It's election day. I voted this morning. I love going to the polls, filling in the ovals on the paper ballot, feeding it into the machine, getting my round, red sticker. All of it speaks to me so strongly of hope. Hope is something that seems in short supply sometimes these days.
But voting, like hoping, often seems like it's not enough. And it isn't -- voting does not absolve me of the responsibility to do what I can to create the world I want to see. Hoping for change does far less than getting up and taking action. Even if that action is just to smile at someone on the street, or to ask how someone is with the intent to really listen.
So it isn't enough, no. But neither is it small.
I've been taking time away from facebook this week, just stopping in to check my messages and notifications. I spent some time scrolling and liking posts this morning, but more and more, I feel like facebook is really good at lulling me into a false sense of enough-ness. it's not enough to "like" someone's photo of a new baby. It isn't enough to share an article on a candidate you support. I feel like I want to live my likes a little more, to seek out a different level of connection.
I've been on social media of one kind or another for 25 years now. Maybe 26. I have had friendships form and flourish entirely online. But those friendships sprang from deeper sharing and listening than facebook engenders for me. Longer form media has given way to quick bites and pictures. I love both, but the latter aren't enough for me.
So is it enough? No. But it's not bad. I just crave more. I am deeply hungry for connection, beauty, playfulness, creativity. I dream of and desire a world my child and your children can grow into and love. Voting isn't enough, but it's absolutely necessary.
So vote. and act. and reach out. Post on facebook and instagram, and stop to chat with your neighbor as you both come home from the world. Share an article that touched you, and then discuss it with someone whose mind and imagination inspire you. Snap a photo of your voting sticker (I did!), and then talk with people about why it was important for you.
And then turn it all off, and go driving into the countryside or walking down the block or wandering down rabbitholes until you are breathless with wonder, as I was at the scene above. We had gone out after a disappointment, to assuage ourselves with sugar at Minnesota's Largest Candy Store (a real place), and then went adventuring. We found a tiny, rustic county park, climbed around on barely-groomed trails, and felt a million miles from home. And then, we followed the moonrise back to dinner and warmth.
It might not ever be enough, but don't get discouraged. Just keep going deeper.
Blogging is, in and of itself, a weird thing for me. I feel really silly, putting my personal comments on the world out there. I can't control who gets to read them -- find my blog, and you find me. That's just how it is. That means, too, that my family and friends might learn hear things I've been quiet about in person, things I've been facing alone, trying to bear up in the face of what feels really heavy and hard.
Not being asked back to teach at the school feels heavy and hard. It feels like a big old lump of iron, half-melted down, twisted. It feels like I've lost my way, like I should have known to turn back at the beginning. There are so many things I want to be doing, and somehow, it's not happening. It's not the right place for me, which makes the moments that things work feel even weirder.
But it also feels like I'm being given another chance to make it happen. What ever "it" is. The "it" that has been calling to me for years, just out of hearing. The one I hear on the edge of my sleep. I don't call it a dream...
There's that word. Dream. This is "stories from the dream." Storyteller's Dream. And yet. What is the dream? I am quick to say, "but I don't have any dreams. there is nothing I dream of doing." and that feels really true. I don't want to be something when I grow up. I don't have a dream house, a dream car, a dream lifestyle. A dream job.
For one thing, where do you stop? A dream child? A dream spouse? A dream hat? A dream bathroom cleaner?
People like to ask, "What did you like doing as a child?"
I liked wandering around outside, telling myself stories and pretending to be book characters. I liked playing with my dolls. I liked going to school and brownies and choir and tap dancing lessons. I liked reading. I liked writing stories and poems, and dressing up in costumes. I liked going to church, and visiting my grandparents. I liked watching tv. I liked going to movies and museums and zoos with my family. I liked shopping for perfect, lovely little things, just to have bought something in a fancy store -- a fancy piece of chocolate, or a sticker, or a pencil, or a book... None of those sound like jobs to me. They sound like being a child. I like doing a lot of those things, still. But they aren't jobs. They aren't a career.
