to the class of 2016: on the power of thought

When I think about the class of 2016…

I think about Rene’s eye roll and sassy hip sway. I’m so sorry I missed your pole dancing performance.

I think about Bianca’s powerful serve on the volleyball court and confident voice of leadership in class discussions.

I think about how the only thing bigger than Chantel’s mouth is her heart.

I think about how we stomped you in staff versus senior volleyball.

I think about Rubby’s laugh and Nana’s immediate departures to the bathroom upon arriving to the class.

I think about those of you I taught during 8th grade: Daniel, Joe, Cindy, Jennifer, Laura, Bianca, Jacky, Naomi, Luis…and the way we would gather in the hall to discuss The Book Thief because we just could not wait until class started.

I think about the mighty four, petite in size but giants in spirit.

I think about bowling, from Joe’s cradle grip to Wheat’s rebellious gym shoes to Chantel just trying to get it straight to the amazing backward shots through the legs.

I think about the moment Noora finally let me into her heart.

I think about how Luke became Lu-uke, two syllables representing a kind gentleman.

I think about Marlen’s brilliant and beautiful way with words.

I think about Edgar in the hall, whose mocking me as “sheriff” shifted into his own role of influence as he put rambunctious middle schoolers in their place. Thank you, Sheriff, for having my back.

I think about Cindy’s quiet strength in the midst of tremendous challenge.

I think about our meeting with Joe, adults upon adults gathered in a circle of support, where the tears flowed as freely as the love.

I think about the losses Jennifer suffered this year, but also the tearful and confident declaration in front of our class of what she found: her voice.

I think about how heartbroken I was to lose almost half of our AP Lit class at semester. But I also think about how the remaining 12 grew into a family woven tightly together by heartstrings. Sitting around a table, sharing our dishes and the stories behind them, I thought about how proud I was to call you my sons and daughters. Sitting around a table, discussing books, I thought about how you were going to blow away other college students during classes. Thank you, AP Lit students, mis hijos y hijas, for what you taught me. Never forget your Daddy Davenport.

I think about these memories, the times I’ve shared with you, the lessons I’ve both taught you and learned from you, because ultimately if I can tell you one thing before you leave:

Thinking is power.

Be the people who analyze everything, who look with a critical eye, who question with depth, who challenge with openness, because this thinking will give you insight into how the world works; remember… everything is an argument. Knowing this means you will see what tries to keep you down, you will see the resources to change that, and most importantly you will see the strength and courage inside yourself to write your story as YOU see fit. Knowing this also means you will see who is on your side, what support is beneath you, and what glory lies ahead of you.

To the class of 2016, thinking is power. But remember and honor and prioritize that the truest and deepest thoughts come from the heart and soul, and from those anchors, I will always think of you with love and pride.

Congratulations!

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sanctifying space for closure

May brings showers, raindrops of tears that roll down the cheeks as I say goodbye and best wishes to students who have melded into the tissue of my heart. And without the protection of umbrella or raincoat, I run directly into the impending storm clouds of emotions. I dance in the rain because I need closure. I dance in the rain because I know my students need closure.

I work with students who are often dealing with trauma of some sort: poverty, abuse, violence, homelessness, illegal status, witness to crimes, gangs, addiction, broken homes and shattered dreams…weights pile atop their shoulders. With trauma comes ambiguity, abrupt endings that bleed into frail beginnings all tainted with confusion and unanswered questions. Always on alert, students who have suffered trauma cannot regulate their emotions:

Shields and Cicchetti suggest that hypervigilance may play a key role in undermining the development of emotional self-regulation. They postulate that, unlike the nontraumatized child, the hypervigilant child cannot shift away from distressing cues in the service of maintaining emotional regulation.

