Stories of Stance

I’m presenting at the Georgia Education Research Association’s annual conference in Savannah this weekend. My presentation will be my first attempt at a Prezi – provided all goes well with the technology! I am presenting the results of my dissertation work – a narrative inquiry into how teachers facilitate dialogue as a resource in standards-based literacy classes.

Check it out below:

Schools Kill Creativity.

So says Sir Ken Robinson, creativity expert. In this 2006 TED Talk, featured below, he challenges us to reconsider the status and positioning of creativity. He says schooling tends to be about educating students from the neck up and “off to one side.” Of course he means we value and teach to the left hemisphere as though traditional forms of intelligence are the only or best kinds. I agree with him.

Schools and society miss the mark by overemphasizing the brain to the detriment of the rest. We think if we have the “best and brightest” we can compete in the global job market. (Or even in the local ones). I believe education should not be about jobs, but contribution. How can you be fully human and contribute to the world (and your own authentic happiness) in meaningful ways? An education that ignores the body, the heart, and the myriad forms of expression, is a half education at best, and a mis-education at worst.

Of course all of this assumes a dichotomy of teaching the brain and teaching for creativity, when I believe both can and should be done in concert. Schools today often reify the one right answer, usually from a choice of other answers. That’s not even educating the brain. That’s teaching how to eliminate bad answers. Can we teach our students to be thoughtful and creative? To think and be with both sides of our brain? Ken argues that creativity and literacy should be given equal status. I think he’s on to something.

An ideal education to me is one which considers the whole person, and challenges that person to think creatively and flexibly and be fully present in the world for the betterment of society. Idealistic, yes. Impossible, no. Watch:

The Danger of the Single Story

I really appreciate Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk: The Danger of the Single Story. She reminds us that we are all “vulnerable in the face of a story.” The lesson is that we should realize there is always more to the story or that there are other stories not represented in what we assume to be true.

We assume we understand a relationship because we’ve heard all the stories from our friend’s point of view. But that collection of stories is still a single story. It is the single view of a given situation (further, only as it is narrated by one person). And that story isn’t a permanent one as the situation or the persons in it change over time.

The same is true with our own lives. The overarching story of us, the story we tell (or understand) about ourself, is often grounded in other single stories or assumptions. This is limiting. And it’s quite possible we can never get the “whole story” as it were, but I think we can always strive to move beyond our narrow conceptions of reality through our grasp of single stories by seeking to understand (and write) other stories.

So here’s to realizing the danger of the single story, and to striving toward a broader reading of life:

Introducing

Motivated by Sojo, I’m considering participating in Diva in Demand’s 30 Day Challenge. Don’t get it twisted – I have no delusions that I will write 30 days in a row, but I will work through the 30 entries suggested. The problem however, is this first entry. What to say? What to write? I really am hard pressed to share anything new or novel, so I’ll share my I Am From poem, written in class one night a few years ago.

i am from nappy hair being straightened in the kitchen
i am from the middle class
i am from weekly visits to the library, and summers in savannah
i am from running through the water sprinkler and laughing with cousins

i am from heart break – parents who loved me, loved cards, and loved a good joke

i am from grandfathers who went to college
i am from high expectations

i am from all black schools with all black teachers
i am from scrabble and monopoly, the cosby show and a different world
i am from opinionated family members

i am from shyness and introspection
i am from listening and observing
i am from writing

i am from loud music on saturday mornings – the temptations, the four tops, and studio 54
i am from track, spanish, band, cheerleading, and dance after school

i am from marshmallows in the fireplace and blinking lights on christmas trees

i am from tenacity
i am from stability

i am from love

I Am Love

The official record states May 25, 2003 as the date of death, but I know the truth. My mother took her last breath on May 24th after a heart attack earlier in the day. They thought she would make a full recovery. Doctors admitted her for a couple of days, you know, just for observation. I sat by her bedside that evening as she was supposedly sleeping, but even then I believed she had already slipped into a coma. I chanted nam-myoho-renge-kyo softly. A nurse overheard me and peeped in the room to ask what I was doing.

“I’ve heard of that,” she said. “Tell me more about it.” Just then, my mother sighed, her eyes opened, and the machine monitoring her vitals went haywire with falling digits. The nurse, unsurprisingly concerned about this turn of events, asked me out of the room and quickly urged others inside. I heard an unfamiliar voice announce code blue on the speaker. They were talking about my mother, I thought. I burst into tears. Afraid. Alone.

Her favorite color was yellow.

