building a prayer

It has been a rough couple of months in the Davenport household. In January, news from Dave’s work of impending “changes” resulted in insecurity. In February, I made the heartbreaking decision to resign from the school that has formed me for the last five years. So many questions plagued us: will we have jobs? will we take pay cuts? will we have to sell a car? will we have to move? will our lifestyle have to change? These weights, compiled with other disappointments, had me in daily meltdowns for nearly a month.

But, alas, things have worked out for us. As they always do.

As they always do.

And I find myself now overwhelmed–not by stress–but by gratitude. At another time, I will share the decision I made to change my perspective…and how that created light where there was none. But for now, I want to share how we honored the many blessings in our lives as of late.

In the shadow of an ancient volcano eruption–looming walls bloodied by fire–we constructed a cairn. In the cool shade of a giant ponderous–branches tangled and blossoming–we partook in a sacred ceremony of craft. Stone by stone, we declared our blessings. We built a prayer.

 

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eroding into beauty

With the death of my Mom, my anxiety found new life. Like any parasite from a host, it crept into my veins and fed off my sanity, growing in strength while I grew in weakness.

Memories from this time flash all too slowly, too stubbornly, before my eyes. I remember the endless car ride back to her hospital in Chicago, racing against the clock of her pulse. Trapped in the suffocating space of my own mobile powerlessness, I physically felt death in my own body: heart racing, shortness of breath, uncontrollable fits of weeping, tremors that rocked my very foundation. I remember my terrorized eyes, next to my Mom’s closed eyes, near my sister’s side, looking up at my Mom’s kind doctor, asking for drugs to calm me down; anxiety now made me her only living patient in that room. I remember the feel of the bed that night, of the fuzzy blankets that to this day envelope me in the presence of my Mom, and the numb release those drugs brought me for a few hours of sleep…of denial. I remember months later, talking about these moments of anxiety along with the endless trail of ugly ducklings that ensue, my therapist’s words:

What if you imagined your body, your life, as an object, which like any other object, will inherently decay with time?

His question was designed to assuage the irrational fears that ate away at my sanity: I have cancer. I am riddled with tumors. I’m having a stroke. I have an aneurysm. I am dying.

I thought about the power of erosion as I lingered on the edge of the vast and majestic and overwhelming and wondrous and complex and gorgeous Grand Canyon. Layers of ocher shade into ebonies blur into grays cut against the hazy blue dome above. Horizontal lines on some ridges play tic tac toe with vertical striations on other towers. Ivory artery paths cut across plateaus and dip diagonally down canyon sides. And then the origin of this glory, the Colorado River: a mud-green snake, wide as a football field and a mile beneath, slithered in and out of sight, arching its back in white caps and bending around all red-rock obstacles.

Here is beauty. Here is destruction. There cannot be one without the other.

I cannot see this glory were there not the horror. I cannot be this wonder were there not the eroding.

Millions of years, billions of raindrop-tears rolling down the sides of the River’s face. Tons of rocks, sons and daughters of crumbling grief racing into the Abyss. Echoes of raging winds, let-gos and let-downs dancing into Destruction. Gravity carving without levity, cravings eroding into the Center.

Here is beauty. Here is destruction. There cannot be one without the other.

What if you imagined your body, your life, as an object, which like any other object, will inherently decay with time?

My Mom’s hands were like the Grand Canyon. Speckled russet from the sun. Gorged from the work ethic of West Virginia hills. Gnarled from the pain of so many Midwestern storms. Weathered from the weight of so many unmet norms. Twisted on themselves from the giver’s turning. Rooted in so many defeats and repeats and remembers and benders and whatevers and winners. One gold band, a circled audience, standing witness.

I miss those hands.

What if you imagined your body, your life, as an object, which like any other object, will inherently decay with time?

Here is beauty. Here is destruction. There cannot be one without the other.

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on confidence

Don’t you love those trainings that actually get you thinking? Not the ones that waste your time, the ones that leave you with a kink in the neck because you’re constantly glancing at the clock, but the ones that hit you… “in the feels?” (as my kiddos would say). Yesterday I had the blessing of just such a training about leadership in presence and presentation. And what crystallized in mind was moment of clarity about my year.

I am a good teacher. My presence in the classroom is at once formidable yet also friendly. I know, so deep in my core it is a part of my anatomy, that what I have to offer matters to students’ lives: it is a source of empowerment to them. I believe truly that kiddos will leave my classroom better than they arrived…and not because of my endless stream of knowledge (dead end) or my wealth of facts (it’s poor) or the sound of my voice (eww), but rather because I know without a doubt that I have the ability to help students unlock their own knowledge, their own wealth, and their own voice. Because of this deep and authentic sense of assurance, my presence in the classroom is grounded and anchored…confident. And with confidence comes success.

Now, coaching, on the other hand. For all my career, I knew I did not want to be an administrator. But leadership came naturally to me; it always has. And I thought due to this, I could easily transition into a role with a title that made a difference on a larger scale. But in reflection on this year, I have always felt on shaky ground in this new role. Sure I had good intentions. I had good ideas. I had good insights. But none of those qualities fused together, anchored together, in a deep assurance that what I had to offer mattered. I lacked the confidence, confounded by a number of other internal and external challenges (that beg more reflection in another post at another time). And without confidence, my authentic presence suffered, hindering the presents I could offer.

It is hard not to feel like a failure. My heart breaks for all the could-ofs and would-ofs and should-ofs. But, ultimately, I know the greater value lies in non-attachment: replacing self-evaluation with self-reflection. And the lessons I learned this year solidify and fertilize the ground in which I will root myself upon return to the full-time classroom.

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