I Am Angry for Our Girls

There are very few boundaries in my life that I feel are unwavering. There are very few hills that I am willing to die on; very few places in my life where I put my foot down and say this is what I believe and this is what I will and/or will not do.

Thanks to therapy and medication, I am free to be flexible in my life. The rigidity of anxious, fearful living doesn’t define how I interact with other people and ideas. I’m not a steel-spined monolith, I am able to flex with the moment, with relationships, with the setting I am in. I think that’s healthy, and I’ve worked hard to be able to do that. I don’t want to be rigid, I want to be open to the waves and the wind of life, to how we are supposed to change, and honestly, do somersaults and backflips sometimes. It can be uncomfortable.

I guess I have found one of those places where I cannot waver; where it is not in me to be flexible. And if I am flexible in this place that I am about to tell you about, I will deeply regret it. I will be angry, and there will be deep pain and resentment.

The place where that is is with women. With being a marginalized person, with having an identity–a very clear identity–as a female in a world that has waged war against women since the beginning of time. In a world where women and men equally espouse ideas against people who are like me. I cannot stand for that because when I do I am standing against myself and that makes no sense. That causes inner distress at the deepest level of my being. I’ve learned about myself that I cannot be simultaneously working to be alive and to be happy and to be free and speaking against the very nature of who I am.

The difficult thing is that many women as well as men defend these ideas. They believe that women are inferior and men are superior. The stories the teenagers that I know tell me about the things girls say about and to one another , saying that they want to be with the guys instead of other girls, is because we are taught from birth that men are superior. That is the story in our DNA. It is here and it is always this lie that we are waking up and facing daily. We are constantly facing microaggressions, we are constantly being paid less, demeaned, undervalued, disregarded because we are different than men.

I can’t stand for it. I cannot stand next to someone who speaks against my kind. That is the same as eating a nutritious meal while taking drinks from a glass full of poison.

I find myself nearly foaming at the mouth when I speak of these things. Although there are academics and there are women and men who study, teach, and write books about the ways that we treat each other so poorly, but still our little girls are tuaght that their value from proximity to a man. There are grown women who cannot fathom that they are valuable without having a man in their life, without having the stamp of approval from a man.

And our men are just boys, they are just humans like we are. They are not licensed or able or wise enough to tell women if they have value or not. So why do we keep teaching our girls to ask them? Why are wives taught to ask their husbands if they are good enough when she was born perfect? Why are these lies still shaping the way our boys and girls interact with one another? Simply typing these words onto the page puts me in a state of complete outrage.

That’s it. That’s the boundary I can’t betray, the guard I cannot let down. A person who stands against women stands against me, and has no share in my life.

We are complicit in the damage of patriarchy every day, but we must wage the war for equality, for equal respect, for the truth of every being’s worthiness to permeate each corner of our society.

There is no other way for us to all be okay.

Faith and Other Foibles, 2020

what’s beautiful is surviving struggle. what is beautiful is living to tell our stories. what’s beautiful is surviving heartbreak. what’s beautiful is not anymore about perfection…what’s really beautiful is living to tell your story and letting that story inspire others to survive the lives that they are living. ~CeCe Jones-Davis

Health

New data about the toll of anxiety and stress on the body is rolling out every year. We know now that stress and anxiety take a tangible toll on the body, down to the cellular level. Being alive during the pandemic this year, and being a full time teacher at a time when the vaccine had not yet been concocted, tested, etc., was the most continually stressful situation I’ve been in. That level of prolonged stress made me tired, and as minister CeCe Jones-Davis says, Change comes when we get tired but we have to keep going.

Thanks to the mother of a student (who has become a dear friend to me), who saw my exhaustion and physical pain, and advocated for me, I have pursued the changes that my body needs to offset the continuing toll of the trauma I experienced in adolescence, and the heavy weight of this year’s anxiety. I don’t feel that I am at 100%, but I remember there is a 100%, and it is my most holy work to get my body, mind, and spirit, back to that level of functioning and comfort.

Love

Leaving love and the comfort of another person is extraordinarily difficult; staying when it is time to go is far more so. I don’t have many words on Love–between humans–right now. I left love, I found love, I allowed my definition of love to be modified, and honestly, right now, its’ in flux. I have a better idea of what the love I want in my life to be like, but it isn’t settled, and I am allowing it to shift and move, as I and my beloved partner shift and move. I am grateful for the men who have shared my bed, for their smells, for their guarded vulnerabilities, for the shape of their body next to mine. Gabriel, te amo. Quiero pasar mi vida contigo, si Dios(a) lo quiere.

