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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Uniting, Not Silencing...

It was a gay club.

It was an American club.

It was a human club.

These are not competing statements; or, rather, they should not be.  They are each true and they each carry weight that needs to be acknowledged and respected.

First, and perhaps foremost, the events in Orlando hold special significance to an often persecuted group – a community that often struggles with acceptance from the world around them, including their families and friends.  It was a direct attack on a group of people who – despite recent legal advancements and social acceptance – struggle every single day to feel safe and accepted.  A group that cannot show affection for a loved one in public for fear of becoming a target.  A group that loses so many of its members to violence and to suicide.  Victims of bullies and hate-mongers, conservatives and busy-bodies, people who use their God as a reason to judge and degrade.  This group has a claim on the violence that erupted in Orlando and they have a right to cry out in anguish and fear and anger.  In a sacred place where they should have been safe to be themselves, safe and comfortable and secure in their own skin, free to love and be loved, they were gunned down.  So yes, they will raise their fists and plant their rainbow flags and demand answers.  That is their right, because it is THEIR club.

But that same event in Orlando holds special significance to Americans.  It is the worst mass shooting to take place on American soil.  I do not say that lightly, because although I acknowledge the atrocity of Wounded Knee (which I have seen connected to Orlando as a correction), that moment in history was a whole other ugly and violent beast.  It did not technically happen on United States soil and it was not a lone shooter.   It was something else – something equally horrifying and something that deserves acknowledgement as a chapter in our history of which we should be ashamed and aware.  But this shooting – this moment in Orlando – belongs in a different category.  The category of events where one single American decided that others must die for reasons that are beyond the understanding of good-hearted people.  Those who died were Americans.  They were doing what Americans do – celebrating time away from work, listening to music, dancing, and fellowshipping with others.  They were enjoying a night out on the town, letting go of obligations and responsibilities.  They were spending hard earned money, laughing and dancing and being alive.  And they were gunned down.  Torn from life, torn from those who loved them, robbed of what is promised every American – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.   And so, yes, I will cry and raise the stars and stripes and plant it next to their rainbow flag.  I will demand answers.  That is my right, because as an American, it is OUR club.

And that same event in Orlando holds special significance to humans around the world in our global community.  The same people who wept for the bombings in Paris will now weep for the shooting in Orlando.  They will shine the lights on their buildings, hold their signs, and pray that we, as a race of beings, can find a way to stop killing each other, stop hating each other, stop blaming everyone else for whatever ails us. 

That same event in Orlando holds significance for Muslims, American and foreign.  It holds significance for the Latino community because of the special event at Pulse that night.  It holds special significance for the first responders and investigators who tried to do their work while blocking out the desperate, unrelenting sounds of cell phones that would never be answered. It holds special significance for those who are still – and always will be – reeling from Sandy Hook, from Virginia Tech, from the theater in Colorado, from the church in South Carolina.  It holds significance for those who will never hear the voices of their loved ones or erase the images of violence and destruction from their minds.  It holds significance for the people of Orlando, who now join the ranks of cities and communities that have seen the blood and tears run in their streets and feel helpless to respond, react, or recover.  It matters to all of us, for a thousand reasons, some of which we cannot voice.

We do not need to take away from one another’s claims to plant our flags with theirs.  We do not need to erase one community when we declare membership in another.  By saying, it’s an AMERICAN club, we should not say it is NOT a gay club.  It is both.  The intent is admirable – to claim the LGBQT+ community as part of US….but we cannot do so in a way that silences the unique struggle that this particular community goes through every single day in a thousand ways, each more painful than the last.  They are our brothers and sisters, but their struggle is one that we can only imagine and while we can unite, we cannot silence even as we try to combat.

