generosity · gratitude · TEACHING

What act of generosity can I carry out today?

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This is the central question I now have Post-Ited to my fridge.  Beneath it is one that reads, “What act of generosity did I carry out today?”

As things progress, stagnate, circumnavigate and develop, I can get a little lost in my brain, thinking about things to the detriment of actually doing them, particularly thinking about my relationship instead of myself.  Thinking is not always my highest mode of operation.

Therefore, it’s important for me to have a touchstone to come back to, coming back to myself and what’s happening before me and the people around me.

While contemplating this, today’s title question came to me: “What act of generosity can I carry out today?”  This helps me to reframe my day and my life to see how I can be of service in the world, and to employ the gifts I’ve been given to brighten said world.

I like the bookend nature of these questions so that, when last night I came home late from our school’s Open House, I got to reflect on what I had done for my students, rather than on the parent questioning me about why their 8th grader’s vocabulary scores weren’t higher on standardized tests.

Particularly, last night, I got to reflect on one piece of joy and light I brought to a family.

First off, my 6th graders are my saving grace.  While I enjoy and love (some of!) my 8th graders, depending on the moment, the 11-year olds are my delight.  Sure, teaching them during the last period of the day can challenge one’s patience, but that’s my own learning to ensure that there’s something active and capturing for that last 45 minutes of their schoolday.

One of my young students is one of those sports players I mentioned a while ago whom I’ve tagged as a strong writer, and his father stopped me in the hallway a few weeks ago to sincerely thank me for encouraging his son’s writing.  I replied that I was only acknowledging the talent that he clearly has.

And last night, that same dad and son came to Open House and, while the son interrupted with apologizing for grammar errors or “it’s not edited yet” interjections, I read them both the latest short story from the boy.  The father was staggered.  (If I’m not mistaken, his eyes were misty by the end of the reading.)  He was so clearly impressed and delighted at his son’s writing, plus it was my pleasure to read this story aloud and reflect to the son that his words (even without editing!) are of value.

This, my friends, is my act of generosity from yesterday.  I continue to feel that encouraging the talent of this student and others is my greatest act of generosity—and privilege.  While there are good writers in my classes and even poor writers, and I get to find the diamond in the rough of each of them, clearly the ones with writing talent are among my favorites.  I can’t help it, I’m an English teacher after all!

I am so honored and thrilled to have done something for this student (and the 3 other parents who stopped me last night to say that their child was absolutely loving my class, some even saying that their child didn’t even particularly care for English before).  This is my honor and privilege, and as much as I know there are still hills for me to climb professionally to feel more capable and confident and engaging in my teaching, I feel nearly dumbstruck with gratitude that I get to shine a spotlight into the talent-corners of these children’s lives.  Amen.

 

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authenticity · career · generosity · love · work