As not only an academic content teacher but a safe-haven-guardian, I need to create the space in my classroom for students to safely regulate (identify, embrace, express purposefully) their emotions…especially as we near a conclusive separation. After all, I have spent the entire year loving my students into greatness, and such a relationship cannot just snap without the time and place to say goodbye and thank you and good luck and I love you and see you on Facebook. So much of their lives is spent with things or people they care about abruptly falling into an abyss; I need to model the ability to say goodbye as an empowerment for smooth transitions instead of a series of sudden fractures. By building the space for closure and modeling goodbyes, I teach my students the language of emotions–not avoidance or hypervigilance, but leveraging emotions for their betterment:

Trauma often impairs the ability of children to use words and pictures to identify their feelings. Children who have trouble using language to communicate emotions cannot always “formulate a flexible response” to situations and may react impulsively. Learning to identify and articulate emotions will help them regulate their reactions.

Closure is not easy, especially in a society that prides itself in ignoring emotions for the sake of independence and/or productivity. But more than ever, it is critical that I both teach and model for my students the ability to transition gracefully, to choose how they say goodbye rather than having it afflicted upon them as one more traumatic event.

And so I design ceremonies in order to sanctify space for closure in my classes. Food parties. Reflection projects. Card signing. Verbal storytelling. Gifts. Personal mementos. And once I’ve done it with the seniors who leave next week, I’ll break my heart all over again for the freshman to whom I also have to say goodbye this year so that they can also have closure.

The rain pours down from closure’s clouds and steals my breath and dirties the hem of my pants and blurs my vision; it is soul-soaking.


But after the rain, the glorious aftermath. The way the sun sparkles on one lingering raindrop on a leaf. The smell of newness. The opening of a flower that is no longer thirsty. The parting of the clouds to reveal Heaven’s smiles.  The hope that hangs on the air.

My students deserve that.

the art of transitions

There are some images that just resonate so deeply, they never fade. This 3 and 1/2 minute video is one such image. Once the senses move past the the scantily clad woman, the stunning cityscape, and the soft sultry music, what is left is asana that is so captivating…it steals the breath.

On my mat, I want to move like this woman. Not (just) because she is sleek and strong, but because there is not a singular pose visible in any of this. Rather it is a river of transformations, inhales and exhales that do not just move the body from one position to the next, but rather–and more importantly–keep it present to the moment at hand. Present to the change. Present to the transition. Present to the subtle and magnitudinous shifts. As a yoga instructor once said:

The transitions between poses are poses themselves.

Last week, I shared this concept with my seniors, who are in the midst of a large transition of their own. We just finished reading Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, a novel which sanctifies the space of shifting. I related to them the story of the video and its beauty. I stressed that we’re so busy thinking about our next pose (graduation, college, job, marriage, parenting, etc.), that we miss the glory IN the change.

The transitions in between poses are poses themselves.

I would be a fool to admit my own transition doesn’t weigh heavily on me. Changing job titles. Changing curriculum. Changing schools. Leaving behind friends with whom I’ve learned and students in whom I’ve invested–that’s a lot of love to leave in a pose. And it’s easy to be bound in thought by the next pose. How will I stand? How will I look? How will I relax into it? How will I ground myself? But in doing this, I’m already forgetting the most important part: the here and now, the present, the transition.

The transitions in between poses are poses themselves.

It takes enormous strength to change with grace,

leaving behind something that glows.

It takes deep rooting to transform with ease,

leaning into something that grows.

It takes daring courage to transition with honor,

so that on my mat, and off, it shows.

 

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.

the fault lines of leadership

For all of my career, I have sworn til I was blue in the face that I would not, could not, should not become an administrator. No sir-re-bob, that is not for me. After taking on more of a leadership role this year at school, that stance has only been confirmed.

Though I was coaching last year and assisting another coach with our department, my leadership was, in essence, lateral. I’d like to believe that those I helped because of an official “title” were few, but those I helped because of a desire to be a great teacher were more–hopefully the majority.