What I do know about love between humans is that sexual partners come and go. You may sign a mortgage with someone, you may not. Tried and true friendships hold. Sisterhood holds. Mentorship, done well, holds. When the romantic love you hoped for falls through, as it inevitably will in one way or another, for a time, or permanently, the relationships you made with friends, co-workers, children of friends, and your own children ( be it cat, dog, or human!) will hold. Because you invested in them. Because you chose to open your heart and your life to the beautiful people you encounter. As I had held others up, so they will hold me up, and it is an incredibly gracious and reassuring experience to fall back on the ropes of these nets you wove.

Faith

Like Love, this one is up in the air for me. I feel that I am soaring between unwavering loyalty to one tradition, over exploration of traditions from around the world, to where I think I’ll land: with deep appreciation for all traditions, but a universal perspective on the tradition that feels like home to me: that of Jesus, of the marginalized Jews and the mystical tales their people passed down for centuries.

I know that although I can’t verbalize much about my faith, it informs the way I live. My faith was there on the mornings when I opened my eyes and realized I had to do what felt impossible again. It was there when I prayed “God, help me calm down,” during a severe anxiety attack over Thanksgiving break. It, He, She, Spirit, Faith, is there every time I come back to myself, during a yoga class, a meditation, a walk through the park, a long hug with a woman who mothers me (there are many, including my biological mother, who gave me the gift of “matter to enliven,” as my osteopathic doctor says).

I know that I am endlessly grateful for my faith. It has been hard won, over the course of my years, and through tireless absorption of words from those whose faith is more mature than my own.

Friendships

This year I experienced betrayal in a more acute way than I ever have. I was treated poorly (hello, scapegoating, with whom I was well acquainted as a child) by women that I allowed to be close to me (physically, emotionally). After my anger and egotistical outraged (how could this happen to ME?!) simmered down, I learned that they hadn’t hurt me because they are bad people, but because there are decisions that I have made about how I will and will not treat people that not everyone else has made.

Attention to people who are different, honest, and naturally inclined to vulnerability: you will be the one who people try to put their stuff on and send outside of the city (Biblical reference, in the Bible it was a goat because we are the GOAT). You will be the one that emotionally immature, draining people seek to latch onto and manipulate the hardest. Resist. That is their work; you alone can do yours.

That being said, this year I made new friends. I welcomed into my life, from a 6 foot minimum distance, women from the west side of town who live in giant homes and read voraciously, introverted neighbors who I wouldn’t have met if not for the pandemic, a French family with three boys, the boyfriend of my mentee (he got condoms for Christmas), new students, old male yogis, young female yoginis, folks who were new to yoga, fellow teachers, seasoned veteran teachers, and poor homeless folks. The friends I hold most dearly are those who have aligned themselves with me, advocating for, and having fun with me for years, and those who, regardless of how long they have known me, have joined me in the work that is closest to my heart: that of making the world a more equitable place for all, starting with our children.

Service

2020: I was raised in a home where service was valued, elevated, and considered an essential part of every day life. Arguably, my career is one of service. I teach, I facilitate information processing, I listen and care. From 7:30am-3:45pm every week day, service is my identity. That’s service that I get paid for, however. Jesus’ (and other religious leaders) example(s) shows the value of service when you get nothing in return.

I donate monthly (small amounts) to Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, and Preemptive Love Coalition. My true service, however, is to walk alongside the children that I started mentoring 7/9 years ago. They are nearly grown, and I savor every moment that we spend together. It takes incredible intentionality and commitment to maintain relationships across generational, socioeconomic, and racial lines. My life, my precious relationships with these babies and their families, show that this isn’t impossible. Being a part of their lives is the most humbling, redemptive, and fulfilling experience I have ever had. Thank you, Aaliyah, and Keandre. My heart is yours forever, and I will never stop rooting for you to rise and soar in your own lives.

Professional

Until two weeks ago, I thought I may have taken the wrong career path. I thought this was where the path may split. I thought I needed to leave teaching. After deep rest, spiritual renewal, and quiet reflection, I remembered that it is important to quit my job, every day, after work. To leave work at work, care for myself, and return to the classroom with a clean-slated mind and heart every damn day. I remembered that leaning on co-workers has gotten me this far, and the amazing women that I work with will continue to be there with all their dry jokes, grounded advice, and mid-day stupidity.