God Shot

I suppose this could have been summarized as a facebook update, but I thought to write it instead. (On, yes, my very new [refurbished] MacBook Air, so generously given to me as a Chanukah gift from several contributors.
Yes, it’s materialistic [Ooh, shiny!], but yes, too, there are things that I couldn’t do with my old dinosaur that might come in handy — like if I wanted to work from home, Facetime my mom, or watch Netflix on something other than my cellphone!)
Yesterday, I had the day off from my retail job. I didn’t put this on Fbk either, but I had to take 3 days off last week after hobbling from my job mid-Tuesday to my chiropractor, my right ankle swollen and awful. The retail job is hard. The store itself is as large as a city block, and you’re standing most of the time, walking the length of the store others, and there’s no sitting. 
Now, I know when I quit my regular desk job, I said I didn’t want to sit at a desk 40 hours a week, but maybe something in the middle, eh?
And it was with this experience and knowledge, my feet still hurting, but apparently getting used to it, as my coworkers and dr said I would, that I went yesterday morning to a cafe to continue working on my holiday collage cards. 
I wanted to get out of the house, and I didn’t know if I’d get kicked out of the cafe as I spread cardstock, magazines, scissors and a glue stick out on the table. But, I wanted the human connection, too. 
And, lo, I did not get kicked out. I sat there at the large “handicap accessible” table (don’t worry, no wheelchairs rolled in), and I continued cutting and glueing, pasting and maneuvering images. Even used the alphabet letter stamps I’d bought 2 years ago and the ink I’d been given when I was sick. 
I sat there, content, enjoying, a little self-conscious and waiting to be scolded when a family with two daughters (I’d overheard) home from college for the winter break sat down next to me. One of the daughters tapped her family and looked over at what I was doing, and remarked, “Isn’t that cool?”
It was a sweet thing. I finished the card I was making and put it to the side of my over-large table, knowing I would hand that one to her when I left the cafe. 
A few minutes later, her mother turned and asked me what I was doing, if these were for sale or what? I replied, No, these are just holiday cards, my presents to my friends. For fun. And then I handed her the one set aside and said, “This is for your daughter.” 
She took it, surprised and grateful, and we exchanged names and shook hands. And I smiled at her daughter who’d admired my work. (“No one will ever believe I made this,” I heard the daughter say to her sister, amused.)
I smiled. I was glad to give her something. I was gratified that she’d admired something I consider so elementary and basic and fun for me. 
And then, as the family packed up on their way out of the cafe, the mom turned to me again and handed me an envelope with the words Happy Holidays written on the front. I thanked her, and wished them all well, and they left. 
In the envelope was a holiday card in which she’d written, “Thank you for your kindness to my daughter. Happy holidays.” And there was a twenty dollar bill. 
It was one generosity inspiring another. But it was more than that to me. 
I have felt so unmoored during this “job transition” time. Especially since I’ve taken on this retail job and can barely make it through a day with a breath to myself. I come home late, exhausted, and fall into bed. Chores are undone. Dishes unwashed. Groceries unbought. 
I cried Monday morning on the floor of my closet as I got ready for the day, exhausted from the long Sunday hours. I have felt so alien to myself with so little “me” time, so little time to think about or explore what could or should be next. 
I have felt lost, and a bit hopeless on the career/job horizon. 
And yesterday morning, I sat in a cafe, doing something I love to do because it’s fun and creative and easy and whimsical. Because I know people will enjoy them, if even for only a few weeks on their mantle. 
I sat there, and I was seen. My work was seen. And it was appreciated. 
I was an artist and I was rewarded, if that’s the word for it. I was in the world and I was given a “god shot” — a moment of, Moll, you’re on a path, we promise. This, arting, is one of them. Being in the world is one of them. 
Go out. Be seen. Create. Give. 
We see you. The Universe and those in it see me. 
It was one moment. One interaction. One family. But it meant more to me than they knew. As lost as I feel, it was a reminder that I’m not a total fool for not toeing the party line. 

This experience doesn’t point me in a direction, but it is a welcome dose of hope when I very much needed to know that what I can give to the world is indeed greater. 
community · faith · friends · generosity · gratitude · help · Jewish · love · service

That 20/20 Thing.