This year, though, with more of a presence on and duty to our larger, systematic leadership configurations, I cannot seem to find the good in what I’m doing… whether it’s the good in my teaching, the good in my coaching, the good in my facilitation, the good in my thinking, or the good in my outcomes. I am discouraged by my inability to affect change where I think I should have that capacity. I am overwhelmed with hearing over and over the frustrations from those I care about deeply–the very frustrations that mirror my own–while not being able to do anything to influence the context which perpetuates those frustrations. I am disheartened by the systematic revolving door of external pressures that weigh our administration down, thus weighing down our internal building processes.

All of this sharply reminds me that the problem with education today is not people. Those teachers I am honored to coach; the colleagues I work side by side with in the trenches, who keep me sane; as well as the leadership I follow; these people all weave threads of joy and inspiration and light throughout my days. Rather to blame are the systems that shackle those people. Systems of evaluation. Systems of accountability. Systems of turnarounds and move overs and reach arounds. And we wonder why national teacher attrition is so high and moral so low!

And the straw that breaks the camel’s back is my missing students. Daily I split classes with two remarkable co-teachers, and after 50 minutes of the block, I just walk right out of the door–an exit that feels more emotional than physical. For those of you who have followed my writing here on lifeinthedport, you know that my students are my lifeblood, my purpose, my ministry, my joy. And so to struggle with systematic constraints while simultaneously missing quality time with my own students in my own classroom is literally. killing. me.

And because my career teaching is my identity, the tremors echo throughout all other areas of my life. I have noticed a rise in my anxiety, in my depression. My appetite is ferocious and my clothes tight. I am negative and critical and cynical and complain way too much. I have stopped writing.

Which explains this post, the one that breaks the two-month silence. Not happy, not pretty, but real. And hopefully the beginning of my mapping a way through this new land.

growth vs. fixed mindset: it’s not just for the students

Allow me to step into the confessional.

One thing I struggle with is loving people unconditionally, accepting them in their weakness. I expect the best from people, immediately, consistently. This is a universal application that haunts my students, my friendships, my colleagues, and my marriage.

Of course, I am not off the hook. I am my own worst critic, my most insistent demander, my harshest judge. I live in an internal world where it is hard to accept grace for myself…and thus–either as a cause or an effect–hard to offer it authentically and organically to others.

I am no blind fool: this leads to a lack of peace within myself…and with others.

At school, we’ve excitedly moved into a focus on rigor. Many voices expressed the idea that there can be no rigor without risk, and no risk without struggle. I wholeheartedly agree. At the most foundational level of this struggle comes the idea that it is worth it, that struggle can lead to something better. This conviction grows and blooms only in the soil of a growth mindset (rather than a fixed mindset; for more information). Educators today are very familiar with these concepts and understand the critical value of fostering not just information in students, but a kind of mindset, a mindset that is pliable rather than set, questioning rather than settling, seeking rather than content, hopeful rather than definite. Only when we encourage this in students can they grow beyond their potential–which is really just a euphemism for fixed mindset.

mindsetBut, as always, what happens in the student cafeteria is mimicked (perhaps pioneered) in the adult lounge. I have come to realize lately that though I approach students in a growth mindset paradigm, I do not extend the same courtesy to my colleagues. For whatever reason, something in me operates under the idea that adults in schools have arrived, are set in their ways, are settled into their potential, are who they are, well, because that’s who they are. The end. This ugly monster rears its head most frequently in the realm of assumptions. I make assumptions about people… and by doing so, I limit them to a quaint box that is formed nicely and neatly in my own finite head. How arrogant! How presumptuous! How fallacious!

A few times lately, I’ve been surprised by colleagues–a delicious and humbling and didactic surprise. And in reflection, I wondered why I was so surprised? And of course, it was rooted in my faulty assumptions.

Ultimately, both my perspective of others and myself as well as Carol Dweck’s research on fixed vs. growth mindsets distill down to the idea of absolutes. For all my life, I have felt more comfortable existing in a worldview of absolutes: good or bad; black or white; holy or profane; worthy or detestable. Just like it’s easier to shop in a supermarket where everything is labeled, it is more convenient to live in a world where everyone is categorized. But…though easier…it is more limiting. And more destructive.

