Why Should I Keep Writing?

The sun sets earlier now. All the restful trips and staycations hopefully prepared Virginia teachers for the decathlon of pre-service: a week and a half long obstacle course where we juggle meetings, classroom prep, and curricular planning amidst a sea of welcomed interruptions and uninvited distractions.  We’re in it together until the final bell; then, we take on our personal challenges as solo mission, like me alone on my porch again, writing again, vexed by nagging imbalances that find peace illusive tonight.

For three and a half years, I’ve been writing my way to revelation in a public forum.  I ended a long distance relationship that had stalled out like my evening glories lackadaisically meandering up the side of the porch, all green vine potential but perhaps too late to see any white blossoms this year. That break up worked its way out in the soil of the garden beds I built.  As I labored in the mulch, my brain toiled in the dirty, forsaken corners of my mind.  I wrote through my gardening reality and unearthed analogies with figurative significance and unexpected insight.

Spring gave way to summer three years back, and the gardening analogies extended beyond broken heart to chronicle online dating disappointments and disasters.  I’d typed my way toward an epiphany resulting in cancellation of my eHarmony account, committing to dive into my career; Charming was reading about my journey from half a state away – he wasn’t my ex-fiancé then, just an old friend from college who’d caught my blog on his newsfeed a few times and reached out to suggest we meet.

It wasn’t quite three years ago.  I’m still holding on to summer.  He entered in the fall when I didn’t know how many seasons we’d share, that there would be a limit, that I’d truly believe he was my forever and always and so firmly reject that in this soft, Autumn eve with a cool breeze that soothes my aching brain muscles.  For two and a half years of manufactured, weekend-long dates traded along I-95,  I wrote through the joys of the honeymoon phase, the frustration of the waiting room, the anxiety of getting older, the fear of missing out on the miracle of motherhood.

When my readers had already fallen for him, too, I reenacted Charming’s epic proposal with my words.  This blue cushion is worn with nearing two-hundred consecutive Tuesday nights of my growth.  It happens in the garden, in the kitchen, in my classroom, but like the evening glories or a water kettle or a kid writing better, I don’t see the fruit or the inspiration in the moment.  This writing perch is anointed by a weekly willingness to expose my faults and failures.  How can I be embarrassed when I see only the moment I am in, this truth, this attached perspective?  When I trust the authenticity of my voice enough to return to my favorite spot in the house and go to the least favorite places in my mind, I equally trust the tenacity with which I once believed I would spend the rest of my life with Charming.

Even when doing so lost me the support of some friends, when my immediate world was shaming me into silence, I wrote about it while trying to respect prescribed and logical limitations.  I broke his heart, mine, our families.  I I didn’t get married this summer, so I didn’t move away, and Tuesday still hold the same order of events.  My sister-in-law and I are just completing our decathlons in different districts.  Despite geographic changes, we settled swiftly into our family dinner night after my typical workout, and it pleased me to lend a hand and know the routine without asking too many questions; with both feet in Hampton, at night anyway, I feel more present in the kids’ lives like before weekend-long dates.

I don’t have it all figured out, and that might worry people who encountered my professional persona.  My former students form a love-hate relationship with the order and structure, receiving a calendar for the first quarter the first week of school along with a packet of prepared pages numbered chronologically for the first nine weeks, noted in the calendar and daily PowerPoint presentation.  I’m yawning.  I’ve done this for eleven-plus years.  I spent enough summers cross-training by preparing the entire year’s curriculum before the first day to realize that teacher burn-out doesn’t feel like I thought it would.

No, teacher burn out is more like overtraining, where in well-intended dedication, you give everything you have for too long.  My high school track coaches taught me to push my body beyond its limit, or I wouldn’t have made it to state qualifiers in my second year; I pulled my hamstring in that race, when it counted.  Do I regret the counsel, favoring knowledge of a singular injury that I’d hurdle past amidst two more seasons, indoor and outdoor, where I would be a healthy competitor?  I meant well in all my passion and zeal, and there were people like Mama Melissa who gently (not subtly) tried to help save me from myself.