Over the break, I remembered what my job actually is, why I love it, and how capable I am of transcending situational difficulties in order to find a more appropriate, functional, and successful way forward for myself and my students. I remembered why I live and breath to teach, and that I cannot do it well if I am not nurturing my own growth and learning, while also handling life’s unpredictability with unimaginable amounts of Grace.

Books

It was a 35-book year, thanks to quarantine, but here are my top mentions. The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehisi Coates. Between the World and Me, same. Normal People, Sally Rooney. Felicity, Mary Oliver. The Color Purple, Alice Walker. Everything is Spiritual, Rob Bell. Red to the Bone, Jacqueline Woodson. Untamed, Glennon Doyle Melton. Malcolm X, autobiography as told to Alex Haley. We are Displaced, Malala. Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire, Jen Hatmaker. The Will to Change, bell hooks. Relatos de una Mujer Borracha, Martina Cañas.

I’ll end my little reflection with these sweet words from Father Richard Rohr, a leader who keeps reminding me that the faith of my childhood is the most faithful home I can ever know.

Love is luring us forward, because love is what we already are at our core, and we are naturally drawn to the fullness of our own being. ~ Richard Rohr

Amen, and happy new year, dear ones. Let’s move forward into Love this year, as perilous and harrowing as it may be. We were made for this.

Let Sincere Whites…

Let sincere whites go teach nonviolence to white people!~Malcolm X

The history placed into my developing mind by adults, texts, and images, didn’t reflect reality. It heavily favored the white man, and overlooked the barbaric history of the land I live on. This is a common experience had by white and black children alike. Without going into a lengthy narrative, suffice it to say that I have been working to undo the false history with the accurate history, as painful as the truth is, for almost a decade.

As an experiential learner, and the student of a college with a predominantly African American student body, in a predominantly African American area, I took it upon myself to explore the area, attend church in the area, and create bonds with the people there, though at times it was uncomfortable.

Some of my most treasured relationships, and the safest people in my life, I met during that time of “exploration”. In fact, it became less an area and time of discomfort and exploration, and more an area and time of just, well, living life, among people who said it like it was, and didn’t put me or my differences down to boost their own egos.

For many reasons, those people became the people I preferred to be around, and their worldview and history began to infiltrate my own.

As a teen, I thought the best way to bring people together was to bring them in proximity with one another. I thought, if other white people saw what I had seen, and made connections like I had, they, too, would begin to dream of a unified, and equitable way forward.

Looking back, this was a huge mistake. I brought black children and friends into white settings that were uncomfortable for them at best, dangerous at worst. In the wake of the 2016 election, it became apparent that people who I believed would change for the better, were they simply exposed to people who I saw as being from “the other side of town”, actually changed for the worse, and saw those people (my friends included). as people from the “bad part of town”. That’s code for where black people live.

Since then, I’ve wised up. Assuming that other white folks had done (or would do) the work to be safe, non-triggering people to our black neighbors, was naïve of me. I was wrong. I own those mistakes, and I am grateful that, as far as I know, lasting psychological, emotional, and physical damage was never done to the black children whose parents entrusted them to me, or to the young adult friends that I brought around my white community.

The amazing thing is, not once, has a black friend cut me off, or argued with me, or been resentful toward me over these mistakes. No one is perfect, but people who make space for the shortcomings of their friends feel more perfect than those who don’t.

In the years since the election I have studied the black experience at great length, and done my best to stand as a faithful witness of, and supporter through, the unimaginable, deeply unjust and dehumanizing struggles that black folks face simply as a result of being alive in the USA. I have kept the white community out of my black friend’s lives, and recognized with humility, that no one ever asked me to combine the two, and great philosophers and intellectuals–not to mention people of color, and elders in my community–know more about integration than I do. I’m not saying integration isn’t the way forward. I think I am saying that I can’t integrate people’s hearts for them, and I had to learn that where the rubber meets the road.

As my osteopathic doctor (a true medicine woman), told me, “You can pray for their ears to be open, but you can’t make them hear.”