But thankfully, I don’t have to stay here. I can change, grow, evolve. And so can anyone and everyone around me.

I just have to perpetually cultivate the gracious space for that personal and communal shifting.

roaring chickens: how I found my voice

One of my Mom’s many stories was about how she kicked the bucket…literally:

I had a job stacking pails coming off a paint line. One of my bosses came in and told me to stack them one way, and so I did. Well, then, my other boss came in and told me to stack them a different way. So I did. Then the first boss came back in and asked: “Why are you stacking ’em this way and not the way I told you to?” Well, I’ll tell you what I did. I kicked those pails all over the place and turned to them and said: “When you two get your shit together, come and get me. I’ll be in the break room.”

This story can be filed under the motto of my Mom’s life of strength and fire:

You picked the wrong damned chicken to mess with!

For most of my life, I’ve been the perfect chicken to mess with. Being the youngest in the family, I fell naturally into the role of making peace. I didn’t want tension or drama at any cost, and so in my naivety, I’d be the go-between, trying to make all parties feel better. In my past jobs, I rarely spoke up, letting people run over me rather than dealing with the ramifications of protest. For my first years as an educator, I struggled in the middle-ground of blatant wrongdoings against our students and staff while wanting to keep my job. I was a woman whose voice burned within me, but sadly, never manifested externally.

During many of my conversations with my Mom, I was haunted by her persistent call to courage:

Mary, you can’t just let people run all over you.

Her deathbed words to me (though not on her deathbed, but on the owl-light-lit porch, in the darkness of night) were:

Mary, be strong.

Her conviction and her challenge have been planted in my deepest parts since she died in September of 2013. Slowly, painfully, the seeds have cracked open under the dirt of my grief, broken through the shattered pieces of my heart, and have reached toward the warm sun of her legacy. There, they bloom, while the birds’ songs harmonize with my own resurrected voice.

In this expansive field of flowers, I see and hear my Mom within me. I have cut toxic people out of my life. I have learned to declare and honor my protective no’s and my worthy yes’s. I say what needs to be said, shooting through the heart of the elephant in the room. I ask hard questions instead of making easy assumptions. I openly admit my faults but do not minimize my strengths. I talk to people instead of about them. I am the microphone for the voiceless. I foster discomfort, assured of the future benefits. I feel good in my skin, knowing I am Created. I have found my voice; I have rightfully claimed my voice.

For much of 2014, Katy Perry’s “Roar” would come on the radio…and it felt like my Mom was singing to me, reminding me of her strength and fire. This was my song, my anthem, of a life spent hiding, then finding my voice; like mother, like daughter; the wrong damn chickens to mess with.


This post was inspired by Synchroblog’s January prompt. Follow these yellow-brick-links to other ponderings!

the soul’s greatest threat: ADD

This little disease epidemic is popping up everywhere. In disgruntled hearts. In ungrateful mouths. In slanderous conversations. In the broken public education system. Beneath the broken hearts of Christians.  On job (dis)satisfaction surveys. At restaurants. In my soul.

ADD: Attentive to Deficit Disorder.

I first learned about ADD–though not known by that name yet, well, because I didn’t invent it yet :)–when getting my Master’s in Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Education. For students in our system who are emerging bilinguals, it is common to focus on what they lack (a foundation in English, parents who speak English, comfort navigating the American schooling principles, background knowledge, etc) rather than what they offer (flexible cognition, tenacity, diversity, varied background knowledge, a 21st century skill, etc). This deficit lens immediately and perpetually harms their potential–both for heart and mind learning in the classroom.

But ADD reaches into the adult hallways as well. Lingering in the air of my school lately is a heavy tension surrounding feedback. Teachers–me included–feel like there shouldn’t always have to be a next step. Can we just celebrate the good that’s going on in our classrooms? Just once? Of course, this stifling air is pouring in from beyond the walls of our building–a critical society of politicians and businessmen who in their ADD see fit to criticize our profession and demean our judgment. (Can I get a next step for them!?)

