Too Big A Bite . . .

The rains flood my world this week, washing the brightness, floating leaves yellow all around. I walk under dripping canopies, trees sending waves of shine through wet air, a pale golden hue whispers stillness as the leaves paint their way to the ground. It’s been surreal, beautiful and real. A rainstorm of compassion on my world in the form of many kind gestures. Some from myself, some from instructors and sisters and dearest friends. It’s a week of deeper commitment to a layer of growth not found in the halls of education but it has certainly been provoked by it.

rain of color
the rain sparkles in twilight

At some point this past Sunday I faced the truth I’d been running from for 3 weeks: Statistics had to go. 4 classes after 22 years of absence from formal education is a hell of a lot to ask of someone with 3 kids and concerns for maintaining a level of health I’ve fought hard to attain and it’s not perfection by any stretch. I had not taken any other math courses since the age of 19. That’s a long time. The truth is, I had a B average in that class but the past 3 weeks left me stumped. It wasn’t sinking in and I didn’t have time to get help. I could cram and spend every spare second beating my brain around the subject but it would hurt my 3 other classes. Since I could still drop without it reflecting badly on my GPA, I took the leap. But what a painful leap. I loved that class. Oddly enough. 

Sounds like no big deal, just life, lah tee dah. But it’s a big deal for me. All of this time is a big deal. And it’s been frought with tinges of frenzy to compensate for a sense of lost time. But what a black hole that idea becomes. “Hurry up Ruth! You’ve been losing time parenting and crawling out of generational wreckage and obsessing over what to do next and LOOK AT YOU! MOVE IT.” I can be ruthless. Lost time? When I’ve been giving my energy and time to things immeasurably precious? You can’t squeeze the equivalent of two lifetimes into one. But I have a tendency to want to do that very thing. And then I feel like a freak when I can’t pull it off, sure that everyone else is far more “together” than I am.

Then I ran into my very Italian Lit. instructor. Scorpio wonder supreme. She became part of the shower of compassion this week.  I’d not done well (in my estimation anyway. it really wasn’t that bad, actually) on the last test and wanted to understand how my essay had gone so wrong. The timing of our meeting to discuss the essay was perfect. It turned out to be a rich flow of sharing life situations and encapsulated therapy. And encouragement and support in my choice to cut back. “Ruth, when I was your age and had one child it was too much! I took TWO classes.” This one 30 minute slice of pragmatic and generous aid was healing. Just watching her in class, waving her arms around and speaking her New York Italian accent is a wealth…and she’s another refugee of the worst of religion. Great simpatico sustenance in her presence.

So, a reality check via respect for limitations and a love of self’s trails and trials leading up to now has been the order of this week (including a birthday that initially started out loathesomely blah). I love to use Roots of Asia tarot and for weeks and weeks I kept getting the 10 of wands. H-e-a-v-y burdens. “you are over-doing it.” Duh, I do that! But, I usually let it crush me before I actually change things.  Not this time.

And the rains keep falling all over this world. Everything drips wet, pregnant with promise, a promise of deeper resilience in the moment whose guarantee is only of life’s transience. And immeasurable value.

On with it…(lighter load!!!)

(good luck Kristy!!!)

Anger Is Precious

“…anger wants to flow through your system, from your first awareness of injustice to your final syllable of complaint. That feeling of becoming angry may be nothing more or less than the pulse of life asking for expression. The Sufi poet Rumi once wrote:

     Don’t use your anger to conceal

     a radiance that should not be hidden.

Anger is your spirit flashing out of you. It is your presence on earth insisting upon itself. It can be overdone, of course, be expressed in the wrong ways, and be confused with many other things. But it is still the force of your life, your precious daimon letting itself be known.”