I learned this experientially (and undoubtedly will learn it many times to come), over many years, and through the revealing explosion that was the 2016 election results. By grace, the casualties of my mistakes were few.

The reassuring thing is that this lesson lines up with the words of the amazing black leader and Muslim minister–killed far too early in his powerful life–Malcolm X: Working separately, the sincere white people and sincere black people actually will be working together.

When I spend time nurturing friendships in an authentic manner with people, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status, if I am being true to my values, and to my calling of white allyship, I am right there in the fray. I don’t have to go to black communities to go to war. In fact, the war is within the hearts and minds of people like me. We are the temples in which racism is still worshipped. From within us, we need Jesus to rise and turn the tables. Black folks know they’re human, and deserve to be treated as such (sending blessings to any black brother or sister who doesn’t feel human…your life is sacred); we are the ones who must undo the dehumanizing infrastructure set up in our minds and housed inside our very DNA.

I guess what I am saying is, don’t take the battle to black people, and don’t take black people to battle. What is ours is ours, and integrating our minds and hearts is a long labor, that will lead to wholeness in our own communities, and freedom from the shadow of despair that white supremacy casts over everything and everyone that it touches.

Be sincere, be diligent in self-examination. Trace the impact of every dollar you spend. Elevate black voices. Take the time to learn. You will make mistakes, as I did, but there isn’t a formula to get it right, and don’t you dare ask a random off-the-street black person (or a black friend for that matter, odds are, if they don’t start the conversation, they don’t want to have it with you) to concoct that formula for you.

Look inward. Do the work. Listen. Humanize yourself to humanize others to make the world a softer, more equitable place.

We are on a journey, friends, and we are going somewhere better, together.

(S)He has told you, O (wo)man, what is good; and what does the LORD (Spirit) require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? ~ Micah 6:8 (The Bible)

posture

I’m not sure what it is about us that makes regular days feel like they have nothing to offer because there is so much going on in every corner of the world, in every mind and heart, every single moment of every single day. There is always something to learn, there is always something to observe, there is always something to reflect on, to be confounded by, to be confused by, to be amazed by.

There is always something that we can put our attention on and therein encounter something new or different.

It is the posture with which we approach the moments of our lives that determine what it has or has not to offer us.

The Practice of Paradox

Father Richard Rohr–a mystic whose work I’ve been following throughout my adult life–calls a paradox “something that initially looks like a contradiction, but if you go deeper with it and hold it longer or at a different level, it isn’t necessarily so.”

How intriguing, how relevant.

As a child, I saw the world in technicolor; things have never been black & white for me. Whether it be considered a blessing or a curse, I’ve always naturally inclined towards non-dual thinking.

This year, though, has revealed some deep dualities that I still held onto. Events that the global climate have led to on a local & personal level in my life have forced me to re-examine these. I am being forced to evaluate whether or not the weight of these dualities–as comfy as they may feel–is worth carrying.

The definition of paradox above brings to mind for me a figure in between two posts, holding rope in either hand, rope that is holding up both posts. Were the figure to release either rope, the posts would fall. I often feel myself as that figure.

I wonder for hours why the people who face great difficulties in their lives, are often the kindest. It seems contradictory.

Then again, it seems that the most painful experiences lead to the greatest acquisition of wisdom. It’s something bad (the loss of a job, depression, relational conflict, you name it), yet it leads to something good (growth, insight, wisdom).

I decided when I was young that I would choose women over men. I know what it is like to be chosen second to a man by the woman who matters most to me. The pain that experience caused led me to resolve never to do the same to another young girl. However, women are just as capable of betrayal as men are. This year I learned that a man who has proven himself can be more trustworthy than a woman who hasn’t. So while it is true that I choose women first, I now know that some women don’t deserve my loyalty. It seems to contradict, but looking closer, the two truths can exist side by side. The enemy isn’t always the most obvious; violence thrives in close proximity to the oppressed, even within them.

In 2016, people started showing political support for a clearly evil, misogynistic, and racist man. For over a year, I thought that showing support to that man proved a person’s inner evil. People who supported this anti-human man had to be anti-me, anti-their-neighbors, and aanti-everyone. Then a pandemic happened, and people who supported that man have shown care for their neighbors. People have said nice things to each other in the hardest times. People who vote in a way I could never understand are still practicing kindness. It feels impossible, but it’s just paradoxical.

Then, Christmas is here.

