I woke this morning having barely slept because I have a cold. Again. I never get sniffly colds. My body and I have a deal. It flattens me like carefully steam-rolled asphalt once every 3-5 years with some horrific virus rife with raging fevers a wracking coughs and I don’t get piddling, stupid colds all the time. But, as I was lying in bed, not really sleeping all night, with a scratchy throat and dripping sinuses I thought:
“This. This is why I haven’t put another post on the website even though I promised myself I would.”
Not the cold you understand, I can write with a cold, I’m doing it right now. I can write in joy, in despair, from love, from hate. I can write on the backs of receipts with slippery ink that doesn’t want to stick to slippery paper. I can write on my old, but still lovely, laptop at home, in a café, on my lap at the gym.
I can write in a funk.
In a flow.
In columns, in rows.
I can write in the air.
I can write on the ground.
I can write myself lost.
I can write myself found.
I can Dr. Seuss the heck out of writing.
I really can.
But sometimes the words get stuck, like my ability to breathe and sleep did again this week, behind all the damn life congestion.
And I’m pretty much a totally wide open empath who has only just barely learned how to tell other people’s feelings from her own and to take my space when I need it (emotional and/or physical).
And I’m wiped the f–k out.
Because the world is kind of on fire and drowning all at the same which is quite a feat when you think about it… And almost everyone I care about is in the trenches of some kind of constant low-grade to gut-punching struggle… And there are so many damn Nazis again either outright calling themselves Nazis or hiding in plain sight as “immigration reformists.” And a bunch of people seem to think that listening to the generation who will have to try to live here after we are gone is a waste of our time which is utterly baffling to me…
Truly. Utterly. Baffling.
I’ve lived – and have even now been paid to think and work – in and around the area of Education my entire life. I gestated in teacher’s college, just so we’re clear, so I may be taking poetic licence but I am not actually exaggerating about this being a lifelong sort of engagement. And, don’t we often tell ourselves that schooling is about the future? Don’t we tell ourselves that schooling, at this point in history, exists to make sure that our kids can be smarter than we are and do better than we did?
And doesn’t that mean that when they show up with honesty and point at all the adults doing all the research and basically say, “please listen to those adults over there who are telling you that our ability to sustain ourselves on this glorious space rock is in peril so that I can have a chance at building some kind of life that isn’t a post-apocalyptic nightmare of water wars rife with famine and ever increasing rage and despair.”
Shouldn’t we at least say, “Thank you for caring, young one. I’m scared too, and perhaps my particular fears have narrowed my vision. Let me think about this. Let me open my heart to your fears and vision too. Let me do what I can. Let’s see what we can do together.”
And this little piece of Turtle Island that’s been wrapped in its lines/borders had an election recently. 11,000,000 or so humans took the time to say they care about caring about each other. They don’t say it the same way or even think we should care in the same ways but, at heart – underneath all the sputum and vitriol and angling for power instead of communal and individual wellness – we really do want so many of the same things and we’re gonna’ get closer to having them if we work together.
Which is also what we teach children in school.
By the way.
You know. Those places where everyone commits themselves to helping our young to do better and know more than we do? Those places where, sadly, the system makes it incredibly hard to actually listen to young people because the list of things to “teach” is ridiculously long, not always easy to share or relevant, and it’s really designed so that it’s the young people who are supposed to “listen” and “pay attention.” Nonetheless, schools are ostensibly places where we teach a lot about cooperation and teamwork, right?
Despite our best efforts, though, we seem to share the value of cooperation and teamwork in ways where so often kids would rather *not* work in groups because somehow, though we laud the forces of collaboration – and desperately need them to see through what comes next – we’ve actually made everything about these abstract things called “grades” and it’s seems a pretty common complaint that it’s much harder to get a good “grade” when you work with other people…
…When you have to compromise.
…When you have to accept that some people do better at certain things than at others.
…When you have to listen to the ideas of others and shift your rhythm and style to the rhythm and style of others.
…When you figure out that sometimes a child or youth’s life just isn’t conducive to conventions of school participation because maybe they haven’t eaten or slept well or didn’t do their share because they had to watch their siblings so their parents could work to earn money so all of them would have a place to sleep and food to eat…
…When you might have to become a teacher yourself – free of judgment and full of love – and help someone so the whole group can do better.
Isn’t that why we’re bloody here? On this planet? In these bodies? In this web of interdependence with the broader world around us? To pay attention and do better and support each other with love so the future can be what it needs to be and not some ongoing replica of what it once was? Of what it is right now?