Thomas Moore – Dark Nights of The Soul

I kept seeing one of my sons twirling a workbook quietly in his hands out in front of him as he listened to the teacher. Twirling and listening, twirling. And then I saw the contrast of his frame, his head bowed over a book as punishment (!!!!) for having twirled the workbook while listening. These images flashed onto the screen of my mind when I felt self-doubt crashing in on my efforts to get him moved to a different teacher. There were other scenes I could’ve played on the screen, scenes of reported abortions of love and education but this one, this one of his twirling a workbook did it for me. Combined with his fading enthusiasm for learning, I couldn’t just sit on my anger. It had to find some fairly potent expression. And it did. Within 3 days he was moved to the teacher of choice. Anger, when doing the work of love, is awesome great stuff. And I worked out the uglies privately, the brutal rage had to boil over a bit first in order to get to the most effective slice. It was a balm to read this bit of Moore in retrospect.

It’s not like she warned him. She just bypassed all sense of respect and slammed him into the shame zone. And it was not the first time with my son, or others. I asked him, when trying to find all the layers of the situation, if he could tell me what she had been teaching at that moment. He spewed verbatim the subject matter and then some. Some kids learn best when they move or make noise while learning. Where do we put them in an education system that eats kids for lunch everyday? I don’t know. I have to tell myself I’m not a hypocrite to even have my children in this system. I tell myself I’m teaching them how to maintain their authenticity without shooting themselves in the foot, how to deal with the fallibility of systems and adults who think they’ve arrived while maintaining a measure of respect for both the system and the adult while dealing with a sometimes total lack of respect for the personhood of the child. It seems insanity. You have your gains and your losses. Right now the gains outweigh the losses and this is true because the disparity was turned around by anger as love in action.

Three Reasons Anger is Precious . . .
Three Reasons Anger is Precious . . .

The report after day one with the “new” teacher (she taught my older son beautifully 2 years ago): “Mom! It was AWESOME! I held a SNAKE!” and “One kid started singing and didn’t get in trouble!” and two other kids were bantering back and forth while learning and the teachers only commented on their talk. And. And. And. His body language said plenty without the words but what a treasure, his reports. That these should be announced with delight is both sad and glad proof of what’s wrong with our system of education. It should not be a rare thing to be “allowed” to be who you are. It can work and be managed beautifully without the control-based fear-driven “approach” to taking care of children.

The morning of his first day with this teacher I made sure to walk him into class. I was greeted not by one but by two hugs. The teacher and the aide put their arms around me and said “We love your son! We’re so glad he’s here! He’s going to do great in here Mama…” The last hug was the biggest surprise and came not as a quick pass of fleeting affection but prolonged holding encouragement. They were thrilled, the administration showed compassion and my son got to hold a snake.

Anger…it protects what’s precious when it’s utilized strategically, transmuted in the cauldron of love.

Break’s Almost Over . . .

And soon the keyboard will be humming with the clickety clack of words piling up for homework, projects and essays. And study. I study by writing notes, then typing them and reading them out loud. Then there’s visualizing what I’m learning. Imagining it. If I can somehow connect it to something of meaning in my daily life, then I know it even more. And I don’t have to do as much writing.

Clickety Clack Homework's Back
Clickety Clack Homework's Back

It’s amazing what you learn about flying by the seat of your pants when you’re mothering three children and focusing on studies. Whatever else I had been clinging to for some semblance of order is . . . gone. I grab and orchestrate on the fly as much as possible and sometimes it works out.  Usually, in fact, it works out. But “works out” includes dishes left in the sink (no dishwasher!), laundry brought to the chair in the living room and…left there to be sorted and folded on the fly and mail piling up high. Oddly enough, it’s teaching me that I, too, can just let things roll without planning out every nth degree. It’s not all up to me. And I manage to get it done, regardless.

It works. I’ve marvelled at how easily I’m releasing things, rolling with the punches and somehow managing to land on my feet (withOUT falling down the stairs!). More of my stinky rotten pride is melting too. People come into my dirty home and I smile. I hug. I don’t cringe and apologize and burn up inside. Big big sigh. This is something I wanted to master. It turns out that life has mastered me a bit and instead of my having to try to overcome this particularly vain streak, it has been smashed. Some things just take a bit of brutal bashing by life’s more relentless tides. And something about unconditionally loving yourself amidst the dust bunnies and dirty laundry helps too.

But wow. To relax with family and friends, to laugh a ton and get extra hugs . . . a welcome reprieve from the whirlwind.

And it begins . . .

Another Week Spent . . .