Like never before the traditions bring my heart comfort and hope. We need extra light at winter solstice. As a human culture, we need a reason to tell each other kind things, and to talk about our progresses and loved ones. The consumeristic materialism of Christmas has, in the past, eclipsed for me the importance of the Holidays. This year, as I write Christmas cards for people who truly have upheld me when it felt impossible to keep going, I feel the goodness of Christmas outweigh the capitalistic evils that monopolize popular culture’s conceptualization of the Holiday. Within (recent) mainstream Christianity, there’s the idea that the historical figure of Jesus “came to earth” in order to “save” people from their sins. This is a heinous idea standing entirely on the premise that humans are inherently bad.

The paradox is that Christmas is important– giving essential structure to the calendar year that we live by–while Christmas is also wrapped up with the toxic religious idea of human depravity. I feel both of these truths to my core.

It is good, while it is bad.

Jesus, allegedly born in a dirty manger, surrounded by animals, to a marginalized teenager, represents the amazing, universal reality, that the underdog wins. The Christmas story tells us that the light doesn’t last. It reminds us, year after year, that however long and dark the night feels, the sun always rises.

Jesus reminds us that after winter solstice, the light gets longer, and brighter, and brighter, and longer. Jesus reminds us of hope.

Struggle (can) birth(s) kindness.

Difficulty (can) breed(s) wisdom.

Those who seem least likely to betray you, are still capable of doing so.

People can subscribe to atrocious ideals, and be truly kind and well-intentioned with their neighbors.

Christmas is coated in consumerism, and hijacked by materialism, but it is holy, it is deeply good and necessary.

There are paradoxes I don’t understand, mysteries I can’t put into words. These are the ones I am exploring now, on the cusp of a new year, as the natural world warms and blossoms again.

Teaching Now

The past 4.5 months have shown me more clearly than ever the importance of doing work that I love, that I feel called to do. I haven’t gained this clear sight because it has been a smooth or easy time. Far to the contrary, my work has been difficult in unimaginable ways.

The pandemic. It has changed nearly everything for nearly everyone. No one’s life is outside the reach of social distancing guidelines, mask acne and irritations, fear of not having their needs met, fear of losing life or losing a loved one. With only my experience to back me up on this, I would argue that no one has made it through these past 10 months with unscathed mental health.

For me, before 2020, work was a haven, a sanctuary. Not that it wasn’t challenging, or that there weren’t good days and bad days, but, generally, I wanted to go to work. It provides structure that my creative mind needs. It provides me with a place in society to discover who I am and what my gifts are. Teaching, especially, provides me with an outlet for sharing knowledge, communicating, and investing in the next generation of leaders. I have a lot to learn, but there isn’t a doubt in my mind that I am good at teaching, and that I leave a positive impact on student’s minds and hearts.

Over the past months, work has become a dread. I have found myself snoozing my alarm 3-4 times in the morning (I’m usually an up-and-at-em-at-the-first-ring person). I have cried on Sunday nights because the weekend went by so fast. I have driven to work with a sick feeling in my stomach. On my worst days, I have gone straight home, laid on my couch, and thought about how long I could go without working until my savings run out (spoiler: not long).

This isn’t normal for me. I’ve never been here before. I like to work. In the trenches over the course of the semester I couldn’t see what I can see now (after 3 work days of planning, grading, and organizing without students present): my job has changed. The pandemic has reached its’ claws into my job description and edited the whole damn thing.

Instead of chatting with students casually before class, I spend my time running from one classroom to another, trying to log onto an online meeting, trying to be sure I didn’t forget anything.

Instead of focusing on students’ educations, I’m focused on their physical safety (Lawt bless the nurses and behavioral health workers who have a career of this).

Instead of rebuking students for things that don’t matter, like breaking pencils, or playing on their phones in the bathroom, I’ve had to constantly remind students that their lives may be at risk if they do not wear their mask appropriately, or keep the correct amount of distance between themselves and others.

Instead of focusing on one task at a time, I’ve been forced to multi-task all day long.

Multi-tasking destroys the soul, and the mind, as no one thought can be followed to its’ end when it is interrupted relentlessly.

The pandemic has changed my work, the seriousness of my work, the amount of work that I do every day, and the energy that I (don’t) have to do it with.

