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Archive for the ‘goals’ Category

I grew up quiet. I was docile, compliant, held my tongue when I should have spoken. This isn’t a thing to be proud of, and I’m not proud of it. I should have spoken the first time a man flashed me. I was eight. I should have spoken the first time a boy tried to pressure me into letting him touch me. I was nine. But I was a “good girl,” a seen-but-not-heard girl. So I stayed quiet.

Eventually—though not for many too many years—I realized that staying quiet is a form of self harm, that silence can equal death.

Writing ended my silence. When I started blogging ten years ago, I started posting things I didn’t say out loud, started telling stories I hadn’t told: the first time I was called a nigger, the night I was raped, the acceptance of my inability to have children. And when I wrote, people read. And I found I had more things to say. And more people read … and more and more, reading and reading and reading. Silence stopped being my default position. It became, instead, an occasional choice, a choice made to serve my needs, not anyone else’s.

In recent years, I have been anything but silent. My pain and rage have been loud and sustained. The steady drumbeat of devaluation and death that has been the storyline of Black and Brown communities calls up my voice again and again and again, has spilled across pages and pages, come to mic-ed spaces like this one to spill over audiences like you.

***

When I looked up “backslide,” I was surprised to have page after page of religious websites come up in the search results. At first I ignored them because nothing I think about when I think about backsliding has anything to do with religion.

I searched again. I was looking for something that might steer me away from the negative definition of the word that was dominating my writing. All my searches came up religious. Finally, I gave in and clicked the first site, “Ask a Minister” (seriously). And what to my wondering eyes should appear but definitions of backsliding that resonated more powerfully than the standard, “relapsing into bad ways or error.” Ask a Minister gave me:

Revolt
Refuse to harken
Pull away
Rebel

Suddenly backsliding looked like a badge of honor, something to which I could and should aspire. Biblically, of course, it’s all bad—backsliders were folks who “refused to harken” to religious rules, to the word of God. Okay, fine. But is that always necessarily a bad thing? Questioning authority—speaking up instead of keeping silent—can be exactly right, exactly the thing that saves your life.

And there it was—the memory of quiet, go-along-to-get-along me, and the memory of all the ways the stress and damage of my silence manifested in my health, in my bad relationships, in my fear of embracing my anger.

But no more. I have become a proud backslider. I have—to paraphrase my favorite of the “Ask a Minister” bits—refused to harken and turned a backsliding shoulder and made my ears heavy that they should not hear.

One. Hundred. Percent.

***

I was born on a Tuesday, and I used to like thinking about that old poem: Monday’s child is fair of face, Tuesday’s child is full of grace …  I liked thinking that I might ever be seen as even the least bit graceful. And somehow my silence was part of that.

When I mentioned this to a friend, she sent me the biblical definition of grace: the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. I do tend to think of myself as the recipient of the free (and generally unmerited) favor of God, so perhaps I’ve achieved gracefulness after all. This graceful backsliding is such a relief. Freedom, finally, to just be my own authentic, un-quiet, angry, rebellious, refusing-to-harken self.



This piece was written for the July 24th Big Words, Etc. reading, the theme for which was “Backslide.”

The plan for 2017 was to be on my #GriotGrind, to write an essay a week … except I’m MONTHS behind! I’m determined to, somehow, catch up, to write 52 essays by year’s end.
I’m following Vanessa Mártir‘s lead, she launched #52essays2017 after writing an essay a week in 2016 … and then deciding to keep going.

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#52essays2017

Yes, my title is an homage. And the challenge is an Everest-sized mountain I’ll attempt to scale this coming year. Wish me luck, folks, wish me luck!

Would you like to take on this challenge, too? I’ve been inspired this past year by the powerful work of my friend Vanessa. Just as I was thinking, “Oh, maybe I’ll take a cue from V and write an essay a month in 2017,” she posted a challenge invite, and I couldn’t resist joining. Check out the details.

And I made this announcement image on canva.com!


So, it’s a Tuesday. That means it’s a Slice of Life day! Click over to Two Writing Teachers to see what’s up with the other slicers!