It happened when I left Nashville the year I turned thirty.  I stopped writing poetry or prose.  I couldn’t compose since I hadn’t touched a piano since I left mine behind in my ex-husband’s rented home.  A year working in virtual school administration out of a cubicle both equipped me with out of classroom work experience and served to remind me why I became a teacher in the first place.  Investing in the next generation of leaders and teachers and workers and thinkers… it’s a privilege I don’t take lightly.  This past year, I knew I’d turn in the key to the classroom with the yearbook tree and hope the next teacher doesn’t paint over the handprints.  I put off submitting the letter of resignation even when my fiancé was scheduling our household moves to Germany.  I was immobilized by what was coming because this time I knew how painful it would be.

When I left Nashville School of the Arts during my divorce to try and start over near family, I lost a community of friends, like Mama Melissa, and students who are starting their own families now and occasionally messaging me updates after reading a recent post of mine.  I think I’d spent my whole life in schools, but each one preceding that had a max term of four years served.  I never planned to leave my husband.  I never planned to leave NSA.  I’d retire in that room with no windows and Mama Melissa just up the hallway.  Educators who love what they do can’t help but respond to the infinite need of teaching a whole child; unfortunately, there’s no divorcing my type A perfectionism.

The irony of our tragic fairy tale’s timeline has humbled me.  A summer of facing a different future than the one Charming and I had planned and accepting that the inevitable goodbye to the yearbook tree ultimately came, discovering the hope in the realization that I was still here, because that means I’m living the advice I give.  What message would I send to my graduated blogging club members if I stopped writing when my life got messy?

After a weekend of squeezing the company of imperfect people into never-ending handouts for the copy room pinned between two days in training sessions, our principal piled us into some buses for a field trip at Camp Arrowhead.  The activities, aimed at providing faculty and staff with an opportunity to develop rapport, connect, and boost morale… well, they did.  Mine, at least.

This morning felt more like I’d gotten a bye and saw a break in the competition against Thursday’s open house school bell.  My favorite exercise was a team task to create a parachute out of some provided materials.  My principal would have liked the dialogue as four assorted women navigated through balanced determination and respect, courtesy and suggestion, trying and failing, trying again.  Our parachute had good air time inside, but we hadn’t accounted for the wind variable at the outdoor launch location.  We failed in that we didn’t have the best time, but we’d bonded and invested so much that after the competition was over, we returned to the drawing board, made alterations through the break, and found our second parachute was flight ready.  The wind didn’t capsize our craft this time.

IMG_2018-08-28_12-18-40

It would have won, and to these four random women, forced to get to know one another in a the best attempt I’ve experienced yet, we did win.  The best strategy to avoid teacher burn out isn’t to love less or give less, it’s to invest jointly.  Every tweak we made to our parachute affected its flight course.  When I was watching it fly down to a new teammate, it was impossible to tell which of our contributions had worked.  All of our ideas were wound up in coffee filters, string, and paper clips, a final product that would not have existed were it not for the cumulative individual contributions spawning further changes and development.

The football games have already started at Darling Stadium, but they don’t have me waxing nostalgic to grab a camera and snap shots for the yearbook.  I’d prepared for that.  Few things in my life have actually been for forever and always, even when I thought they were going to be – not men, not teaching posts, not even whole states.  My world got bigger with this school re-alliance though, not smaller.  I still live in Hampton, still bump into students and former colleagues at the gym or grocery store, still smile when they don’t recognize the blonde me at first.  Now, I believe I have a true gift in my new job.  Starting over is always hard, but as I’m trying to get my room to function how it used to, I can picture her shuffling around in the other side of the wall, moving here after a summer playing Cruela de Vil in Disney, trying to imagine what she wants to create inside these four walls, envisioning what it will be like to teach her first set of students.  Create, not re-create, like I’ve been trying to do.  It’s helped me adapt and make my space new, too.

