Writing to Understand and Staying in Touch

Writing is a heart break. Trying to create a feeling or moment with words on a page–words that are already abstract because words do not convey the perfect emotion or feeling one has in entirety. Many times it can be because we don’t know as many words as we might wish to know. We do not read as much as we can and thus, words might be unknown to us.

Uncharted lands. Ha. If that phrase isn’t timely. When I sat down to write this entry a month ago, I was struggling with syntax structure as I mused and stared at a blank page before me. Still, I try.

Words connect. They bridge gaps. They weave our stories together for us. True stories. Stories we believe to be true. Stories that are untrue. I recently read somewhere that stories are powerful. I saw an interview with Kobe Bryant when he passed away that was re-aired and he stated the same idea. There is no doubt about that. But gather too many words of others in your heart, and they drown out your own. So I am going to do my best to continue writing my own story and hope it will inspire you to continue your write your own.

February 24th. Four weeks ago. When we were all still living in our bubbles.

How long have you been living in that bubble of yours? I am not sure I could say with any certainty when I began living in mine, but it was way before COVID-19. Now here we are living through a pandemic and an infodemic. Information changes so rapidly that it is difficult to wrap your head around. The last week and a half has felt like years. When I left my classroom back on March 13th, it didn’t feel like I was leaving for an indefinite amount of time. I thought I’d be back on March 30th. As I write this, Maryland schools will be closed until at least April 24th. We are barely in the upswing of this curve.

Nature is an interesting phenomenon. When she feels humanity threaten her, she bites back. We are not prepared for how hard she is retaliating, but we’ve been consuming her at a dizzying pace. She is not having it anymore. It’s time to start thinking of ways that will refuel her and energize her rather than drain her.

We need connection. We need relationships. We need each other. I’ll keep reaching out.

 

 

Irrigating a Mindset for Growth

Hello, old blogosphere. It has been some time since I have posted. I’ve been going through a lot of self-exploration recently. Never easy, but always worth it.

What I realized: I kept myself from truly growing for the last few years. Honestly, it was a way of self-preservation. There was so much hurt and anger from past mistakes I made that I had a difficult time moving forward. Opening up was not a choice for me because it simply would have made the wounds run deeper than they already were. We all do this from time to time. Put on a brave face, smile, and say that all is okay–even good–when we know that we are anything but.

One of the most detrimental choices I could have made during this time was I stopped reading and writing as voraciously as I once had. This may not sound like a big deal to some, but to someone who has always had a difficult time relating to the world out loud verbally and who has always had an easier time when she has had the chance to see it on a page, well, now maybe it makes sense why it was a tough part of my journey.

Carrying guilt around for past mistakes and putting myself  in solitary confinement is wasted time. In the last month, I have been reading more–not in the traditional sense. I have been listening to books on my commute to work and podcasts that are positive and inspiring to motivate me to change my old habits. Allowing myself to read and “hear” new perspectives has allowed me to see how deep I had gotten myself buried in my own bullshit and other people’s bullshit.

Other habits I have been trying to change are small, but they end up adding up in big ways. As a teacher, my hope is to always connect with my students in real and meaningful ways. This is not easy, and many times, I was only scratching the surface with them and not making an impact in ways that I hoped. I wasn’t putting myself out there. I wasn’t sharing with kids what I read, what struggles I have when I write,  and how I want to affect the world positively instead of negatively.  Students need role models, and I realized I was not being the best one I could be for them. I am doing my best to change that. I know that reading more and telling them about those experiences that keep me positive will allow them to see how they cannot allow obstacles to stop them from reaching what goals they have set for themselves. Many times, they need someone to help them figure out how they may even set a goal. They have become so ensconced in comparing themselves to each other and what people post on social media.

One habit that I feel will help me navigate through my own obstacles is making time for the gym. In the last couple weeks, I have made time for it. Scheduled it like an appointment that I cannot miss. I know that while life has not gotten any easier, making time for my mental and physical well being makes it feel as if life is easier to navigate. I don’t go to the negative places each time something seems difficult or challenging. I recognize that these obstacles that present themselves truly are opportunities for growth and so, they have seemed that way in the last month or so.

