The first time our lips groped each other in gentle awkwardness a tidal wave overcame my body drowning my brain in the dizzying waves. You touched my face in that loving way we had whispered to each other about as kids. Except you weren’t the tuxedo mask or Kurt Cobain of our fantasies. You had soft hands that smelt like vanilla body spray and truth or dare perspiration. You pulled away while I was still struggling to catch my breath and laughed in my face. You said that its no big deal to kiss after all it was just a game. Even though I had tried to say to you many nights in the dark that I could fall in love with any gender, but what I didn’t say was that I was falling in love with you. I think of all those times we would practice our make up and try to find the right angle to make our barely there breasts seem most appealing in the mirror before lying together on the bed legs entwined talking about our futures. You said that we had to practice doing it for the boys, to attract a husband that we would wow with our nubile yoga bodies, and cook fancy meals for on special occasions. But I knew no boy would appreciate you like I do. He would be intimidated by your Amazonian figure, and fierce intellect. He wouldn’t know the hours you devoted to becoming your best self. He wouldn’t know the way your dad sometimes scared you, but you still loved him. He wouldn’t know that you think carnations are tacky as gifts. But I knew. I had watched you growing up all these years, blooming into not a woman but a force of nature. And I was the one reminding you that you were beautiful, and that shared your anxieties about sex and love and romance. I couldn’t say to you though that I was falling in love with you. You were my best friend, and if our parents found out no more sleep overs, no more friendship, no more innocence. Besides we agreed that we weren’t ready to have sex yet anyways. You wanted to wait for marriage, and I wanted to wait for more body hair. But then you kissed me on a dare at your birthday party while your parents were out in front of all of our friends and shipwrecked my timid heart. In that moment as my lips parted to your infinite wetness letting it wash away all my fear of being seen when I too felt like I might be a goddess of the sea, you laughed at me. You told me that it meant nothing. You could kiss me anytime that you wanted, and it wouldn’t mean anything to you because you are not gay. I am just your friend. And sometimes friends kiss because boys like it when they do, and you, my friend, really want a boyfriend for your birthday, and I am never going to be that boyfriend because I can’t hide how soft my lips are, or how smooth my cheek is, or how tiny my hands are. My tiny hands that could never encircle your waist in the strong titanic embrace that you dream of. I wouldn’t even know how to love you if I could. We hadn’t been practicing for this moment. The moment I would dissolve into your lips. I buried those feelings like a treasure closely guarded. Kept under lock & key, but always just below the surface. I had seen the ocean in your grey eyes, and I tried to swim back there everyday, but you were always looking somewhere else.
I would like to help. I don’t know where to begin. Tell me where does it hurt? It’s ok you can trust me. I’ve been hurt before too. In fact I’m hurting right now. I know it’s not always easy to say. Take your time. Let me help you. How can I sooth your pain? There is nothing too small or too large you could ask me for. I would love to help you. Can you point to where it hurts? Perhaps we can just sit a while. Tell me what is on your mind. The questions that pull at your heart. We can try to answer them together. Because when I see your pain I feel mine too. I would like to help make it better. Even if it’s only for a little while. Even if it’s imperfect & flawed. Even if you don’t think it matters. It matters to me. To see you happy & cared for. Because the love that we share heals me too. The parts of me that hurt feel better knowing you are safe & content. It might be a long journey, and it won’t always be easy work. But I will not turn away when I see you are in pain. All that pain hurts me too. I am also scared. I dont know where to begin. There is no place I would rather be than right here with your pain. For as long as you are hurting I am hurting too. I can only see with my two eyes, listen with my two ears, work with my two hands, and love with my big heart. But I am here in your service. Please tell me my love, where do you hurt?
I dreamt I was a fertility goddess in space collecting seeds from the forest floor to feed the stars & end the war that killed them all. A single bomb, a child born, washed up on the sandy shore. Braided hair to pass the time, only speak in whispered rhymes. Taste the flesh that’s been seeding pine needles. Black rough hands in soft gentle creases. Working for a child’s right to die in peaceful times. Leading generals with all that’s mine. Comfort wrapped in round bouncing hips. Histories course tangled in my lips. A soft wet secret in my heart. The birth of a millennial new start.
