from passenger to pilot.

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When I was fifteen, I seemed intent on breaking myself.

First, it was doing back flips off the high dive, and – I shit you not – I hit the diving board. With my face. Specifically, on the bridge of my nose. I remember the almost-knocked out feeling, falling like the intro to Mad Men into the water, then watching the diving board get smaller and smaller until I hit the bottom. I came out of my stupor just in time to have the teacher jump in after me.  Almost miraculously, the worst thing that happened was that to this day the bridge of my nose is a little numb.

That same year, while my aunt and uncle were out of town working, my friend Shane came over to teach me how to drive a scooter. He had a white, fairly new, Vespa P200 that clearly needed to be crashed. Shane gave me a 15 minute lesson on shifting gears, and away I went. Not sure if you’ve ever hit gravel before, but it doesn’t feel good.

That time, I didn’t escape with anything less than a concussion. Apparently, Shane peeled me off the pavement, got me home, and then did what any scared teenager would do: left me. When my caregiver Jacky got there, I was all sorts of loopy and she took me to the emergency room. It didn’t take more than a few minutes to determine I had a concussion, but they weren’t sure how bad it was so I was given a cat scan. I totally remember singing “Dazed and Confused” while they were running me through the machine. Clearly my sense of humor was left in tact.

And, apparently, so was my fear. While in some areas of my life I am a “get back on the horse” sort of person, when it comes to the physical realm I am, frankly, a bit of a wuss. Or, just very risk averse.  I still haven’t done a back flip off a high dive since that day in 1987. I don’t think I’ve flipped backwards anywhere, it unnerves me so.

I have, however, learned to ride a motorcyle. I made myself. I couldn’t stand letting one incident control my life. I was 30 when I finally got on a bike.  I took a class, and felt so proud when I got my M1 classification. I practiced for a little bit, but the fear kept overtaking me and I stopped.  It’s taken me another ten after getting my motorcycle license to do what I did this last weekend.

I can safely say I have finally moved from passenger to pilot.

Some context: I have spent a lot of time trying to get myself to move faster in this arena than I’ve allowed myself. This is true for just about everything. When I was young, I wanted to be older. When I picked up a hobby, I wanted to be just instantly good.

Now, I live with a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast. I’ve felt the pressure to catch up. Him – and all his friends? Everyone just seems good. Expert. Nobody is a beginner, and I certainly haven’t wanted to be one. When I’ve fallen prey to my ego-paralyzed mind, I start comparing myself, and it’s downhill from there.  I am not sure any of them remember what it’s like to fumble with the kick starter, forget to turn the gas on, or stall a bike and not be able to get it started again. It’s funny to admit this, since everyone I’ve met who rides is incredibly supportive.  I know it’s just me and my insecurities, feeling like the whole world is invested in keeping me from my dreams.  Of course, in reality, it’s just me, NOT wanting to be exposed. Wanting to be cool. In control.

It’s taken a lot more time than I would have liked, but now at 40 I really am starting to trust myself – and the process. I am starting to move at the rate/speed that makes sense for me.  It’s a wonderful feeling. Sometimes progress happens lightning quick, but a lot of time it doesn’t.  It’s a lot about practice and patience, self love and just being EXACTLY WHERE I’M AT.  It’s a vulnerable place to be.

And that vulnerable place right now for me is riding a cheesy twist and go scooter because I just want to focus on driving rather than all the other things (shifting, kick starting, that sort of thing) that turn me into a grumpy wreck before I even leave the parking lot.  It’s allowed me to feel comfortable to get out there and just ride,  for longer distances and less stress.  It’s allowed me, just yesterday,  to go on my first scooter ride with a large group of people, not on the back (like usual) but in the front.  I even had my kid on the back.

The freedom! Yes, I was nervous riding with a group of people, following the unspoken rules of “the pack” as we made our way to and from our destination. It felt good being able to see where we were headed. It felt good having my kid behind me and holding onto my waist and snuggling up to me as we picked up speed.

It felt good to finally be participating actively, when I’ve spent a decade being passive.

I can now see all the line to this moment as clearly as if the events had happened over a year or two versus more than twenty. I did it in my own time, in my own way.  Sure, the fifteen year old girl in me wishes it were that cool Vespa P200, or the 1972 Suzuki that’s sitting in my garage waiting for me to drive it.  All in due time. For now, I’m going to savor just getting in the driver’s seat, and staying here.

 

 

 

 

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digital depression.

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I have been sitting on this for quite awhile now, mulling. I think I’ve been in a funk, and I am really starting to believe it’s digital depression…if there is such a thing.

