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.
I haven't been here to write, because I've struggled to say anything about this strange new world. Had you asked me six months ago, "Are you ready for a global pandemic?" I might have laughed. How could anything like that really affect our daily lives? And yet, here we are. I check to make sure I have a mask with me when I leave for work or to the store. We go for walks or bike rides near home. I took my son for a drive-through ice cream today, and to play catch and Magic: the Gathering at a park, which we are allowed to do here, as long as we stay away from anyone who doesn't live in our household.
I want to be able to offer you words of wisdom and encouragement, and I need them deeply myself. I am searching for beauty around me. I am grateful for my work, that it is still here even if very different.
I am making my teachable course, Diving into the Well and Coming Out of the Forest, free for the duration of our stay-at-home order here in Minnesota, and perhaps beyond that. I hope it will bring you joy and comfort to travel in the steps of these fairytale heroines, to see helpers and to be a helper when you can. You can find the course here.
Here's what I said about this course when I ran it the first time:
Mother Holle and Baba Yaga are well known in their home countries. They are powerful expressions of the wild feminine. Both have been pointed out as expressions of pre-Christian goddesses hidden in tales for children. Mother Holle rewards the good and punishes the bad. Baba Yaga, in her chicken-legged hut, provides information, wisdom, and initiation, but only to those who follow her rules and don't get themselves eaten in the process.
What will you get out of this work? A stronger sense of your own power to understand and choose your life story, artistic and writing invitations to take you deeper into the stories, and a potent technique for shifting your viewpoint when you feel stuck, overwhelmed, or lost in the woods.
Want to know a little more about the kind of work we'll be doing? Check out this post: A Taste of Story-Reading.
I tell a lot of stories about myself.
I tell about my travels and my teaching, and about my favorite books, about my relationship with my parents. About my kid.
I also tell stories about how incompetent I am. How I badly I have failed. How I cannot get a real job. How I have no classroom management skills. These stories are rooted in particular experiences, but I tend to make them pervasive and universal. I did this thing once, which means I ALWAYS do it, much in the way that, when you do something one time for a holiday, the children in your presence will say that is what you ALWAYS do for that holiday. The experiences that these pervasive stories are based on, live so strongly in my memory, that they take over.
When I tell these stories, I believe them. And I believe they matter more than any other story about me.
When I tell these stories, they drown out the students I have helped, the tears I have wiped, the joy I have shared. The stories of bad experiences are louder and stronger than the stories of good I have done. Success pales in the face of defeat. These stories squeeze the life out of any good I have done. And they squeeze the life out of me.
I feel myself contracting. Growing smaller. These stories are killing me.
What stories do you tell about yourself?
What if we told the stories of heroes and heroines that way? What if we told about how Cinderella failed to keep her mother alive? What if we told about how the young woman in Finist the Falcon failed to awaken the prince the first two nights? Those are part of the story, but they are not the story. We do not leave the heroine in the woods, alone, to die. We do not leave her weeping at the side of the true love who will not awaken, because he has been drugged, nor by her mother's grave. The fairy tale follows her through repeated failures, to success.
Your failures are not the story. You are more than your worst moments. You are worth more than your debts. You are comprised of far more than one awful day's events, or even a year's or a decade's.
When we learn to tell our whole story, without shame, we become more whole. When we tell the stories of success as well as those of failure, we give others permission to do the same.
Many of us have been taught not to speak well of ourselves. Many of us have been taught not to "toot our own horn," that it is better to laugh at yourself, to tell others how incompetent, how bumbling, how stupid we are. We think it will protect us. If others think too little of us, it will keep them from expecting too much, and that way, we won't let them down...
But it doesn't work that way. All we do is ensure that others will not see what we can do, what we are capable of. All we do is ensnare ourselves in a story that will never let us reach the treasure we hoped for. I have been ensnared in such a story for a long time, now. It is sticky, and it is pervasive, and it is taking my deepest dedication and devotion to healing to even allow for the possibility that these stories are not Truth, writ large. They are only facts, and facts without context, or facts applied in the wrong situation, are tantamount to falsehoods. I am determined to see a fuller reality.
What story are you telling? What happens if you change the story?
Apparently, there is a phenomenon known as the Sunday Scaries. I've been living with this feeling for years and years. It's the feeling one gets on Sunday, knowing the weekend is almost over, and tomorrow, you go back to work. And for me, it's the knowledge that there was so much I wanted to accomplish over the weekend, to prepare for the week, that isn't done.
The Sunday scaries are the opposite of Sabbath. They are the opposite of a day of rest. They are a tool of oppression, and a fear-based way of being. I am tired of fear.
What do I want instead?
The way around this is always the same. Stop imagining that I am locked in the tower, or in the witch's cage, or under the earth. Know who I am, and what I can choose. Look for help. Offer my help where I can.
When I stop and look around, I can always find the way back. Even when I feel like my hand is grasping and flailing, the thread is there.
A few years ago I signed up for a course in the Magic School by Mandy Steward (she has since close the school, but is still living a magical life and making magical art). One of the things she taught in that school, which I never got to finish because perfectionism kept me from moving forward, was that there are tools in our favorite stories and films and books, that we can use in our real lives.
So today. I am using my magic thread, from The Princess and the Goblin, to help me find my way. I am making my home like the House in the Fairy Wood.
We went to a wonderful friend's home for brunch today. It had been planned for a month, and I was afraid it would be cancelled. She's an amazing human, who I am excited to get to know. Our children played and wrestled and were silly and wild together. We adults sat and talked books and history, and shared stories of our lives. It was so good and so needed.
How will you combat the Sunday Scaries this week? What magic tools will you use? What do you want to create in your life?
Hi. That's me. I write, sometimes, about parenting, storytelling, and about living a life with stories.