That was a role she played at Disney, but there isn’t a mean bone in this girl’s slender, dance frame… she’s more like a Dalmatian, sweet and loyal, but I know she can bite if provoked by a threat.  It’s reassuring seeing the start of school through her eyes.  This year, I want to work smarter and avoid burn out, give what I have and take the resources provided to do more than just survive a year while your students thrive.  Whatever parachute Dalmatian and I make, hopefully soaring SOL scores, I know it is going to be better and stronger if we tweak together, try and fail together, try again together.

I write alone on my front porch tonight, like every Tuesday night, because I didn’t get married and move away.  That wasn’t forever, and Nashville wasn’t, and this might not be either.  Mama Melissa still encourages me emails and letters, across so many thousands of days and miles. She reminded me that I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I don’t have everything figured out, but I’m not going to give up.  I’m not going to stop writing, even if I already lost the competition.

When I write, I grow, and I post my sentiments so that perhaps they might be one among many contributions that help another on Team Human get their parachutes safely soaring.

Sunglasses, Side by Side

Today was my second day of new teacher orientation, another eight hours of information overload, and yet already fresh faces feel familiar.  Crammed in an auditorium that’s a virtual black hole for cell service, my school’s latest hires are bonding as much through shared confusion over login credentials as in our mutual dissatisfaction at a forced farewell to the sweet summer still converging outside brick and mortar.  The hectic hype stills as I write into the dark, humid August night, bound to resume its reign with the sun’s return tomorrow.

The sun and students keep coming up, year after eleven years; in fact, the future is so bright, according to this district, that Human Resources handed each educator a pair of sunglasses on the way into training this morning as a symbolic gesture. Every teacher undergoes orientation when entering a school system, and we generally expect little.  I, for one, hope I join the seasoned faculty for pre-service with payroll, benefits, and online accounts in place so I can engage my brain in curricular endeavors and school-specific initiatives.  I didn’t anticipate our training would impact deeply, much less inspire.

The sunglasses, paired with an exercise where we walked twenty steps and shared with strangers our best idea to usher each student into a bright future, ironically opened my eyes.  Perhaps, after some years of service in any profession, we enter into required development opportunities a bit jaded or skeptical, having fought heavy eyelids out of respect to sub-par PD instructors during too many summer sessions when we were all too aware of those snoozing peacefully on the beach getting a tan while we endured yet another training that might never find application in the classroom.

Granted, even wading through benefit options can be a positive experience if you’re sitting beside the right people.  At my old school, we found each other naturally, and those bonds grew during my four years of in-service in the cafeteria with a temperamental, portable sound system. Maybe experience put us ahead of the learning curve, but I’ve made fast friends with a couple of transfers from my side of the water and a recent college grad still ironing out certification.  Though I’d awoken with hesitancy to leave my bed, body still resisting the early to bed mentality necessitated by the inevitable early to rise mornings, figuring out which grasses will be greener and which once more sparse was punctuated by laughter and sarcasm that won our foursome some annoyed glances.

The future certainly felt brighter today.  Even now, after the heavy clouds unburdened themselves leaving a methodical beat dripping from my drain pipes, I’m smiling at the thought.  Sure, the sunglasses seemed gimmicky at first, but we didn’t need to wear them comically indoors to understand the symbolic sentiment handed to us by those responsible for our growth, investing in us so we can foster student growth all year long.  Two weeks from today, we’ll begin to provide return on that investment, and we’re huddled in classes in school squinting at the projector screen so we’ll be ready by then.

During one session, a trainer mentioned they had more online resources now than actual “human” resources, gearing the hour toward ensuring we could access them and take advantage.  By midmorning, I realized that I had three human resources in my pocket already, and they might be the best takeaways from this district’s new teacher orientation.  It’s almost magical how various aspects of our myriad lives meet, marry, and intersect to make me believe a bright future not only awaits us… we’re existing in it already.  At lunch, over mediocre chicken salad, the four of us uncovered a shared interest in Once Upon a Time, taking care to avoid spoilers for those of us still binge-watching to catch up to the apparently controversial latest season.  The TV series chronicles the journeys of fairy tale characters living under a curse in a modern town with no memory of their previous lives as villains or heroes.  I thought I’d introduce them in my blog with pseudonyms derived from the show, but after our session on equity, I’m finding stereotyping more appropriate in a social context.