It won’t always be like this. In January, I think it is going to be like this. There will be days when it feels impossible to get out of bed and go to work again. I will probably drink too much wine and eat unhealthy foods because of the stress. I may skip workouts because I don’t have the energy to do anything besides sleep after work.

I forgive myself for not being perfect. I forgive the world for not being a perfect place to live.

From these times, I will glean wisdom, tenacity, and inner fire. That fire burns, even on the hardest days, and I will not give up on myself, on my students, on the world.

“The tree that knows how to bend is resilient.” ~Omid Safir

Listen to Who She Is

When people tell you who they are, for God’s sake, believe them.

First, I felt surprised. Soft, still, but a sort of negative sensation of surprise. As I swam laps, I started to awaken to the realization that a friend who I thought was a really beautiful person, has actually been the source of my spiritual exhaustion as of late. (Yes, spiritual. Friendships, like all relationships, are a spiritual experience, as they have to do with our experience of connection on earth.)

After that feeling started to subside, I felt angry. How could she? Why would she? How could such a nice person be so cruel and blind? How could anyone be so childish and selfish?

I felt angry, I smoked cigarettes and listened to Beyoncé as I drove home from the gym.

Then, after a sleepless, angry night, I felt sad. Sadness tinged with disappointment kept me up the next night. I thought she was like this, but she’s actually like this. I began to grieve the friend I thought I’d found, but who didn’t exist.

As I realized that she has used me to build connections in a new place, to keep herself occupied with social events, and as a shoulder to cry on without offering emotional safety in return, I began to connect the dots. She hadn’t changed, or even lied outright (although the fakeness and sneakiness is blinding) to me; her actions had told me who she is all along, and I had chosen not to heed my instincts.

That’s the tricky thing, I suppose: when you need your instincts most, they are hardest to hear. At least for me. Around people like this former friend who lack respect for themselves and for other women (the groveling before men is a natural side effect of a lack of self-respect in a woman, I suppose), my instincts become cloudy. I wonder if the way I am feeling is right, as the message within me is so different from what the people around me are saying, and exuding energetically.

Asking someone to be a deeper person than they are is futile. Asking someone who doesn’t know how to care for anyone but herself, is futile. Expecting different, when she has told me (through words, actions, and her energetic posture) who she is, was my own foolishness.

Now, I still feel sad, and I think I will feel that way for a while. I am embarrassed as well, to have fallen for a ruse that, had I listened to my instincts, could have been revealed months ago. I want to feel responsibility now. I want to learn this lesson well, and pass it on, not to people who will listen and throw it away, but to other people like me who are willing to look at their actions, take responsibility, and move forward in a more authentic and compassionate way.

Next time, when someone tells me who they are, I want to believe them, and go about my way.

Yoga Dynamics

Yoga and teaching (specifically in the K-12 setting) are two of the most dynamic activities that I know of. Both are constantly changing, and different from day-to-day. This year, the two have been combined for me as I am teaching a yoga elective for PE credit.

I started out the year looking at each 80 minute period as a vinyasa-style class period. I even pumped up music (wearing myself out looking for good and appropriate playlists!), and made the class extra active in order to keep the very in-shape high schoolers in the class engaged. This worked for a couple of weeks.

Gradually, the class of 43 students, started to go online (for COVID reasons), or simply lay down on their yoga mat for the entire class. It got to where only 2-6 students were practicing with me. I got to where I dreaded the classes. My very high level of energy output was yielding very little energy output for my students.

Anyone familiar with teaching knows that is a recipe for disaster. The disaster commonly known as burnout.

Before I realized how unsuccessful my yoga classes at school were becoming, I started to feel agitated and impatient during the adult yoga classes that I teach outside of my full time job. These classes are usually fun, creative outlets for me. I started to dread them, and cancel them any chance I got.

A self care element that I have recently added to my weekly schedule is a class at Sixth House studio. It’s a class called “air” that focuses on flexibility and inspired, fluid movements. The teacher is beyond competent, and the studio’s environment helps me to relax and move towards a trustful, resting state.

During this class two weeks ago (which is on a Wednesday, thus, the perfect mid-week pick-me-up), I was able to pick up on my near-burnout energy, and to gently explore potential causes. By the end of class, I realized that my broken relationship to the PE elective Yoga class was causing tension inside of me that translated not only to my adult yoga classes, but also to my personal yoga practice. Thankfully, I talked it through with the teacher of the “air” class, and I left with some tangible ideas for what was going wrong, and how to improve the class.