It is a significant event for all of these people, for all of these communities, for all of these reasons.  Not one should silence the others.  Not one needs to be or should be forgotten.  They all wish for the same thing – an end to the violence, an end to the hatred, an end to the suffering.  Let our flags fly together and let our voices unite.  Protect the LGBTQ+ community, protect Americans, protect humans.  Protect us all, and let us all be who we are.  Let voices be heard.  Tolerance is not enough - we must listen, respect, accept, and love.  Love.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Trailhead This Way

On Friday, January 22nd, I went to my parents’ house to have lunch with them and help work on a rather annoying jigsaw puzzle that I had picked out for them to do when they finished the last one.  After lunch and some time at the puzzle, dad asked if I wanted to go on walkabout.  I love walking in their woods even in the winter, so I said sure.  I borrowed some boots and a warmer coat from my mom, adjusted my hat and scarf and off we went into the wilderness. 

We were almost back at the house sometime later when my dad, who was surveying the brambles down in a gully asked me if I ever thought about that time we got lost at Limekiln Lake.   My mind immediately went back to that afternoon in 2014…

…it was a gloomy, wet sort of day even though it was July.  I was up camping in the Adirondacks with my parents and my aunt and uncle.  Dad and I decided we were going to go on a hike.  We had a map, walking sticks, some granola bars, and we dressed in layers so we could adjust to any changes in temperature.  We had on good shoes and yet for some reason, we did not bring any water.  Nor did we have a compass or even my cell phone (since there was no signal up there anyway).  It was a good hike – there was lots of cool things to see.  I took lots of pictures as I trudged behind my dad.   It’s one of my favorite things to do, really – camp with my parents and hike with my dad while there.  The trail seemed a little sketchy in places, but we kept relocating the markers and so were more or less doing alright.  I didn’t think too much of one of the bridges being under six inches of water and was more fascinated at the amount of tannin in the water that was making it turn a fascinating shade of orange which made my feet look funny.  I had taken my sneakers off to cross and rolled up my pant legs in an effort to keep them dry.   This would become more significant later.

“Yep,” I said.  He started walking back towards the house again and I took up my usual spot behind him.  He was quiet for a moment and then said, “That was scary.  I have dreams about it sometimes still.”  We trudged through the snow up the rest of the embankment towards the lawn and the house beyond with its burning fire and cozy jigsaw puzzle.

Every once and a while we would stop to figure out where we were on the map and everything seemed to be going well.  Except that we eventually would come to realize that the map and the trails marked on it did not seem to match the trail that we were actually walking.  It was becoming harder and harder to find the trail markers – though we never completely lost them for long.  What should have been a forty five minute walked turned into an hour, and then two, and then three.  We shared a granola bar and the talk that had sporadically drifted in and out of our hike stopped almost completely.  We unconsciously took turns going first, trudging through heavy flora that was thick with rain and mud.  Sneakers and pants could not be kept dry and were drenched up past the knees.  I stopped taking pictures.  We kept checking the map.  We heard dogs in the distance, but they never seemed to get any closer and we dared not stray off the path we seemed to be on.  It felt like dusk was coming.

I didn’t really reply that I can recall, or if I did it was some sort of offhand comment about how it had certainly been memorable.  But his comment started line of thinking that I’ve been mulling over since.  At the time we were hiking, I knew that this was not how the hike was supposed to go and I knew that the map and the trail were not aligning in a way that made any sense.  I had heard stories of people becoming lost in the Adirondack Wilderness, so it wasn’t as if the enormity of the situation was lost on me then.  I knew that our growing silence meant that we were focusing on putting one foot in front of the other and getting to more familiar ground.  But there was something else going on as well…

When we finally came out of the vast wilderness that is Adirondack State Park in a completely different part of the campground from where we had gone in, the normalcy of camping seemed to come rushing back.  It was almost culture shock.  We were filthy, soaked, exhausted, and an evening chill was starting to set in.  My legs ached from pushing through ferns and branches and ankle deep mud.  I kept alternating between warmth from exertion and cool from the sweat drying and the cool breeze kicking up.  We walked slowly back to our own campground to find my mother, my uncle, and my aunt all somewhat frantic.  They had already been to the ranger and were trying to figure out what to do.  My dad’s brother had driven around the campground a few times hoping to see us on some path or coming out of the woods somewhere.  We had been gone a long time.