I saw and felt ADD in my Mom too. No matter what my Dad did, it wasn’t enough for her. No one at work could live up to her standards. We, her kids, strained to breath in the shadow of her martyrdom-to-negativity, encapsulated by her rally cry: “When it rains, it pours.”

Until she got breast cancer. The disease stopped her in her tracks, rewrote her map, and rerouted her direction. Did she become perfect? No, but her rally cry changed to “Well, I can’t complain; I’ve been blessed.” This will forever be one of the traits I admire most in my Mom: what should have proved to her that “when it rains, it pours” became a transition into a heart and life of thanksgiving. Even when she got cancer again, and then again, she declared her life as blessed.

Her prescription for ADD? Gratitude.

And this is without her earmarking The Secret or subscribing to “The Law of Attraction” or reading Ernest Holmes, who writes in This Thing Called You:

The barriers between you and your greater good are not barriers in themselves. They are things of thoughts. It is because of this that all things are possible to faith. Jesus summed up the whole proposition when he said, “It is done unto you as you believe.” In interpreting this saying, however, you must pause after the word as. Think about its meaning and you will discover that he was saying that life not only responds to your belief, it responds after the manner of your believing, as you believe. It is like a mirror reflecting the image of your belief.

As you believe.

Without using such succinct language, I’ve long pondered this with those closest to me. We’ve witnessed people in our lives with ADD: they never see good; they’re always complaining; their smiles are never deep; every good story has a “but” or an “if;” they seek commiseration from those around them; they are martyrs; they complain without changing; their conversations are tainted with passive-aggressiveness; they tear others down so they can feel better about their lives; they always play the victim but then conclude, deep-sighing “but, I’m okay.”

And as they believe, they just can’t catch a break, the sh** just keeps hitting the fan, spinning wildly above their heads on high, splintering the crap into tiny germs of toxic thinking that attracts more toxicity.

As they believe.

As you believe.

As I believe. This could be me. On my worst days, it is me, suffering from and for ADD. But I refuse to stay in this minefield-mindplace.

And just like my Mom learned and lived, I take my ADD medicine: gratitude.

My prescription as of late involves the delicious and divine words of of Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts:

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At the deepest diagnostic level of ADD is the distinction made by Tim O’Brien between the happening-truth and the story-truth. The events in my life are the truth, the happening-truth, the facts. But how I view them, how I count them and name them and interpret them, that’s the story-truth. Regardless of the events, I can tell the story however I want. I have that power, that choice, that authorship. Do I tell my story slanted with sorrow, burdened by ADD’s symptoms? Or do I tell my story, sanctified by sincere gratitude?

My Mom died last year. That is the happening-truth. But how do I tell that story? My Mom died too suddenly and how dare God do that?! or My Mom got what she wished, to end her life with her dignity in tact, dependent on no one, so thank you God! I choose the latter. Thank you. Again and again I choose the latter. Thank you. I refuse to succumb to the powerful hold of ADD.

My story-truths will be of gratitude, of thanksgiving, of blessing, as I believe.

Disclaimer: It would be negligent of me to conclude without a warning about the side-effects of ADD’s treatment plan of thanksgiving: DDD– denial of deficit disorder. There is a subtle but significant difference between positivity and faithfulness, between denial and gratitude. Positivity and denial leave a person consumed with “having to be happy” regardless of the happening-truth. They painfully push on (of course never on the surface, where there is always a smile) without the deep reflection and story-telling necessary to treat ADD. On the other hand, faithful and grateful people understand the severity of their happening-truths, while still instead scripting a story-truth of thanksgiving.

God, The Anchor

My dear friend Pam, who is inspiring me with her courageous adventure of sailing the seas with her family, was kind enough to guest blog with me, a landlocked friend with no sea legs or sense, about anchors. (The bold font is my own emphasis.)

What is the purpose of an anchor?

