This photo is from last year. The dogwood never got this colorful this year. Writing feels like wading through moving water. I'm pushing along but not making a lot of headway. In my big project, I'm at the point where I'm really doubting what I set out to do, and I feel like what I'm doing isn't any good anyway. Other writers assure me that this is part of the process...
I'm forcing myself to blog, just doing it, just ten minutes of actual writing that isn't for money and isn't related to this one project, this one project that has gotten so narrow and yet so big at the same time. I've been burned before by what I've put out into the world, by daring to be open and talk about how I feel in public, and that being seen as unprofessional. What do you think? Is it unprofessional to talk about your feelings? To say, "I've self-imposed an unreasonable timeframe on this work?" To acknowledge that the work is bloody hard?
I remember being fifteen and weeping hysterically to my mother that it was so important that I be who other wanted me to be. That if I didn't, there was no place for me in the world. And to a certain extent, I still behave that way, afraid that if I talk too much, shine too brightly, stand out, or, conversely, if I don't shine, if I let myself need help and need support from other, if I talk about my problems, I'll be outcast. And I wonder, what is to be gained by staying within parameters? and what is to be gained by breaking out? And can I get back in?
SO I'm still working on being more authentic, and at the same time, at molding who that is, who is that person who is still learning and growing and feeling like a child in so many ways at forty?
And there is October, this month of glory, and I don't want to miss it. It's passing by so quickly, and we still need to make a costume for kiddo's halloween, and to decorate and carve and store up the sweetness of summer for the long winter ahead. We've been told to expect a long, snowy winter this year, and my heart is full of dread. Trying to sway that, to turn it around into expectation and wonder.
Leaves of red and gold are littering the grasses now. Some trees are already bare. Others are blazing and delighting. And on the edge of my consciousness are test results and scans and a lingering unknowing. Best to blaze now, isn't it?
I'm a woman in America. This means that my life has been defined by certain outside forces. I'm a queer woman in America, in a relationship with a woman. We have a child. I'm white, middle class, educated. We live in a house. Somehow, the bills get paid.
All of these facts contribute to my experience of the world.
It would seem that I ought to work from a "modern" understanding, that I ought to relate mostly to stories of "modern" women.
Where I find my deepest resonance, is with fairy tales.
Perhaps, to you, fairy tales are unrealistic, misogynistic tales, told to keep little girls in their place, emphasizing making a good marriage and giving up agency.
I find them to be the opposite. Perhaps it is the fairy tales I choose, but my heroines are brave, resourceful, kind, and adventurous. They do not wait around to be saved. They save their loved ones, trick giants and kings, weave shirts of nettles, create worlds.
They are invincible in their vulnerability.
Recently, I worked with a woman with the tale of Tatterhood. For her, on first hearing, the story was of how the brave and exciting Tatterhood gave up what and who she was, became acceptably beautiful, in order to marry the prince. "Wow," I thought. "That is so far from my reading. Why is that?"
Together, we explored questions of what it is that is being unveiled when Tatterhood removes her hood. What conditions have to be in place for us to remove the veils we use to keep ourselves safe from others? What is the question we need to hear in order to take that step? And how do we get someone to ask when we need it?
I love these stories. I love the depth that I can get to so very quickly through their wishing-well of images and archetypes. I would love to share them with you.
My kid is feeling good about himself right now. He's in the back yard, helping an older boy whom I've hired to clear a bunch of weeds. I wasn't looking forward to this afternoon. I had envisioned sweating in the heat, attacked by mosquitoes, as I assist two little boys in pulling weeds. Instead, I've stepped back, sprayed them with bug spray, and am sitting in the shade writing while they work. They feel good about what they're doing, I'm here to help if needed, and we are all winning.
When we step back, and allow others' competence to create magic, a sense of calm and peace can arise. That is a gift. It's a gift to ourselves, and it's a gift of trust and belief in the abilities of others to contribute. This is especially true when those we are allowing to shine are young people. I forget just how much my seven-year-old can do for himself. I forget that an eleven-year-old can handle sharp tools and responsibility for another kid. But when I remember...
