Balancing the Energy

This is the little zen garden in my classroom. It was constantly changing throughout the day as different students would rake and arrange it. I miss those moments.

Since I have been working from home, I have noticed–along with the uncomfortable energies of anxiety and irritability and grieving–a positive energy shift. In normal life, I am often exhausted and worn down. I can’t sleep past 5:30. I get home, and all I want to do is sleep. I try to get to the big grading projects, and it’s like trying to walk through a wall inside my brain. I start to feel like I am a lazy procrastinator. The sense of inadequacy makes me feel more tired and run-down.

In the two and a half weeks since I’ve been working at home, I find that I have to remind myself to stop working. I have to make it a point to take breaks. I feel like I have the energy to work like I need to, to do ALL the grading.

As I have been pondering it, I realize that the energy shift has to do with introversion and extraversion, with being an ambivert–both intro and extra. I think that in many public spaces I present primarily as an extravert, and I love that part of myself. When I am teaching, the interaction with students, whether one-on-one or in a class setting, is one of my great joys. I love pushing myself outward, meeting the other, making connection. But the constant extraversion, and the need to be “on” all the time, takes a toll on my emotional energy. The introvert never gets fed.

Grading, while it’s a solitary sort of task, is (I think) an extension of the extraverted element of the working day. In normal life, I just hit a wall and can’t seem to get past it to push myself out there to do the next thing. My extravert side is exhausted and run-down, and my introvert can’t find the energy to get back into balance.

These days, the grading and the school communicating is pretty much all I have for that crucial connected part of my work-life. My introvert is being fed with lots of quietness and stillness, even in this crowded house. I pace myself. I have re-taught my body to sleep until 6:30. The grading and the school communications give my life purpose and structure. The wall between me and the grading projects is gone. I just sit down and do the next thing. I actually feel (mostly) adequate to these particular tasks.

But I miss my students terribly. I can hardly bear that I might never see some of them again. I know that some of them are hurting and struggling, and I don’t know how to be Present through a computer. When this is over, I will happily go back to physical school. Despite what I am learning about myself and my energy, I don’t think I am meant to be a cyber-school teacher. I need faces and classrooms. While I think that my teaching can be perfectly adequate from home, there’s nothing like the magic of exploring ideas about literature and writing in a real-time class. And there are costs to this kind of work. I NEED to have a life outside of school, and now that school has invaded my home, there is almost nothing that is not school. I must set boundaries, and leave some work unfinished.

I think I will need to hold some of this sense of empowerment and adequacy that I am gaining in my introverted time when I return to extraverted life. Perhaps this current sense of being adequate to the grading tasks will stick to me a little more solidly and I will be able to manage my ambiverted self with a little more balance and grace.


Gratitude List:
1. National Poetry Month! Something to break up the steady monotony of constant school. Today’s prompt is to write a new world poem.
2. Chipping sparrows. They’re so sweet, sort of timid, smaller than the white throats, and they wear those rusty caps. When they come in to the bird feeder, they sometimes hover for a couple seconds before they alight.
3. The sound of a woodpecker rat-a-tatting in the walnut tree.
4. Vanilla in my coffee. I make coffee shakes in the mornings: hot coffee, a little butter a little coconut oil, half-and-half (if I have it), and a scoopful of vanilla protein powder. Blend and drink.
5. How the altered times are teaching me things about myself, things I knew in my head, but didn’t have the space within which to explore the deeper truths.

Take care of each other!


Words for the Day of the Holy Fool:
“The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.” —Julian of Norwich


“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.” —Carl Jung


“The historical Jesus probably looked like an average Syrian refugee. You know…the ones we turn away.” —Rebecca James Hecking


“Poems are maps to the place where you already are.”
—Jane Hirshfield


“Be still, and the world is bound to turn herself inside out to entertain you. Everywhere you look, joyful noise is clanging to drown out quiet desperation. The choice is to draw the blinds and shut it all out, or believe.” —Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson


“When you do not know you need mercy and forgiveness yourself, you invariably become stingy in sharing it with others. So make sure you are always waiting with hands widely cupped under the waterfall of mercy.” —Richard Rohr


“All four gospels insist that when all the other disciples are fleeing, Mary Magdalene does not run. She stands firm. She does not betray or lie about her commitment to Jesus—she witnesses. Hers is clearly a demonstration of either the deepest human love or the highest spiritual understanding of what Jesus was teaching—perhaps both. But why—one wonders–do Holy Week liturgies tell and re-tell the story of Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus, while the steady and unwavering witness of Magdalene is passed over—not even noticed? How would our understanding of the paschal story change if instead of reflecting upon Jesus dying alone and rejected if we were to reinforce the fact that one person stood by him and did not leave? For this story of Mary Magdalene is as firmly stated in scripture as the denial story. How would this change the emotional timbre of the day? How would it affect our feeling of ourselves? How would it reflect upon how we have viewed, and still view, women in the church? About the nature of redemptive love?” —Cynthia Bourgeault, Episcopal Priest


“When I feel this fog rolling in on me, I light fires of affection in the hearts of others. I tell them in tangible ways how the life they live makes me live mine differently, how precious and important they are to the rest of us. That fire then becomes like a beacon which burns through the grey and which I can sail towards.” –Toko-pa Turner


It’s good to leave each day behind,
like flowing water, free of sadness.
Yesterday is gone and its tale told.
Today new seeds are growing.
—Rumi

Question-Mark Cat

Lichen on a branch like a lace doily on the arm of a grandmother’s chair.