No one was in the hospital with me that day. My mother had insisted she was fine and didn’t want to needlessly stress anyone. I had told only a couple of friends but she was laughing and alert at the time. I’d told my dad, calming him down when he expressed too much concern. After all, everything was fine. She was admitted, but it was routine, I had told him.

A woman I’d never seen stopped me in the hall. Are you okay? She was worried I would hyperventilate because of the gasping. I mumbled something about my mother coding and miraculously found my way to a phone.

I called my father, barely able to get the words out. My mother stopped breathing, I managed to choke out. Twice, since he couldn’t understand me the first time. He assured me he was on the way. I sat in silence. Crying. Alone. I thought to myself over and over again, I’m all alone. I’m all alone. I’m all alone. I mourned for the husband who didn’t yet exist. For the best friend I couldn’t reach. For anyone who would be there with me so I wouldn’t be. So. Alone.  I remember vowing at the moment, I would not be alone any more. I didn’t have to be, I reasoned. There are people who love me. I just need to connect. To reach out.

That was seven years ago. I think about that moment today because I am anything but alone. I just left my family reunion…I was able to see branches of my family I never knew about and recognize my ancestors’ faces in cousins from all over the country. I paid for nothing – not registration, not traveling, not even coffee and treats while I was there. My family took care of me. All I had to do was reach out and go.

Leaving the closing dinner, I felt full. Loved. People told me they were proud of me and loved me; that my parents would be so proud of me. They encouraged me to continue my journey to finish my PhD and then do whatever I was called to do next. They hugged me tight and long, and kissed me over and over again, wishing me well. Some of them have known one or both of my parents for as long as 40, 50 and in some cases 60 years, and they loved me on their behalf.

I don’t know how or why my life was in such a place as to feel so removed from love, but it was an illusion. The love is always present. It always has been, and it always will be. I was never truly disconnected from spirit, from love. It was up to me to seek it. And in so doing, I found what was always there.

Failure is not an option

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

I “happened” to be at the right place and time when I heard this question was posed. It’s not the first time I’ve heard it, although it was the first time in a while. It had the same impact it always does. It unsettled me.

When I hear that question I immediately feel a vibration. Tension. Something that lets me know I’m not quite in alignment. There’s something I should be doing, but I’m not. I always brush it off. Avoid it. Continue with whatever I was doing at the moment. Last night was no different, although I did eventually think about that question today. More on my answer in a minute.

As for the question, a friend seemed to think it’s all about fear. In other words the question really is: What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail? But after some reflection, I’m not sure that’s all there is to it. The question I think is really: What would you be doing if you were living your divine purpose? If you were doing the exact perfect thing that only you can do? If you were contributing to the world exactly what you were born to contribute (and therefore could. not. fail.), what would it be? If there were ZERO chance of failure in an endeavor, what would you do?

#BlackGirlMagic Illustration by Vashti Harrison.

When I consider the question from a standpoint of fear or avoidance – what am I scared to do because I might suck at it – the quick and obvious answer usually comes back as something related to creative writing.  But when I think about it from the standpoint of purpose, I’m actually not so sure. I’m realizing that all of my talents and interests, although seemingly unrelated, all fit together in a perfect tapestry. I’ve spent so many years complaining I was a jack of all trades and a master of none, that I’ve never considered how they all complement each other.

I’m coming to understand, and I think deep down some part of me knows the answer, but I’ve never been still enough long enough to discover it.  My work now is to really figure out the true answer to the question, and then actually do it. After all, failure really isn’t an option, but I at least have to get started, no?

Goddess Awakening

Nike, Goddess of Victory

Although my mother didn’t do this knowingly, I am named for the Goddess of Victory. And in fact, my name and my mother’s name both mean Victory, or Victorious One, or Victory of the People.  The victory part, I always got. This goddess thing is new. And serious.

A little background is in order…At the end of last year I found myself wanting to bring in the new year with some kind of serious spiritual reflection. I usually chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo on New Year’s Eve with the intention of empowering my goals for the new year, but this year I wanted to step it up. After much stalling mulling, I realized I wanted to do an extended program of sorts, kind of like the ones Sojo does. And thus was born my 60 day plan: Rebirth: A Celebration of the Divine.

That program is a post all onto itself, but I want to make it clear – doing it was the start of a new life – a new me. One of the tangible outcomes? I’m embracing my role as a reiki channel of divine energy. One of the intangible, but more important outcomes? I’m open to receiving love and guidance that deepens my connection to this mystic universe.

Today’s post is a testament to that. In the past week, I have started to read about and think about the divine feminine.  I’m getting visions of peacocks and explosions of (what must be divine) energy, and urges to just BE. Be beautiful. Be sexy. Be powerful. Be FULLY ME.