Just a quick update -- steroids are amazing. Yes, I'm feeling tired, run down, and unfocused, but
I CAN SEE! My vision in my left eye seems to be back to about 80%. This is extraordinary. I am still waiting on test results and I'll have more MRIs tomorrow, but for now. For now, I am so very grateful.
Did I mention it's my birthday next week? Want to give me a present? I'd love for you to join me in supporting charity:water. My birthday campaign is here -- I set the bar low so we can blow it out of the water, so to speak! This is an opportunity to really change lives, folks.
Six years ago, on Easter Sunday, the sight in my right eye dimmed and became gray and fuzzy. Frightened, I dropped our son off with my partner after Easter dinner at my mom's, and headed to the ER. After a long evening, I was referred to the ophthalmologist with a tentative diagnosis of optic neuritis. Optic Neuritis is an irritation of the optic nerve, caused by a deterioration of the myelin coating on the nerve. It can be a sign of Multiple Sclerosis.
After a few scary days and an MRI, the neurologist said I did not have MS, and I decided to forego the suggested steroid treatment as I was still breastfeeding the kiddo.
Last Tuesday, it came back, in the other eye.
My brain scan is still clear. My new neurologist has ordered some blood tests and some more MRI scans, to see if we can determine why I've had a recurrence. I started steroid treatment on Friday, and I'm cautiously noting a little improvement. Optic neuritis can take up to 8 weeks to resolve without treatment. With treatment, that can be cut down by 50-70%.
So the world is a little fuzzy. I have a pirate-style eyepatch to wear when driving gets hard -- my eyes sometimes have trouble working together right now. Colors are softer. I can sometimes read a little, I can see faces, but not features, with my left eye.
I'm really feeling okay, overall. Fatigued, but not overwhelmingly. My first three days of steroids were IV administered; now I get to switch to oral tablets. And I still don't know what causes this. My headaches, which actually started a few days before I lost vision, are getting better, so I'm hopeful.
With my fuzzy vision, I've been shying away from computer work, but I need to dive back in-- there is blogging to be done, and a new program to prepare for you, as well as my work on the curriculum project (our bread and butter these days). I'll have to be patient, take breaks, and work with more determination and less reliance on powering through.
Oh, and I turn 40 in 8 days.
Life is kind of fuzzy. We see things through so many lenses of experience and identity. It's good to be reminded of the effort it takes to see clearly, to peel off the glasses or wipe away the perspiration or blink away the tears... I can't blink this away, but I can be patient. I can take the medicine and be scanned and tested. And I can welcome every newly emerging color, every sharp line, every beautiful, familiar smile.
Look, I know there are issues. There are always issues. And up until Friday, I wasn't that excited about the Olympics this time. Except about Simone Biles, because that woman is 4'8" of pure power.
But then, our son and I watched the Opening Ceremonies. And I felt it again.
Hope. Deep joy. A belief in the power of people to come together across differences to celebrate a common love of excellence.
I was so deeply moved by the beauty of what Brazil created to welcome everyone. The brave acknowledgement of its own history of slavery and oppression, and the contributions of people of all economic strata and ancestries to its culture. And then, they reminded us what's at stake in this time of volatile climate change. The beautiful tricycles with the seeds and trees for the Athletes' Forest....
And now, I get to cheer on athletes, mostly much younger than I, but some older, as they live their dreams.
i can't help it. I love it. I love it all.
This morning the house is open. the pets are eating breakfast. Kiddo is having some screen time, and I am easing into the day. It's summer still, but there's a deepening of color outside that says, hurry. Enjoy it. It's fleeting.
It's a month until school starts. It's two weeks and two days until I turn 40. That sounds very old to me, because wasn't I just 27 or 33 or something?
Summer feel over when August comes. The stores are full of school supplies, the notices of tuition due and first-week plans start coming from school. Little League is already sending Fall Ball notices.
But it's a beginning time -- looking forward to a new school year. Celebrating the 10,000-some young people (and older people, like the 41-year-old gymnast and 55-year-old sailor) gathered in Rio de Janeiro to interact through competition, not combat.
Oh, that team of refugees. Oh, the teams from Vanuatu and Tuvalu, whose islands are shrinking year by year as the ice melts and the seas rise. Oh, all those joyful, determined faces. The brave acknowledgement of Brazil's history and of our common need for change. The Olympics choke me up every time. I'm deeply moved by the spectacle and the small moments.
