A poem by Jean Willis
When I listen to a child, I hear:
When children get to explore, they learn. When children look far beyond their grades, and into the depth of some person, place, or thing, they are on the honor roll.
When a child feels they have plenty of time to get to where they want to be, they get to know who they are, and they end up where they need.
When a child knows there are paths to their destination that have never before been paved, getting there is natural joy. The hardest parts give exhilarating stress, and every step is one from the heart, instead of a cheat sheet.
When a child can sit comfortably in failure, they are able to see things that are impossible to find anywhere else.
When a child is seen as a whole person, that child is truly seen.
I know I can’t be the only teacher with a class of avid Pete the Cat fans. Does this book ever get old? Evidence points to no. However, this book can be made anew all the time! I am so excited for our little people to explore this book on another dimension- the play dough dimension!
Maya Angelou: Words are Things
There are some seconds when someone’s hate becomes insufferable, even long after it is administered. It’s split between the wound and the mind with a soft but transcribing force that pricks at your throat, and prods at your stomach. It’s very painful.
It’s one thing to be angry, to outline a boundary or to describe our feelings, whatever they are. We get angry, hurt, protective, embarrassed, shy, confused, sensitive, every feeling we have is ok. Hate however is not a feeling, it’s an action. Hate is calling someone names, threatening them, describing their existence as unimportant or a simple waste. It’s an emotional assault- degradation without care for the soul and spirit of a person.
And the world needs us to care about the soul and spirit of a person, every person, no matter what.
While hate happens, it’s not to be hidden.
Hidden, quiet hate continues to hurt the inflictor as much as the inflicted.
The beauty of a person is never truly stripped, even by hate. Whether or not the person is the hater or the hated– their beauty and the sacredness of their very existence is never dissolved. There is an exquisite, eternal light that nothing can touch. It’s palpable in the hated and the hater but it shines not in the hate. It’s covered by it.
The hate is hideous. And it’s very very dark.
There are seconds of hate that are insufferable. I think it’s when we look away from the beauty of a thing, and into the silent afraid. Those seconds are insufferable.
These are some of the things I had stuck inside of me, trapped in a dormant, solid silence.
I ran out of room, or maybe I never had room.
I used to think the worst part of these hate words were that they were written, having the permanency that written words do.
Now I know the worst part is the silence these words were living in.
I could have responded… I contemplated speaking up about the written attack that my husband married ‘down’ marrying me– I wanted to speak up on the behalf of all women. That statement is such an ancient, sexist attack on women everywhere, I was failing to notice how much it was hurting me, individually. I looked away from my own beauty, and straight into the silent afraid.
I never responded. It was a written body of insults, one page woven with many other written insults. I didn’t have any insults to give and I definitely didn’t need anymore. And…… I was in the silent afraid.
My son was called a monster and in the same breath I was physically threatened. In this, I think my heart pounded to a complete stop.
I wanted to respond on behalf of all children because we can’t call a child, any child, a monster.
A few months after I was in Barnes and Noble with my son, the line was long, woven in those shelves where Barnes and Noble mastered the “check out impulse buy.” My son pointed out this political coloring book and who would love it, it was the author of that deafening work where I was physically threatened and he was called a monster. He was smiling, combing through the pages. He looked to me for validation. I just said, “you’re very thoughtful.”
There are so many pages of this stuff it seems like an entire chapter of my life. And you can’t pragmatically delete them from existence, and you can’t delete them from your constitution. I had a lot living in the silent afraid.
Thinking back the only thing I wasn’t afraid to respond to was an attack on social media that someone else brought to my attention. I responded directly and said “it’s bullying and no one should do it. Child, adult, teen – NO ONE.” It was like for a brief moment I was out of the silent afraid. Somehow my convictions, my beliefs and my integrity ripped me out. I received very kind, encouraging messages from passerby’s and onlookers of this online attack, and I did feel… I felt watered by that care. But I had so much already living in the silent afraid it didn’t last very long, and what came after found me deeply permeated in the silent afraid. I was degraded more for speaking up.
Only having one response is not the silence I am talking about. Somethings don’t need a response at all, and some things do. It’s a cosmic dance really. But I am talking about being afraid. Afraid of more attacks, afraid of worse attacks, afraid of the moments when those words push themselves into my thoughts. Afraid of being hateful myself, afraid of crying, afraid. Sometimes I’m afraid to say I’m afraid.
That’s where these attacks live, in the dark, silent, afraid. I think hate might even know that.
I don’t have many memories of being afraid like this. Often our experiences can help us navigate, but I just don’t have any.
I’ve been afraid of talking to a crush, afraid of growing up, afraid of death, afraid of mistakes, when my grandmother was sick I was afraid to look at her. My mom was sick most of my life, and I was afraid to look at her. I was afraid when she was in the hospital. I was afraid of the hospital. I was afraid of marijuana because she used it to self medicate. I was afraid of the smell of vomit. I was afraid of my outfit on the first day of high school. I was afraid to try out for varsity soccer. I was afraid I couldn’t pay for college.
The first time I can remember this kind of afraid was a week before my wedding when it was brought to my attention that ——- said: my husband didn’t love me, he was marrying me for the sake of our son. And that my husband said this, word for word.
In every aspect of my life and spirit, I knew this was not true. Even the person who told me said it light heartedly, as if to prove the attacks were meaningless, strange and everything was ok.