I’ll keep stacking these positive habits. And I’ll let you know how it’s going. I’m fostering what has felt like a narrow minded mindset for awhile. Let’s hope it keeps growing and keeps spilling into my life and the lives of those around me.

Dashed Hopes

Silence is deafening
When you are waiting
For a simple
Phone call

To change your life.
Oh, the hang ups 

We have.
We place 

so much value 

on what others

think of us in life;

Their words and judgement 

RING incessantly and tirelessly
in our heads. Yet when 

FINALLY we go to 

Pick up—
A dial tone

At the end of the line. 
I’m ready to disconnect 

—this line from the wall—

I’ve hooked into

for others’ benefit.
Move on 

To better connections:

Clearer ones

…where I can hear the voice

On the other end 

and not

Ringing and gibberish…

Resilience or There’s a Plant Metaphor in here Somewhere

Resilience: noun. 1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. 2. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

I’ll come back to this word. One thing I like to do with words is find other words in them. I’ve done this for many years…it started when I used to play the game Boggle with my stepdad, Schmig. I am aware that isn’t the way to play that game.  However, I have sat looking at this word resilience for a few minutes looking to see what other words I could spell and which ones had some sort of meaning at this crossroads I’ve come upon.

Silence: noun. Complete absence of sound. Sometimes silence is hard to come by in our lives. We are so busy running to work, running home, running to the store, running to the gym, running to swim practice, running to soccer practice, running to the kids’ lacrosse games, running to church, running to meet up with friends for a night out—that we don’t take the time to sit and quiet ourselves. I have had the chance to do this with myself for the last several days. Silence can be quite a respite from our daily activities. It can also be maddening and frustrating because left alone with our thoughts, negativity and doubt of ourselves can begin to creep into our minds. Each time my mind has gone in the latter direction, I have gently nudged it back from the darkness. Wednesday, I went for a run/walk. It’s been awhile since I’ve done this. I recall at one point a couple of years ago being pretty fit. I would do CrossFit and run on the same day. I can’t afford CrossFit, and now, I have been working out with friends and sometimes on my own. I have been surrounding myself with some strong role models to  keep myself motivated, and one of these friends is an awesome coach, Jennifer Burnett. She and her husband are teaching a boot camp this summer on Saturday mornings, and she teaches Pilates. She has helped me to stay on course and keep myself healthy and in shape. Exercise is my go-to for stress relief. Do I wish I was in better shape than I currently am? You betcha, but one day at a time. I have to learn to take things step by step and not get overwhelmed by the big picture. Running used to be a time for me to quiet my thoughts and meditate somewhat. I miss that and desperately need that in my life. Most of us have a better sense of ourselves when we allow time for silence/meditation. So, time to incorporate it again.

Resin: noun. A sticky flammable organic substance, insoluble in water, exuded by some trees and other plants (most notably fir and pine). What I took away after thinking about this word is that sometimes my feelings about my situation at the moment lead me to be angry, flammable, and maybe not easily contained  with water (aka others trying to help me keep perspective). Fir and pine are pretty hardy woods. They’re strong and durable. I don’t always view myself this way although a friend once told me: “I wish you could see yourself how I see you. I wish I was as strong as you are.” At the time, I thought he simply meant what I had been able to do with my body because of doing CrossFit for a year. Now, I think he was speaking about my tenacity, my determination. I’ve kept that conversation close to my heart the last couple years since we had it a few days before he died. I can’t tell you the amount of times it has allowed me not to lose heart and to know that I am meant for something greater than maybe my head can imagine right now. It’s too easy to allow myself to feel as if I wasn’t valued in the communities I worked for the last couple of years. I am starting to think though, that maybe it was me that wasn’t valuing myself. When a flower doesn’t bloom, fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower. All this time I have wondered why I can’t fix myself to be more of what a community needed. Sometimes one has to realize she isn’t broken. My growth hasn’t been stunted–unless I allow it to be. There’s much more to me than I often share with others, so I am going to try to let my guard down and allow people in. Let’s face it: being in education is not easy. It is late hours, it is a plethora of paperwork, it is stressing about observations, it is heartbreak, it is blood, it is sweat, it is heart, it is soul, it is mind, and it is more than its share of tears. And many would agree–it is not worth the amount of money one makes as a teacher. That’s not what being a teacher is to me though. Being a teacher is lighting a fire under someone’s arse so that he/she is passionate about learning for a lifetime. I may just need to re-imagine what being a teacher “looks like” to myself and others. I can do that.

