Fall is finally here. The air is crisp, the leaves are turning and the light is the kind that only shines in October. As this season of change comes into fullness, I have been reminded again of words I wrote down this summer. I recently found a page full of notes I made after first listening to Brene Brown at the beach back in May. They seem prescient and wise and even more instructive than they did five months ago. As I continue to journey through her book and e-course, The Gifts of Imperfection, I am becoming clearer and clearer of the path I want to pursue. It can be hard to follow those trails that seem to beckon beyond the limitations of our vision, but I’m trying to trust, follow and be open to new directions.
One thing has become very clear to me: I need to write more. I have never, ever been a journal writer. But if the mid-40s are teaching me anything, it is to never say never because you will end up making a liar out of your own self. Blogging is about as close as I have ever come to journaling in a sense of regularly recording my thoughts. And although I do love writing in this space, what is posted has been revised, massaged, finessed and edited over and over again. I can be obsessive like that, but to me, that is half the fun of writing. With journaling, however, I’m talking about old-school, long-hand, pen and paper. Uncensored, unedited and raw. Scribbling what looks like nonsense, but trusting that somewhere among the stream-of-consciousness ramblings are nascent threads and emerging themes that can only be seen in retrospect. So, yes, I need to write more. Because if you know anything about me, you know words are how I navigate. They are my touchstone, my currency, my art, my soul.
I was going to make journaling my new year’s resolution. Start fresh in January and all that. But as I find myself alone in the dim kitchen on these dark, dark mornings, I keep hearing John O’Donohue’s gentle admonition to court the soul by candlelight. He warns against examining the self under bright light – both real and metaphoric – and instead advises welcoming the heart in still places, heavy with shadow. So I’m beginning now, this third week in October, with a bit of time and space to simply record notes to myself. I’m hoping the soft glow of my candle will welcome all voices, from the boldest ones I cannot ignore to the softest whispers that need to speak their truth as well. Those words I wrote last summer seem like a list of directives of exactly what I want to cultivate during these fall mornings.
- to be vulnerable
- to be creative
- to show up
- to be uncertain
- to draw forth from who I am and who we are
- If I am filling myself with who I am not, who then speaks?
- to come at things sideways and find what fills us
- to be confident that I am enough
- to be confident we are enough
- to trust that there is divine purpose and I am not asked to give more than exactly who I am
- to foster courage, compassion, connection and creativity
- to engage
- to plan, but to leave space for what arises
- to embark on the day/the month/the year with a plan and a purpose BUT to be open to what arises in the present moment
- to trust that if I am truly being creative, there is no room for comparison
- to create out of who I am for who is in front of me. No one else is in the room. The chatter of other voices are hushed in the quiet stillness that I cultivate.
- Vulnerability and control have inverse relationships in my life
- Can I see vulnerability and how I am protecting myself when I have the need to control a situation?
It seems we must be stripped
of the skin
of all we think beautiful
before we open to the kind of beauty
that can’t go away.
It seems sky must pour
and howl like it will never stop
before we notice the smile
of our own forever sun. It seems
we must hunt with starving
hungry eyes before we know
this belly is and has always been
full. It seems this wall
deep in the center must be hammered down
before we let soft, breathing hands
curl in around us. Each drop
of dark carries
with it a candle of holy
light—with each miracle breath
we are invited to turn toward
the nearest whispering spark
and, like momma bird sheltering her baby—like a pebble
in stream’s safe lap—
- “What I’ve Learned from the Dark” by Julia Fehrenbacher
I like to begin the school year with a theme. Last year it was “taking flight” and we studied birds. This year we began with the theme of exploration: “setting sail” with Swallows and Amazons and all things sailing and ships. I love planning these initial blocks. They set an intention and guide us along. Back in the summer, I talked about this theme of setting sail at Taproot. A wonderful exchange ensued, and we discussed how such a theme might manifest within our middle and high schoolers, but also in our own lives as well. At one point, Jean Miller said something that I wrote down in my journal: “Sometimes you have to drop anchor. Sometimes you need to turn back. And other times, you just need to keep sailing.”
So here we are just two and a half blocks into our year, and those words have rushed back into my memory. We are struggling. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true. We were struggling – big time. No doubt about it. How we have homeschooled in the past just isn’t working anymore. I tried not to blame anyone or anything in specific, but I would be lying if I said I succeeded. I blamed Wyoming and myself. I blamed middle school and Vincent. And then I blamed the blasted nine-year change and Jude. That’s a pretty potent mix of three people on the edge of change! After trying for several weeks to simply stay the course, I finally admitted to myself that I wanted more from my days than solely homeschooling. During a rare quiet moment later that week, I could finally voice these feelings to Tom. I also shared with him the metaphors of dropping anchor, turning back and continuing to sail forward. I said I didn’t know what to do and secretly hoped he did. His response was completely unexpected: “Why not tread water for awhile?” I can picture the look on my face: furrowed brow, curled lip, squinty eyes. Tread water?! Jean didn’t say anything about abandoning ship and Tom damn well knows I don’t like the water.
And yet the question reverberates and remains: why not just tread water?
As I navigate and explore how to create more time for myself within our homeschooling journey, I’m trying to remain open to growth and possibility. I’m trying not project how this is going to manifest and what our days will look like in the near and distant future. Because the short and truthful answer is, I have absolutely no idea. And that is where I find myself: not knowing. Treading water. Holding my own. Trying to chart a way forward. Our days look a lot different than they have in the past. (I will post more details on that soon.) Are they perfect? No. (Is anything ever perfect?!) But it is working – better than it was anyhow, for now anyway. Homeschooling is quieter and easier. There is less yelling and less angst. I’m giving myself time and space for asking questions. I’m trusting answers will come in their own time. ♥S
*** As I was meditating on these words and all they imply, I thought back to this little scrap of a poem and the subsequent conversation in the comments section.