I’ve discovered what I can do when my back gives out and both my feet decide to rebel against the last lawn mowing frenzy. I can do a half-crawl upstairs and into bed at 2:30am after discovering not 1, not 2 but 3 errors on a Statistics project and get up and hobble to school the next day. And the next. And the next. I can get a party going for my youngest son’s birthday supreme. I can smile and agree when I’m reminded that I didn’t actually demonstrate dotting (pointillism) for my first speech and take my lumps with the compliment: “your speaking skills are off the hook!” And I can do it while passing through epic changes in my soul, leaping broad chasms with a single bound.

8 Years w/The Ev Wonder
8 Years w/The Ev Wonder

Yes, I may sound prideful to some. If I were, I wouldn’t bother to express this. I’m detailing events that ideally (except for my son’s 8th b’day!) should have happened at least a decade ago. I suppose it depends on whom you consult. We’d have to decide there is one path, one timeframe most perfect and then compare us all to it. I take comfort in knowing you cannot do what you cannot do any sooner than you can do, be, grow.

I appreciate Kristy’s words on her own life’s trails. Her courage. I look at all my sisters and can only say that an A+ in World Literature or having good public speaking skills is minor compared to traversing daunting paths out of layers of oppression (I use the term broadly because I believe we are oppressed by wounds of the soul, by spiritual tyranny whispering what we “should” focus on vs. what we intuit is best and and and…).

The shine has worn off the thrill of being in school but I’m more committed than ever. I’m irritated to discover that I’ve discovered what I thought I would discover in the way of an “attitude” about “education.” But I have balancing components in my mind that help me recognize how awesomely advantageous is this pursuit. And I love the opportunity to get to know some great professors and students.

So, off to catch up on Statistics homework and answer the question (for another class, of course): “What crime is truly worthy of the punishment of death?”

Wow, I think of only one and I’d probably do the dirty work of justice myself, minus any regard for the law. But it’s not a terribly unusual stance for most wolfish moms.

On with life . . .

Now That We’ve Found Love . . .

I like this song. In fact, I like every remix and version of it.

Meanwhile, I rest. My blog languishes. My workload is beyond belief. And I believe it.

Know what happens when you haven’t had to work any mathematical equations beyond percentages and family budgets for over 20 years? You forget how to approach some data. You overlook things and then you realize at 11pm that your project for statistics is missing major components. And you made a C on your first test. And this is important to you even if you wind up having to drop the class from sheer exhaustion and start it over again another semester. You pull back, growl at your mind for not seeing a pivotal detail and you begin. Again.

And at 1:30 in the morning you realize you never converted from kilograms to pounds. So, you begin again. See, this profoundly alters the histogram and the infuriating box plot. The best news is that there is something alive in you, something you’ve not felt before when you’re working these charts and equations. Standard deviation? Coefficiency of variation? What’s next? I’m exhausted and pissed but there is this vibe that adores the opportunity to use these mental muscles. Hey, maybe I’ll like calculus. But it’s not on the docket for a psyche major!

By 2:20 in the a.m. when you go to stand up, your back gives out on you and you quickly become the narrator of your life, the “you” to whom you refer as you figure out how to get up steep steps to a charger for a cell whose battery is low and you realize it’s quite a simile. Um, I mean metaphor. Yeah, that’s it. Right? Oh hell. I’m lysdexic too! But I’m no cell phone…(why did I shift voice here?!)

Hey, even with screaming agonizing feet and a twisted lower back, life is good!

Nap time . . .

What Are The Odds?

I take a test today but I’m up before the sun and the birds this morning studying, cramming more into my brain and actually laughing my um off.

Um, “I hate statistics.” Um, “If I study for that long with that much focus, I’ll surely lose the data. Focus overload brought on by stress.” That’s the conclusion you draw when you’re mapping a course through a territory foreign. You cringe and fret but parts of you are surprised at how the hours melt away and not one ounce of you complained. Okay, the um part of me did.