I know my dad well enough that his comment about dreams and actually saying that the hike was scary was no small thing.  This is a man who had been a soldier.  It took a lot for him to admit fear because it was always easier to keep it inside and do what needed to be done.  What I don’t think dad realizes is that while I respect the enormity of what we experienced, there was only one thing that caused me fear that entire afternoon.  The only thing that kept crossing my mind had nothing to do with not finding our way out or that we wouldn’t reach civilization again.  My only concern was that we would not make it back out before dad became sick.  He’s diabetic, see, and that much physical exertion with little more than a couple of granola bars was the only thing that I felt was out of our control.

Correction.  It was the only thing that I ever felt out was out of dad’s control.  I trudged on step after step and only two things ran through my head beyond how tired I was and how much my back was upset with me…. 

My legs hurt.  My back hurts.  I’m tired.  Watch your step.  Don’t be a klutz, this is not the place for an injury. I’m tired.  Please don’t let the diabetes cause a problem out here.  My legs hurt.  My feet are wet and cold.  I’m tired.  Don’t be a klutz. Please don’t let the diabetes cause a problem out here. Please don’t let the diabetes cause a problem out here. Please don’t let the diabetes cause a problem out here. Please don’t let the diabetes cause a problem out here.  Please don’t. Please don’t. Please don’t. Please don’t. Please don’t. Please don’t. Please don’t.

You see, I knew we would get back to the campground.  I knew it would be okay.  I never had a single doubt that it was just a matter of time.  I didn’t have to worry or be afraid.  I was with my dad.

I was with my dad.



Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Fourth House...

I love my job.  There are aspects that I could do without, of course; and even the best of jobs has the worst of days.  Sometimes it is frustrating, often it is stressful, it is almost never completed, and it is always tiring.  All in all, however, I truly enjoy teaching classes, connecting with students, and generally trying to make the world a better place in my own small corner of it.  I may not like starting my day when it is dark and ending when it is dark, but the exhilaration – or ‘teacher’s high’ – after that last class is undeniable.

This is not a blog about my job, though.

Some time ago, I made the choice to live in the moment as much as I could.  I’ve refined it to live in the day.  By this I mean that if there is something undesirable coming towards me, I will simply enjoy all the desirable moments in between.  By not letting these dreaded moments rule my life, I’ve come to enjoy the intervening moments all that much more and the interruption of undesired necessity is that much easier to endure.  This means that every evening spent at home I am really, truly, at home.  I’m not thinking about the dentist or that visit from the realtor, or the nine thousand errands I have to run.  I may be grading or thinking about the next school day, but only in terms of preparation.

But this is not a blog about changing my daily perspective.

I only want it understood that the following is not about finally getting free of a job that I don’t like or simply the relief that comes from leaving a necessary, but unwelcome, place.  It’s not about letting go of dread or not taking the moments of my life for granted.  I have a very good life and my workplace is filled with some of the funniest, kindest, and supportive people I know.  No, this blog is not about letting go of worry or about getting away from something, but rather it is very much about returning to something.


One of the best parts of my day is the moment I get close enough to my driveway to see that my husband’s car is already there (and not because it is a nice car, though he’d tell you that it is if you asked him).  That car sitting there means that there are lights on inside, there’s a hug waiting for me, and there’s someone to talk to.  Sometimes it even means that dinner will already be cooking.  It’s walking in the door and instantly feeling that I’m home.

Home is where I am a side of me that I only touch on at work.  It’s when I relax and can be silly, I can wear my frumpiest clothes and feel like the most beautiful woman on the planet.  I can make immature jokes and act like an idiot and it will be met in kind and with laughter.  I spend most of my evenings being reminded that I can be silly and that life is too short to be too serious for too long and too full of love to be wallowing in fear or worry about the wider world.  That part of me is always there, but there’s something about him that makes it that much more likely to thrive.  Our lives are not complicated or enriched by children – though we have three cats and a dog that keep us on our toes in various ways.  For a large part of our existence these days, it is just him and I.

Him and I.