Since the school year started up, I have been working and doing all the things I normally do, except for a couple of things: spending a lot of time mindlessly trolling FB or looking up inane things that I really don’t need to know, and NOT spending much time with real people. It’s insidious, really. I feel so connected! I “like”, I make comments, I write messages. Deep stuff. Not so deep stuff. But really, not totally “real” stuff.  Not that I don’t appreciate my friends’ lives, but at some point making comments on a social media site doesn’t equate to being with friends, sitting in lawn chairs at dusk, drinking a glass of wine and having a laugh. Or a cry.

Then I finally read The Circle by Dave Eggers, which my husband gave me last Christmas. It hadn’t really spoken to me, other than I enjoy some of Eggers’ writing and knew I would get around to it at some point. Did you know there is a Japanese word for people who have a lot of books on their shelves they haven’t read? That’s me.

Anyway, a couple of weekends ago I decided to sit down and see if it “spoke” to me. Well, guess what. All the niggly feelings I had been having about feeling disconnected and a little soul-less? Well it was all there in this book. We follow the main character basically get swallowed up by a Google-like company who’s attempting to “close the circle” by connecting all aspects of our daily lives – all online. Things go from hopeful to hopeless pretty quickly, and while I won’t spoil the ending… it certainly wasn’t how this happy ending American would have liked.

Essentially what got to me was the sense of identity this character gets from her online life, which soon overtakes her life to the point that she loses the people in her life who love her most. All in exchange for a falsity that she believes to be “real.”

I started to see a lot of this character’s behavior in me, and none of it was good. Checking social networking because she’s bored or anxious (check), feeling needy when someone doesn’t respond quickly enough via text or IM (check), and consciously creating an “online” presence that, whether intended or not, is marketing a lifestyle or way of being that while authentic is still only part true (and…check).

There’s other stuff too, including the yucky feeling I get reading an article online and reading all the comments. How quick we – and I include myself – are to judge when we generally don’t have enough information. How easy it is to Google something and feel like you’re an expert, when all you have is enough information to be dangerous.

Talk about a  constant stream of digital flotsam  and jetsam.

So, I put my devices down for the weekend, that book reverberating through my soul. Here is what happened. I:

  • read a book, all of it. In less than 48 hours. Just like the old days before I had a damn “smartphone.”
  • visited with friends without constantly checking my phone.
  • ate meals with my family and could follow the conversation.
  • embarrassing to admit, but I heard myself pondering what my status would be if I were to post. Yes, I know…
  • slept better.
  • overall felt better about myself…when I wasn’t feeling anxious about what I was missing. Wow, that was surprising. The answer? Not much.
  • realized my real life needs tending more than my online one does. There are people I love who I need to connect with in real life.

At the end of the weekend, I returned to the usual business, but with another level of awareness. I’ve hardly posted this week on FB because I started to really question why I was doing it. Does anybody really care if Rowan made broccoli nachos, and they were good? Or what I think about texting and driving? Or whether or not I feel lonely or angry or whatever? Maybe.

(And I’m not saying that social media can’t be used for good. I’ve seen friends get instant support during crises, advice, tips, stuff.  It IS wonderful to see my past students progressing through their lives fantastically, many graduated from college now, some married or engaged, some with children. It really is incredible that we have this level of connectedness.)

Heck, even the Dalai Llama send out words of inspiration via social media that surely inspire folks in a very real way.

But me? I’m questioning my need to share. I am starting to limit my posts, my status updates, my IG photos to things that really matter to me and reflect a real desire to connect, not just to make me look good or feel good about myself.  I want to spend most of my time and energy connecting in real life. In real life. Right now. Why? Because I’m right here.

 

to stay connected, sometimes you need to unplug.

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Here is what my horoscope for the week said:

“The Dutch word epibreren means that even though you are goofing off, you are trying to create the impression that you are hard at work. I wouldn’t be totally opposed to you indulging in some major epibreren in the coming days. More importantly, the cosmos won’t exact any karmic repercussions for it. I suspect, in fact, that the cosmos is secretly conspiring for you to enjoy more slack and spaciousness that usual. You’re overdue to recharge your spiritual and emotional batteries, and that will require extra repose and quietude. If you have to engage in a bit of masquerade to get the ease you need, so be it.”

Thanks, Rob Brezsny. This makes perfect sense. I am a little crispy around the edges from work and play, and could really use a  bit of respite. I am not even sure I would have the energy for a charade right now, if I were the type.  I’m thinking this is a lesson about overextending myself, for sure. In the moment, I want to DO IT ALL. But, do I really? Is this drive out of desire or obligation? Looks like it’s time for a rest, a rest, a rest.

 Maybe to stay connected, you need to unplug.

groundhog day.

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It’s that time of year again. For many, January 1 signals a time of reflection and making resolutions that may or may not come to be.  We look at the past year, put it to bed, and wake up on that special day with mindset that things are going to be different.

