Teacher, Teacher!

What's My NameA long time ago, there was a young girl – aged 10 or so – who spent hours upon hours alone in her room . This wasn’t a bad thing, really.  Alone was a comfortable way for her to be, even though she sometimes wondered what the other little girls in the neighborhood were doing.

Were they playing “house” or dolls or swimming with each other?  Were their heads bent close together, conspirators, sharing secrets about boys and their changing bodies and their common dislike of the new girl?

Sometimes, thinking about the other girls made her sad.  But mostly, she didn’t mind at all being alone in her room, for it was there that something quite magical happened

She became Someone Else

The Magic started the minute she carefully gathered all of her dolls and stuffed animals, and put them in a circle.  Once they were seated just so, she gave each of them a name.  There was Sally and Mark, Kathy and Susan, Brian and Diane.  Each had their own name, with their own “desk”, and their own writing paper with their names written on it in big, bold crayon letters.

The girl spoke their names often to the dolls and animals.  She wanted them to know that they were important to her, and acknowledge that she saw them.  Being “seen” is a very special gift to receive.  Maybe the best ever   When someone sees you, you know that you exist.  You know that they want you around and that they like you.  It makes you feel special, and maybe even a little bit taller.

Oh, and having someone call you by your name – especially when it was pronounced correctly – this was extra special!  She knew this because, more often than not, people mispronounced her name. Sometimes, over and over and over again, no matter how long she had been in their class.  And whenever she got a paper back with her name misspelled on it, her heart dropped.  She imagined that it was because she wasn’t important enough for the person to remember to do it right.  To spell it right and to say it right.

This it made her feel very small, like there was something wrong with her.  Something Weird.  And being Weird was awful.  Weird kids didn’t have many friends, and were picked last for the handball teams.

So when she was alone in her room, she would give herself a new name.  One that was easily pronounced, commonly spelled, and more like those of the other girls.  It was a name that would get her invited to slumber parties, or asked to play.  It was a powerful name because it

Made

Her

Fit

In

She called herself  “Jane”.

Miss Jane was the best teacher in the whole world!  Not only did she remember the names of each of her students correctly, she carefully prepared writing graphs and math problems for them, so they could practice drawing their letters and count with numbers.

Sure, she might scold one for talking too much in class, but she hugged the children a lot, and carefully glued innumerable stars – red ones and green ones and gold ones – on their school work so they knew how special they were, and what a good job they were doing.

Naturally, all of her students knew her name, and loved her.  Miss Jane was their favorite person in the whole world!  It wasn’t until after those magic hours came to an end, when she left the safety of her bedroom to go to school, that she was reminded – over and over again – how different she was. How she didn’t fit in.

She was reminded by the laughter of the other children when the teacher would stumble over her name for the millionth time.  She was reminded when all the little girls save her were invited to, and walked – en mass – to, an after-school party just down the street.

She was reminded when her mother and father asked her to be quiet, to go play in the other room, and to leave them alone talk, and to drink.  Or when she had a bad dream, and no one came to comfort her.

When she grew older, the woman would use a made up name – one that was easily pronounced, commonly spelled, and more like those of the other women – when she met new men in bars.  At least the ones she knew she wouldn’t spend more than just the night with.

When she grew older still, and married a man with an odd and unusual last name, and began having children, the woman gave those children names that were easily pronounced, commonly spelled, and more like those of other kids.  There wasn’t much she could do about the last name, except  hopethat her daughter could eventually change hers through marriage.  Much like she herself did when she divorced.

When she grew old,  even though the woman had grown to appreciate her name and to cherish it’s uniqueness – correcting or ignoring, depending on her mood – and even though she’d spent innumerable hours alone in her room reading and writing, learning and  healing her broken bits (you know the ones.  The ones that make you feel unwanted and unimportant), she still found herself making that certain magic at times.

It happened every time the barista asked for a name to write on the paper cup.  It happened when the saleswoman asked her name, to make her shopping experience more personal…more special…maybe even so she could write it on the dressing room door.

It happened every time she placed a fast food order, created a user name, or was in some situation where it was just easier to be someone else.  To be more common.  To be more like others.

She told them, “Jane”.

Still Here, Still Standing

14557_1308787279173_1215328008_30948435_7422599_nSome days I hardly recognize myself.

It’s not just when I look into the mirror and see some bald chick looking back at me.

Or that I spend an inordinate amount of time laying around and watching TV  because I don’t have the energy for much else, or may be experiencing a low grade depression.

It’s not my preoccupation with what’s going on with my body, or what’s going into my body, or what’s coming out of my body (yeah…maybe a little TMI there…sorry.)

It’s not even that my world has become so very small, cloistered as I am for the most part within the confines of my home.

No.

It’s that so many of the ways in which I identified Who I Am seem to be falling away, like it’s all up for grabs right now.  Everything from my employment to my appearance to my activities to my health.  Seriously, all of it.

And I’m learning to be OK with that, in a very “Shit, are you kidding me right now??” sort of way.

My biggest challenge is to feel safe while going through this disintegration phase. It’s kinda tricky.  A lot tricky, actually.  It’s forcing my roots to shoot deep deep deep into my foundational beliefs.  To actually question what is is I believe in – Who I believe in – and why.  Because right now, these beliefs are my grounding.

I love trees.  I’m a tree hugger from way back, and I’ve always related more to being a tree than a flower. (I started this blog back in 2007 because of my connection with a tree …you can read about that here.  And wrote again in 2010 about identifying as an Oak tree here.)