I ran in the direction of what I previously hated (ignorantly) and found that I waken on the morning of a test with quartiles dancing through my head and images of data sets and bell curves, skewness and histograms, yawning and saying out loud “a quartile is…the class width is determined by….empirical rule states that 68% of the data…” and I realize something. It’s pouring out of my brain and onto a conscious screen in my own words with images depicting their meaning. I’m humming with that energy inevitable. The stuff of jiving enjoyment. I mean, more specifically, the supremely best kind of energy without having sex (the best sex, of course). I like it this much? I don’t think we could’ve predicted this. This is one of those random acts of good energy it seems.

I’m the relationship, psychology, human behavior, spiritual, history and language woman, right?

It turns out there may be more to me than even that.

But we can pretty much guarantee that 68% of the data lies within 1 standard deviation of the mean, when working with symmetric distribution. Of course. And symmetry is great stuff.

Barring any pesky outliers (or ants stalking – Scorpio’s minor prediction for the week already fulfilled), I predict I’ll keep loving statistics since it makes my brain sing. And it probably won’t make a difference if I get a good grade on the first test or not. I’m enjoying it too much to stress.

But a nap is inevitable.

The Week in Rear View, Rather?

By Friday evening, I felt like I’d rather just show my ass to the world than be nice. I don’t mean literally, of course. Overall, this was not the week of transcendence. I rather think it good. Rather.

I found courage. I went ahead. I got’er done. I. I. I.

But pissy was the word for me all week and I could not blame the cycles of nature. (I don’t do that anyway.) I was pissy with a smile and a snarl under the surface. Why?

I don’t know exactly. Some of it is sheer frustration. I am 2 months away from 42. I am being asked to do some things that I have mastered already. And some things I have not. And you put it all in a pot and turn up the heat and blamo. Put the learning curve in there and my nice settled routines are gone to hell in that handbasket I thought was so pretty! By Friday evening I was flattened. And my kids were gone with their father. And the 22 year mark of my first and only marriage came and went on a Saturday silent and without relent. Ah. Ha.

Mayhaps that is the piss of it? No. That’s not all. It’s that things are not finalized yet due to financial lah tee and dah. But still, even that is not all. I was re-visited by a painful scenario I felt I had finally managed to transform enough never to attract again! Ha! and Ah!

But I am still kicking. And I am still grinning. Just don’t get too close, you may hear me snarl and decide I’m not someone to cuddle just yet. I have moments of appreciation and gratefulness and all that good stuff we all want to hear to keep us feeling we’re growing and “perfect” and.

Trance' n' Dents
Smile? Heck no.

And I just felt pissy with occasional waves of blissful wonder (it’s a wonder, truly). Anyone going under the speed limit got to experience the crispness of my moves oh baby oh in my snappy little 14 year old car. Get OUT of my way.

Ah but I am love…

a pissy love this week. And it’s true…all of it…all…at…once. And I’ve gotten AHEAD on my homework while Statistics is mocking my love of it. Mocking me to shame. It’s like learning a language you never get to hear enough. And you love it but it laughs at you when you do so well in class and then sit with the book and die.

This is my evening to whine. Now, I’m done.

Week Two – A Review and Barefoot Worldview

Life tossed me more obvious challenges with my feet this past week, turned up the heat on my efforts to retain the influences of each class and spit me out into a weekend of reflection. My kids and their demands for help with homework, organization of their schedules and the matchless value of connection time reminded me of how easy it is to lose track of vital threads.

My first essay for Critical Thinking is asking me to clarify my worldview. This would not be the first or even the third time I have done so. But it has the feel of solidity hard won, of confidence still cooling after the fires of struggle and an awareness of life’s propensity for tossing more challenge my way. I thought of posting it as a page on my blog, went to do so and realized there were some major threads left out in my rush to get on with the rest of my homework.

A worldview unfolds a rich tapestry of life’s vicissitudes of prosperity and loss on so many levels. When tailored around carefully constructed inquiries, it challenges a life to see clearly and to define a personal foundation of meaning. It’s great stuff.

But in the meantime, my lawn languishes, feet not ready to add the strain of pushing uphill with a Reel mower while still adjusting to carrying a heavy bookbag on my back across long stretches of parking lot. I remind myself that some front lawns suggest so very much but tell precious little. I tell my mind to shut up and let go of the fear of parents’ wrong conclusions when they drop their kids off to walk with my daughter to school.