For educators, however, there is another January 1 – also known as The First Day of School. It can feel a little bit like Ground Hog Day, though, each year, as basically things are kinda the same but just a little bit different.  Aside from your own kids, when you work in a school you’re delivered a cyclical batch of same-aged children while you yourself just get older. I gotta say, it’s a little cognitively dissonant, for sure. Kidding aside, I always look forward to the new school year as a chance to find the places where I want some change, remind myself to keep the best of what worked before, and keep forging ahead in a manner that is true to who I am.  Phil the weatherman is alive and well in education, folks – though I’m hoping to get to the sweet part a little bit sooner and with a little less snark (though Bill Murray plays it fantastically).

the nature of change. 

So, in honor of the new school year, I would like to talk about the five stages of grief,  I mean change. I know, there aren’t five stages anymore, or that it’s a continuum. Whatever. For the purposes of this exercise (and an extended metaphor), I’m usin’ them.

Why? Because I feel like these “stages” are an insight into how much we are ALLOWING something different into our lives.  As I’ve learned from my coach, Drew, the good stuff happens at the speed of allowing. Isn’t that what real change is?

denial isn’t just a river.

I was reminded of this over the last week as I heard myself say for the like the 50th time that “well, everything is perfect in August…” to an educator friend and he laughed. He knew exactly what I meant.

My mantra this month has been “everything is perfect in August” for a reason.  No students, very little communication with anybody because their email has only been read infrequently since June, and of course lots of big plans. It all feels possible in August. Good. Expansive.

Now we are entering “Oh, S***! September!”  I feel the pull of all the “yeses” and have to remind myself to not run away when things start happening and/or get mad (see “anger”) when things aren’t coming to fruition as quickly or in the manner that I planned. It also means remaining open to ALLOWING the changes that I myself set in motion. It’s easy to let yourself fall into “well, it’ll never happen anyway.” For me, in order to stay in a state of open it requires some reflection time, which has meant less interaction with friends so I can get my head and heart aligned. Right now, I am sitting in my bedroom, cup of coffee to the right, a notebook to the left, and I may stay here for quite some time. This really is the work I have to do alone so that I can be present when I am with people.  I need to be able to recognize the fruits of my energetic labor, and I can’t if I’m in that denial state.

anger (or let the people feel).

It is said that under the anger is really fear. I believe that. Change of any sort can be scary, even if it’s what we truly want. I’ve seen quite a few people (especially myself) get all up in arms when change comes a’calling. Well, isn’t that what you wanted?  Yes, but I didn’t expect to feel all these feelings! I was comfortably uncomfortable in my discontent!  If it’s the same, I don’t have to be different!

Related: one of my lifelong lessons has been around anger’s little brother, impatience. I think impatience may be the fear of something not happening fast enough or in the way we want it to happen. There is a direct correlation to how much we trust, which has been my other lifelong lessons. I am learning every day to trust that I am loved, that I will get what I want, that I deserve a good life.

bargaining.

It’s so tempting, isn’t it? The if, then statements start coming out of the woodwork. Or the “what about this? Isn’t this just as good?”  I think this is how we end up with only part of what we want. We settle for the bargain and don’t allow for the real change. It feels like it’s almost what we want, and perhaps that’s why space can be so challenging.  It can be the stage where we get stuck, and then wonder why we are so unhappy later.

depression.

Well, what happens when it’s something that you really want? Do we get to this phase sometimes, before we allow change to happen? I think so. It may take the form in passivity at work or in relationships, or feeling doomed to things never changing. I spend a lot of time – more than I should admit – analyzing people’s Facebook posts, and I see a pattern. Right before something good happens there is often a feeling of hopelessness or darkness. There’s even a quote for it: “the darkest hour is just before dawn.” I wonder if it’s also the place we get where we are really most positioned for change because it’s where we feel the desire for things to be different so viscerally. The contrast is so significant there is no going back.

acceptance (from now on we call it allow)…

And then we say “yes”. So simple, right? Ha! I would just say that in this yes, in this acceptance, is the commitment and thus surrendering to the new situation. This is the “now” space, the “what is” space. I notice that some people are better than others at getting to this space more seamlessly, and I make it a point to notice their habits. Two habits I would like to point out are optimism and focus. These are folks that are clear in their vision, feel through their feelings – and that’s what I mean by optimism – and keep their eyes & heart in the game. These are the people I look to when I’m in need of inspiration or confirmation that things can be different.

So this school year, I’m taking these people’s cue. I have no resolutions, just a clear vision (and associated feeling) of how the school year will end. And I’m gonna enjoy the ride. Cause, hey! As much as I love the movie, I am saying NO to have another Ground Hog day.

Oh, and here are 5 folks that inspire me through their vision, passion and action:

1. Blithe Raines and Bridget Alexander, agents of change.

2. Elizabeth Pepin Silva, photographer, documentarian, visionary.

3. Drew Rozell, life coach, change agent.

Thank you!