. We should be angry that we live in a country where income disparity and class distinctions have become more and more rigid, and more and more difficult to move beyond.  We should be angry about the fact that education has been co-opted by corporate drones who perpetuate the myth that thinking is actually a negative thing, and accountability (in all of its misguided forms) is the answer.  And we must stop making decisions that are driven by hatred.  Our responsibility to our youth has to be borne of love, of trust, and the belief that doing what's right is not always what's easy, and it doesn't always benefit someone's bottom line in the short term (read:  prisons), but the dividends in the future are exponential.

And we take a day out of school to honor the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr.  And I wish, very much, that we would spend the rest of our days in school with a little more focus on his memory, his ideas and ideals.

When did creativity, critical thought, and willingness to engage in civil discourse become scary?  Ahhh...  yeah,  it always has been, at least to the people for whom the status quo is hugely beneficial.

I work with students every day whose families have come to the United States from places that are battle grounds, where potable water is in short supply, where caste systems and racial distinctions have left them without citizenship in any country.  And I work with students who believe that America is a land of opportunity.   And I want so badly for this to be true for them.    I have a dream.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Copious reminders have surfaced of late regarding the power of happiness, and the power of sharing our own happiness with others.  I was afforded the opportunity to spend some time with people who love me unconditionally (and who have known me as I lived through more interesting times, and who love me anyway) in the past while.  And in the safety of this space, I realized how much more I have to offer the world when I am exactly me.  And my resolution this year remains to spend time with the friends who I love so dearly my heart aches just thinking of them.

And on the wings of this experience, I found myself laughing genuinely with my students today as we talked about the power of exploring multiple perspectives, reading and learning, and...I realized that it really is this simple.  Emily Dickinson writes of wings that carry us through "dingy streets" of life and lift us above through the power of imagination.  And I realize that we each carry this within us:  the power to explore the stories of others, the power to learn, to grow, and to believe...and to fly above.

I'm going to fly.  I'm going to leave the confines of my current reality, which is perfectly fine, but perfectly fine doesn't suffice.  I have wrestled and wrestled with practicality versus sanity, and responsibility versus risk.  I'm a very pragmatic person (fortunately or unfortunately). I have come down on the side of responsibility, but finally, finally, it is responsibility for myself and my own happiness.  And nothing ever comes too soon or too late when we're listening carefully.  I couldn't have made this decision a year ago, and I would have berated myself for a whole litany of things if I had.  There comes a point in time when we can, with no apology, move on, move beyond, and do so gracefully.

And this freedom, borne of a decision that's been a long time coming, allows me to share my happiness, genuinely, with others.  And this brings me back to Pema Chodron, whose words have helped me conjure these wings:  "The whole journey of renunciation, or starting to say yes to life, is first of all realizing that you've come up against your edge, that everything in you is saying no, and then at that point, softening.  This is yet another opportunity to develop loving-kindness for yourself, which results in playfulness--learning to play like a raven in the wind."

Time to assemble the wings.  Time to offer myself the space and perspective to envision, revision, and believe.  It is time.