Picturing myself as a tree is actually beneficial.  As a tree, I remember to bend with the storms of life so I don’t break.  And if something does break off, it doesn’t mean I’m finished.  Dead leaves and dead wood should fall away.  Pruning is healthy for me.  Hardening off my bark ensures strength to endure.   Deeper roots help me to stand.

And this is good.

ONE DAY WHEN I WAS OLD

by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

I remember one day when I was young,
forty-five years or so old,
I woke up an old woman that morning.
Not quite in body all the way, but close.
And also in mind.
And I thought, “This is good.”
For also, in the face I was changed,
a little bark-chipped and creased,
like a tree long-lived enough
after having been planted so long ago
by some winged bird
accidentally letting fall a semi-sacred seed
into some almost impossible place,
precisely the way most of us came to earth–
unplanned, and yet sticking to the place
where we were dropped,
growing, growing flowers and fruits
set into our DNA–
and this too was good.

I leaned through the window
of my bathroom mirror,
and touched her old, cracked face…
I soothed back her black hair
with fire opals
in its strands of white.

And I saw as I leaned in,
There were permanent diamonds
in her tear ducts,
those gotten from years of use
and pressure in dark places.

And I gazed at the body
she and I share,
and I saw that rubies
had grown into all my cuts
and that tiny mirrors shone
in all my widders and spalls…

and I saw that I was old
and strong
and delicate
and fierce, like a queen
who has ruled the lands within her reach,
not perfectly, but despite brutal winters,
she was still alive,
the heartwood hardened off just enough,
the tender capillaries still able to carry
the juice and the warmth.

And then, twenty-some years later,
I crossed the crone line,
wearing the tissue-paper crown
with the sacred words “Still here,
still standing…”
engraved upon it.
These words of triumph for all of us elders,
these words “Still here… Still standing,”
they’re the ultimate royal “Ha!”,
the ultimate para la vida “Ha!”,
to life, with life, all of life, filled with life.
Us, crossed now, the crone line,
para la vida, filled with life.

I remember one day when I was young,
forty-five years old or so,
I woke up an old woman that morning.
Not in body quite all the way, but close.
Also in mind, and this was good.
And also in the face I was changed
with all the marks of rings like a tree,
and this too was good.

I looked at my body
and saw that rubies had grown
in all my cuts,
and mirrors shone in all the widders and spalls.
And I saw I was old and strong,
like a queen who had ruled herself
not perfectly, but well.

And I leaned in and touched her old, cracked face,
and I saw the permanent diamonds in her tear ducts
that were gotten from years of hard use
and pressure in dark places.

I remember one day when I was young,
forty-five years old or so,
I woke up an old woman.
And I have been more and more free
ever since.

______________________

CODA

And so may it be for you.
And so may it be for me.
And so may it be for all of us.
Amen.
And as my grandmother used to say,
“Amen… and a little woman.”

_______________________

“One Day When I Was Old,” a blessing-poem by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Copyright ©1990, 2010, All Rights Reserved, including but not limited to electronic, performance, theatrical, musical, graphic, film, commercial, derivative. Uses: You are welcome to use this blessing poem in non-commercial ways without adding to nor deleting any part, just using the work in its entirety along with author’s name and this copyright notice attached.

Where The Light Is

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“The Warrior of the Light is a believer.  Because she believes in miracles, miracles begin to happen.  Because she is sure that her thoughts can change her life, her life begins to change.  Because she is certain that she will find love, love appears.” ~ Paulo Coelho

I took this photo the other morning while out looking at my garden beds.   Even though I’ve been growing them for years, Milkweed – and their seeds – have really captured my attention in the last couple of weeks.  All of the plants are currently filled with pods bursting with beautiful potential. On any given day I’ll find their seeds clinging to the tomatoes vines, climbing the lemon tree, or sitting on the earth like a little angel, just waiting for Someone to bury it.

To me, these seeds are particularly beautiful with their tiny filaments that help catepillar1.jpgthem “fly”.  How apropos, since they’re the sole nourishment for Monarchs.  Without these common, easy to grow plants, Monarch caterpillars wouldn’t have food.  Without Monarch caterpillars, there’d be no butterflies….and how sad would that be!?!?  Monarches are already disappearing by the millions. So even though I only have a few of them, growing Milkweed is one way I can help them survivr.

Seeds are miraculous.  Take pomegranates, for example.  A single pomegranate seed, planted at the right time, in the right soil, with the right care, will produce a tree.  That tree will eventually bear fruit – lots and lots of fruit – and each of those fruit will be packed with more seeds! Like, an average of 680 seeds!  That’s amazing!

We’re talking about 10s of 1000s of seeds produced in a single growing season from a single tree and it ALL comes about because one little dot was sown.

What mesmerizes me most about this photo (taken with my cell phone and unfiltered) is the little ball of light at the juncture of the filaments to the seed. It’s almost as if the seed is alive with energy.  I’m sure there’s some logical explanation for it, but I don’t care.  To me, this is miraculous.  I literally cannot stop looking at it.

Every seed is programed to become a specific plant, each after it’s own kind.  It’s impossible to plant a watermelon seed and get a zucchini.  And given enough time, a single seed can reproduce itself a million times over, feeding other life forms who – in their own way, and according to their own kind – will produce their seed and multiply.

What starts out so tiny and singular…something that could easily be overlooked, stepped on, mistreated or eaten (smiling)….has the potential to change the world.

Just like a single thought can change a life.

Thanks, Paulo.