From the title, I jokingly admitted to my teammates that I thought this was going to be finance-related.  Instead, we were asked to identify ourselves on a worksheet using cultural terms, then answer a series of questions.  I chose Italian-American woman, and I could answer yes to almost all questions, that I could live and attend church where I wanted, find food I like and images of people like me in magazines, etc.  The trainer asked us to assume a different identity and answer the questions again.  I thought of my very first friend four years ago at the start of a different leg of my career, and quickly sobered at the realization that equality wasn’t equity for a gay, Hispanic professional.

The exercise was intended to help us understand that we have no idea what students are carrying in their physical or figurative backpacks on the first day of school.  We see what people want us to see.  The first thing that comes to mind when I remember my Spanish teacher friend is his infectious smile and contagious laugh that warmed my spirit during busy days at school and Wednesday night dinners at my place.  We talked for hours, at work and the gym and on my front porch… but I’d never considered the unique challenges he faced daily and hid behind that epic smile… challenges that didn’t touch me.  That realization touched me.

Our youngest addition to the English faculty sat to my right, identifying herself as a white female professional.  She’s joining us from Disneyworld, and you’d never guess this sweet Pennsylvania girl spent her summer playing Cruella De Vil.  Had I not died my hair blonde, students might believe we were sisters.  We used our lunch break to head to our school and work in our classrooms, side by side with windows opening to the courtyard.  My principal dubbed me her unofficial mentor since we’re tackling the eleventh grade.  He anticipated she would benefit from my experience, but he couldn’t have known how I needed her youthful optimism, positivity, and un-jaded wide-eyed wonder to remind me why I started teaching in the first place.  She doesn’t fit into a fairy tale.  She’s writing a new one, though the heroine is eerily familiar.

To my left in that session were two experienced teachers who taught together in a different school last year, and though I didn’t peek at their cultural identities, these thirty-somethings are as unique from me as they are from each other.  One is married, makes her own coffee creamer, and is perhaps the first teacher I’ve met that might be more geeky and tech savvy than I, with light skin that suggest beach visits are limited to an hour because she has twenty other things she wants to dive into that afternoon.  Her drive is palpable, her sarcasm is disarming, and I can’t wait to find out what she’s got in her back pack.

The last of our foursome is a single black male with a kid in grade school and another just in college, but he’s too young at heart for me to believe it.  I’d met him over the weekend at a gathering with our department, and he saved me a seat at breakfast yesterday as promised.  We have a lot in common, like quitting smoking and taking up vaping, our aversion of Apple products, and our affection for sarcasm, and undoubtedly, our attention deficits are magnified while sitting together.  His answers from the initial questionnaire in that session made me wonder what I don’t know yet that’s going to continue to round out my perspective of myself and others.  He’s strong and kind and curious.

When they handed me sunglasses in the auditorium lobby this morning, my eyes were still half shut.  After a day learning alongside my new teacher friends, I’m awake and alert and ready for the future we’ve already ushered in… even if I would have been content to just stay where I was before.  Our fresh-faced foursome has bonded as much in our shared interests as in our idiosyncrasies, personal plights, and our responses to cultural stigmas.

Today was confirmation that I am right where I am supposed to be, living my best, bright future, writing a new story with a resurrected heroine I thought I lost back in Nashville.  What’s more, I’m looking forward to my morning drive across the water to work because of these three people, newly positioned in my life.  Perhaps I’m catching some of our youngest’s optimism, but I think we’re going to make each other better in areas the Human Resources department doesn’t cover in handbook.

blogaug21

The Tides that Bind Us

The typical calm the crickets chirp into my solemn street after sundown evades me as I settle in to face a restlessness that sound cannot soothe.  Tomorrow, my little Fit makes its first trek laden with my boxed-up career to a new classroom in a new school in a new district.  Despite more than a decade of teaching, a combination of excitement and fear stirs with uncertainty at all the unknowns that classroom will hold.

