vibrance wins

“You can’t build a house of leaves/And live like it’s an evergreen/It’s just a season thing/It’s just this thing the seasons do”

John Mayer, “Wheel”

Just a few short months ago, summer evenings spoiled me with beautifully painted skies that awakened a sense of wonder and awe. Splashes of orange and pink and purple decorated the expanse in ways no human hand could as though the descent of the sun into the horizon warranted fanfare, fireworks. Sometimes, though, it was more of a muted affair. Hues of deep blue and smoky grey would stretch in gauzy translucence only allowing a glimpse at the ribbons of color they masked…and only allowing beams of light to escape here and there rather than revealing the complete enchantment of the sunset (as though to say, not tonight, its beauty would be too much to take in, so here is just a taste).

I found myself eagerly anticipating the surprise of the sky each evening and wondering offering might be next. And in all of that time, through all of those evenings spent in reverence, I had not anticipated the grey of winter. I don’t necessarily live in a place that experiences four seasons (and if we have seasons at all, Carnival season is one of them…hence the incarnation of this blog challenge). Winter isn’t really winter here. Snow doesn’t blanket the earth and freezing temperatures are not a regular occurrence. I mean, it is January and the high today was somewhere around 78 degrees. Of course, a cool front is moving through and the high tomorrow is supposed to be 52 degrees–which while Louisianians will don scarves and boots and shiver in sweatshirts and jeans, is still not really winter comparatively.

However, what winter here does bring is grey rainy days and fog…lots of fog. Fog that is disorienting and forgetful; fog that instills a sort of desperation for the sun…for its warmth and its smile across the sky. Fog that hangs heavy in the morning and just when you think it is about to lift, droops heavier once again, blanketing buildings and trees and landscapes nearly completely, muting the beauty of our surroundings and the brilliance of the gifts of this life. In its ability to hide the world from us, the fog also issues forth feelings of isolation. We can lose our connectivity as life beyond the fog is merely a mystery.

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“And if you never stop when you wave goodbye/You just might find if you give it time/You will wave hello again/You just might wave hello again”

John Mayer, “The Wheel”

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Tonight, my kiddo who is experiencing his first state student council convention about three hours away from home sent me a picture of the sky. The cool front I mentioned had already passed through and the sun was breaking through just in time to say goodnight.

60108373783__8D5A22DE-32A3-4603-98BB-B96FF58052C9.jpegWhile this glimpse of the sun is but a brief respite before the fog and rain of January return, it is also a beautiful reminder that even when lost in the fog, the sun will eventually shine again. The color will return and the haze will lift. And when it does, we won’t be the same as we were before the days of the fog, because we are always moving and changing. We are always growing and learning–for better or for worse. But we will still be blessed again by the richness of these vibrant visions that remind us of all we are. Because, truly, if we are given the gift of the sunset, we must be worth so much more than we realize.

(Day eleven:) This sunset pic from my kiddo melted my heart for a lot of reasons but mainly because he had a day filled with tremendous anxiety and stress on this trip. He had just started to find relief–his metaphorical fog had lifted–and the joy in his text when he sent this pic filled my mama’s heart with comfort and joy. Watching this boy learn to live with and navigate his anxiety in similar ways to me at his age can often be painful but I am so proud of him at the same time)

Revive

In the last few weeks, I’ve allowed myself to become wildly overwhelmed–in part by the stress of running a school but moreso by something a bit elusive. What began as a low rumble of productive internal doubt, soon became a hurricane of hesitation–of blinding uncertainty and insecurity. A little self doubt typically keeps me in check, so I permit its presence. Questioning my decisions before they are final both at school and at home just seems to reflect careful reasoning. And this works.

Most of the time.

Trouble stirred recently because at some point even with this very self-aware process, I spiraled and before I could recognize what was happening, I was deep–really deep. I’m guessing this place is familiar to many. It’s the place where the refrain “you’re not good enough” echoes from the far reaches until it is all you can hear. It’s the place where every turn seems to drive deeper into the wilderness of withering confidence. It’s the place of helplessness, yet at the same time you will swear you are doing everything you can to help yourself. It’s the place where wallowing becomes the way instead of the won’t.

And you don’t even sense your citizenship to this place–that’s the insidious part. There was no intentional journey or paperwork to fill out, you just weren’t paying attention. It feels like “this is what life has become.” People can reassure you, but you’re so deep that it doesn’t resonate…they are just words without weight…the impact despite the intent.

Yet the words linger. Reminders of what you once knew yourself to be.

Funny story about this…one of my better skills is helping people (kids mostly) recognize when they’ve reached this destination and helping to support them as they unwind the spiral of negative self-talk…helping them harness the buoyancy of their spirit. Yet, somehow it seems, and not surprisingly really, I am pretty abysmal at helping myself in the same way. Goodness, even Dante needed Virgil to get through Hell and Purgatory. I needed another voice…a guide.

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Somewhere around a week ago, my youngest son shared some memoir work he had composed in ELA. In this collection of pages was a half sheet of revision notes. On this page at some point he misspelled the word “Revise” and he wrote:

“Revive”

And I thought, I should help him see his mistake. And then I thought, wait a second, revive is a perfect word because isn’t that what revision does in the first place–it revives the work.

And then, because I’m an English teacher, I thought of Eliot’s Prufrock and his “visions and revisions” and how the indecision of it all paralyzed his entirety.

And then, I realized what I was doing wrong. A light came on, my vision was restored and I knew what needed to be done. It was time to revise my thinking and my acting in a way that would revive my spirit and in doing so renew my purpose. This wasn’t about changing other people. This was about the work I needed to do for myself. You know, the work we never want to take the time to do…because it is so much easier to make our inner mess someone else’s fault…that work.

I had to realize and own yet again that I cannot control the choices my students make, though I can guide them. I cannot control everything that will happen in the school day despite planning for it. I cannot control every action of every being and while I can try to control things in my house, inevitably, it is still going to be sort of a disorganized mess and my kids will still talk back to me from time to time. None of these things are necessarily failures on my part (okay, maybe the messy house, but that is a lifelong struggle and my husband knew this when he married me!), but I had been taking sole credit for too much that wasn’t really completely mine in the first place. I needed to unburden myself from this weight but had no idea how to do that in the midst of the busy-ness of life.

But to revise is to step away from your work so that you can return refreshed and ready to breathe new life into it–to revive it.

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My step away was booked months ago before I even knew I would need it. It involved leaving both my school and my family with more going on than I should have left behind in order to attend NCTE. I wan’t sure I should go. I nearly canceled several times in the weeks leading up to my departure.  I felt selfish. While I knew this conference and the people here would remind me of my “teacher/administrator why”, I would be leaving behind a lot of people who rely on me to be there for them.

Except, I hadn’t really been there for them because I was a bit lost in my own stuff. This trip would not be selfish. This trip would restore me to the people I know and love. This trip would center my focus and energize me to move forward. This trip would give me time to reflect and to be still as well as time to interact and be social. This trip presented a shift in my physical location but also stood to present a shift in my mental location as well.

I had to go. Here’s why…

as the plane

lifted above the clouds—

weightless—free,

visions of magnificence, of blessing

struck awe

 

sunsets are the stuff of the everyday—

skyscapes from the ground,

majesty beyond humanity’s ability—

a gift—a reminder

all we have, all we don’t deserve

 

as the plane

lifted above the clouds,

a new perspective dawned

at dusk—unusual timing—yet not;

a sunset from a new angle

glowing through the grey

 

inhale, exhale

—release—

sparks of revival glow in those clouds

igniting the path

to myself

my truth

my life.