I guess I should tell you about the miracle-y things that have been happening during this time. There are two major
ones, and here they are:
One: My Job
(It’s funny, when I was home sick with strep prior to going
to the hospital, I emailed my boss about my home-sick-from-work status with the
title of the email “I thought Job was a later chapter” – little did I know!) ;P
So, as some of you have been reading, I’d been unemployed
since graduating with my Master’s in May. I’d been actively looking, thinking
about moving back home, applying to anything and everything, with no luck for months. Then, I got the job I now have at the synagogue in
Berkeley.
When I got this job, I was resentful. I was thrilled to
increase my bank balance from $3.98, but I felt ashamed that I had worked so
hard and arrived at what I considered to be an entry level position in the
front office – somewhere I’d been many times before. You heard me gripe about
it, be the opposite of humble about it, and generally kinda be a dick about
having finally gotten a job when I so desperately needed one.
So, here’s the “oo ee oo” part. I got sick. I got really
sick. I will be in and out of the hospital for the next 5 months or so, mostly
in. So, I can’t work, obviously.
My boss’s son had cancer when he was a child, and his son is
alive well, and just had a kid of his own. My boss has had empathy for my
situation from the beginning, and as this started to go down, he said to me
that they would have a temp in until I came back – that they would hold my job
for me. …
At the time this was said, I still didn’t really know what
all this cancer treatment would look like – how long it would be. So a few
weeks later, when I now knew it was going to be 5 months, not one, and my boss
came to visit me in the hospital, I hemmed and hawed – would they still keep my
job for me, knowing how long it would be ‘til I came back? Should I tell him?
Should I not and just hope for the best?
Well, I ended up telling him. And you know what he said? “I
know how important job security is at a time like this, and your job will be
here for you when you’re ready.” WHAT THE HELL? How are people so nice?
And here’s the miracle part – IF I had gotten a job with any
other company, I can’t imagine that they would be a tenth the amount of
understanding. I mean, a bottom line, deadlines, emails, someone needs to be ON
IT. If I had gotten any other job, I
can’t imagine that they’d hold my job for me ‘til I was healthy, let alone come
visit me in the hospital as several of my BRAND NEW coworkers have, and the
others who are planning to.
I couldn’t have planned this at all – and I was so pissed! So, hindsight is 20/20 and all that, right?
Although, there’s the part of me that’s like, um, hey G-d,
you OBVIOUSLY saw this cancer thing coming, having set me up like a champ here,
couldn’t we have gone a different route … but, it is what it is.
Two: My Apartment
I used to work for the property management company that
manages my apartment building here in Oakland. When I worked for them in SF,
they helped me get my apartment in SF, and when I moved to Oakland, they were
equally as generous in helping me with my apartment here (which, by the way, is
a 5 minute walk from the hospital at which I’m being treated…).
I left that job under not the most admirable circumstances,
and earlier this year, I emailed my former boss to say as much and to apologize