We’ve had some upheavals of late and though they don’t really belong here, it is enough to say that we’ve both made colossal mistakes, we’ve both found our worlds suddenly a little smaller, and we both rediscovered what it means to be in love.  My world is both bigger and smaller, both deeper and lighter, both sillier and more emotional.  I have new dreams and plans to get there.  Not worrying about the future has gotten so much easier because my present feels content and reinforced.  This is where I want to be.

Here.  With him.

He is the light to my darkness – laughing when I try so hard to be serious.  He is the dark to my lightness – keeping my idealism closer to earth with a healthy dose of realism.  He is the confidence to my insecurities.  His height gives him a perspective that I don’t have and yet he doesn’t look over me or overlook me.  We work together well and though we have our troubles, like all couples, we are suddenly becoming much more adept at working through them together.

Together.

A thousand clichés talk about marrying one’s best friend and the importance communication, and a thousand clichés can’t be wholly wrong.  I am more content now than I have been in a long time, though I see the world around us and worry that the End Times are upon us.  I am content because my immediate world is beautiful in all its oddity.  

One of the greatest feelings in the world is my hand in his.  Or the warmth of him next to me as I lie awake at night and slowly will my aching back to ease up enough for sleep.  There is something comforting about the warm weight of a loved one nearby – be it cat or dog or human.  My house is one full of love and it’s a love that extends to the houses of my parents and my siblings.  The world spins around us, and yet I have so much love in my life to support me as I try not to let the emotions and the craziness crush me.   I’m not afraid or ashamed to talk about the love I have for my parents, my siblings, my sibling’s spouses and children.  I am proud and humbled that there are three houses I can go to that are filled with love and where I am accepted for who I am – for all my quirks and mistakes, my talents and abilities.  I am loved for who I am.  And, at the end of the day, the fourth house is the one I call home.  It is my home and my heart, my soul and my life because he is there.

Him and I.

Home.

Together.

Us.



Thursday, November 19, 2015

My hands are small, I know...

"The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference" - Elie Wiesel

This quote has been moving slowly around in my head and in my heart over the last week or so.  It is that much more poignant that it came from a man who somehow, miraculously, survived the devastation the Third Reich visited upon its own citizens in World War II.  The senseless acts in Paris and other places around the world seem a relentless barrage of darkness that threatens whatever light we live by in the micro-worlds around us.  I am an empath, and so my own heart keenly feels these things - I've often been told that I become too invested emotionally and so each tear is a floodgate to emotional wreckage.  In talking to a (male) friend, JDB recently said - as the only words of explanation he could offer - she feels things.  I can't help it and it often puts me in awkward and painful situations.  I seem to collect the injured around me and I desperately want to heal them all.  I rarely can.  Even less so when it is the world itself I want to heal.

It did not help that the events in Paris unfolded while I was sitting alone in a hotel room hundreds of miles from home.  I did what I could to avoid traveling down a stream of tears until I at least had my standard support network in place - my family, my husband, my friends, my cats.  Even the dog.  But still - the buildings lit in familiar colors for another country's flag were a monument not easily overlooked as I walked the streets of a city that I did not know.  So, my heart ached, and still aches - here in the safety of home - for those put in harms way, those who paid a price they did not ask to pay, for those who are reeling to find answers when there are none.  And part of me finds that my support network is reverberating with hatred, fear, indifference, and paranoia.  I am reminded, at each visit, of the opening stanza of a Yeats poem that just two weeks ago my students presented.  Never have the words felt so real to me.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Build walls, close the doors, throw them all away because a few might be poisoned.  I've heard the refugees compared to the Jewish population under Hitler's regime.  I've heard them compared to food.  Food.  We are at a place where we are comparing the terror, desperation, and helplessness of human beings to grapes and M&Ms.  I've heard people who feel otherwise being called bleeding hearts, being berated and insulted, simply because we do not blame the Syrian refugees for these acts of violence.  This issue is dividing the world and yet the very country that exploded in blood and broken glass has vowed that it will welcome the refugees in direct defiance.  It remembers the words placed on the base of her gift to us - La Liberté éclairant le monde. Liberty enlightening the world.


Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!



It always comes back to light, doesn't it?  Paris went dark and the world lit up in solidarity.  A thousand points of light and love dotted the globe before it turned to glaring spotlights on the innocent.  But that early light brings me hope; it always does.  Those early lights - which symbolize the world's ability to set aside differences for one brief moment - are why I will never give up.  In each chapter of darkness, there are always points of light and I will always look for those. There is always good to be found in the world.  There is always hope.  And if each of us believes that we can change the world, we can.

My hands are small.  I cannot heal the world alone, but I can hold your hand. And yours. And you can hold the hand of the next person, and they the next.  In the end, only kindness matters and we - each of us - has the power to spread that kindness if we can but push through the hate and the indifference.  I know this echoes of cliche and naivete, but I will not bow down.  I will not give up. The minute I give up hope and give in to the madness of the world is another step towards the failure of the world to rise above.  Another light that has gone out.  We must have our own passionate intensity.

We can do this.  Spread light.  Give love.  Start small.  Take my hand.



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Flocks of Wonder....

We are slowly approaching gift-giving season and so, much too early, Christmas ads are starting and people are beginning to watch the skies for snow.  It doesn’t help that I myself am in the midst of my family’s ‘birthday season’ – where we have at least one birthday per month from August to December (three in November).  This is not a blog about gift giving occasions, per se, but something that is known, I think, only to a few.  It is more about a different spirit of random giving that is perhaps unintended, but appreciated deeply nevertheless.  Whatever reason it happens, it is no doubt that the benefits are tenfold, though I’m not sure the giver has any idea what he has wrought.

Before I explain the above, I have to first build something of a context so it can be better understood by the uninitiated.  There is a student at the college where I work who is a relatively quiet and unassuming sort of fellow for the most part.  I’ve seen him come out of his shell a little bit when I’ve had him in some of my more specialized classes.  These are the classes about Alice and Harry and Frodo; classes that attract the misfits and the geeks.  I use those words with all the affection in the world – for I am a misfit myself.  It is no accident that one of my favorite characters in animated holiday specials is King Moon Racer, the winged lion who rules over the Island of Misfit toys.  These classes – and the kind of learner they attract – are a joy to teach because they have a presentation component wherein all the students invent and develop their own topics and spend the semester working on them so they are prepared to present the results to their classmates at the close of the course.  This is my favorite time because students like this one have the opportunity to show, sometimes rather awkwardly, the deep and creative minds that have often hidden behind silence for the bulk of the semester.  Again, all of this is only to give a picture of the way that I know this student and to drive home the beauty of the story I am going to tell of what he does outside the classroom.  You see, he likes to make paper cranes.

This in itself is a lovely little skill and something I cannot do, but what really amazes me is what he does after he makes them.  I, and others, have found them scattered around the school in the strangest of places, often made possible by the fact that he is rather tall.  He puts them atop vending machines, exit signs, doorframes, ceiling mounted speakers, clocks, and, basically, anything else that is up high and has a small ledge on it.  He has put them on books in the library stacks – though I’m told that it is only the Harry Potter books that have been craned, so to speak.  He has put them, nested on a piece of paper, in the bins outside my door.  Every time I think that he is no longer doing it, I find another one or hear about someone else finding one.  Those of us who are always half-looking feel blessed when our furtive and ever-hopeful glances are rewarded with a tiny crane in pink or blue, yellow or decorated.  I have amassed a small collection of them and it’s like seeing a rainbow or finding a four-leaf clover.  They never fail to make me happy.  My hummingbird friend also has several of them and loves them as much as I do.  When I told my mother about them, she asked if I would give her one.
Just the other day, my hummingbird friend smiled the cutest little giggling smile when I approached her at the copier.  When I tilted my head in question, she pointed to the exit sign above the nearby drinking fountain and said ‘look!’ with a voice full of delight and wonder.  I have much the same reaction and I was not the least bit surprised when she asked a student, but a moment later, to fetch the crane that was sitting on high, waiting.  I know that she added it to the growing collection she already has; I would have done the same had I seen it first.  That is the magic of the cranes – we collect them as if brownies or fairies came in the blink of an eye and left gifts for the worthy.

