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Posts from June 2010

Facing a Wall

I’m not sure why we need to confront all of our fears and overcome them. And I’m also not sure, on the flip side, why we always have to be upbeat and why everything needs to be seen through pink lenses. I wonder if this is similar to anti-bacterial soap? We think it’s good to get rid of all the germs that might have come upon us, only to discover that we have now weakened our defenses so that we can be felled by the slightest of germs.

Yesterday I went to a park to see a waterfall (after a marvelous feast of Maryland blue crabs at a picnic bench covered with newspapers in a slight rain). I had thought that there would be a walk through the woods, and then the waterfall to marvel at, and then back to the car. Lovely. But no, there was a waterfall, but, it turns out, this waterfall was supposed to be climbed. There was a narrow band of water cascading down a wall of rocks and boulders that people climb up to reach the top of the waterfall. People, as in people other than myself.

Jon (the man I have been dating for about six weeks), who happens to be six feet tall with rather long legs, stood atop the first boulder before I could even grasp the fact that I was expected to climb this boulder, and then innumerable other boulders in order to what?—get to the top and say I did.

But no, I am no rock climber. It could be my rather earthbound build, or it could be my discomfort at the notion of climbing a smooth faced object, notwithstanding the “foot holds” in it. Or it could be my not trusting myself to haul up my not delicate self from hold to hold. Or it could be that as I thought about conquering the task and getting up to where those other people were, way up there, that I would need to get down as well. The joy of the day faded to the gray color of the boulders. I could feel the fun leave and a dread enter.

Dread. Why should I do something that I dread? And on my day off, too.

So I said no.

Jon tried to encourage me, and then he tried to get me to overcome my fear. But I was having none of it. I would not be talked into doing something that I didn’t want to do, that I didn’t feel comfortable doing. Is this giving into my fear or is this being realistic? Why can’t a mountain of boulders be just that and not something that represents a fear that I need to overcome? Why can’t I keep within this fear—protecting me?

Part of me—a big part—thinks I’m stronger for not letting someone else’s cajoling push me past what I felt comfortable doing. Did I get to where I am to believe someone else say which fears I need to overcome, or did I get to where I am so that I could listen to myself—and have a self to hear and trust.

Tomorrow I have another wall to face. Another wall that I have not faced before, but this time I have decided to push through the fear and trepidation and—paint it! Yes, tomorrow, all on my own, I will paint the wall opposite my bed in Blue Bayou. I will not get a sample and paint a three inch block to be sure that it’s really the color I want. No. I put up at least thirty paint sample sheets on my wall for about a week and narrowed it down to this color. It is the color. A decision has been made.

And I have not painted since I was about eight and my parent’s painted their bedroom chocolate brown. I was assigned the bottom molding. But I will do it. And it will be as perfect as I am capable of painting a wall.

This is a wall that I want to encounter—and climb.

Isn’t life about encountering walls, some to be walked around, some to turn away from, and some to walk right through?

Teens of Today

At the end of my posts I generally come up with a conclusion. It feels right to tie things up, even if it’s with a question. I never know what the conclusion will be when I start, but I know that it will be there. That, in fact, is one of the reasons why I write—so I can figure out what I’m thinking or to develop the threads of consciousness into a coherent thought. But today’s post is different. Today I won’t even try for that ‘aha.’ Today I just want to present a few students who I observed recently.

Ned. When I was walking around the school on my way back to my classroom, I saw a student I had four years ago, when he was a freshman. I asked him how he was doing. He shrugged. Then I asked if he was going to graduate. He said he wasn’t sure, that he hadn’t been to school for a long time. To say that he looked high is an understatement. Mind you I am not someone with well-developed high sensors, but there was no mistaking it with Ned. It was deflating.

When I had Ned in the ninth grade when he was a mini-punk, but there was a sharp satiric sense that I tried to develop—to show him that he was appreciated for his wit and intelligence.

I saw his current English teacher later; she said that he had been dropped from school because it has been so long since he had been to school.

Dave. Today a select group of students gave presentations about the service projects that they had done as part of their graduation requirement. Dave was late. No, Dave was not late. Dave, in a tee shirt and shorts, came late to say that he can’t present because he couldn’t transfer his presentation to a CD. And no, he didn’t have a flash drive. So a student who was selected to advance to this final round didn’t care enough to problem-solve a PowerPoint presentation from computer A to computer B.

William. This student, who wore a suit and who managed to get his presentation in a format that could be used, had a very bad stutter. But the show went on. He stood there in front of the judges and a small audience and gave his presentation. And it was tough to hear how hard it was for him to speak. But it was also a powerful testament to himself and those around him that he had the confidence in himself to be himself and was recognized for that.

Yvonne. When she came to class today, after her presentation, she told me how nervous she had been. I told her that I had not noticed that and if so, it was understandable. Not only did she need to overcome her shyness, but her presentation focuses on her illness. She laid herself out there—talking about her disease, how it had been treated and where, and then how, a few years later, she went back to the hospital where she had been treated to entertain other sick children to give back what she had gotten.

Eleanor. This student talked about her project, which was to train a young autistic man for the Special Olympics. Her admiration for him was evident in both her presentation and the video she showed. Watching those five minutes of her interacting with him and other young people in a gym made me proud just to be there listening to her. The capacity for some people to give so much of themselves is a humbling experience for those of us who seem to always remain in our self-contained bubble. 

Jessica. And there was Jessica who was so bubbly that her presentation was less guided by her note cards than it was a ride along her personality. The enthusiasm she had for teaching children and for her future were palpable. She didn’t even seem to be impressed by the work she had done; she was riding on the sheer pleasure she seemed to freely give. 

And when I came home, I was confronted by my very own teen. My younger daughter slammed and locked her door in my face. I really hope that her in-public persona has not been ravaged by her teen anti-mommy angst.

I don’t know what this generation will be called by those who are older and think they are so wise, wise enough to think that they can confine a non-existent group of people into some kind of box, boxed in by their own expectations or failures. All I can say (shoot, I’m summing up) is that I wish every child could reach his or her ladder and that the only way to go is up—up into fulfillment, and up into health, and up into joy given and received.