Rise: noun. An upward movement; an instance of becoming higher; verb. 1. Move from a lower position to a higher one; 2. Get up from lying, sitting, or kneeling. I am reminded of a quote by Marianne Williamson: “Our deepest is fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” For too much time, I lived in a space that I know now was beneath my capabilities. I didn’t feel worthy. I didn’t feel important. I didn’t feel love. It took a long time to convince myself that I am worthy, important, and loved. I have struggled to rise up. I sometimes still struggle with it. Anyone sensing Maya Angelou here? That light Williamson mentions makes me uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean I am not going to go chasing after it. I will rise. It’s a part of who I am. I will rise. It allows me to grow, and I certainly shouldn’t be trying to put it out. I will rise. Enough people in the world try to diminish the light already–which is silly really because all of us were made to shine uniquely as we are. We should all rise. We should help one another rise. What’s the saying? Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make ours shine any brighter. In fact, it makes the world darker. Duh. Let’s rise, instead.

Resilience: noun. 1. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. 2. The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity. I recover pretty quickly from an upset or obstacle thrown my way and although I stumble around at times, I usually find that my mind and heart go back to a pretty positive frame of mind. There is a plant called meadow sage that pretty much grows wherever you plant it in any type of condition–sun, shade, rain, no rain–it will bloom. Meadow sage seeds were formerly used as a paste to remove particles from the eyes and to reduce inflammation and redness. It was also used as a gargle for sore throats and to clean teeth. Pretty medicinal. The current trend is to use it to flavor beers or wines. Anyway, I’ve digressed a bit. There is something from this plant for me to learn I think. It has many positive attributes. Meadow sage thrives in whatever adverse conditions it is thrown in, and I should be ready to do the same. I learn what I am made of in times of adversity. I learn to navigate my way through the uncertainty and feel stronger on the other side, and once I have made it there, I consider where I have been. As I’ve grown older, I sometimes believe I have lost my ability “to spring back into shape,” and yet, each time I have felt stretched and compressed at times, I still seem to find my center. Plus, we never know how that resilience or beauty will impact the world around us. This time will be no different. It has taken a bit longer, and I am still unsure of my path, but I will remain calm, centered, in motion, and ever passionate about learning something new. Why is this? I have done it before. I will continue to do so. It comes from a word that when broken apart into other words knows me well and is part of what makes me, me. See that? Resilience.

 

 

La Dame Sans Facebook

I like not being on Facebook. I thought I would miss it. The time away has made me realize I want to keep being more deliberate how I spend my minutes and hours with family and friends. Some friends have noticed I am gone from Facebook. Others didn’t until recently.

I highly recommend trying a hiatus from it. I honestly feel as though I have been more present to my family and friends when I am with them.

Social media is pretty amazing, don’t get me wrong, but it sometimes feels too pervasive for me. I felt like my relationships were a little empty. It reminded me of part of Keats’ poem La Belle Dame Sans Merci. Remember that one? Especially the second half of the ballad:

And there she lullèd me asleep,
       And there I dreamed—Ah! woe betide!—
The latest dream I ever dreamt
       On the cold hill side.
I saw pale kings and princes too,
       Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
       Thee hath in thrall!’
I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
       With horrid warning gapèd wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
       On the cold hill’s side.
And this is why I sojourn here,
       Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
       And no birds sing.

Oddly, in some ways, I feel social media “lulled me asleep…And I awoke…On the cold hill side.” I don’t want to “sojourn” in this place anymore “alone and palely loitering” where “no birds sing.” Life is short. I’d rather be present to those who cross my path. I want to reach out to those who mean something to me.

