Self-Education

Beethoven is playing from my cell phone, and A Course in Miracles is sitting next to me on the bed. I had quiche for dinner, and after trying without success to rest, I decided to work and journal for awhile.

Which brings me to what's been on my mind. 

I’ve been brushing up against more Ivy League women lately. It makes me feel so wistful that I would have had that education. But it wasn’t emphasized or encouraged in my family. It wasn’t even a blip on the radar or even a consideration, and I certainly wouldn’t have access to the education or support to get there in the school we attended.

So what now?

What I notice about these women is a tremendous sense of self, of resolution, of groundedness. They seem so certain in their thoughts and so able to change the world. I want that.

And where does it come from except giving each other and ourselves permission to believe in our own thoughts and dreams? The difference is that at an Ivy League school, you get so much reinforcement of that type of mindset that it becomes unshakeable.

To me, that is the definition of true education. And that is something I can offer to myself. I can self-educate.

What do I know about myself?

I know that I am incredibly resolute, resilient woman who is determined to achieve her dreams and better the world around her in the process.

I know that I am unshakeable in many respects.

I know that as I’ve evolved, there has been so much friction and sorting out of who I am and what my dreams are, instead of letting others dictate them.

I know that I’ve been challenged to move beyond a victim mentality, in which I passively agreed to accept others’ plans for my life, and fell in line with their desires, and instead I’ve begun to chisel out my own desires, and push for them and stand up for myself.

I know that I need to be kinder to myself.

I know that a lot of the self-doubt I’ve faced has simply come from massive change and shifts in my life.

But I need to accept that I am doing the best I can with the knowledge and resources I have.

I want to be a resolute, educated woman in spirit. I want to believe so deeply in myself and my dreams that I am unshakeable.

I’m thankful for the education I do have. Louisa May Alcott, Frederick Douglass, Maya Angelou, Teresa of Avila, George Eliot - all the defiant ones who left such a mark on my soul.

I pray that I may live to be that defiant, so secure in myself and who I am.

So how do I start? First, by accepting myself completely and accepting what I look like and where I am in life.

Second, by loving myself and giving myself a pat on the back. This is hard stuff. Life isn’t easy and loving ourselves isn’t easy either. It’s easier to self-criticize for all the shortcomings and failings.

"Flaw-some" is the description who embraces her flaws and loves herself anyways.

Tomorrow, I resolve to be kind to myself first of all, and embrace the miracles awaiting me.

Be the One Who Stops

Recently I was driving on a blustery morning through squinted eyes and a pollen heavy headache. Colors were intermittently pastel and vivid, light springing in and out of blossom shadows. Traffic came to a halt in front of me. Eventually someone honked and peeled out into the left lane. Others followed.

As I inched forward, I came upon a strange tableau: A dead raccoon with a white handkerchief around its tail, and a slouching older gentleman in a shirt and belted khaki trousers pacing the sidewalk. I pulled over and stopped in front of his vehicle, which had its emergency flashers on.

“Are you OK?” I shouted.

Yes. He had spied the critter and stopped to move it out of traffic so it wouldn’t get run over, post-mortem.

“It’s a little fox!” he exclaimed. “A little fox with rings on his tail.”

(It wasn’t. But OK.)

He continued his homily on the fox-raccoon.

“I hate seeing animals run over! People should have some respect. God created three things--trees, animals, and people. Everything else is man-made! We should have respect for what God made. I’m not religious or anything. My father was Catholic. He was a saint. But I don’t go to church or anything. I just have respect for nature. I was just out feeding the little ducklings this morning!”

Something sprung up from my heart. Something sad and sweet.

This man's devoted ritual was as sacred as the passing of the wafer and wine. Tears came to my eyes.

“Well, that’s really nice of you to do that.” I managed.

Despite the hurry I may get in from time to time, thank you dear sir, for reminding me to be the one who stops.

“To the poet, to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

May I Have This Dance?

Back in the Golden Era of Hollywood, Gene Kelly was considered by many to be the best dancer in the world. With his immaculate choreography and flawless presentation, he was the envy of everyone who saw him float across the stage, ballroom, or movie screen. At the time, there were hundreds of other entertainers who danced, yet none seemed to do so as smoothly as Gene Kelly.

Gene Kelly was a student of what we call the incremental edge. In short, it’s the theory that seemingly little acts can make a huge difference in one’s competitive advantage.

More often, the incremental differences were details involving presentation. Kelly’s “edge” included the way he wore his hat, the crisp creases in his trousers, and the precisely placed angle of his dance cane. These were little things that, when taken as a whole, seemed to make his dancing effortless.  

-Effective Immediately

What’s your word?

In 2016, I chose the word resilient to remind me that in the face of challenges, I could bend and not break. As the curtains closed on 2016, I found that through the strength of my community, through the many breaths I took in a space of meditation, prayer or intentional movement, I had found resilience that carried me through to a place of light.

And so, for 2017, I wanted to choose a word reflective of this new place. I chose the word dance.

In yoga teacher training, I learned that certain animals, after being attacked, go through an elaborate shaking ritual. The shaking loosens the physiological memory of trauma, and they are soon able to return to a calm state of being. Think “Shake It Out.” 

My resolution in choosing this word is to complete 12 dance lessons, in distinct forms of dance, within the year.

And this is the cadence I hope to choose for every day of 2017. So that in the end, all those little details - the incremental differences - allow me to float like Gene Kelly and shake it out.

There’s so much more that could be said on the subject. But I’ll end with a question.

May I have this dance?

I hope you’ll join me in dancing through 2017.