“God spoke to me, and he said ‘I am the one who will decide which kingdoms will rise & whose will fall, and I say that I love & cherish these people as my children and they will flourish'”.
As I stirred creamers into my tea I did not look up at the man speaking, but I felt the hairs bristling on the back of my neck all the same. Inherited rage against the church of my father. It was late in the afternoon and the diner was mostly empty except for me, and these three church folk conversing over pie and coffee. There was something about the self-congratulatory confidence which this man’s faith spoke with that grated my nerves. Even as I felt the tension & irritation rise in the bile of my stomach a calmer voice reminded me to let it go. He meant no harm by his story, he was no threat to me in my booth, and who was I to judge his experience of the unknown.
“Father Clearey looked at me astonished as I spoke these words, for he knew that I would never have said such a thing! I was fed up with being there. There had been so much resistance, so many set backs, and they had just run out of money to pay us. So they called an assembly with the children to see if any of them had access to money. I was ready to throw in the towel, I was sure that these people were past hope and would be wiped out under the heel of God. So I said to myself, well I know what I think of these people, but God what do you think of these people?”
As I listened I felt the knots in my stomach relax into unexpected calm. Certainly this man was not perfect, he barely concealed his inherent racism & disdain for “those people”, but when that voice answered him he was prepared to listen against his own judgement. A small bead of hope settled in my heart. Here was someone whom I would normally consider beyond hope, a Christian missionary with an agenda. With Trump the President-Elect spitting his hate speech from the television in the corner of the diner these church folk stood for everything I thought was wrong with the world. Yet, here he was acting out of divine love to support people he had deemed beyond hope in circumstances that would try the most loyal ally let alone a bigot.
In that moment I thought about the reasons I had hated his faith, how similar they were to his own reasons for hating the faith of the north, how little any of our reasons meant in the face of so much pain. Humanities pain. My pain. The pain that I had been in when I walked into the diner to sit at my favourite corner booth where the waitress comes to sit on her breaks and cheers me up with stories of her weekend. She gives the best hugs. How I needed one of those hugs today because I was feeling so lost. There is no way to adequately describe the emptiness of depression. A real absence of care. Of faith. I questioned why I had turned away from all overt forms of faith as an attempt to prove that I was an intelligent, capable, grounded person in my father’s eyes. I noticed how much my heart craved that faith now. A faith that is open to receiving signs from beyond my own understanding of the situation. A faith that acts out of the best interests of those involved against my own petty judgements. A faith that loved deeply & fully with no expectation.
I was reminded of the one-step plan we had discussed in my yoga training. Give life. How impossible it had seemed when she had said that to me. Shed everything. She said that we were already on it. Over to God. I couldn’t understand how. One step. Over bagels & tea I understood the blessed simplicity of that sentiment.
There is no reason why that man should have had a change of heart. There is no reason that I should have stepped into this diner at this time to hear him tell it. There is no reason any of this should occur, and yet that is all the reason that I need to restore my faith in humanity. My faith in happy accidents & divine interventions. My faith in my own ability to keep going. My faith. There may be a divine reason too complex for my understanding, or I may have arrived here by a series of happy accidents, or gifts from the god as another teacher refers to them, either way the results are the same. I am sitting alone in the corner booth on a grey steely day stirring cream into my tea when I experience a change of heart. I can not measure or quantify the experience, but my actions change as a result. My thoughts change as a result. Love enters my heart as a result.
As I walk back to work considering the unlikely probability that I would hear these words at this time and have them land in my heart in such a way to momentarily lift the veil of apathy I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Gratitude for magical mistakes & mysterious meetings. As I walk the one step at a time path through depression I see all the other tiny steps that have got me here. I see that we are each walking the one step path together, and whether we waver or stumble, we are moving through it as one. One step. The rhyme or reason of it is whatever we each choose to weave between the lines, but the result is the same. We walk together.
October taught like a bow string drawing from the well that sprung in cool darkness of the soul rippling familiar resonance. Sweat trickles down the back of my neck warm in the dappled sunlight, as hand over fist works steadily to pull buckets of cool crisp crystal to my parched tongue that has cupped prayers silently for too long. Discovered while divining for a secret garden where my soul could bloom undisturbed. My eye focused on the horizon, rod in hand, aiming at the heart of unsung mysteries, finger strikes a chord, echo of caverns below humble footfalls, open to receiving each other in abundant grace. Glory in the morning as a purity that tastes fresh on salty lips slides down my throat in mutual gratitude of the refreshed. Harmonic symphony in an instant. Celebration of bounty surrounded by love notes from death.