It’s times like these where I miss my mom’s encouragement.  I never imagined our daily calls would end, much less that I would initiate a time-out with my lifelong best friend.  Relations with my parents have been rocky since my engagement ended; I think I broke all of our hearts, to some extent, in his family and in mine.  While trying to pick up the pieces of my life following the happily ever after that never was, I just wasn’t strong enough to carry the burden of their broken hearts, too.

Recently, I attempted a conversation with my mother that only served to further my resolve that I am still not strong enough.  The desperate need for my parents’ pride and approval has motivated me all my life, and the absence of it now has forced me to take inventory of the dynamics in our relationships, ultimately finding my dependence on pleasing them has crippled my self-development. From childhood, my dream life was a mirror image of my mother’s across the decades.  I have always believed what they believed about everything from the right way to think to the right way to live.  A moral, Christian perspective shaped my formation, and that should be a good thing.

Most of the time, it is.  I’ve internalized high standards and set high expectations for myself.  I’ve been a classic overachiever, almost certain to excel at new job like the one I’m starting. I like fixing problems, even when they aren’t my own, and I sleep better when all is right with the world.  I’d like to think my friends consider me generous and empathetic, which are good qualities… except in addition to giving you the shirt off of my back, I’ll tell you how you lost yours in the first place and what to do to keep this one covering all.  When we love people, it’s human nature to want the best for them.  But what happens when our best isn’t theirs, when perspectives collide?

I was living in Nashville and was teaching my first batch of bright young minds when my best friend from high school ended our friendship in an email.  At the time, I couldn’t believe what I was reading.  Twelve years has diluted my memory of the words themselves, but the sentiment remains.  I’d always been there for her, giving her support and advice.    I’ll call her Jasmine, since her fiery independence both dumbfounded me and earned my respect.

Jasmine knew who she was and what she believed.  Yes, I was there for her, giving her support and advice even when I wasn’t asked.  When that email showed up in my inbox twelve years ago, a great injury was incurred.  I could tell Jasmine anything.  But the same wasn’t true for her I learned when she lived with me in a one bedroom apartment in Music City for a year during college.  I recall one conversation on my patio where she admitted to several secrets she’d been keeping since high school that made me wonder if I knew her at all.  The email that would come the following year explained why: she was tired of my judgment and condemnation.

For years, I’ve mourned that friendship but never understood what it was that I had done to bring it to an end.  Jasmine was trying to live her best life, and despite my best intentions, the advice and admonishments were incompatible with her perspective.  I loved her and I miss her still, that sweet voice that could still a sunset into submission, and I find peace now that the words in that decade-old email finally make sense.  I couldn’t see it then.  Then, I was right.

Now, I see the damage I did in that relationship because I thought Jasmine’s life would be better if she’d only take my advice.  I could confide in her without fear of disapproval, but the same wasn’t true for her.  I see her face pop up on my Facebook news feed now with her children, and clearly Jasmine didn’t need my counsel to build a beautiful life for herself.  The anger and hurt that email set in motion have no power now.  There is peace in understanding, even if it’s too late to say, “I’m sorry,” and start over.

I’m not sure that I would be a better friend yet, anyway.  They say acknowledging the problem is half the battle.  If I’d been a real best friend, Jasmine wouldn’t have lied or kept secrets from me out of fear of facing my moral standards.  There must be a balance, a respect that transcends differences in opinions, a dynamic that encourages honesty and fosters openness, I just haven’t found the line yet.  I thought that I loved her by pushing her toward my best for her life, but being overbearing eventually drove her away.  We choose our friends.  Why would Jasmine keep company with someone who consistently made her feel badly about the choices she was making?