for not having been the worker I could have been. He emailed me back to say, yes actually, I could have handled that better, but that
he “had my back” if I needed a reference or anything.
Later this summer, however, I emailed him when I was in my mania of “do
i move back to New Jersey right now??” and I asked if I could give two-weeks’ notice on the
apartment if needed, instead of a month. He emailed one word. “No.” And his
assistant emailed me a form for the 30-day notice format 😉
So, I had no idea where I stood in his shit books or not
when my mom called him early in October and said, basically, my daughter has
leukemia and isn’t working, what can we do here?
Cue the “oo ee oo” once more. My former boss said … he
himself had leukemia two years before. He asked if I’d applied for disability
(if I’d have any income at all), my mom said yes. And he said, Don’t worry
about it. Just keep me informed, and we’ll work it out.
What? In SF Bay Area? Rent is a “we’ll work it out”??
Miracle. He told my mom that I’d helped him out when he’d needed it, and true,
I drove his dad to dialysis three days a week for a period while I worked there
(although, I think I got more out of that one – I learned a lot in those
conversations with that man).
My friend said recently to me that we get what we put into
the world, and all the goodness that’s coming back to me is simply that. I’m
just getting back what I’ve put into it.
It’s a little weird to think like that though, because my
immediate thoughts are, it’s not like I am nice on purpose, it’s not like I’m keeping score of how great a
person I am as I go out into the world. I just am how I am. So it feels weird
to feel like, in a way, I’m being
rewarded for that “just the way I am”ness.
However, I was contemplating that ridiculousness the other day, and I
thought to myself, Molly, I don’t think cancer is a reward. 😛
The bottom line of the above two amazing stories is the
generosity of the human soul. It doesn’t really have anything to do with me.
I was talking with my current boss the other day about how
many people are wanting to help and do things for me, but there’s often not
much to do. I mean, I don’t really need much, except for some cards, and
visits, and on occasion a ride to the doctor or a grocery run. But only one
person at a time needs to do that. So there’s not a lot for people to do, and I
feel that desire they have – to want to do something. To want to take some aspect of my own burdens away
from me, because there are going to be many things that only I can and will go
through by myself in this process.
So, I’m going to try to think on what people can do that’s
concrete, that gives an opportunity to help and feel useful. Because this is what I
said to my boss – these days, we rarely get the chance to help each other
anymore. We’re all so independent, and I can do it on my own, that as a society and a people, that no one seems
to need help anymore.
In a way, my being sick gives others the opportunity to help
– to allow them to feel that good nachas
(Yiddish) from doing something for someone else,
just out of the
kindness of their heart
. Not for gain, or
to check that score card I talked about. But just to help, because you can, and
because you want to.
The capacity for human kindness shines very much in this
portion of my story. Which, really, isn’t Job, because I’ve got a lot more
support than he ever did. And I never owned any goats. 