In honor of 2017 being the 10th year of the Slice of Life Story Challenge, and in honor of the fact that I’ve participated since the first year of the challenge, Stacey (one of the creators of the challenge) made me my very own Slicer badge!

original-slicer-girlgriot

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As I was getting ready to head into Manhattan tonight, I overheard two folks talking outside my window. They’d run into each other and were catching up, a young-ish man and an older woman. They had a lot of crazy things to say and gossip to pass back and forth. They said their goodbyes and then there was silence as they walked away … then the guy shouts: “I just gotta say, you’re one of those people whose black don’t crack!  They both burst out laughing, and I almost did, too.

Today is my birthday.  Funny how fast these come around!  It’s my birthday, and I’m quite solidly middle aged now.  But I’m also one of those “uncracked” people that guy was shouting about outside my window.  Sometimes I feel every nanosecond of each one of my 52 years, but mostly not so much, mostly I’m well aware of how much I don’t look whatever people think my age should look like. I stressed out about my age a lot more when I was in my 40s. (Might have had something to do with all those younger men I dated … ahem.)  Now, I’m rude enough to tell people my age for no reason other than to make them tell me how not my age I look.  My vanity has done no mellowing over time!

Earlier this week, one of my neighbors asked me why she never sees me pregnant or with a baby (really, my neighbors will sometimes just say every damn thing!). I told her that time was past for me, and she said not yet, that I could probably have kids “up till you’re 40 or so.” Um, yeah. That time is p.a.s.t.

So that time is past, but now there’s time for about a bazillion other things.  This second half of my life is already shaping up to be very interesting — one knee surgery down, one to go, got fired for the first time in my life and have spent the last three months unemployed for the first time in my adult life, I’ve learned to spin, I’ve discovered a new writing genre to explore, I’ve reconnected with some old friends and started cultivating a gorgeous garden a new friends …

I’ve got work to do.  I’m only 52, but I’m already 52.  All kinds of clocks are ticking.  Think of how many crafts there are still for me to learn.  And how long is it going to take me to get over myself and stop hiding my grey hair with henna?

Time to prepare for embracing myself as the Crone, the wise, free, powerful me.  This non-working summer has given me a delicious taste of what the “free” can feel like — I have very much enjoyed my long days of reading, writing, strolling, thinking, seeing just how much I enjoy my own company — but I have a ways to go before I can pretend to wisdom or power.

I’ve got work to do.


image source

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Hello to everyone who began following the blog after reading my last post.  I appreciate the follows and the comments.  You intimidated me just a little, I won’t lie.  I’ve started and dashed half a dozen posts since that one.  I worried about what kind of writing you’d expect each time you saw my blog in your inbox.  Well, the fact is, you’re here.  Stick around and you’ll see how non-linear and nonsensical I can be one minute, how focused and fierce I can be the next.  This is a theme-less space that is often left to grow over with weeds.  I’m only today remembering that I should have started a 30 stories in 30 days challenge on the first.  Maybe I’ll jump in with that tomorrow.  We’ll see.  I hope you’ll keep reading.  It won’t be praise- or comment-worthy every time, but I’d love to have you jump in and start conversation when you’re moved to do so.  Welcome to my tiny little corner of the internet!

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Today is the final day of my amazing VONA experience.  People keep texting and asking if I’m having fun, and I can’t answer that question.  Yes, of course I’m having fun, but what “fun” means here is something I don’t really know how to articulate.  I’m completely exhausted, but it’s the best exhaustion of my life.  I’ve spend the last week breathing the air as a writer, surrounded by amazingly talented, generous, kind and beautiful people.  The women in my workshop have given me so much, have been such powerful sisters, have made me laugh so hard my face hurt, have made me think, have made me cry, have impressed me beyond description.  I’ve been writing and writing and writing.

So yes, everyone who’s asked, I’ve had fun.  Just know that those three letters can’t hold the fullness of what this week’s been for me.

In class the other day, we ran into that familiar wall of self-deprecation, of talking dismissively about our talents.  It prompted Tananarive to make us go around the room and say, one at a time, “I am __________, and  I am a damn good writer.”  It was interesting to see how hard that was for so many of us.  I said it when it was my turn.  I even wrote it on my vision board down in the lounge, but I haven’t internalized it.  Maybe it’s finally time to get on that.  As one of my wonderful classmates said, “The first ‘yes’ has to come from you.”