Brewer’s prompt today is to write an animal poem. As usual, when I leave the poem until the end of the day, my mind has scrambled down too many tunnels to form a coherent poem.

On the green carpet,
a golden patch of sunlight.
A question-mark cat.

Morning

It’s another April. This year, grades were due at 8 a.m. on April first, so I didn’t even consider Poem-a-Day until after I’d muddled my way through the day, taken a nap, and eaten supper. But here I am. It’s a strange compulsion, this drive to write a daily poem, knowing that the next four weeks will have their own share of other stresses, that there will come a day, mid-month, when I will hate the way poetry is holding the whip above my head, when I will write a grocery list and call it a poem, just to get through the day. But now, on the first day of the month, everything seems bright and shiny, and I feel up for anything.

Brewer’s prompt today is to write a morning poem. I worked up a photo of this morning’s magenta cloud in a blue sky to go with it.

Finishing the Grades

The battle cry of yesterday’s ghost
startled me into morning
at precisely 4:38 according to the clock,
and as I couldn’t wrestle the monster
back into oblivion, I strapped on the day
like a rusty sword and went downstairs
in the chilly dark, to coffee and a blue screen,
to the silent dread of numbers on a page,
and the certainty of this day’s wave of work
receding, while the pull of the next wave
began its undertow toward the rising sun.

Observing a Photograph of My Great-Great-Grandmother

Today’s Prompt is to write a portrait poem. I looked at an old photo of my great-great-grandmother, Catherine Witwer Weaver, who was a midwife.

I took a photo of the photo on the wall, and captured the light from my own room reflected into hers, and there is the room of my own head casting a shadow on the left side of the photo.

Gratitude List:
1. Poeming
2. Grandmothers
3. Kestrel on a wire
4. Dreaming
5. Sleeping

May we walk in Beauty!

You, Too, Will Rise Again


Today is the first day of National Poetry Month 2018! As I often do, I will follow Robert Lee Brewer’s poetry prompts on his blog Poetic Asides (associated with Writer’s Digest) for writing a poem a day during the month. Today’s prompt is to write a “secret” poem.

Lately I’ve been finding great satisfaction in publishing my tiny poems on Instagram, in a short and terse format. It requires a different set of poetic muscles to write in extremely short forms. There’s something that feels more intimate in this process, and I find my short poems taking on a Sufi-esque tenderness. I find myself wanting to emulate Rumi and Hafiz. So today, I just tried to make it happen. I would like to shift it so there isn’t a direct gendered pronoun in the last line, but I didn’t want to lose the intimacy.

Gratitude List:
1. Yesterday’s celebration of a beautiful, vibrant, compassionate, wise, intellectual, and grateful woman. Grieving together as a gathered community. Stories of the Mama Bear, the Turtle Dove, the Wise Owl.
2. Those goldfinches at my father’s feeders are wearing their spring motley, and the gold is shining through.
3. Getting out and walking with the family. Every winter, I start to feel like it will never get better, like the rest of my life will be spent indoors. Then there comes a day when things open up, I can crawl out from under the rock of the season, and I can suddenly breathe again.
4. Redbuds are blooming! Have you seen them? Oh, my heart suddenly felt free again when I saw them.
5. Transformation. I know we spend our time in the tomb before we can be resurrected, but I just always lose sight of the coming transformation.

May we walk in Beauty!

National Poetry Month!

irony

Happy National Poetry Month!

all day I listened
for the small, wild thread
of your song,
like the first notes
of a sparrow
tuning up for morning

Gratitude List:
1. The music in yesterday’s chapel.  I could listen to Mindy Nolt sing for hours.  Sending the students out into their day with the message that everything will work itself out.
2. How things come together even when they seem like they won’t.
3. That impossibly golden forsythia.
4. Morning clouds–layers of colors and shadows.
5. Mercy and grace.  Mercy and grace.  Mercy and grace.

May we walk in Mercy.

How the World Began

Welcome to National Poetry Month!

So much to do!  I was away from home all day today, so tomorrow I will inaugurate this year’s Poetree in my dogwood.
Stacia Fleegal of the poetry blog Versify offers a challenge to read a poem a day.  I won’t put all mine on videotape, but here’s today’s attempt.
I think I will try the April Poem-A-Day Challenge again.  Today’s prompt is a two-fer: Write a Beginning poem.  Write an Ending poem.

How the World Began

In the beginning, Spider
launched herself into the spring breeze
from a rattling stalk of dried nettle

toward a skinny maple sapling.
She missed the maple.  Landed,
light-foot, in a heap of leaves

gathered around its base.
A quick scuttle upward, launched again
and through the breeze once more

to nettle stalks this time, and
the gossamer cord caught.
Then launched herself once more

into the gentle breath of wind
until she’d spun herself a world,
until she had encompassed all.

In the end, Spider gathered strands
and wove herself a spirit cloth of silver thread
to catch the wandering dreams

of mockingbirds and wild geese
passing over the chilly meadow,
following tomorrow’s sunrise.

 

Gratitude List:

1.  Flicker calling from the treetops this morning
2.  The golden flank feathers of the pheasant who walked through my parents’ lawn this afternoon, and his squeaky screen-door squawk.
3.  The Fool, dancing on the edge, willing to take risks, to laugh lightly at herself, to seek adventure.
4.  Energy.  Taking responsibility for my own, learning to sense it, to listen for it, to watch, to shift it.
5.  The smoke ring that emerged from the palo santo smudge that Nicky used this morning, how it rose so languidly through the grapevines, twisted, turned for a moment into a baby dragon, and dissipated like a mist, like a wraith.

May we walk in Beauty!