These cranes must not take him much time to make; in fact, I know they don’t because he used to make them in class when class discussion spun into intellectual excited chaos around him.  He must know I love them or he wouldn’t leave them around my door from time to time.  He must know that others gather them because every time he places one, I’m sure it doesn’t take long for them to be claimed by someone with a watchful eye and a thoughtful glance.  I wonder if he sees it as a game.  I wonder if he notes how long it takes each one to find a new home.  I’ve never asked him.  We have never spoken about the giving of the cranes.  Even though I know who does it, it feels like an almost mystical event to find one and every time I consider asking him about them, I come to the realization that I just don’t want to know.  Let him keep hiding them out in the open until he no longer roams our halls and, for the rest of us - let his magic continue lift our hearts and remind us what wonder is.





Thursday, September 24, 2015

Just Breathe...

The following is a transcript of some free writing I did this afternoon.  I don't often hand write things because I find that my hand cannot keep up with my brain in any meaningful, legible way.  There are times, however, where I make an exception for some reason.  Today was one of those times...I did not overthink it much, I did not take the time to edit or craft it.  I just put it from paper to screen.


I'm sitting in the Arboretum as I write this.  It is probably my favorite place to be of late, especially near to home.  My summer was full of turmoil - much of it of my own making - and I often retreated here for solace and to escape the noise of the whirlwind around me.  Numerous visits for several months brought me from late spring through summer and now into fall.  This has afforded me the opportunity to see the change from the growth of spring to the vibrancy of summer and now the slow decay of autumn as Mother Earth prepares herself for the long winter to come.  It is hard to stay lost in man-made desperation and chaos when each step rattles the world -- a chipmunk darts across the path ahead, while a turtle slips into the waters to one side and something rustles in the dry leaves on the other.  There is silence, but it is folded into the scurrying of unseen creatures, the call of the bullfrog, the song of hidden birds.  From visit to visit, the swamp would rise and fall according to the will of the rain, and a single leaf falls or countless cascade around me at the will of the wind.  Not a single care I bring with me can stop this ebb and flow of nature's endless cycle.  I have watched the brook near to bursting from spring's powerful torrents and cautiously stepped around fallen logs and bending branches which were not there the walk before.  I have startled wildlife, sat in the sunlight, been drench in a sudden downpour.  I have wiped sweat from my eyes as I peered into a tree where two herons perched and crept as quiet as may be towards sunbathing turtles, hoping to capture them in frozen image before they slipped away.  I have peered fruitlessly into the trees trying to see what rustled in the undergrowth or hopped from branch to branch.  I have had camera on hand in exactly the right moment to capture snakes, crawdads, a rainbow of birds and flowers, dragonflies and bees, a fawn and a snapping turtle.  All allowed me to step into their world and, for a time, live there in respectful distance, my errands no less important than theirs.  My survival differently but equally dependent on what I found there.  

I have sat for hours on the board walk, on a log, on a patch of leaves, on a grassy hill above the wetlands, searching for peace and coming closer to it than I dared hope.  Immersing myself in nature is profoundly moving in seemingly contradictory ways - I feel at once alone and yet in tune with the vibrant life around me.  I feel insignificant but somehow an intricate part of something powerful at the same time.  I am equally enamored of a bug skimming the surface of the water as I am of the trees pushing their way towards the bluest of skies.  Each remind me of the strength and grace that nature gives both her largest and smallest creatures.  Each intricate leaf, each unnamed plant, each unrecognized flower, each sound I cannot place is part of me and I of it.  I owe my soul and my heart to the hours I've spent listening to my own footsteps, hearing my own heartbeat, feeling the air fill my own lungs, and taking in each minute beautiful detail of the world with my own eyes.  This is peace  - I come seeking it, outwardly, and find it within.  Tranquility in endless movement and chaotic rhythms.  Finding beauty in a submerged log, a fallen leaf, browned grasses pushing through a stump half drowning in swampy waters.  No matter what ails me, what troubles I found or made, life will go on.  Birth from death, renewal from decay, the promise of a greater tomorrow. And even in the crumpled leaf and the broken twig, there is hope and beauty and promise.  Serenity.