acceptance · adulthood · family · fear · generosity · recovery · relationships · the middle way · truth

People are Not Projects.

Damnit. There goes my favorite hobby. What will I do with my
afternoons, now?
I’ve heard the phrase before, and it recurred to me this
morning. My mom sent me an email back on Monday, qualifying why she’d replied
so “vehemently” on Friday that she wanted me under NO circumstances to tell her
whether I had the genome for Alzheimer’s, if I were to get the genetic mapping
thing I said I was maybe possibly going to do someday.
Even before she emailed me on Monday, I got the chance to
work through some of my anger at her refusal for clarity, her refusal to do things the
way I’d do them, or the way I’d want her to do them.
I even got to see that there is perhaps a part of me that is
in fear that she will have it. Watching what she went through with her mom, I can’t imagine it. Though I know I’d have the resources internal and external to do the best I could, if she does.
On Monday, she wrote me back and said, as I knew, that her mom was
around the same age my mom is now when she began to show signs of it, and that
she’s “very frightened.” I was amazed that my mother could let herself admit
that.
I wrote her back that, of course, I understand, and will respect
her feelings and wishes around this. Obviously.
And so, I’m reminded that people are not projects. She is
not on this earth, this lifetime, for me to fix her. As I’m also reminded
often, people are not broken, and I don’t need to fix them. She isn’t broken.
She is human, like me, like you. I have faults and assets, she has faults and
assets. Mainly, those faults are just calcified fears and defense mechanisms.
And it’s not up to me to fix them. They
are not “problems.” They just are. They are part of the map that is my mom.
They are part of the challenges and opportunities she has in this lifetime. And
it is part of my own challenge this lifetime to leave her be.
This is new behavior. Not alien, but new. We, I, grew up
enmeshed with her, her feelings were my own, and I tended to and acquiesced to
and modified myself in order to attend to her feelings. It was my own defense
mechanism. And, it was also in some ways what was needed. She was an
undiagnosed manic depressive, self-medicating with prescription and non-prescription tranquilizers
and uppers. Her feelings and mood swings were uncontainable, palpable, and able to wash a small
child overboard the ship of normalcy. So, I learned how to stand by the
rigging. I learned how to read the waves, to anticipate them, to ensure that
things were precisely as they needed to be. I learned to ensure life was easier
for her when she was in her clinical depression by not having or voicing or
owning my needs. I learned to ensure that she not retreat into that state by
allowing her manic times free reign, and stand tensely in the wings of her
life, egging her on – because mania meant some more of her, but not really. It
just meant she moved more quickly in her neuroses. And was hard to be around
then.
That was probably harder. It was like a live wire. Every
vibrantly theatrical gesture and every squeal of delight was like a hammer to my heart, knowing
that it was inauthentic, fleeting, and often, embarrassing. More than the
typical teen angsty, my parents are lame kind. More like, this person isn’t aware of herself and how big she can be, and I’m sorry she’s hijacked your conversation/this movie theather/…our vacation.
I went on a trip with her a few years ago to Sedona. I’d
begun to heal some of my own self-destructive patterns, and this was one of the
first times she and I were getting to spend any significant time together. It
didn’t go well.
Diagnosed, and newly (doctor prescribed) medicated as she
now was, she is/was still my mom. Even today, even though the swings have
lessened, the grooves in the thought patterns and behaviors are still there,
engrained over a lifetime, and I’ll suddenly find myself talking to a weepy child where a minute before stood a fierce New Yorker. But, in Sedona, we decided to do one of those Pink
Jeep tours, where they take you out in a jeep into the gorgeous red rock
landscape.
My mom had to be the entertainment. There were maybe 6 of us
in the back of the jeep, and as my mom continued to make herself more and more
“heard” and “seen” by this group of strangers, as she put on her mask of entertainer
– witty, loud, invasive – I began to feel myself shrinking in her wake. I began
to notice that I was doing what I’d always done, and detach from the dramatic
entrance of my mom’s persona. I didn’t like it.
I didn’t like that I was reacting that way, and so instead,
I began to get sullen and angry. She
picked up on the anger. And she couldn’t understand why – she’d been being who
she’d always been, acting (double meaning intended) as she always had, why was
I mad with her? I didn’t answer her. I didn’t know what was the “right” way to
answer that in my new recovery language – I simply said that it had more to do
with me than with her, and that was about it. She didn’t like this answer; I
knew it was true, but I didn’t like it either. We’re a “processy” – or we had
been – kind of pair. (She is a shrink, after all…) And I wasn’t going to or able to process this with her.
What is there to process? You’re not being the mom I want
you to be? You’re behaving so falsely, and invading these folks’ space? THIS
JEEP TOUR IS NOT ABOUT YOU?
No, I couldn’t say those things. There is and was the truth
that it does have more to do with me
than with her. How able I am to accept and love my mom as and who she is
without trying to change her. Without needing to be right. And without pitying her.
There is the truth that people are not projects, and that
she is not broken. There is also the magnanimous truth that my mother is also
brilliant, witty, stylish, and bold. Yes, she is also desperately scared of
everything, self-defeatest, and paralytically despairing. She is all of these
things. (She’s also a Gemini, if that helps.)
My mother is a human, with places she falls short of the
ideal, like me, like you; places where she excels, like me, like you. And, in
the end, just wants to feel loved, and at peace. Like me. And like you. 
community · compassion · family · generosity · laughter · life · love · relationships · San Francisco · willingness