The purpose of an anchor is to hold a boat/floating vehicle in a general area. It is used so that the boat does not float with the tidal or current motion of the water it is in.

How does an anchor work?

An anchor works by digging the pointy ends (flukes) into the sea floor. The flukes of a well set anchor should be barely visible- mostly buried in the sand. To achieve this, most small boats (I have no idea how commercial boats do this) drop an anchor off the bow (front) of the boat and let out enough anchor chain or rope (rode) so that the anchor flips slightly on the sea floor and catches. As the flukes catch and dig into the sea floor, more chain or rope is let out. Generally, a last pull on the anchor by putting the boat in full reverse is usually necessary- which digs the flukes deeply into the sand. In the Bahamas, yachtsman can “dive” their anchor after it has been set- meaning- they get in the water, dive down and have a chat with the anchor to make sure it is set correctly.

How does knowing you have an anchor aboard change your state of mind when sailing?

Having an anchor is a given when you are sailing. Without one, you have to tie up to a dock- which means you always have to get to a dock (and pay to dock). At first, we were very nervous about having an anchor. We stayed up all night wondering if the anchor would come out of the sea floor and we would float away (this only happened once- and not at night.). We had a special alarm that we set at night that would tell us if the boat was drifting. Eventually, however, we stopped using the alarm- and slept well at anchor. I would say that the anchor really means that you can go almost anywhere. You don’t need civilization with an anchor- just the right depth and protection from the wind.

How does using the anchor change your mind when you are… anchored?

“Anchoring” is an art in itself. It is the source of tension for many boating couples…Generally, one person is on the bow of the boat controlling the anchor and one person is at the helm (steering wheel), controlling the boat. Arguments arise about where to anchor, which direction to anchor, whether you are anchored too close to another boat, what signals the person on the bow is giving to the person at the helm and vice versa.

Anything else about an anchor a land-woman should know?

I remember not being able to sleep one night, thinking about anchoring. I thought- we are just floating here on this relatively small piece of metal (our 10,000 lb boat required a 35 lb anchor) and it’s all just a game we’re playing with nature. I felt better about anchoring, the more we sailed, however. In fact, being tied to a dock in a marina became strange vs. anchoring in a bay.

All this anchor contemplation came up last weekend, while swinging on my chipping-green-painted swing in the backyard, warmed by the setting sun streaming through the forest canopy. Then and there, I read “Santa Teresa’s Book-Mark.” 10261981_10152442385612813_4765116571285244382_n

I am grateful that many pieces of my life are falling into place right now. I am healthy, we are happy, my job both brings me fulfillment and results in success, and financially, thanks to my Mom, we are more than secure. But of course, the insidious toxicity in my mind does not allow me to be content here; rather, I am perpetually, fearfully, waiting for the shoe to drop, for crisis to hit, for cancer’s diagnosis, for epic failure to humble me, for change, etc…

But I realized, after reading this poem, I am dropping the wrong “anchor.” If my anchor is my situations and context and blessings, then of course I am going to be insecure–they do not last. “All things are passing.”

So this blog post is my way of “diving my anchor”–heading down to the depths and having a chat with my Anchor.

Such a chat reminds me:

  • Life is traveling at sea. The wind is always moving, even when still. The water beneath is full of life and death and change. The journey is just as important…if not more important…than the destination. As my yoga instructors say: “The transitions themselves are as important as the postures” and “It’s all about the moving in, and the moving out.” Knowing I have The Anchor aboard my vessel allows me to tip my neck towards the sun’s watchful eye and lose myself in the magical silver reflections on the water’s surface…and just be there, then.
  • With The Anchor aboard my vessel, I don’t need the structure of civilization or the permanence of a dock. In other words, I don’t need security. Rather, Security is a constant companion aboard, in the midst of the insecurity. I–we–can go anywhere.
  • Anchoring is an art. This means attention, practice, conversation, reflection. I would imaging were Pam and Ty to ignore the anchor, their would be detrimental effects (Pam, correct me if I’m wrong). My soul Anchor needs attention, practice, conversation, reflection. And not legalistic “quiet times,” but authentic moments of connection that fosters trust, so that the more I dive my anchor, the more I can sleep soundly. No matter how busy I am sailing, I cannot neglect the anchor. No matter how busy I am living, I cannot neglect The Anchor.

