All I Want for TKD …

It’s the first frigid days of 2018. A new year. Where I’m sitting, the “real feel” temperature is -30. Yes, if I step outside, it will feel like 30 degrees below zero. There is so much wrong with that, I don’t have time or energy to describe it. But … where I’m sitting, it’s beautiful, and it’s quiet and calm, and I have a gorgeous space to myself for a few days of writing and dreaming and staring at the snowy landscape and organizing my brain.

This is a gift I’ve bought myself, these four days of contemplation and work. The drive up with my friends yesterday was lovely. The first moments of walking into this glorious space and seeing just how fabulous it is was lovely. Waking up to see sunlight creeping over the mountains out my window was lovely. Remembering that the only things I have to do are the things that I want to do was best of all.

These few days are the third DIY writing retreat I’ve made. Each retreat has been very different, and each has been just what I needed. In some version of a perfect world, all of my time would be like this. But I don’t live in a perfect world, so I have to create my moments of perfection when and where I can.

It’s Three Kings Day, the day Melchior, Balthsar, and Gaspar presented their gifts to Mary’s new baby. What gifts would I have of the Magi this year? Gold, frankincense, and myrrh are nice, but my needs run a little different from those of the newly-born Christ child.

  1. Energy. I have a lot of plans for myself this year. If I have any hope of getting through even half of them, I’m going to need lots of energy. Lots of it.

These plans I have for myself run in all kinds of directions. When I set my new-year intentions before my birthday (the official start of the new year for me is my birthday, so January is a time for me to review first quarter success and re-up for the rest of the year), the primary focus of all my goals was my health. I’ve had a few years of non-stop crap, and I’m more than tired of it. So I started working on the most pressing items and focusing on maintaining the gains I’d already made. Dealing with the healthcare system and with healthcare providers exhausts the mess out of me, however. That’s one place the need for energy comes in. Pushing back against a system that wants to blame all my ills on my weight, insisting that providers actually listen to the things I tell them are happening with my body, fighting with my insurance company so that care I need is paid for … it’s a job of work.

I need physical energy, too, however. I have some clear and intensive goals around strength training and getting my body ready for the trip I’m planning in the fall. I need to be stronger, need to be a little less fearful of injury and pain, need to have a little more trust in my physical capacity. So, speaking of jobs of work … yeah.

And there are some things that need to be done, that only I can do, that I have no desire to do. I need to find the will to power through them, day after day after day. If I can’t do them, most of the rest of my plans for the year will have to be set aside, and I’m not here for that possibility, so I have to step up and get those things done.

  1. Pigheadedness. If you know me, you know I can be annoyingly stubborn sometimes. That’s true enough as far as it goes. But I struggle with not being stubborn enough to hold onto things that are for myself, things that feel selfish because they are just about me. I let plans for myself fall by the wayside all the time. I regret those falls later, but that regret doesn’t bring opportunity back. So I want some selfish stubbornness, I want the ability to keep my needs as my primary focus and direction this year. That doesn’t mean I want to ignore other people and their needs. It means I want to stop putting other people and their needs ahead of myself every time. I want to be pigheaded in my belief that I am worth that focus, that my needs are important and deserve my time and attention.
  2. Confidence. This one may be the most important one of all, the one that gives me the ability to have the other two.

I struggle with Impostor Syndrome on the regular. There are times when La Impostora is my constant companion. She is far too good at keeping me down, keeping me back, keeping me in a box of self-doubt. And I’m sick unto death of her power over me.

I wanted to say that the third gift should be “Wakandan pride.” And maybe that’s still right. Wakandans know they are the shit. I have never had that fierce a sense of myself and my value … and I want some of that. I’m not getting any younger. What am I waiting for? Mother Toni said it right in Beloved. I am my best thing. Me. I am. And I need to see that and know it and believe it and live it. And I need to start right this instant.

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And so, Gaspar, Melchior, Balthasar. There are my wishes, my gift requests for this Three Kings Day: energy, pigheadedness, confidence. Work your magic, magi. Come through.

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All over but the sleeping.

Day two of our conference was great. I spent most of the last two days working — as a board member, I was on call throughout — but I did attend two sessions. Yesterday I joined the session “I Feel Like Going On — Singing in Community,” which was led by Voices of Hope: Women Singing for Inspiration.  Voices of Hope is a women’s chorus who sing to celebrate the power of women’s voices.   They taught us a series of affirming songs, and we performed for the rest of the conference as the opening act for the Women’s Perspectives reading last night. That was really fun and a reminder of the fact that I want to find a choral group at home to sing with.

This morning I went to a workshop with the amazing, gracious, generous,  compassionate Jenny Horsman. I have loved Jenny for years and will always be grateful to WE LEARN for giving me multiple opportunities to meet, work with and learn from her. This morning’s session was “A User’s Guide to the Brain: Nurturing Growth (in the Presence or Aftermath of Violence or Trauma).”  The idea of going to a brain science workshop when my own brain was overloaded and exhausted would have been daunting had anyone but Jenny been facilitating.  I left with not only a better understanding of how my brain works, but tools for helping it function better.  Most fabulous was that the workshop was developed for students, not practitioners (although there were several of us in the room).  Nearly every student who attended the conference was in that room, and they drank in that subject matter like water. Jenny’s Learning and Violence website has lots of resources and her book Too Scared to Learn was such a gift to me as a teacher.

Another lovely WE LEARN conference comes to a close.  This year was our 10th anniversary, and I wasn’t sure we were going to move forward beyond this afternoon’s closing circle.  We’ve been struggling for a long time to keep the organization going, and I’m not sure I would have taken odds that this year’s conference was anything but our swan song.  The board presented the “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” question to the membership yesterday — complete with dramatic re-enactments of WE LEARN’s history and some comic-style visual aids drawn on the fly by me (I am both shameless and out of control!).  The clearest answer came from a former adult learner who is now a teacher, “Don’t you dare stop.  Don’t you dare.”

Well, okay.  We’re talking over new ideas and strategies, and we’re finding a way to keep on going on.

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Get thee over to Two Writing Teachers for the rest of today’s slices!

SOL image 2014

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Post script: So after we closed down the conference and cleaned up the space, we had a board meeting (still not sure how we were all conscious enough to do that), and I got my suitcase and headed for the late train back to New York.  I had plans, people.  Plans.  I was going to get on that train, write my SOL, post it and then sleep until Penn Station.  Plans, I tell you.  Yeah.  And then I got on the train and the first thing they told us was that the wi-fi was down.  Lovely.  Lovely.  So I wrote my SOL anyway and I’m dating it with the time I would have posted it if Amtrak hadn’t let me down.