Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Passion and Play

I read an article in Elephant Journal this week that's been tossing around in my mind...
http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/01/love-is-selfish/ (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.