Modern Family

Yesterday could not have been more marvelous. Oh, San
Francisco friends ~ How I miss you!!! And how I don’t realize it until I see
you.
Having lived in SF for almost 5 years before moving here to
Oakland, I had the (I can’t even think of the proper word – I don’t think I
know it) intensely fulfilling and soul-affirming opportunity to meet and grow with a pack of women. Many of my
desperately favorites were at my friend’s Memorial Day bbq event yesterday.
The feeling of guts relaxing, smiles expanding, hearts sighing, that’s how it was. I can’t stand it.
But I could, and I did. I was there, and present, and
helped, and talked, and listened, and laughed, and sun-baked (beneath a
generous layer of SPF), and hammocked, and cherry picked, and peach picked, and
dribbled little lines of peach juice down my chin, and made children laugh, and
they made me laugh, and caught up, and shared, and understood, and was
understood. Oh, this family gathering. This is my family, part of it anyway.
And how good it was to be back with them.
So many things have changed. The children are bigger. One is
moving to Japan. One got braces. One got certified. How many things change when
we aren’t looking – or in communication.
The phone works, sure. The bridge works, sure. But how me
and this particular group of women met, and shared, and grew, it was in person.
It was by witnessing monumental and incremental growth over weeks and weeks
which became years and years.
Yes, I’m feeling a little sappy. But I can’t help it. I love
them. And, they love me. This is a section of people who know me in a way few
do, who have witnessed my own growth and change, and who like me, accept me,
are fond of me. As I do them. What a miraculous gift. What a fucking gift.
I don’t know quite the solution. Does there need to be one?
The ache that I realize was there? I felt the same way when I went to a
workshop run by the same woman who hosted this barbeque – the workshop was in
January, and I arrived and saw two women I hadn’t seen in likely a year or
more, and again, my guts sank down from somewhere behind my ribs, where they’d been benignly pinching my
lungs and inhibiting my breathing, they sunk, phoom, back down to where they belong in the
grounding, rooted, centered calm.
It was at that workshop that I realized how much I missed them
all. This won’t be another diatribe on how I don’t feel connected to the East Bay as in the
“Exile” blog. I do feel connected, more
connected, than I had, with more women than I had. I feel friendships, and
activity partners, and women to share with. But. … I’ve only been here a year
and a half, almost two. That’s not 5. That’s not in the same way.
Things change. They must, and they have to. Can I change
with them? How do I balance? How do I maintain – or if change is necessary, not
“maintain,” then, but evolve? How do I evolve with the reality of distance?
Because I won’t always be here in the Bay. That much is
likely true. And what happens then? I have a dear friend who moved to Brooklyn
last year, and we speak on the phone maybe once every two months, with some smatterings
of texts, but we’re not nearly as close – this woman who was once as close as
my heart.
How do we do this?
I’m not sure. I know that I obviously missed these women
more than I knew. I missed the way I feel
when I’m around them – known and loved, exactly as I am, for who I am. Women
who know me well enough to jibe at me, laugh with me at myself, and poke into parts of me that need to
be poked for movement to happen. These are women… for christ’s sake, I can’t
stop gushing.
What now? If I’m aiming to be responsible and adult in my
life, to take action where I’ve taken none, to believe that no one is coming to
change or live or make my life for me – then, how do I incorporate this
knowledge? The knowledge that I want more of that – that I want those
connections kindled, or renewed?
I love my new friends – they are buoying me in ways they
don’t even know. But I miss my old friends. I miss so much of what’s happening.
Life is so damn short and quick, and things move so suddenly. Someone moves to
a new town. Someone to a new country. Someone is engaged, or married, or
pregnant. Someone is in a break-up or new relationship. Someone is changing
careers, or expanding a business, or taking a new class, or forming a girl’s
band (yes, that’s me and my friend with plans to jam with her drums and my bass,
here in the east bay).
I want. Terrible words. But, I do. I want – I want what I
had, but in the present. I want what I had yesterday – the gut-release, the
warm bath, the mild pleasant smirking at the familiarity of us all.
I want. In the present. And how. 