I am grateful that in good times, in bad times; in health and in sickness; in constancy and in change; in the posture and in the transition; in stormy waters or on still liquid glass; in wealthy and in poverty; and in all the subtle moments in between these extremes, He is there–The Anchor.

Picture Props to Virden Fam

Picture Props to the Virden Family

transitions. becoming.

There are balances and harmonies always shifting, always necessary to maintain…It is a matter of transitions, you see; the changing, the becoming must be cared for closely (Leslie Silko, Ceremony).

Several people important in my life are approaching a pending change of some sort in their lives. From graduation to relocation to job searches to new relationships, they all are experiencing what some might call growing pains–even if they don’t know it.

But their bodies know it, their souls know it, their cycles and rhythms know it. Because deep in their beings, in our beings, is the innate sensitivity to transition–the incessant perception of the fragile movement from here to there, now to then, this to that. 

This is not easy to notice, much less articulate, in our modern world. In fact, in many ways, our modern conveniences are designed to remove and/or shorten transitions.

Cars and flights shorten the transition of transportation, robbing us of the time to process the journey.

The butcher counter at the chain superstores removes the manual transition of farm to plate, blurring for the consumer the lines between cost and value.

Cell phones, texting, Twitter, Facebook, and even this blog compress the proximity of relationships, reducing the thoughtfulness and intention so necessary in live, human connection.

When I think back to my ancestors, or yours, or theirs, who sometimes survived and sometimes didn’t in a world without modern convenience, I am drawn to the honor they paid to transitions. Perhaps not necessarily because it was quaint and beautiful, but more so because 1) it was necessary and 2) they did not know another way.

Coming of age rites marking the change from youth to maturity.

Long, arduous nomadic journeys which had been prepared for months by an entire community, from elder to baby.

Story-telling around the fire as a way to re-live the transitions of the past.

Entire villages stopping to gather around for the birth of a child, the welcoming from there to here.

These people recognized the futility of rushing to the “next thing” and never even conceived the idea of multi-tasking or express orders. These people were there before they were here, and in the movement from those two binaries, they embraced the in-between, the change, the transition.

They processed.

And so must we. Even though we live in a world that wishes to erase the line that connects the dots, our bodies, our minds, our cycles and rhythms know this is a silly practice at best, a destructive one at worst.

Is there something in your life changing? About to change? Are you in a transition?

Perhaps you don’t even know it–yet. So let’s approach it from a different way. Are you restless? Inexplicably grumpy or short-tempered? Is the energy you’re vibing unsettling? Can you not sit still? Or perhaps you’re lethargic?

Any of these might be signs that you are not tending to, or are rushing, the sacred transition–whatever that may be in your life.

Today, I thought about this and talked about this with my seniors, who are one of the people I mentioned earlier approaching a transition. One particular class has been antsy, dramatic, off, and distracted lately. And of course they are. Deep within them, yet unknown to them, they are processing an enormous transition. Some of them will be the first to graduate high school in their family, the first to go to college. Some of them will leave the families they have loved, and some of them will stay with the families who have driven them crazy. Some of them will separate from the truest friends of their lives, or the most dependable adults they know, or the safest environment in which they can be themselves. And so, in a society where transitions are not addressed and honored, they act out, without even realizing it.

Their bodies see it. Their minds acknowledge it. Their cycles and rhythms feel it.

There are balances and harmonies always shifting, always necessary to maintain…It is a matter of transitions, you see; the changing, the becoming must be cared for closely (Leslie Silko, Ceremony).

Let us become a people who see transitions, who honor them in each other–but also in ourselves. Let us give ourselves grace as we move from the here to there, the now to then, the this to that.

Let us care closely for our becomings.

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