Thinking about the divine feminine has stirred something in me. It feels important. Exciting. This idea of powerful, creative, sensualness – this is what is totally moving me today. I wanna be somewhere in a bath with oranges and honey, rose petals and cinnamon, and candles. I wanna be strolling in the world, fierce in power, confident in word.

That’s where I am today – all up in that. No, I don’t wanna be worshipped, but I do want people to respond to my power. I want other women to embrace theirs as well. I want to more fully awaken this divinity within me. She is truly a goddess. But she feels neglected. Silent. Quiet. Shy. She wants to be nurtured. Loved. Open. Alive.

Today I write because I FEEL her stirring. It’s deep. Exciting. It translates as sexual energy, but it’s not about sex at all. It’s about SENSUAL in every possible sense.

It is divine. It is feminine. It is ME. She wants nothing more than to more fully express herself. So to the world I say, watch out.

What a Difference a Day Makes

Imminent rain at a Florida beach.

Yesterday I really had the blues. I’m still not quite sure why. I felt like a visit to the ocean was in order, even though it was a cloudy, rainy day. It was also a pretty cool day…very unlike the high 90s we’ve experienced lately. Still, water beckoned and I went.

A wedding was just ending, but I wasn’t in the mood to scope out the happy couple or offer fake smiles to the guests, so I drove past my usual spot and parked a tad further up the lot. I snatched an area pretty close to the water and sat down. And listened.

I started to journal just in time for raindrops to fall. I looked up at the sky asking the clouds if they were serious? I mean they appeared to be breaking up and yet here were the drops, threatening to ruin my journal.

No one around me seemed phased by the drops – which didn’t phase me in the morning as I ran in them. I embraced the rain just a few hours earlier, but sitting, trying to commune with the ocean, I was on the edge of annoyance, willing it to stop. I wasn’t happy about the idea of retreating to my car to sit out weather, but no one moved, so I held firm too. That is, until I had the overwhelming urge to go stand in the water. Really it was more of a command. As I sat there trying to talk myself out of it, I suddenly popped up and found myself heading to the shore. As soon as I stood there, I knew it was the right thing to do. The tide was coming in, and as I waded in a bit, the waves started splashing higher and higher up my legs and thighs.

I knew I had to go to the car and break out the emergency swimsuit. I returned to the water just in time for the rain to stop. I alternated sitting and standing, as the waves also alternated crashing down or gently rolling in. Twenty minutes in the water, and I was as good as new. I let the salt water take those blues away and fill me up with determination to keep moving forward. And more importantly with the fortitude to remain open, as my spirit guides keep reminding me to do.

After my romp in the water, I sat back down in my chair, enjoying the sunset. The clouds broke apart to show off the gold, orange and pink rays, and even exposed a hint of blue sky for the first time in what seemed to be a week. The sunset was literally the brightest moment all day.  I came home feeling like myself, grateful for the simple magic of the elements.

NMRK

Traveling Inward

So I’m in this weird in between place right now.

I hate it. I’m ALMOST finished with my degree. It’s ALMOST time to move. I ALMOST have an idea of my next steps. But nothing is clear, or in focus. Nothing is right now. Or at least, that’s how I feel about it today.

For the past several months this has been perfectly acceptable. Today, it makes me sad. I’m confused. On the one hand, I’m more open than I’ve ever been in life – I’m looking inside and around my life to understand my divine gifts and divine purpose. I’m starting to embrace the fact that maybe (maybe) I’m a healer, and can be a channel of healing for people in the world. I’m starting to consider the fact that maybe (maybe) my teaching is not really about K-12 or K-16, but about communities and families and life beyond traditional school/higher ed boundaries.

But all of this is in the budding stages. And rather than be excited or happy about it, I’m sad. Confused. Seeking clarity. Begrudging the not knowing. Today there are no skittles or rainbows or bright lights. Today there are tears, and inward looking, and silence.

I suppose that’s okay too.

Missing Me

Yesterday, this tweet touched me: “Amiri Baraka said that writers don’t write because they want to, they do it because they have to. It’s like breathing.”

That tweet broke my heart because it’s true. And it’s no longer true of me. All my life I wanted to be a writer. I always pushed it to the back, planned to cultivate it later, etc. But now, I miss that person – the writer who almost was. I’m in mourning about it. A friend of mine said it’s probably a good thing – meaning maybe it’s time for the writer to reemerge. I suppose.

I just know a part of me is missing and I don’t know how to get her back. Or when I can even really try.