What if I thought I was enough?
What if I accepted that who I am, is who I've always been?
What if I can look to who I've been to see who I want to be?
What if the work, is to get rid of what stands in the way of my being myself?
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When I started this blog ten years ago, I had no idea what I was going to do. I had just lost my teaching job the month before, and I wanted to be a storyteller. More than that, though, I wanted to survive. I wanted to survive as a mother, as a creative person, and as a human. The job I'd lost was our main income source. It was my sole professional identity. It was my community and my calling, I thought. And it was gone.
Within the next two years, I'd also lose my mother. We'd lose a business. We'd deal with vehicle accidents and illnesses, acute and chronic.
There would be so much stress, and pain, and grief.
I would also win a year-long fellowship to assist with my storytelling. I would get a contract to create a storytelling-based curriculum for an intergenerational childcare. We would start homeschooling our child, and I would move from classroom teaching and substituting, to working in a Waldorf-inspired preschool program and tutoring students from age 6 to age 20.
There would be so much growth, and joy, and beauty.
So, what if I didn't question it? What if I stopped expecting my life to look differently than it does. There are so many expectations -- I'm 46, so I should have this much in savings, this much status in my career, this much clout, this much... It's so quantitative.
I recently read The Hazel Wood, by Melissa Alpert. The stories that run through this book are both like and unalike traditional stories. They are bloody and weird, as many traditional stories are, but they are also wild and unpredictable and without an internal balance and center. They are driven by fear, as are many traditional stories. There were references in the book to so many of my beloved tales, and the re-workings that fed my adolescence. What I came away with, though, is how much I have missed the stories.
I still get to tell stories, sometimes. I tell gentle stories to the little ones in my care. But my telling-out opportunities dried up with the advent of the pandemic, and haven't come back in any strength yet. That's okay. I've been really busy-- haven't we all? -- but I am starting to miss them. The stories.
And I miss knowing my life as a story. I miss finding meaning, and finding hope.
Winter break seems to be when I start to find my way back each year. I hope maybe this time, I can stay a little more connected. A little more in tune with the stories. I hope I can find my way to writing, and thinking, and dreaming a bit more.
And I hope I can just let it be, my life, and look at its shape with a little more distance, and a little more magic. Not questioning so much, "Am I doing it right?" but perhaps, "What next?"
I woke up with my brain itching. I am so ready for this pandemic to be done. I know you are, too. Right now, I am utterly filled with admiration for those of you who have been creating, and making, and finding ways and solutions, and crafting throughout the past TWO WHOLE DINGDANG YEARS. I was already feeling lonely and isolated and confused and weird before the pandemic. I've felt like I have nothing of value to share, and also feeling that as a white, middle-class, highly educated woman, my voice is probably not really needed right now anyway. I have good days, of course, and there are "just getting by, focusing on the tasks at hand" days.
But this morning I woke up feeling like maybe I do have something to give, and something to share. I woke up feeling like maybe it is safe to commit to teaching, and to storytelling, and to all of it. That I am big enough, and strong enough, to do things. And that, my friends, feels like coming out of the forest. Or maybe waking up in the forest after the night of fear to find that I've been guarded by kind beings all night, and that there is beauty and wonder here in the tangled underbrush.
Some things that are helping right now, are books, like Sherry Thomas's Lady Sherlock series, and The Queen of Attolia; amazing online early childhood and play-based learning communities and content at The Wonder League, Kristen Peterson's Camp Renegade Play Summit (only through today -- but these talks are AMAZING).
But maybe I can do something. Maybe it's time to accept the world as it is, right now, and say, "So, this being true, now what?" Maybe I can start small, and still feel safe enough to move forward. Some people will say, "You have to be okay with feeling unsafe," and I disagree. We have to feel safe -- safety is at the base of our ability to move forward -- but we also have to be wise enough to know if our lack of safety is real or perceived. Risk is necessary, and we need to have a basis of safety, or at least a basis of trust, to move forward. Perhaps trust is a better word. I can trust that the earth will continue to hold my feet firmly. I can trust water to be wet and gravity to pull towards the center. Belonging is also necessary; even if it is a community of two, we need acceptance and belonging, a sense of kinship, to keep us rooted.
Where are you finding belonging these days? What feels like safety and trust to you? How can you, with the world as it is, start to move forward?