I stole away for an hour today to Fort Monroe beach, just to be alone with my thoughts and creation.  The tide was coming in, and I had to move my towel out a few yards back to stay dry.  Long after I left, I know the tide receded.  That place where the water meets land changes all day long, sometimes high and sometimes low, but you can trust the dynamic of that cycle.  Perhaps if the boundaries in my friendship with Jasmine has been more like the shifting tides, she wouldn’t have to take the shirt off my back without bracing herself for the lecture to come.  Love is a moving force, like the ocean water, and it can as equally cultivate growth and life when balanced as it can destroy cities when it’s not.

Fort

Beach days are almost over, and while I’d love a good pep talk from Mom about moving in to my new classroom tomorrow, I need to believe in myself.  The bottom line of every communication from my parents since the great break-up is that I will not be happy or successful unless I choose the Christian path I was raised to follow.  I believed what they believed all my life.  Now, I’m questioning that.  I’m questioning faith and God and relationships.  I want to know what I believe.  I want to be the kind of friend that people confide in for good counsel without fear of chastisement.

It’s been a while since I wrote about my Fairy Godmother who works at my old school, but we’ve been making the most of the last of summer’s Fridays by sunbathing and talking about everything under the sun.  I’m grateful our friendship continues, but most grateful to discover that she is that kind of friend.  She has faith and high expectations for herself and for me, but like the tide that washes over our toes when we’re chatting in the sun and surf, there’s a healthy dynamic that encourages growth. There’s just one more beach Friday left, but I think my friendship with my Fairy Godmother is just getting real.

This summer, I’ve accepted that everyone who is human lies.  We lie if we object to the previous statement.  We lie to protect ourselves and others.  We justify little white lies out of love and good intentions. If Jasmine were in my life today, I wouldn’t want my impending words of judgment be yet another obstacle that prevents her from being open with me. Jasmine didn’t know what to do in the hurricane of our friendship except jump ship, and a dozen years later, I don’t blame her.

This new classroom I move into tomorrow will be my home away from home.  While I’ll miss seeing into my Fairy Godmother at work most days, the potential for new friendships is an opportunity to put into practice what I’ve been learning, to be the kind of friend I want to have… and next summer is full of Fridays for us to return to our spot, toes in the sand, enjoying each other’s company.

You Can’t Be Better Yesterday

I’m settling into the serenity of a silent street, shedding the business of the day.  The sweet stillness never fails to inspire when I type under the blanket of night and shadows dance around me, the laptop screen casting a small web of light as I type my way to clarity.  Four years ago this week, I moved in, expecting to rent for a while then get married and buy a place.  Now, it’s home for the long term, and I’m okay with that.

My landlord stopped by tonight to fix a few things in the kitchen.  I thought I’d need to defend the empty garden beds to prove I’m still loving on the property, but there was no need.  In fact, he asked if I would ever be interested in buying the house.  My brain quickly accessed my father’s “Financial Manifesto”, and I knew that based on his important tips of financial wisdom, I am still not in a position to buy a home.  Would I be interested though?  It’s something to put on the back burner.

Saving money always seems easier when there’s a goal in mind, and I’ve found when immediate gratification is not possible, I enjoy the long-awaited accomplishment much sweeter.  As it is, I’ve got something on the back burner most nights in that rented kitchen, and I love being greeted by the delicious aroma of whatever spices and dishes I experimented with that day.  A $15 Goodwill kitchen makeover has earned that room my second favorite place to be… second to this white wicker love seat.

20180807_173054

I started out blogging about growth in the garden, but I didn’t plant this year.  In the spring, I wasn’t going to be living here, writing here.  So, this summer, time spent toiling in the dirty soil is now spent laboring over a hot stove.  I challenged myself to prepare three new recipes each week, trying to step outside my comfort zone.  It’s a different therapy entirely than tending a garden because every day I am making something new from things that already are… and hoping that the combined product is pleasing.

In the kitchen, learning from trial and error is expected and encouraged.  When I serve up a new dish, I make the disclaimer, “Okay, this is the first time I’m making this, so I promise it will be better the next time.”  Sometimes, it’s better because I tweaked the recipe to fit my taste buds.  I’ve made my aunt’s Jamaican curry chicken three times in the past month.  While working in Syracuse, I was influenced by the in-house chef at my job who prepared a Chinese curry and potatoes dish that still makes my mouth water years later.  With a little research, I made a few alterations to marry the two, and I think my own curry chicken has finally replaced French fries as my favorite food.

