Finishing Americanah

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Chimamanda Achibie leaves me feeling like like I did when I read The Lady and the Tiger, wondering what happens after the door opens.  She forces us to write our own ending or endings … forces the thoughtful reader to notice what it is we wish for on the other side of the door. In all the years since I’ve read Frank R Stockton’s, The Lady and the Tiger, I’ve never settled into knowing what I hoped was on the other side of the door, and in fact the genius of the story is that our wish for what resides on the other side of the door may change over years of living. So in similar fashion to what followed The Lady and the Tiger, I am irritated – not with the story or the author but with my own vacillating … my own carefully nurtured reasonableness that makes many options possible, desirable even.  Reasonableness cultivated to avoid being tossed on the waves of irrational emotions. I tamp down fears that I will be shipwrecked by my familial sickness, and that I will undermine whatever life I build. Pulp fiction calls me back after this battering at the doors of my psyche.

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Ideas from Americanah

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by Chimanda Ngozi Adiche

“The more she wrote, the less sure she became.”

I used to think I had to wait until I was certain about something before committing ideas to print and sharing them. What’s become more clear as I start looking over my shoulder at 50 is that my uncertainty is one element that links me to my readers, to humanity itself. In a world full of icons, idols, avatars, and virtual relationships, the need we all have to process our journey collectively and figure things out together is largely unmet.

Camu and other existentialists noted our alienation several decades ago, and it has only become more pronounced as we’ve isolated and anesthetized ourselves with the latest and greatest tech toys, sporting events, mind altering substances and corporate rat races. We all need to connect and process our uncertainties, and definitely to question any certainties we think we have. Those conversations that are begun virtually must operationalize IRL or they are simply digital flotsam…the detritus of our broken relationships.

One source of my perpetual uncertainty is the shere size and scope of the inequities and injustices I see in our world.  I see those inequities and injustices in every nook and cranny of my virtual and corporeal life.  Yet, if the outrage I post over the plight of any group of “others” doesn’t turn into action to improve their (our) plight, then my words are nothing but noise. While I’m no closer to solving the tidal wave of inequities and injustices I see, I have learned that together we can improve so much more than we can when working alone…and we can make those improvements amidst our uncertainties and confusion about next steps or the bigger picture. We don’t need to wait for certainty in order to share ideas and actions that will lead to a better reality.  Reading Mother Theresa’s biography taught me that while I may not be able to do any “great things,” I can do small things with “great love.”

Boomers, X’ers, and Millennials can act together without a certain, grand plan or identical ideologies. Food banks, lunches in the parks, shelter support, volunteer tutoring, toy drives, political activism are all IRL venues for acting on our sense of wrongness in the world around us, and are places for connecting and figuring things out together. Small positive actions taken by many make for improved collective and individual realities.  While sorting food from the annual postal food drive, I pick up a tip about a new parental controls software, and my teens pick up some ideas about making varsity in their chosen sport and managing dating in high school.  All the while food is sorted, boxed and delivered to the local food bank. None of these benefits require us to resolve our conservative verses liberal politics, nor to have a financial plan for the federal government to resolve the widening income inequities in the U.S., nor did we have to provide immediate solutions for global warming.  The people we work with during our food drive are not our most intimate friends or family, yet they enrich us as we do them – and empty bellies get filled.

I’m not any more certain about what I need to write than I was a decade ago, but at least now I’m making more of a difference while I ponder those ideas I’d like to put into print.

Ghosts

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I read about “ghosting” today on Rochelle Short’s (Author of Letting People In) post. It’s a term coined to indicate that someone you’re dealing with is positioning themselves out of your future – hence the term “ghosting.” They’re making themselves into ghosts as far as you are concerned.

What I’m wondering about now is how many ways I make myself a ghost? How many ways do others do the same? I have friends who follow their FB friends, but rarely post … we used to call that voyeurism, but I wonder if ghosting isn’t a more accurate term b/c it implies hovering, watching the “living,” but being unable or unwilling to interact in the corporeal plan.

Many of our Western social mores dictate that we “make nice” or speak and interact in politically correct ways, and I wonder where the line lies between abiding by social mores and turning oneself into a ghost. It’s easy to say we need to speak up about what matters, yet shouting to overcome collective deafness due to mind blindness or tech-disconnect is certainly not acceptable, nor very effective. When does speaking more quietly about what matters, at the risk of no one hearing, lead us down the path to ghosting?

“Picking my battles” and not casting “pearls before swine” have always been internal mantras I’ve used to remain calm and reasonable.  I try to give myself time to look for the teachable moment, even when my emotions are burning over any given injustice or immorality I’m confronting … is that wisdom or is it somewhere on the ghost continuum?

I’ll have to keep my eye on it because I’m really not sure. I appreciate Rochelle’s post for making me think not just twice, but many times about what makes real life, real.