I beseech you: spend some time with people in real and meaningful ways. You might just find yourself sans Facebook as well. At least for a bit.

Road to Self-Discipline

I have decided to give up Facebook for a time. Through the Lenten season in fact. I didn’t announce it online, but went ahead and deactivated my account this morning. My thought is that I have become entirely too concerned with it. I spend too much time scrolling through statuses and not enough time fostering the relationships I have with those around me. I am sure we are all guilty of this to some extent.

I am making the choice to be more deliberate in my actions, in my words, and with who I spend my time. I know it will be somewhat difficult. The road to self-discipline always requires change and that is something that many of us find uncomfortable. Often we tend to look at the world with nostalgia. “Oh, life was much simpler 5, 10, 20 years ago!”  Self-discipline and change do not come easily but I find it necessary to embrace both in order to become the best version of myself.

I have always been someone who has spent a great deal thinking about what helps me grow as a person. How will this experience allow me to evolve? How will this help me on my journey? Even when faced with adversity, I have done my best to turn it around, and look at the positives I gain through what often feels as heartbreak.

What I have learned is this: old ways rarely open new doors. In fact, many times we have to build the door in order to find a way to step through. I’ll start building my door and with any luck, once I step through, I can let you know what I find on the other side.

 

Catalyst for Change

There’s quite a bit of negativity swirling around in the atmosphere. Always is, but at times we are more attuned to it than others. It doesn’t mean we need to give in to it. We do sometimes. There are times when we are sucked in to someone else’s drama or rotten mood. You know what, though? I don’t wanna–not any longer.

I’m going to challenge myself to do something from now on. Instead of giving in to negativity, I want to be a catalyst for change. If there is someone upset or going through a challenge, I’d like to help him/her to turn it into something positive. If there is something not working out as well as it should, we should want to stop and ask why. Figure out the reasons and then problem solve so that ideas can be implemented to make a process work better and more efficiently.

This may be easier said than done. I am aware of this. Humans are complicated. When mixed together with different strengths and weaknesses, goals, dreams, and fears, humans react with all sorts of emotions: we become a mess of vision, intuition, creativity, luminosity, sweetness, success, magic, panic, anxiety, hostility, resentment, terror, apathy, and blame.

Growing older always gives us the gift of perspective. That’s why I’ve decided to give this challenge a whirl. Three years ago, I started CrossFit. In many ways, it allowed me to build confidence in myself that I seemed to lack for a long time. Up until this past week though, I hadn’t had the time or money to spend in the gym. My job as a teacher is often physically and intellectually demanding, not to mention emotionally demanding. Being away from CrossFit has made me realize I am much happier and healthier incorporating exercise and healthy eating habits in my life.

This isn’t earth shattering news. Most of us would say: duh. But remember–humans are a tricky bunch. Some might even be reminded of the quote “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” I won’t be doing the same thing this time. I will still do CrossFit, but I will be incorporating other movement as well. Running. Hiking. Pilates. Yoga. Other movements. Meditation. More cardio so that I have a bit more endurance. Strength training is important, but at 43, I doubt I will be going to the CrossFit Games. That’s okay. I’m not sad. I’m not upset. I’m in a healthy place.

My hope is that this new found insight of just wanting to be the best version of myself will trickle down to my “catalyst for change challenge.” By thinking more positively, I will feel positively about what I can and have accomplished, and as a result, be a more positive force on all the lives that touch mine. Catalyst may not be the right word. Chemists know that a catalyst is a substance that initiates or accelerates a chemical reaction without being affected. I do want to be someone who initiates or accelerates positive change–I just doubt it can be done without being affected. It simply isn’t the way humans are.

 

 

 

Blue May

Sort of funked out on all this rain this month. I know it’s all good for growth and making things fresh and alive, but damn if it isn’t putting a damper on my soul. 

I had my kids read Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” today in class. The last line just sort of hit me: if a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man. 

Not that I am dying by any stretch of the imagination. It just made me super aware of how much the weather and sun affect my psyche/spirit after a long winter. 