After giving it some thought, I realized that the regular vinyasa practice that I was accustomed to teaching was too abstract for my student’s developing minds. They need something more concrete than my verbal cues to connect themselves to their bodies. I created a Google Classroom where they can now turn in personal reflections and assignments based on videos or resources that I upload. We do short practices together at the beginning of class now, but the majority of the class, they are practicing independently or completing an activity. This allows them autonomy that they value, and the ability to do the work at their own pace, which is a luxury that all classes do not afford them. It also allows me down time during the class, to read their feedback, their physical cues, and reconnect with my own energy center. This is a more sustainable way to teach this elective.

I am certain that I will continue to tweak the class as I learn more about my own limitations, and what is beneficial for my students. This is the journey I’ve been on over the past couple of months, and I think it is the stuff that will forge me into a seasoned teacher.

Extended Stress Response

I do not have a degree in any sort of psychology, but I use words and phrases that I have picked up from books, articles, and therapy sessions that I’ve attended, and I find these helpful for describing my experiences. If anyone who has a fancy degree would like to correct my use of these phrases, by all means, please leave a comment.

Life in COVID has me dealing with the longest ongoing stress response that I’ve lived with in my adult life. The environment that I grew up in was continually triggering for me, which took a great emotional and physical toll on my sensitive body and mind. However, I healed quickly once outside of that environment. I have learned well (most weeks), how to care for myself, how to identify stress and tension in my body and mind, and how to release it. These “tools” for deescalating myself are ones that I make use of week-to-week, and now that we are living in a pandemic, I make use of them day-to-day, oftentimes minute-to-minute.

Currently, I have more social connections than I have had at any previous moment in my adult life. I tend to maintain individual connections outside of any social groups primarily. The social groups that I have been a part of have been nebulous, which I prefer. Now, I find myself inside of several closer-knit social groups and it has come to be very taxing for me.

Inside of a group I find it hard to really know someone as an individual, or really grasp their story and how they came to be who they are. Add the ongoing stress of a pandemic, and I find the constant chatter from members of social groups I am a part of to wear down on my energy, and my desire to engage socially.

My compassion is running low, as I feel that I’ve drained it for myself and for all others near 20 times per day since March. It’s hard to demonstrate genuine compassion when life isn’t having compassion on us. We are watching wave after wave of bad news roll in on every day’s tide.

It’s hard to smell the flowers when you’re under water.

It’s hard to notice the sunshine when you can barely keep your eyes open.

It’s hard to listen compassionately when your nervous system has been in fight, flight, or freeze for months.

I want to know how to preserve social groups, and comfort the difficult feelings of others, even during a pandemic, but I don’t know how.

I am tired. We are all tired, and falling back on the coping mechanisms that we established as children.

Mine are to retreat, rest, nestle under my comforter with two stuffed animals, a candle burning on my night stand, and a book next to me (in case my eyes aren’t too tired to read). Text messages have to wait when I need rest. Dinners and parties, gatherings, and conversations fall to the wayside when I don’t have the energy left to engage with myself.

I am mine to care for, however quietly and slowly that caring process may go. I am my first responsibility. I put guards up around me until I have the strength and inner connection that I need to be open to connections with other.

I sit in still solidarity with my heart, until she is well enough to pump blood once more.

No Such Thing as Good White People

What would I do if I knew this were true?

How would I live if my mantra was, “There is no Such Thing as Good White People”?

If I knew no one could call me “good” or “bad” (because it was already decided), how much time would I save that I now spend trying to prove my goodness.

Would I listen to podcasts about black liberation and read books by Ta-nehesi Coates and Ibram Kendi and Austin Channing Brown just because I want to, not because I’m bad if I don’t?

Perhaps I would tell my racist white friends off, knowing that no matter how angry I became, they couldn’t retract my goodness. Their opinion couldn’t smudge me; they would be as bad as I, and I wouldn’t have to work tirelessly to prove otherwise.

I could stop smiling at black people at the grocery store and treat them all with the same indifference that I treat my fellow white people. I could spend time with teens from black neighborhoods without feeling the need to be, to act, morally superior.

If I lived as though there were No Such Thing as Good White People, things would be easier, and now I’m wondering…

what the hell does that tell me about me.

No such thing as good white people.” ~ Jericho Brown, The Tradition