Finally …

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A demanding new position supporting Social Studies teachers, going back to school for my ELL certification, taking the state exam for that certification and keeping up with two teenage boys this school year busted my chops. It was worth every single grueling moment.
Monday June 30, I took and passed that state exam after studying for the 6 days following my last class in the certification program. So, yesterday was my first day of summer…finally.

I didn’t mark this auspicious occasion in any particular way. I did a bit of cleaning and organizing – Lord knows, I needed to. I watched the U.S. lose to Belgium, read a bit of fluff, and bought some groceries – the cupboards were nearly bare. By 6PM Pacific Standard Time, I was antsy and a bit agitated trying to figure out what to do with myself.
Having drug myself across the finish line, I expected to loll about and enjoy the absence of demands for a bit, without a care in the world other than those I chose to pick up. Apparently, it’s going to take me a while to downshift. My fear is that by the time I do, it will be mid August and school will be starting again … finally. 🙂

Summer Beckons

The sun is shining in the Pacific Northwest. We are regularly enjoying three to five consecutive days with blue skies, gentle breezes, trees in full leaf, and blooms celebrating nature’s pallet.

While nature is in full, feverish pitch, summer beckons and so does the temptation to ease away from the urgent press of students’ academic and social needs. There are many persuasive and historic reason for this annual downshift, yet this year the contrast between the lure of nature and the needs of students gnaws on my mind. As I plan the clean up and closing of my classrooms, I feel the tug of nature’s blossoming, birthing and bursting forth. I notice how disconnected school can feel from the primordial rhythms of life, and how desperately I want to reconnect them. It makes me wonder what will it look like when I do…

Perhaps summer would include weekly gatherings for me and my students in places that inspire – everywhere from local libraries to trail heads. Those eight weeks would be filled with our book clubs held in dappled sunlight beneath arching branches; movie-maker projects capturing action at the skate park, and dreams spoken out loud over glasses of lemonade. Nightly blogs would be written and read with star-gazing breaks built in. Shared morning cocoa and coffee would ease the complexity of making some sense of the news and its implications. Similes, metaphors and fodder for our pens would surface in pools, streams, lakes and water parks. I have to wonder, could summer look more like this if the rest of the school year did too?

Maybe, just maybe, giving in to temptation is the right thing to do.

Mom, it’s just a cone….

I have the dubious privilege of teaching my oldest son to drive these days. Thrills and skills characterize our car time. He’s really doing an amazing job, and he stays calm amidst my occasional bout of nerves.
Yesterday as we were practicing backup maneuvers in a local parking lot, the slice for today’s blog emerged. I’d “borrowed” 8 cones from my husbands soccer supplies and we set our course with them in the empty parking lot. As my son made a cut to early, my voice skittered out and approached a wail, “g-g-go wider! Yikes!” His unflappable response, “Mom, it’s just a cone…”
We repeated this exchange twice more, and on our fourth round, he gave me The Look. Now, how a 15- year-old managed his father’s very own, “Will you chill” expression, I have no idea. And it worked.
I had to pause my litany of all the reasons and possible repercussions that led me to frantically worry about the cones being squashed. This pause reminded me that celebrations are more important than avoiding minor mistakes in all areas of life: I need to celebrate more and worry less…easier said than done, yet that’s my goal as I walk into our learning space today.

Missing It…

A phantom thought raced by me today…. In the middle of intentionally living life to the fullest, I wonder if I’m somehow missing it? Just because it’s cliché doesn’t make it less true.
Is the struggle I’ve constantly faced to remain connected to my writing a symptom of missing what’s important in a bigger way. The feeling that I never have enough time to reflect, let alone watch the grass grow or smell the roses, may be telling me that I’m missing “it” … The very marrow in the bones of a thinking woman’s psyche, contemplation, is missing or maybe it’s more accurate to say, draining away. The tap may be the very challenges that used to assure me I was making the most of every moment…the frenetic pace of those challenges feels like they’re filling up every quiet place inside me; and I miss the quiet, thoughtful moments of me. Me and nature, me and mine, me and God, me and it – whatever it may be…

A place verses a space…

There are myriad places I’ve chosen to write over the years. I have places I record the writing, places I do the writing, yet I continue to struggle when it comes to making space for my writing.  My writing life is rather like an overfull lottery bin eternally spinning round – full of numbered nuggets waiting to be pulled out, but there’s no one pulling anything out.  I know, I know, I’m the writer – I’m supposed to pull them out and grow them from nuggets into actual pieces of writing.  So here I go…I have a new place and renewed intent to open space in my life for living on paper…also known as writing.

There really couldn’t be a worse time – I’m in a new job, going to school for an additional certificate, running mom’s taxi and homework help, trying nurture my marriage and keep my balance amidst it all.  But I have a friend and colleague who said, “…start sooner than that – don’t wait.”  Add that encouragement to the muse gnawing at my brainstem because I’ve starved her for too long, and a dash of every author’s advise – write; write all the time write some more….and a blog is born.