So today is the end, but it’s also the beginning.  I’ve been writing for years and years.  Now it’s time to start being a writer.  In a little while I have to go downstairs and make a public statement of my commitment to my writing for the next year.  That’s so heavy, so powerful, so exactly what I need to do.  One commitment is to carry VONA with me, to keep close to my head and heart all the strength and love that was gifted to me this week.

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I don’t make my resolutions this time of year.  If I can be said to make resolutions at all, it would be the wish-list I write up for my birthday — the start of my personal new year.  So January first is more like a quarterly report.

But this year I’m feeling like making some school resolutions.  There are definitely some things I’d like to see become true about my classroom and my teaching between now and June, so …

  • More integration between my class and the teen peer education program
  • Redesign of our classroom, including getting started on the mural we want to paint on the big wall
  • Publish at least two books of student writing
  • Revisit goal-setting / education plans with everyone
  • Less me, more them
  • Plants!
  • Bring Carlos in to talk about the college transitions program
  • Find better ways to keep my adult and teen students working together
  • Read A Wish After Midnight (thanks for catching the error, Susan!)
  • Work through the geometry and algebra curricula (without suffering my usual math phobia!)
  • Find better science resources

All of these things are important.  Some will, of course, be much easier than others.  I’m really worried that my class is going to be completely teen-i-fied by the end of the year.  I don’t want to lose my ‘real’ adults now that we have so many new young people, and keeping that from happening is on me.

Lots of work to do, starting with Monday’s new student orientation.  I’ve missed my classroom, and I’m looking forward to getting started again.  I had hoped the last two weeks would include a little more time for me to focus on planning for next week … but when has that ever happened?

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… it’s the only way the flowers will grow, after all.

I’ve been asked to write an article for a journal on adult education and I’ve been trying to focus ideas so I can write a proposal for the next women-in-literacy book … and can I just say that my brain is DRY?

It’s funny.  I kind of felt as though I’d broken through something in August.  I was dead tired most of the month, but I still managed to do a LOT of writing.  I was able to push myself to get the words out of my head and onto the page.  And it felt good.  Felt lasting.  Ha.  Of course, just when I take my writing for granted, the bright green thread is lost.

I have ten days to get both pieces together.  And in that time I also have to move my office, slog through a registration for classes that we filled last week, get started with both of my classes … anyway, many things that need to happen before month’s end.

But none of those things will happen today or tomorrow.  So this weekend I’m watering the dirt.  I’m going to set everything else aside.  Am I worried about the ‘little hater‘?  Oh, sure, but I’ve beaten her before.  This time will be no different.

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… not that I haven’t been having fun, but how can it be August 1st?  Wasn’t it just New Year’s?  Wasn’t it about six days ago that I skipped work to go to the inauguration?

One thing the quick flipping of calendar days means is that my birthday will be here much sooner than I’m ready for it to be here.  My birthday, a day which lives in infamy, has been an annual trauma for the last seven years.  And yes, I am selfish enough that this bothers me.  I can’t seemd to be truly comfortable celebrating the day, and at the same time I feel annoyed to have the day taken from me.  It was, after all, my birthday first.

But there’s more than a month before I need to worry about that.  In the mean time, I have a new school year to plan for, complete with many changes I have yet to figure out — new locations for classes, a new layout to our schedule, new systems we have to figure out and put in place.

I’m looking forward to being back in the classroom, though I’m not at all ready for it.  I miss my students, miss the energy boost of working with them, planning lessons for them.  My days have run past so quickly, I never got around to making any summer goals this year.  Instead, I’ll make some goals for the coming school year:

  • Be a better juggler: I have to get better at balancing all the work I have to do as a teacher with all the work I have to do as a program director … and still have time to breathe and get a few decent nights’ sleep each week. 
  • Continue to work on being a better math teacher.
  • Find ways to more fully fund my program so that I don’t have to spend so much time scrambling to cover salaries and make ends meet.
  • Develop a college transition program for our GED grads.
  • Be a better supervisor for our instructors.
  • Do more student publishing and encourage other teachers to do more student publishing, too.

I could keep this list going and going and going, but I think this is more than enough to keep me quite busy in the coming year.  In some ways, the entire list depends on my juggling ability.  Taking on the morning class last year took me out of my office for so much of the work week, I spent the whole year feeling like I was playing catch-up.  I don’t want to feel that way in the new year.  Or, at least, not all the time!

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