Here is something I'm still trying to understand, and I wonder if it is even possible to do. From "Two Tramps in Mud Time," by Robert Frost:
But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
as my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
and work is play for mortal stakes,
is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.
What does that even mean?
This is long and rambling, and I feel shy about putting it out there. This isn't a blog that's helping anyone with anything. I'm not even sure why it's here, or why I write, but maybe someone will feel less alone, someday, in seeing that I was here, and felt this, and wrote it.
Long story short, I am postponing the ecourse I was going to run. I know nothing about launching ecourses or products or services. I would love to do story/reading work with someone, soon. Soon, I'll have loads of time... And hopefully, I can find my way into offering blossom later in the year.
There will be a lot to let go of in the coming days, and weeks. As there always is, because that is part of living, and it sure beats the alternative.
sometimes, it's hard to stay quiet, and sometimes going public hurts. I have had two interviews and sample teaching lessons in the last two months, and I have been hired for neither position. For the second, I was applying to take a classroom at the school where I teach now. When I met with the assistant principal today to talk about my application, and she told me why I hadn't been hired, I was immediately full of tears. Because, on the one hand, she may not have been right about one or two things, but on the other hand, the observations she shared from the interview committee were so dead on.
People, it's all about being authentic, and about living out in the classroom what I espouse in the faculty meeting. And in the moment, under the eye of other teachers, feeling like I am in a classroom with students that aren't mine, I fail. Over and over again, I fail. I have been making the wrong people my role models, again, because (and I wish I could get this through my head) they are not me! I have to stop using other people's tools. They don't work for me. The minute I put up a box for children to earn "points," the minute I take down names, the minute I threaten to call someone's mom, I HAVE LOST. I've lost it. I lose my cool, my resolve, my nerve, and all my fine talk about being a relational teacher and seeking to connect first? Like unto dust in the wind, dude.
I'm trying to see it as a gift: the gift of being the co-teacher again. Of not being in charge of planning. Of not having to be on the front lines of parent communications. Of getting to just be me.
Have I been me in the classroom? No. I've been me in my small groups, mostly. I've been choosing books I know the children will love, having them practice with movement and art and games. Now to find the balance between teaching lessons I didn't write, and chucking it all out the window to dance and paint all day.
I have four more days with this class as their leader. Four more days to turn it around, to give them my best. To actually dare to try something, instead of grinding -- GRINDING -- through the day, feeling nothing but regret and exhaustion at the end. Four more days to try to figure out why it is that the two African-American girls in the class are the two I am having the hardest time reaching; I have so much to unpack, so much to examine.
And it's hard. And it hurts. Every day hurts. I'm trying to trust that I am learning, and that I am in the right place, and that they want me to continue in this role, because they see potential. The school sees that I have something they need, and I need to find a way to let that shine out more.
Nothing feels easy with this job. I need to roll it all back in, and really figure it out, because if I don't it will eat me alive.
Sometimes, I really hate learning. Learning is HARD. Growth is HARD. And what happens again and again, is that I see that the path forward, is really a path back. It's a path that reminds me to be what I am, teach how I teach, and trust the children.
I need that tattooed on my forehead. Or on a BIG poster paper in my classroom. (doing that tomorrow. yep.)
It's never easy to start writing again. To sit still and let the words come as they will. I've cut myself off from the words, from the writing and the making and the creating. Creativity is like some kind of magic spring -- the water only flows if you let it flow, and the well becomes dry if the water cannot flow out of it.
I haven't been telling, or consulting, or writing. I've been teaching, but finding my way in a new school, with such different structures and parameters from those I'm accustomed to... And I feel adrift. Sad.
Did I let it go too easily, that life of creating, that took me to warm beaches and let me share my deep joy and love of story with people? I asked the Source for stability, and to put me back in the classroom. And I got what I asked for. So now what to do with it?
I'm going to offer another story/reading course later this spring. Just two weeks, because four is too much. I'm stepping away from strictures around what I can make, and what I can support, and doing what I can. There's been no activity here on the blog for four months, and nothing new offered since diving deep and coming out of the forest -- which was MAGICAL, people; simply MAGICAL -- so maybe I'm forgotten. That's okay. I'll be doing what I do here, and trying to find myself again under it all.