I’m gaining confidence in the kitchen and grocery store by consulting the internet before planning my meals.  Cooking on a budget from scratch is easy when you have the right ingredients in the cabinets.  Dollar Tree surprised me with its range of spices at the best prices I’ve found in town, even better than the ethnic grocery stores.  Aldi’s meat fills my fridge and freezer at a fraction of the cost of other grocery stores, and I make it last two weeks.  Instead of buying marinades and boxed sides, I use small portions of common ingredients I already have.  I trust Google searches to save money by offering me alternatives to rare, pricey ingredients that would only serve one particular dish.

When I turned my writer’s growth indoors this summer, I wasn’t sure I’d find my green thumb had a direct transfer past the old familiar staples I’ve prepared for decades, all ones my mother taught me how to make.  Instead, I’m rediscovering my independence, finding myself willing to do things I’ve never done before.  I essentially quit smoking, though some would argue picking up vaping isn’t an improvement.  I feel better.  I smell better.  I don’t miss out on life while I’m stepping out for a clove.  Maybe the damage to my upper register is permanent, but I’m singing in the shower again and liking the melody my clear throat chirps out.  I am happier with myself, and that’s enough.

Returning to a house filled with a mix of ginger, garlic, and rice vinegar was especially gratifying on Sunday when I tried something even more outside my comfort zone.  While the teriyaki chicken slow cooked for six hours in my crock pot, I changed the front engine mount on my car.  Light bulbs and fuses never fazed me, and changing the oil on my Honda was a good foundation, but this job was intense.  My friend intended to guide and assist, but an hour and a half in, we knew it was a two person job.  The OEM part didn’t line up perfectly, but just a tenth of a millimeter was enough to prevent the bolt from catching.

After a lot of trial and error, all the tools were put away by sunset; I was satisfied at having accomplished a practical goal and saved several hundred dollars by trying to do what I never thought I could do, with the help of someone who had the tools and experience to monitor the progress.  My car sounds better than it has in years, and it feels good to get my hands dirty.  Driving my car now feels a lot like looking at my flowering garden beds used to, that something good has grown from me.  My mechanic mentor asked what I’d learned that day.  Essentially, instruction manuals have a place, but the best strategy when working under the hood is to see and react, applying logic more in accordance with dissembling and reassembling a 3D jigsaw puzzle.  It’s exactly the opposite of kitchen intuition, where following the recipe exactly should yield a palatable meal.

There are different kinds of wisdom, and I’ve never considered myself to be wise.  I mastered my own little wheelhouses in wordsmithing and technology, and in those arenas, I trust my intuition. In other areas, I still have to stop myself from picking up the phone and calling my parents, who will, invariably, tell me the right thing to do. If I’m ever going to be a wise old woman, gaining independence by forcing myself to stand firm without a cheerleading squad puts me in the right place now.  Ego would trick me into thinking that my beliefs are gospel.  I want to live, experience, and develop all the types of intuition that life will demand of me.  Perhaps wisdom is more like core curriculum, where the learner has to have ownership for lasting effect.

This summer, I’m learning by doing.  I didn’t make as many lists.  I’m experimenting with a more flexible, intuitive approach to existing on this planet.  Where did all my plans and lists get me?  I can’t make myself better yesterday.  Why dwell in the darkness of the shadows behind me, as dark as the night around me, when the light is ahead, forward movement, like the laptop screen illuminating my fingertips?

I’m still here.  I’m still writing.  I’m better today than I was yesterday, and subsequently happier and more balanced.  I can’t go back to fix or change anything in the shadows.  Good can come from me today, and moving forward.  The kitchen is teaching me how to adapt to the brave new world I fashioned for myself, and if summer has a lesson, it’s that wisdom will come with experience, after all.