For years my husband and I have laid in bed at night, singing each other love songs. 15-20 years or so ago we would stay up late, talking about our day, popsicles we like, dreams we have…. When we were kids sometimes we we would sit on the phone in total silence, all you could hear was breath. I guess I was afraid then too, but afraid in a beautiful way. We hold each other every single day, even when we have to be apart. Even when we fight. Everyday we come home, and we sit and hold each other- just to say hello. Our friendship is over 20 years old. We love each other. We have been doing everything we can together for 10 years. We make jokes while we are falling asleep and laugh lightly in our almost slumber. We write each other long love notes.
Believe me, I know the truth. But this was an afraid I never felt before.
They said this to me more than once. I don’t even feel it was said or written to me, I felt it was used on me. I guess they could have really believed it. I suppose it could have really concerned them that my husband didn’t love me. I guess a week before my wedding could have been a good time. Perhaps my feelings were considered deeply, perhaps they had no idea how hurtful and demeaning something like that could be. Perhaps I shouldn’t have attached it to other things they said about me like I’m morose. Maybe I’m too sensitive, a delicate piece of glass like they said.
I don’t think so though.
But in those seconds, where it’s insufferable, the truth seems so far away you can barely feel it. Everything around you is dark and cold, you cry quietly in your stomach, and even if you get the strength to reach your arms out toward this warm looking light, or a memory of the truth, nothing else on your body works and you can’t move toward it. Every time you try to grab it, the place gets darker and colder. You get tired and you fall asleep there.
I was afraid, I was afraid of how it felt, especially on my wedding day. I kept my distance from it on the day of my wedding, and the names did get worse. These words about my husband not loving me were sitting in the front row of my wedding, I in no way was going to engage with them. I remember a quiet whisper during my wedding when my husband said- don’t look at it. And I said, I know.. I know.. I’m not.
That day I wouldn’t look at it, I wouldn’t even come near it. I was not going to have it in me or at our wedding, even if physically, it was there. And for being silent, and distant from where the words came from,I was called terrible, rude, classless… I guess they went home in shock saying they were baffled by the way I had behaved. I don’t know how I could have pretended.
My wedding was absolutely beautiful, it was bigger than any of this and that’s exactly how it should have been.
I was deeply hurt, and I was ok with being hurt. That silence was for me, and it was for our wedding. It wasn’t for them or really about them. Silence and distance doesn’t disrespect the spirit of a person. The distance and the kind of silence I held up very firmly on the day of my wedding wasn’t the kind of silent afraid I ended up getting so stuck and trapped in.
That kind of silent afraid took time to grow. Those sentences I got lost inside of were watered by the silent afraid to perfect proportions.
Until the procedure.
I had to very carefully pluck each of these things out of my body and carry them into the world. For every thing I took out I had to transplant the truth into what was sometimes a gaping hole, deep within the earth of my spirit. As you can imagine those holes took extra tilling. I missed my opportunity last spring so I had to do this in the dead of winter. But I was built in a desert, and so is my truth. It’s timeless and without season.
I am still afraid, but I’m not silently afraid.
I hope that for each of us, we never live in the silent afraid, and if we do, I know for both of us – we will get out.
“I love this woman.” Josh’s best talk obviously. I’m just kidding…. I love every single one of his talks. This one just happened to make me cry the hardest.
When we see that hatred afflicts the wrong-doer and the victim with equal strike, we can see clearly who to love what to get rid of.
Get rid of hate. Don’t be afraid of it, it’s hurting both sides.
Celebrating my Grandmother who taught me self love and forgiveness. Celebrating my Grandad who taught me selfless love. Celebrating my Grandpa who taught me real love. Celebrating my Mom who taught me nurturing love. Celebrating my Dad who taught me spiritual love, love of the sacred source. Celebrating my husband, Josh, who taught me expanding love. Celebrating my Mom and Barry who taught me a whole lot about how to love. Celebrating my best friend Christina who taught me loyal love. Celebrating my best friend Chalon who has taught me serendipitous love (2). Celebrating my son, Gavin, who taught me eternal love.
Celebrating one love, in all of its forms.
“Elderberry” February 2018
“A bird’s nest no more natural than a building.” February 2018
I never understood why what humans make is “less natural” than what a bird makes?
I adore curating children’s art.
It’s funny how many years of experiencing it took for me to create that very tiny sentence.
Maybe 15 years?
When I was 5 my kindergarten teacher let me invert an old stapler and attach boarders to her bulletin board. I guess I never looked back. She also taught me perhaps one of the most valuable lessons of my growing life- I thought it was Saddam WHO IS SAYING. I thought that was his leader name. During circle time I had a lot to say about this, my nickname was jabber Jawz, she let me talk freely, then she methodically dismissed everyone else and she told me.. “his name is Saddam Hussein,” and she wrote it out for me. Could you imagine if I never learned that, or even if I hadn’t learned it in that very exact moment?
On the last day of school I held her by the knees and cried while others passed me by, dropping hot pink pencils and running for their parents. I wasn’t stupid. I knew it was the end. 5 years later I found her and we agreed I’d do a gymnastics routine to Mariah Carey at the kindergarten graduation that year, 1994. I was a distinguished 5th grade gymnast and a sentimentalist who went back 3 elementary schools to find Mrs. Surrett and say hi.
Every chance I’ve had to curate children’s artwork I have the same feeling I had when I spoke freely in that kindergarten circle, and then I learned something privately.