I'm asking questions these days -- How can one be a Waldorf teacher, teaching out of the wisdom that comes through anthroposophy, but not be in a Waldorf school (not even homeschooling)? Why, in the midwest, is Waldorf only available to those who can afford private tuition? And is a rigorous, academic-focused curriculum, focused on "data-driven" goals, really the best we can offer children affected by systemic oppression? Really?
How can I bring storytelling, beauty, music, art, practical activities, developmental movement, and reverence into an already packed school day?
Is there value in sharing stories, music, art, poetry, with children who may lack the background information to fully comprehend and learn from the piece?
Are things only of value if they instruct, and if we can teach children to analyze and comprehend? To GRASP? Or is there something intrinsic?
If eyes were made for seeing, is beauty really it's own excuse for being?
And how on earth has bedtime gotten so late at my house?
There's no end to the questions.
And I find myself wanting to hide, even here, even now. I'm afraid to be seen -- being a teacher is so very public. Can I write about my faith? About my spiritual practices? About my struggles?
Are teachers allowed to be whole people?
I'm open to conversation around any and all of these questions. And if you can tell me a story along the way, I'd love it. My well is feeling very dry.
there's one week before the story/reading journey, diving into the well and coming out of the forest, begins. we will be exploring two wintery tales, full of magic and wonder.
We have room for a few more companions on our way. Spend as much or as little time on it as you wish. All that's required, is that you listen to the stories, and listen to your life. Go deep, or just trail your fingertips in the waters of the magic well. It's up to you.
I'm offering this course in the winter, at the turning of the year, because it's a time of reflection and looking forward. Two-faced Janus stands in the doorway of the new year, and asks us to see into our own pasts, and to make our plans and dreams for the future. What better way, than through the voices of the long past, telling stories of once upon a time, a time so long ago that perhaps it never was? What better way, than to dream through stories that read like dreams themselves, where anything is possible?
No experience is needed, except the experience of being human and living on earth. No materials are required, except what you wish to use to explore your new dreams and new understandings -- pencils, paper, computer, crayons, playdough, clay, paints, fiber, felt, leaves, stones, your body, your voice . . .
Imagine pausing in the midst of your day, and noticing that you can see whatever situation arises, as the call to adventure. Imagine seeing your loved ones on their own paths through the woods, and having your heart fill with wonder at their courage.
Come with us.
Do you ever say to yourself, "I'm starting something new! A new chapter starts today in the book of me! I'm going to be a new person, starting now! Everything is changing!" and then, three days later, you're in your jammies, zoned out on facebook, eating entire bags of Lundberg's brown rice cakes, wondering where all that momentum went? No? Just me?
It happens to me a lot. I get this whoosh of power and energy, and I get really excited about a new project or exercise regimen or foodway, or I feel super compassionate and I just love everyone, and I want to do amazing things in the world. Then the laundry piles up, and I wake up late, and I yell at the dog... and it all fizzles out. Stephen Pressfield calls this resistance. I call it blind, back-pedaling terror.
To Start a New Chapter, do this:
The voices sound like this : "It isn't safe. No one will love you if you grow and change. You're failing. You'll fail again. You have bills to pay and Responsibilities. YOU"RE DOING IT WRONG!!!"
I think I've mentioned those voices before. And I've talked about starting over, and a fresh start. It's a recurring theme here. Life is a constant dance of renewal; we start over, and over, and over, and over. Every day, every hour. But this time, this time I really mean it. I'm laughing at myself now. Because I say that every time. What's different now?
What's different is that I am taking action. Real, concrete action. I am not sitting around, wishing I could make something happen. I am feeling such fear, and moving forward anyway. I have help this time around, too. I have a group of wonderful women who have agreed to be guinea pigs for one thing, a business mentor who is smart and funny and has cute dogs (dogs help any venture!), the support of my awesome wife, and a new sense of determination.