There's something about having had some time off, over the holidays, that fills me with a sense of possibility. I think that is perhaps partly why so many ambitious resolutions and plans are made at the New Year -- there's been some time to rest, to consider, perhaps some space to breathe, after the frenetic dance we are urged into by the surrounding culture, the dance that makes a quiet, contemplative Advent harder and harder for me to achieve. But by January, some of my exhausted fog has started to life, despite my having had to spend all day December 26 lying on the couch to recover from the stress of it all.
The past two years, ever since the whispers of a terrible new virus started to sound in our ears, have pushed me down into myself. I started off thinking, "oh a few weeks, and we'll be back to regular life. It's a bit of a break -- look, the dolphins are returning to the canals, the birds are singing, and it's spring! This is fine. We can make it. Let's keep one another's spirits up." We chalked hearts and messages of hope on our driveways, put up "Thank you, Healthcare Workers!" signs in our windows, and checked on our neighbors. I offered some online storytelling sessions.
And it kept going.
and it got worse.
And this summer, we had a few weeks of what felt normal -- little league, eating in restaurants, gathering outdoors with friends. Church services at my church moved back indoors.
And then Delta. And now Omicron.
But you know all of this. We all know it. We have all been in it. More and more, though, I can see that it hasn't been the same experience for all of us. I get so confused, because I see crowds of people in bars and restaurants, unmasked, but we are back online for church, and many schools have gone back to distance learning.
And what is hardest, and most upsetting, and depressing, and anxiety-producing for me, is that I feel sure that until we learn to come together and be on the same side, we will continue to lose.
In the face of all of it, though, I feel like I can at least reach out a tentative finger towards writing, even if it's just once in a while. Just to poke a finger at the thread that connects my little paper cup to yours, and set it humming.
how are you?
The pandemic isn't over, but the numbers where I live are looking better. Everyone in my household is vaccinated. My kid is playing baseball and going to in-person day camp. Homeschooling is on a low simmer for the summer. And I am very gradually starting to crawl out of my cave.
There's not going to be a sudden ramping up of posts, probably, or anything else. I have some room for tutoring students, and I'm working 2 days a week at preschool (which in the summer is really more technically extra-awesome Waldorfy daycare). I miss storytelling, but the past year and a half have been really hard for me to get through and still think of myself as an artist, despite what I wrote in the previous post. I miss coaching and leading story-based work, as well, and perhaps that is on its way back.
I'm slowly finding myself again after an intense year of Zoom teaching, to the point where I am not excited about adding any more Zoom work to my schedule. This means re-evaluating some of the work I've done in the past, and looking for new ways to make it better, or else letting go of that model of work, and looking for something different.
I've been reaching beyond Waldorf as a homeschooling basis, towards some other methods and modalities that have much to offer. I'm finding this exciting, humbling, perplexing, and about a dozen other -ings. And perhaps, at the end of August, we will find ourselves back in a Waldorf-centered way of doing things, and perhaps not.
How are you?
I wanted to be an actress.
Or a writer.
And then, I wanted to be a storyteller.
What kept happening, was that I kept being a teacher. And in teaching I forgot about being an artist. This is kind of funny, if you are in the Waldorf education world, as teaching is supposed to be an art form, and art is to be the way we teach, especially in the years between early childhood and high school.
And so, I have let everything and everything get in the way of writing, telling stories, performing, learning, moving, and making art. I've very carefully kept myself away from being an artist because of beliefs I had about being an artist.
Funnily enough, I can say all these things about teaching, too. I'm not good enough, it doesn't make enough money...
I'm trying to be open to telling new stories about myself and holding new beliefs, even for just a few minutes a day. Beliefs like:
It feels scary and vulnerable to say these things. As if I have no right to say them, and also, as if they are so obvious I shouldn't bother.
But I'm doing it anyway.
Are you an artist?
The calendar has changed.
A new year, full of hope and promise, lies before us. Oh, how I've longed for this day, and for the one coming in less than three weeks. I look back on where I was a year ago, and the hopes I had for the year, and I shake my head; we had no idea, had we, what was coming towards us? Perhaps you did -- perhaps you had already seen the writing on the wall. Perhaps it was all evident to you, that we were headed for a year of disaster and heartbreak, a year of unveiling.
And now here we stand, on the other side of the door. Looking forward, and looking back. I find I'm still reluctant to plan, or hope, or expect too much. Do you feel it, too?