It is, after all, a minor thing and rains have been rare, turning lawn into desert patches. But I have often worried far too much about what people think of me, how I am perceived. It’s a chance to let go of vanity on deeper levels while promising myself that my worthwhile longing for an attractive yard and home will find fulfillment. It’s a timely venture since vanity gets to go flying out the window when you’re stumbling for good expression in front of a whole class. Not that I’ve had what would even qualify as bad moments but the experience of putting myself out there is a wonderfully liberating work. And it underlines how much richness I have at my disposal, that I do identify with the basic struggles of humanity because of the path my life has traversed.

I’d say this week has done at least one thing for me. It has stripped me of more extras, of those layers that I was unaware of wearing as defense against what turns out to simply be…life. I’m looking around for those tidal pools in my soul, the ones that invite me to kick off my shoes, shed any pretense or defense and just flow …

Barefoot Beckonings
Barefoot Beckonings

Looking Back On Week One (And Brain Drool?)

The sum of it: I’m not who I was in 1986. I suppose that’s a no-brainer but the difference (besides the obvious physical!) is epic. In 1986, I dropped my philosophy class because I knew it would cause me to walk out of Christianity. I sat there listening to the professor dissect his outline for the course and my leg started bobbing up and down in auto-flex rapid-fire impatience and anxiety. No way. Get me out NOW. You know what you’re ready for, it seems. I wasn’t ready to change that part of me yet. I had some things to heal first. And Christianity provided the atmosphere to begin that depth healing work, believe it or not.

I couldn’t be more delighted with what I’ve experienced this week all things considered. My feet are the one big drawback. When I fell down the stairs in July, the pain was surreal but then I had wisdom tooth extraction and that pain was considerable enough to cause me to give in and take the meds. Those meds (narcs!) put me in the denial zone about my feet. I had no idea, basically. Now that all meds are gone, my feet are screaming their protest of everything from high heels to lawn care. By the end of Thursday, I was limping. I love to wear heels. I hadn’t. And I won’t for a long time. But that’s trivial enough, except when the backpack gets extra heavy and the half a mile trek to class with hairline fractures looms. The college is experiencing record enrollment this year. I have to get to school over an hour before my first classes of each day. I’m not complaining. Homework and pointillism time abound.

Here’s the biggest shock of the week. I love this class and was sure I’d loathe it:

Elementary STATISTICS!!!
Elementary STATISTICS!!!
My brain drools, if that’s possible, when I sit and listen and take notes in my statistics class. Then there’s lab. 2 hours. I was sure I’d drop it. So far, I’ve no desire to do that. In fact, it’s great. Go figure. I’m getting to know this Ruth. She’s full of surprises.

The biggest delight for me is the discovery that re-introducing myself to college at the age of almost 42 is wonderful. I have hands to grasp the material and the import of it all. The ease with complete strangers is another fun change. I was terribly shy 22 years ago. Now I have fun taking potshots at the public speaking prof as he says to me “back when WE were kids…” “WE?! Our childhood?! Now wait a minute…” He’s one of the “old” ones.

Then there’s the need for reading glasses far too big for even my big nose. That’s a change I’m not heralding with appreciation today anyway. I had no idea how ridiculous they looked since the store mirrors were smaller than a rearview mirror.

Foster Grant Ain't What it Was!
Foster Grant Ain't What it Was!
I’m especially pleased to discover so many women and men fresh from the fields of their own decades of life experience, encouragement coming at me from every direction. It is a little strange to be older than 3 of the 5 professors who have had life paths vastly different from  my own. But one gentleman, not my professor, kindly bolstered me as we both waited for the elevator. His grey beard seemed to explain the need to avoid the stairs and I felt a bit out of place. But to hear him share about his path to teaching, to watch him balk at my age (it’s official. i look much younger than i am. thanks mom!) and then bend over backwards to encourage, sharing his own story, was well worth the frustration of temporary disability.
Each one of my classes insists on participation. I’ve a great big chance to get rid of any lingering effects of my former identity as the quiet kid in the cubicle or corner with her nose in a book. I might just pull this off. Especially since I get to retreat to study and hug my kids.