The stakes are a little higher. I'm eager and scared and joyful and a little nostalgic for when I could just get up and go to work, but this is so important. This time, I hear the call, and I have to rise to meet it. I've been holding back so long, out of fear and a need for security, but Life doesn't need that. My gifts are needed in the world. That's why I'm here. How dare I hold anything back?
And it goes for you, too. Your gifts are needed in the world. That's why you're here. How dare we hold anything back?
stop caring what others think.
stop listening to the voices in your head that whisper half-truths and full lies.
stop checking your stats, likes, follows, retweets, comments.
stop checking the phone.
stop feeling like a failure.
stop trying to fix it. all of it.
stop asking for permission.
stop staying up too late.
stop trying to live on rice cakes, candy, and coffee.
start caring what you think.
start letting your heart lead.
start taking a risk.
start being playful.
start opening your close clutching hands.
start being kind.
start enjoying the magic.
start speaking to yourself with honest kindness.
continue to breathe.
continue to question.
continue to tell.
continue to reach out.
continue to look in.
continue praying, dancing, cooking, offering. speaking.
continue being gentle.
continue being brave.
stop. start. continue.
Bedtime comes up in a ridiculous percentage of my blog posts, Facebook status posts, and web searches from a couple of years ago. Sleep is such a big issue with little ones, and there are so many opinions and theories and so much advice. I am not going to get into that part of it. I'm thinking about the stretch of time between dinner and sleep, however and wherever it happens. I had planned a while back to make an ebook out of all this advice, and sell it to you. That's more work than I have time for, and frankly, I'd rather share this with you here and now. So, imagine we are having a cup of tea or coffee or hot buttered rum, and I'm telling you what is working, and has worked for us.
Your milage, as they say, may vary.
So, there you go. Five things to try, to make bedtime smoother. "What about bedtime stories?!" you cry. "What can I read to little Cerulean? What story should I tell little Candelabra?" That's coming soon, folks...
after this week, with a sick kiddo (now recovered), a missed lantern walk, last-minute work changes, newly scheduled gigs, and the work of simply being human, I need a moment to breathe.
Here's a huge summer sky over the Green Mountains.
breathe in the warmth, the space.
Tonight, we walked in the cold, just the boy and I, and sang our songs as we circled the neighborhood with our lanterns. so far away from the scene above, and yet, there is something the same in both.
So, the big snow passed us by. We had a lot of slush. The morning commute was awful, and we picked kiddo up at school early to avoid the evening commute. Then, I made brownies.
I've been thinking about how I got connected with people online, aside from the awesomeness that was LiveJournal, ca. 2005.
See, my last year of working at Spring Hill School, I got a book by Amanda Soule for Christmas, because Dooce had recommended it. I read dooce, because Alice of Finslippy mentioned her. Can't remember how I got to Alice's blog.
So, among the ads on Amanda's page was one for Kathy's site. And Kathy had an ad for Leonie's Goddess Guidebook page... and someone had an ad for Kind Over Matter, and they had a link one day to one of Hannah Marcotti's free ebooks. Through one of Hannah's courses, I met Angela.
So, that's how I "met" some of my people. Others, I've known since the days of dial-up, when that was how I could get internet access in my college dorm. There is the mailing list group of folks who have heard all my worst and best moments for the last 20 years. There are the high school and college friends I only see on facebook.
The truth is, I kind of suck at connecting with people. I forget to answer texts and emails. It's not that I don't want to talk to people, it's just... I end up waiting until the perfect time.
There is no perfect time. This is the only time there is.
Follow some of those links. Head down the rabbit holes of my past. You may meet some of your people, and you may not. Or you could go send an email or a text, or pick up the phone, or walk out your door, or look across the room.
Hello. This has been my journey to this place. Glad to meet you here.
Sara lives in Minnesota with her wife, their son, and a lot of cats and turtles. She coaches waldorf moms and other sparkly unicorns, helping them find wonder, ease, and contentment. Sara writes about parenting, storytelling, and about living a life with stories.