Come back, sun. And moon. And stars. I miss you. 

Syncopated Souls

Spring-time.  Growth. Greenery.  Renewal. Wings buzz. Bugs flutter and flit by.

I spoke with a treasured friend last night about the growth my spirit  has been undergoing in the last few weeks. It hasn’t been easy.  Transformation rarely is. But I refuse to think of it in negative terms anymore.

Yes. It’s true.  Sometimes as you undergo change it is uncomfortable.  And messy.  And difficult to withstand because you don’t know the outcome or which path you will end up traveling down.  That’s the reason most of us fear change.  The unknown.  The variables and equations that cannot be accounted for or solved.

But.  It’s also in many ways, exciting.  A bubbling exhilaration. Frothing to the surface. Until you realize: you no longer want to control the fire spreading outwards or the hunger growing and consuming you from within…

This friend of mine I spoke with: other than photos shared on Facebook, we haven’t seen each other or heard one another’s voice for probably 15 years. When I heard his laugh echo in my ear though–it was easy. I was reminded of how our hearts often seemed so in sync. Simpatico–he had mentioned the word in a message right before we started talking on the phone as we both texted we were standing in our backyards looking at the moon. I agreed.

There are people you meet in life who “get” you. Without much or any explanation. There’s no competition, no forward, no backward, no above, no below. Like syncopation in music–only your souls, rich in understanding of where the other has been and wants to go, intertwine and discover the rhythms.

Thanks, Nesto. I needed that convo. It gives me courage.

 

Nice and Simple Complicated Passion

I am often too nice.  It’s a decidedly odd trait to me.  I like balance in an argument, and I tend to avoid confrontation. Now it sits with me tonight and I feel uncomfortable with it. It’s not the familiar secure feeling I have of a favorite old sweatshirt or t-shirt. No, it’s a sweaty feeling–but not a good one like I’ve had after a good workout.  More like a drip that continuously slides down the rivet between my nose and upper lip…and makes my hand itch to wipe it away.

Being nice doesn’t get you where want to be. That’s a loaded statement. Interpret it how you’d like. In fact, being nice has more often than not landed me in situations that I would have done well to steer away from.

I went to Crossfit this morning, and we worked on hang cleans. The movement in theory seems relatively simple and straightforward. It’s not complicated. Then you add this human into the movement, and it becomes complicated.  I had three different coaches tell me what I was doing wrong and how I could improve it. One explained that my grip wasn’t wide enough, and I didn’t have my shoulders lined up over my feet. Another I watched perform hang cleans one after the other and while she did, I tried to fix and compare in my head what I do versus what she does. Finally, I was frustrated enough that I asked a third coach what I was doing and if could he help me fix it. He drew lines on the floor for my feet and explained where they should be for the shrug (which is most of my problem since I bend my elbows forcing the bar away from my body when it should go in a straight line), and where they should be when I catch the bar.  I practiced the movement a few times without a bar. It was not easy for me to catch on.  I’ve been doing them wrong for a while, and it’s difficult to unlearn a bad habit. I tried them with the bar a few times, but I couldn’t get it.  I kept going back to my old ways.

I’m not sure what the lesson here is. Perhaps, it is a reminder to me to not be so hard on myself when something doesn’t come as easily as I think it should.  Also, a simple movement like this has many more layers to it than what it simply looks like to an observer. To many, I must often seem like a one-dimensional “she is so nice” kind of woman. It seems that simple, right? The outside can fool someone into thinking that way–and then the heat and frustration of my complicated layers come seething up from the inside to the surface.

I do know this. The three coaches who worked with me today are good at what they do. I know I am not easy to coach. I am determined to be better–I have been since the first day I walked into those gym doors.  In many ways, I simply had to learn to have more confidence in myself, and Crossfit Bel Air’s community has allowed me to do that. I will work on what I can a little at a time.  I will still get frustrated, but I know it doesn’t come easy to any one of us. Not even to the best or most confident athlete.

And as for nice? Might be that you see less of it. Nice has no sense of passion–and passion I have.