I dreamt about holding my mom while she ugly cried. About her letting tears roll in ugly sobs. Of holding her & stroking her hair while she shoke with each painful breath. Of her feeling so small & helpless in my arms. I couldn’t calm your fears.
Before that we were in the kitchen after a big meal I was late too. Everyone clinking glasses & merry. I chewed hubba bubba gum too big for my mouth. My words were awkward around the slippery mass. You didn’t mind. You picked me up by the thighs & carried me up the many flights of stairs. You told me that you loved me & always will while you set me on top of cabinet 6 ft high. I was skeptical that you meant any of it, but your words were so velvety rich & reassuring. Resting your hand on my knee we talked for longer than it seemed. I got gum stuck in your hair which shone redder than usual in the bedroom light. As I carefully & tenderly groomed the pieces from your hair I knew you meant these promises this time.We talked about how living at home is weird, and the state of the job market. About family & music, old friends & new ones. You’re reassuring gaze never leaving mine.
Just as I let my gaurd down & placed my trust back in your hands, mom came to call me subtly distraught to the other room. As you waved from the bottom of the stairs I had no idea that I would not see you again.
Once upon a time there was a very sleepy pupil and a very smart teacher. Or wait, was it a very sleepy teacher and a very smart pupil? Once upon a time there was a very smart teacher and a very smart pupil. They sat down to a battle of wits, but they lost because they couldn’t stay awake long enough to see the conclusion. No wait, they were both asleep in a dream about a question neither of them could answer. Wait, I’m going to start again. Once upon a time a student asked their teacher why they always slept through their lessons “wouldn’t it be much easier to draw conclusions on the chalkboard awake?” The teacher said to the student “I am too tired to draw your conclusions for you anymore why don’t you dream some up yourself?” No, this is all wrong. Once upon a time a student asked their teacher to tell them a story that could illustrate this lesson, but the teacher asked the student to dream up their own. After a time the student said “Once upon the time there was a very sleepy pupil and a very smart teacher. Or wait-“
Often what unschooling looks like is a series of fascinating questions.
One of my favourite books as a child was a little picture book called Ernie Follows His Nose. It was a simple story of someone innocently following their curios nose to explore the world around them. It sounds silly in its naivety, but neatly illustrates one of the corner stones of student directed learning.
To make a crude comparison: the traditional industrial education model is structured to have a single point of authority stand at the front and deliver a lot of information that is meant to impart a series of answers which students are then graded on for accuracy. In this model questions only arise as a means to get to the end of the lesson. There is a shame for having too many questions. They gum up the flow of the knowledge machine, which is why we separate students out for learning too quickly or too slowly to improve efficency.
By contrast, unschooling dives in question first with no time to raise hands to authority. The student is at the front of the expedition actively engaged in wrestling with their personal multitudinous sea of questions “Where did that smell come from? Why did this happen? How does that work? When will this occur? Who is that? What am I?” The lessons are an accumulative experience as students gather information while following their curiosity only measuring success against their own appetite. The unschooling motto is “the world is my classroom – learning all of the time.”
I believe that to be deeply curios is to hold a simultaneous respect for rigor & whimsy. Curiosity must be nimble enough to chase after the glittering fascinating thing while also plying fastidious attention to the understanding of it. Questions manifest more curiosity manifest more questions. A healthy appetite for the unknown is essential to my creative practice & self studies.
With all that in mind here are…
Questions I am currently contemplating:
- What is the mind/body connection? How does this connection affect our health & growth?
- What is catharsis? What is its role in art, and what is its role in healing, and are the two related?
- What does it mean to be useful in society? Is it necessary?
- How do we cultivate nurturing love?
- How does the expression of self impact the relation to self & the selves experience of the world?
- What does it mean to be androgynous? In a post-binary world would androgyny be necessary?
- What does it mean to be in alignment? Is the idea of a best self a subtle expression of internalized shame, and if so what does self acceptance & actualization look like beyond that?