There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more.
—Lord Byron, “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”

Friday, September 18, 2015

Walk Right In, Sit Right Down...

Today, on this 18th day of September, I am resurrecting my blog. I am doing so because I miss writing because I don’t do it enough. I am doing so because I feel that it would make me a more genuine teacher of writing if I practice the craft I teach. I am doing so because this is the area of writing in which I feel I am best. I don’t think I will ever be a writer of fiction; I don’t have the stamina or the detailed mind for it. I fear my stories are in a permanent state of stasis. But this, this I can do. So, I will, and I will simply by diving right in...

Last night my friend the dragon, who has had pretty serious battles with depression was talking to me about how he was acutely aware of his mood and he felt the need to go read or watch anime or otherwise be away from people. Because of this, he was forcing himself to be in a place where he had to interact with others. When he explained why, it made a good deal of sense to me. He knew that if he gave into that need to be alone, it would lead down a path whose destination he already knew and to which he did not want to go. I made a point of talking to him for the rest of the evening about my own recent internal battles and how I felt I was better learning what it meant to have healthy friendships on which I did not feel wholly dependent for my own validation. Towards the end of the evening, I asked him how he was feeling. His response was that he felt much better – that the online group activity in which he was engaged and the steady conversation he and I had been having had pulled him back from walking down that road of isolation. I went to bed that night feeling like I had done some real good in the world – it wasn’t so drastic as having saved someone’s life, but I was able to figure out what someone else needed and was then able to provide it. And it worked.

Fast forward to today and once I was done with my classes, I found myself embroiled in trip plans that involved a travel agent, the chair of a committee that grants funds for professional development, and the coordinator of a conference I’m attempting to go to in November. It was aggravating, time-consuming, and ultimately is still unresolved completely. Added to that, my lunch plans fell through because my companion’s own schedule had become ridiculously complicated and so I could feel a desire to just go off and buy lunch somewhere and sit alone until meetings called me back a few hours later.

And then I remembered my friend from the night before.

Before I continue, I should point out that I am not normally one to run at a problem. I dislike conflict of any kind, so I’m much more likely to retreat, even if there is no real conflict and I’m just running away from the world. It does not help that I am an introvert, so sometimes running away seems like the only sane option. If there is no one around, you can’t be let down and you can’t get tired of interacting with the world. You just ARE in those moments, but not in a Zen sort of way.

I thought about how my dragon friend forced himself to socialize because he knew where isolating himself would lead him and he did not want to go there. I thought to myself, I wonder if that would work for me. Would forcing myself to come out of the Flight of the Introvert actually help? I mean, it wasn’t like I was depressed or otherwise in a dampening mood – I just didn’t want to be around people. This would be a problem, however, if I embraced it and then had to go actually run a meeting later that afternoon. So, I decided I’d give Dragon’s idea a try.

When a former student stopped by after her class, I took the plunge. I wonder if she realized the words sort of tumbled out rather abruptly; “What are you doing? Do you want to go to Wegman’s for lunch with me?” After that, it was easier and it was not long before I felt the need for isolation subside. It was as if a switch had been flipped in my head or heart or something and I could face the world again. This is especially significant because I call this friend Switch for unrelated reasons, but the name seemed even more fitting today. After we ate and I took her back to campus, I went for a walk in my Arboretum (perhaps I will blog about that next) to temper the surge of energy I felt from conquering what I knew was not a good state of mind in which to be. Life was good.

I came out of the Arboretum ready to sit in one meeting and run another one and I’m not sure I could have said the same if I hadn’t made myself take a leap of faith off not a cliff, but at least a small hill. And you know what? It was worth it.

“The further you get away from yourself, the more challenging it is. Not to be in your comfort zone is great fun” – Benedict Cumberbatch