Saturday, October 17, 2009

Message In The Aftermath

winding path
Photo: Winding Path

A little over a month into the new school year, I find myself standing back and perusing the vista. I've trekked a good long way, but only in looking backward do I find clarity in the path revealed.

A couple of comments my new virtual friend Deb posted recently have been knocking around my brain, reverberating. Regarding A Few Small Repairs and things in my life breaking down in clusters:

"There's always a message somewhere..." and "What will you do when you run out of things to fix?"

...hahaha. Indeed.

You see, in the midst of the hailstorm, head down, body tucked for warmth and protection against the onslaught of elements, one is merely managing to get from point A to point B. Forget C, D and E or the long-held vision of WXYZ. No. A...A.5...A.75 and eeking out a B will suffice. If you get to B you've done a good thing. Kick the ball, get 10 more balls, begin again!

Let me try to explain.

I spent the better part of the last 2-3 years giving out... to the little school, to the surrounding community, the blustery district political policy machine, while many stressed-out parents, school issues, and larger district-wide problems felt like a million little hands of need...need, constant need...pulling at me for attention.

I am, by nature, a giving person.

I am, by nature, a capable problem-solver.

I am, by nature, one who doesn't sit idly by. I have to try. Something.

But I am now, at this moment, removed from being entrenched in many of the immediate issues. I am no longer there.

I am, at this moment, for the first time in many moons, turning the focus back inward. Not out there to the wider community, but back here. To my self. My work. My family. My environment. Our homestead.

It feels good.

It feels much-needed and necessary. As if all things, eventually, return home. OM.

I reflect back to this former post, Cleaning House, and sense the mounting disarray and neglect around our home even then. Years worth of repairs and maintenance got displaced during the onslaught. Freed from the many burdens, I am just now getting caught up around here.

We are no longer in a fixer-upper school. Although admirable, although deeply committed to the cause, although I adore the community of like-minded in-the-trench-warriors, I am absolutely and completely relieved, RELIEVED, to be free from the constancy of effort needed at that little place.

I still have great love and respect for the community and the work being done there. I still lend a helping hand and offer support when I can. I still bump into staff and friends there. We're still there every day at the bus stop. I recently helped lead a grassroots letter-writing campaign that actually saved a no-seniority teacher from being fired last month due to increased class size ratios. (Through the grace of God, the powers that be, and the cumulative power of mobilized, outspoken parents, we were able to get her a waiver.) And even though we're not there anymore, I still do CARE.

But I don't have to feel like I'm holding up the walls anymore.

I can LET GO.

I can revert the focus back here. Back to center. Back to me, my daughter, us.

I've been volunteering in her new classroom every other week or so. This is a luxury she sadly had to sacrifice in the past. At the other school I was too busy with the big picture issues like school-wide infrastructure, policy, communications, professional development, community outreach, tours. I didn't have time to work in just one classroom; I worked on behalf of the whole school. At her new school, I work in her classroom, for her teacher, with her group of kids. I can be present in her experience, once a week or every other week, and it's very rewarding for us both. And the class will survive without me if I don't make it in. There's already a TA in every class. What I bring is bonus support.

At the new school, they assign a value system for everything you donate, a point per half hour of volunteer time, a point per every $5 spent on either a fundraiser or supplies, tabulated monthly. There are built-in incentives like class parties for the class/grade with the most points accumulated.

I can't even begin to describe what assigning a value unit to donated time and services has done for me in terms of re-thinking the value of my efforts, and how much I have accumulated over a period of time. It makes me conscious of what I choose to give and how much, because now I am logging it in. I can't even fathom how many points our family would have collected over the past years with everything we used to do for that other school, me with my full-time load, my husband as booster club president.

So as the focus shifts back homeward, trusting that this new school has its systems not just under control but organized and thriving, I am beginning to relax. Catch up. Repair and replace my own fix-it list. Update. And also, gestate new ideas.

We found ourselves sitting around the living room at 9:30 the other night not with a stack of school-related issues to delve into or a 2-3 hour debate about it, but instead deciding which movie to watch. (We ended up playing games on our iphones. Dreaded Word Warp! Seriously, if you love playing with words, stay away!) I actually hosted a dinner party for friends last week and instead of a burden, it felt lovely, fantastic. It reminded me that even though I used to love to host gatherings, I had no capacity to host much of anything over the past few years, so I just didn't. But now I am craving a more relaxed, social, you-know, joy-filled life.

I find myself making homemade pasta, fresh rolled empanadas, and developing new seasonal cocktails. I feel an abundance all around. I am taking time to breathe in the sun streaking through the glass, casting its brilliant particles of vibrancy and possibility all through and around me. At night the moon cuts through the sky in a swath of brilliance, lifting my heart, beckoning me to wake up, embrace the purity of its loving illumination. Lit from within, I become that same beacon of light radiating outward in my life.

I am happy. Possibilities abound.

I spoke to a group of parents at a preschool the other night and walked away on such a high. I get to share my wisdom, my passion with others, and the exchange is palpable. I love what I do. It is meaningful work. I feel I am making an impact. I could go on and on.

I suddenly feel that as I clear through the backlog and get current around here, the path that I had been on becomes even more clear. The work I am doing, and the book I want to write about it all seems just that much more tangible and within reach. I couldn't write it while my head was so deep in the trenches. I had no perspective there. I was just getting by, surviving moment to moment between rounds of mortar.

It is only now that I am removed from it all that I can see the vista, that I can even begin to write about what just took place and my path through it. And there is a lot to tell.

The message is: it takes a lot of courage to chuck out all that work and start somewhere fresh. Sometimes that is the best thing one can do.

In honor of another friend, Ms Link, and her courage to start over as well, may we be filled with the wonder of what is unfolding in this NOW moment... as we gain perspective on where we've just bushwhacked through.

Many thanks...

The stone steps wind through the woods for a long ways.


Carrie Wilson Link said...

Oh, wow, THANKS!


(And Deb is a great one for saying just the thing to get me thinking, too.)

Deb Shucka said...

I'm so honored to be a small part of your process. This is a beautifully written reflection. I love that the three of us share a similar place on the path right now. I'm also really happy for you and for the joy that pulses from your writing.

kario said...

Yay, you! It is so important to stop and take the time to refill your coffers. I can testify to the fact that it is so difficult to build up a practice of taking care of yourself, especially if your tendency is to help and fix things, but it is so absolutely worthwhile.

The best way I've found is to have lovely friends like Deb and Carrie to remind you to take time for yourself now and then...