finances · generosity · spirituality · synchronicity · work

Creativity and Spirituality

I got two emails yesterday. On suggestion from a friend who knows the woman who runs it, I’d submitted my resume to a tutoring company in SF. She said that she just hired an
English mentor, but would love to keep me on file. And that she loved seeing the “mixture of spirituality and creativity that seems to be the hallmark of your professional life.” (She also asked
if perhaps that also echoed in my poetry, to which my answer is, not yet. But
reminds me I want to read more David Whyte.)
I was surprised by her summation of my resume, which to me
reads as: secretary, secretary, secretary. – And not in the sexy Maggie
Gyllenhaal way. But, as I look at it from the outside, she’s not far off, and
that makes me happy to see that despite my self-identified squabbling for a
place in this professional world, I’ve been apparently creating a space for
myself at the cross-road of topics that not only interest me, but which
continue to be places where I do more seeking and reading and learning. Perhaps
what I like to do does intersect with my
professional life.
The second email I received was a reply to my resume
submission for a job with Kitka, the non-profit organization of vocalists who
travel world-wide. This was the job earlier this week I’d received from my
friend out of the blue, and which I’d immediately dismissed as underpaying,
overworking, and non-profit = non-stable/sustainable financial flow.
But, I applied anyway, despite my protests and whining. And
I got a call back.
So, we’ll see. I would like to continue to apply to jobs, as
it felt like an exercise in willingness and letting go of my ideas of where I’m
supposed to be or what I’m supposed to do in this world. Besides, as I’ve heard
quite recently, which I love to death
is: “Sometimes you shake a tree looking for apples, and oranges fall out.” Aka
– who knows? The Universe is pretty creative and wise, and likely has my best
interest in mind.
Plus, it was actually nice to update my resume and take a
look at what I’ve done since arriving on this here coast. The second half of my
resume is “extracurricular work” and lists the volunteer or creative work I’ve
done over the past few years. This includes my position as facilitator of the
creativity and spirituality workshop I did last year… and will do again this year.
So, want to hear some cool shit? So, this Dr. Palm
Reader/chiropractor I’m going to now (as a result of woo-woo coincidence), well
he has a space in the basement of his office building (it’s an old Victorian
house) that I’ve noticed gets used for yoga classes and the like. It occurred
to me as I consider marketing this workshop to a wider audience than my college
(where it’s been held) to ask what the deal was with that space – is it
available for rent, etc?
Guess what? It is. And for relatively cheap, and the space
is gorgeous, and perfect for my needs, and I’d get a key, and a lease for 6
months on the space. WHAT?? You want to trust me with a key to this wonderful place? Well, yes, they do.
I haven’t pulled the trigger yet – but it’s totally looking
like a viable option for me – and I really wanted an accessible place in SF for
people to come to. It’s in Hayes Valley; super public tranport accessible; and
just super cute space with hot water and tea provided by them!
I’m humbled just thinking about how amazing and grateful I
am for the a) idea; b) opportunity.
Lastly in this vein. I met with my professor who has been
helping me to organize the version of the workshop that will be held at school next month. A workshop which
I’ve been planning with and through her for several months. And it looks like
it’s coming to fruition. I love the idea of having the opportunity to do the
workshop for free as a “test run” and to help me get a clearer idea of what
works and what doesn’t. Surely, there’s a lot I’ll learn as I go along.
But here’s the thing: this is a workshop I’d want to take. These are topics I’m passionate about. I’ve realized that sort of without
my knowing or planning it, I’ve been preparing to do something like this for a
few years. And my professor reflected back to me that
people want
this
. Many people are looking for ways to
tap into their creativity, for a way to get still, or for a roadmap to try.
Ways to access what their intuition is trying to tell them, to access their
internal nudges.
If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you
will know that’s precisely what I do and have been doing – however haltingly. Trying to get closer and
more attuned to what I want in my life, who I want to be, and how to do that.
Here’s my last story: I have a friend who was a very well paid CPA (Accountant). She was financially
rich, but felt spiritually bankrupt. She hated her feelings of
single-minded material acquisition. So, she gave it all up. She threw her hands
up, sold most of her
everything,
and went to India for 6 months to live as an ascetic Buddhist. There, she found
herself to be spiritually abundant, but materially bankrupt.
And then she returned to the U.S. This is not the land where
materially bankrupt works. So, she knew she had to find a balance. How to be
able to hold financial and spiritual
health. She began to do a lot of work, research, reading, healing. Finally, she
realized that the work that she was doing, the research she was doing for herself, and the
knowledge she was finding would be of value to others as well. Her own life’s
path could be of service to someone else.
So, she started her own business, and now coaches others on
finding their balance in holding the material and spiritual. She loves it; she is fed emotionally and financially by
it; and others find help through her.
This is a model of what I’m realizing is happening for me. I
know I can discount it and say, Oh I’m just rehashing what I’ve learned from
xyz books and workshops myself, but as my professor said yesterday – people
will pay for that summarization. They may not have the time – so I can offer to
them what I am and have taken the time to find out.
So, we’ll see. I’m feeling more optimistic and confident in
what’s happening and what’s next. And that feels pretty good. 
generosity · growth · humilty · poetry · school

Back to Basics.