As the pandemic settled in, and we found that the staying home wasn't just a short-term thing, I found myself retreating. At first, I was trying to make it work, offering my Baba Yaga course for free, telling stories on Facebook. But it got to be too much, and I found that at the same time, it wasn't enough, because I was grieving a growing mountain of small losses. All the work remained, but the things I loved to do -- baseball games, theater performances, storytelling workshops, festivals and fairs, church services and gatherings -- were all melting away, replaced by "virtual" experiences that left me feeling alone and empty. "They call it a performance or a party," I remember complaining to a friend, "but really, I'm alone in my living room, watching tv."
There's no quick end in sight, no easy fix, no magical elixir or spell.
So as I stand here in the doorway, looking forward and back, I'm hopeful and cautious, glad and sad, and very tired. We got a new dog in time for my birthday in August, who has proven to have a strong personality of his own, and who requires far more intentional handling than our old hound did. I learned to teach online, and have been improving my skills week by week, though I still feel like I'm barely dog-paddling most days. We continued homeschooling, amazed by our seeming prescience at taking this new way of life on before the rest of the world had to join us. We celebrated birthdays and holidays, carefully calculating risks and weighing our decisions. We planted gardens and looked for ways to be outdoors. We survived.
This year, I want to revisit hobbies and interests, try new things, keep moving, and notice what is around me more. I want to be kind. I want to learn more, and participate as I can. I want to write more and worry less.
And you? What are you hoping for as we step through the doorway into this new year? How are you holding on to courage and taking joy?
In order to have hope, I have to live in a space of yes, and. Yes, I love my country, and I want it to be so much more than it is. Yes, things are terrible, and they are beautiful. Yes, the history of the United States reads like a list of crimes, and it reads like a list of brave actions by individuals and collectives. The country I celebrate today, is the sum total of the goodness and reckless love and generosity of generations of rabble rousers, artists, teachers, parents -- all of whom were gloriously flawed and human. I say this in full knowledge of the privilege that allows me to say it.
The thing with privilege is, I don't want to say, "oh, it's bad, I shouldn't have it." I want to say, "This is a good thing that should be available to everyone. It should just BE."
To live with hope, I have to acknowledge that there is no easy binary. I cannot cling to childish notions of good and bad. I am not writing this as some kind of BIG LOUD statement for some kind of "platform," I just want to say to my friends, you are allowed to like what you like, and to have simple pleasure in things, and to watch a movie and eat a meal and laugh and sing, to give thanks for our capacity to learn and grow and change, as people and as a nation.
The American dream is what we say it is. We don't have to accept what was handed to us. We can redefine. Retool. Revolt. Revolve. Re-evolve.
The American story is all of us -- even if your story isn't one that has been told loudly enough or to enough people yet. You belong. I belong. We must lift up what is good, and true, and kind, and helpful, and work to change what is causing hurt and pain.
Rainstorms and rainbows.
Days where I feel like I'm doing okay, and days where I'm sure I've failed at everything.
Days when we are thriving, and days when we are barely treading water.
Someone recently wrote a post that compared our lives right now to the opening chapters to A Tale of Two Cities. And they weren't wrong.
I have been longing to write. And having no words. And now as the thunderstorms that have been bubbling up and fading for the last 15 hours keep rolling through, I feel like I can. And not that I've anything profound to say.
When I started this blog, over seven years ago, life was so different. We had a coffee shop. My mother was alive. I was the mother of a preschooler. There was no global pandemic, though we were worried about ebola and various weird animal-named flus. I was still scrambling to find some kind of career after my work as a Waldorf class teacher had come to a crashing, whimpering end.
And I wonder, where will we be in seven more years, when my son is getting ready to step out into the world on his own, when, please God, this time of fear and isolation is a distant memory? What seeds are we laying in the ground now, that will bloom then?
I am coming back up to the surface after being submerged in this strange new world. I have been reading voraciously, learning more about being an anti-racist, learning more about being a homeschooler, learning more about being a human being in these times, in this place.
And more than once in the past week, a rainbow has arched over the southeastern sky at dusk. A promise that there is hope. A promise that there is beauty. That we still have hearts that can beat a little faster in the presence of wonder. I am feeling a longing in my heart for wonder. I am hearing again and again the call to adventure.
I am closing down my facebook business page. I'm finding that it isn't serving me, not as a storyteller, not as a writer, and not as a coach or a parent or a friend. I'll be focusing my work here, and a little on instagram, from which I just took a long break because it was too much, too fast, all the time.
And I'll keep looking up, and hoping for more gasps of wonder and awe.
Hi. That's me. I write, sometimes, about parenting, storytelling, and about living a life with stories.