I feel like everywhere I look, there are kids afraid of low grades riddled with test anxiety who somehow don’t seem to know that there are a lot of kids – not in some far off land but close-by, on our watch – who don’t even have clean drinking water. And, I can talk about entitlement and privilege and both those things would be true and important. It’s also true that whether it’s by not doing everything we can to provide all our young with clean drinking water or it’s by making them go every day into spaces built on the idea that they are in constant deficit waiting for next dose of “knowledge,” we’re making our kids sick. And, each and every one of the administrators and teachers in that system are also someone’s child and the system is ridiculously hard on them too…
So, we’re making our planet sick in ways whereby it will quite justifiably give us the boot and we’re making our kids (at all ages) sick and a whole lot of us are getting defensive instead of listening. Even when somehow someone young snaps out of the fog of “must get good grades and do well in school” long enough to look around them and think about what’s really going on and notice that maybe there are bigger fish to fry… And that maybe it would be good to learn to catch a fish one day if they don’t already know how… To descale it, gut it, cook it without the need of electricity, make a fire without a match. To figure out how to make sure there are still fish to catch in our waterways…
Honestly, I wish those things were part of the mandated curriculum. If kids were outside and/or simply making things and building things and interacting with the natural world in hands-on, responsible ways a little bit every day, wouldn’t “classroom management” take on a whole new meaning? What if our kids weren’t tired from sitting and listening all day but from being and doing and thinking and working? We essentially lock them – and their amazing teachers and adminstrators – up all day so that everyone can help everyone “prepare to live as adults in the world” but in no other apprenticeship situation do you not get to DO the thing you’re apprenticing to DO…
And, I know I’m going to come back to this another time because I’ve been chewing on it for literally yeeeeeeaaarrs already, but how dare we say we’re trying to prepare kids for their future instead of asking them what kind of future they want to MAKE? And then doing literally everything we possibly can to help them get there before we’re gone?
All of this thinking and feeling and wondering and fearing is exhausting and sad and seemingly always right there under the surface of my day all the time.
Add to this, the seasons are changing and I’m writing this at nearly eight in the morning and the sky has barely lightened. I get it. I’m not dumb. I understand the way the seasons work and that we’re on our way to Solstice when things will turn around in this heavenly arc around the star that sustains us in so many ways… But, it’s hard to wake and function in all this damn dark when I feel so…
My head all stuffed with snot.
My heart all stuffed with sadness and frustration and shimmering waves of anxious despair because I don’t know how to make sure my son has air to breathe and a life worth living after I’m gone and – frankly – even while I’m still here. I don’t know how to help him know that it’s his job to CHOOSE what happens next, not just passively be prepared for it.
No one taught me to fish or to build things to live in or to understand the land. Whatever connections I have to the fullness of world around me, I found on my own and mostly in urban spaces. And I have had some really amazing teachers in school and out of school.
While I’m here and trying to clear these life sinuses, let’s make no mistake, not all my concerns are lofty and huge. I have a bunch of pretty day-to-day fears myself. I’m a half-time single mom. I worry about groceries and meals. I worry about building my client base and offering what I can of my skills even if they might not be so relevant to what the world really needs right now. I worry about money all the time. I get stupid life-sucking colds and still do all the things on my list to the best of my ability. I go to bed. I get up. I do it all over again.
But, I’m so damn tired.
So many damn different kinds of tired.
And I keep thinking that I am very much on the “entitled and privileged” side of my spectrum so if I’m tired then what the hell does tired feel like when you don’t have as much as I have?
And there’s so much more I could write about that constitutes my life congestion. So much. This is tip-of-the-iceberg stuff and if you’ll notice it’s mostly, quite literally, about the world as we know it ending.
Tip-of-the-iceberg, you understand, and it’s about the world ending.
Maybe now that I’ve drained some of this icky life sludge I can find my way back to the page, and this site, a bit more than I have been managing. That would be good.
I always feel better and have more to give when I am writing more, giving more. And that’s the thing isn’t it? We all need to give more and have more to give for any of us to get anywhere good for any of us…
And, I don’t know how to close this off.
Maybe with an apology? For, essentially, sneezing and coughing my congestion all over you on this life bus like someone who should have stayed home from work but can’t afford to?
Maybe with gratitude for those of you who have taken the time to read/listen.
Maybe with hope, beyond all damn hope, that our children will – despite all that is sometimes in their way – do better than we did.