Sorry folks, for the interruption in my daily musings. I
have been under the weather, and yesterday morning slept in right until I had
to run out to do ‘first things first,’ and then over to school. This morning
was similar. So, thanks for your patience 😉 and for reading. 🙂
Yesterday, I had to run over to school in order to get my
painting professor to sign my “drop form.” Yes, I am dropping painting. A
number of things contributed to this decision. One of which was that I was
unable to do my morning practice on those Monday and Wednesday class mornings – the commute to class
was at an ungodly hour to me.
Another of which was that it wasn’t fun. It came as a
surprise to me to realize that I was feeling pinched by the instruction and
parameters that the class was offering. Surely, part of it was that my work wasn’t being “well received” and my ego was being hurt. But
part of it was that I wanted to do the work I wanted to do – to have fun – and I wasn’t. I was being told things like
“not formally correct” and at this stage of my painting game, I’m not concerned
with things like that. I’m concerned with expression, not correction. When she signed it though, my professor did tell me I have good instincts and to follow them, but that I need some development on my ideas (which I concur, and will do so with more “play”).
Lastly, for dropping painting – the class I was so looking
forward to taking – I have to focus on my “real” thesis. Despite my mental
flights of fancy into ideas for the thesis such as a visual and language art
project, or a 20 minute ballet, my flights have been grounded. For now.

The reality is… that I’m in an MFA program
and that
program has certain prescribed requirements. This is not a free-for-all, however much I’d been playing it as such. So, I have
to play within the rules for now.
As I mentioned in the Reluctant Poet blog, I’m going back to
my original school work and am going to flesh
that out. In truth, some of the poetry I’m producing for it now 
could not have been written any earlier. I wouldn’t have had
access to writing about this a month ago, and certainly not anytime before
that. I’m doing a lot to free my voice and self, and it’s showing up in the
writing… now that I’m being forced to go back to it.
So. It turns out maybe this isn’t such a bad thing after
all. This “having to write a formal poetry thesis” thing. Which is good,
since I’m having to do it anyway, I may not as well see it as torture.
With the graciousness and generosity of the Universe,
yesterday before I went to get my drop form signed by the painting instructor,
I went to see my academic advisor for her signature, and to check in. This woman, is NOT the same as my “thesis advisor,” and
has known me and things about me for almost 2 years. I have a wonderful rapport
with her, and I value her immensely. She’s like a guidance counselor for grad
students ;P
And, that was precisely what I needed yesterday. The first
question she asked was “how’s the thesis,” and although at first I was
reluctant or cagey about the state of distraught I’ve been in over it, it
eventually all came out, tears and all.
She smiled. Kindly. She said that if the work wasn’t pushing
me, if I wasn’t coming up against blocks against it, if I wasn’t kicking and
screaming and being activated by it – then I wouldn’t be doing good work. I wouldn’t be changing as a writer. She
said that this reaction is normal; she
said that she had an all out break-down during her own dissertation. (Which,
btw, she’d shared about briefly at our student orientation, which is why I
then asked her to be my advisor. Her own journey and humanity made her feel
like the right person for me.)
She said that I needed to tell my thesis advisor what was up
with me and the work – why it has been so
hard for me to reapproach it. What’s been going on. And I sort of freeze up,
and say, Yeaaahh….. I know…..
And she says, I’d be happy to write her an email note as to
what’s going on. A short note, just to inform her. The relief I felt was
palpable. I had an advocate. I didn’t even know I needed one, but I said yes.
That I feel tender around all this, and get defensive, and that yes, I’d really
appreciate that.
See, my last interaction with my thesis advisor was that I’d
bring her all my work on Tuesday and we’d see if we can cobble something
together. So, I show up on Tuesday, and spend the half hour before our meeting
on the floor of the hallway with all my poems spread out, and I shuffle them
into an order, and I realize, I really do have a “body of work” that makes
sense – that has a theme, is coherent, and has a message, or a story arc. A
theme that is in perfect alignment with the work I’m currently doing.
And then, at 2pm on Tuesday, I knock on her office door, and
she’s not there. I wait. I fume. I’m all defensive in advance. And she doesn’t
show. … Turns out, she meant next
Tuesday, and I thought this one.
But, it all works out. I get to work through my resentment
some more before I see her; I get to have my academic advisor as my advocate, helping to calm
the waters; and I get to see that I might actually have something to say. In
poetry.