So here are the questions I'm living with this month: What is beginning? What is ending? How can I savor and stretch out these days of summer, while doing the work I need to do? How will I greet a new year of life and let go of being a young woman?
What are your questions in this deep summertime? Or perhaps, this quiet, deep wintertime in your part of the world? How do we understand our journeys, and where are we on the path? At every moment, we are making that journey, in every decision -- we travel from the call, to the forest, to the crisis, to the resolution, and back to the village. Over and over again.
What is ending? What is beginning?
I'm here at the Landing, sharing stories as I walk visitors through the village made from houses that were moved from all over southern Minnesota. Trying to keep my hat on and my apron tied. It's hot, but not too hot.
This is summer.
It's been a rough week in Minnesota, and a rough week for our country. I don't want to be silent. I think White Americans are finally being shown, over these past few years, the reality of what dealings with law enforcement have been like for our African American brothers and sisters. I believe that our first responders and law enforcement officers deserve better training, and deserve for their colleagues to be held accountable; it's not fair to those who put their lives on the line to protect us to all be painted with the same brush.
Neither is it fair that parents who don't look like me have to teach their children how to survive encounters with law enforcement so that, they hope, their children won't end up dead. There is a gross imbalance in our country.
I am working hard to unlearn the lessons of oppression taught through a million tiny impressions throughout my lifetime. "You have to be taught, before it's too late.." I heard sung last night in the Guthrie Theatre's beautiful production of "South Pacific," "Before you are six, or seven, or eight, to hate all the people your relatives hate. You have to be carefully taught."
My parents did their best to teach me to treat all people with love and compassion, but meanwhile, the media, the lessons chosen for my history classes, the words people use, the fear I was told to have of people who don't look like me, still got in.
It's a long road. But it's one we have to travel, together, if we are to avoid the destruction of all we purport to hold dear. I believe we can do that, that we can turn things around. Together.
I don't have answers, really. But I am listening, and witnessing.
show up. it was my phrase/word of the year that I chose back in January. Honestly, it's really hard for me. Showing up fully, committing to what I'm doing, is hard. It requires a level of trust in oneself that doesn't come by chance.
I have been told that I am confident and poised in public situations. That isn't really how I feel inside. I've been told that I am formal, that I make people feel like they need to be careful, that they need to walk on eggshells. Someone told me that my own mother thought I needed to learn to let loose.
Very, very hard. I don't like to drink past a very light buzz. I don't like to be out of control. This can lead to awful cycles of anger, yelling, sarcasm, and self-loathing that I just can't seem to stop. I get mad at not being able to control things, or not being on time, or on making a mistake again, or expecting too much.
Showing up takes a certain amount of trusting others, and of not needing their acceptance. I censor what I write here, what I put out into the world on instagram or facebook. I got burned once, you see. I posted something like, "Tea? Check! Breakfast? Check! Lesson books and work samples for reference? Check! Self-imposed unreasonable time constraint? Check! Let report writing begin!" and was told by the powers that be that it was unprofessional and would make parents think I wasn't giving my work enough earnest dedication. Friends, I was nothing if not earnestly dedicated. In fact, I worried that I was seen as taking things too seriously and tried hard to be positive and light in my communications. Nope. I did it wrong again. Ever since then, I have been very leery of getting too close to anyone in a work situation, or of saying anything remotely negative in a forum where someone might see it who shouldn't.
But see, the internet is weird. When I first went online back in the age of dial-up bulletin boards, it was a closed environment. You knew who was reading. Public posts were only public to the few people who used the service, which seldom included anyone I ever saw in my day-to-day life. Now, it's those faraway strangers and online friends, but it's also your boss and your neighbor down the street, and the kid who babysits for you, and the ladies at church. Back to best behavior. No safe space here.
I've spent my life trying hard to be who people needed me to be, or who they expected me to be. I try to follow the rules, even when I'm not sure what they are. Sharing openly about my life always feels like too much. I am leery of talking too much about my spouse or my child. I'm afraid to be seen too clearly.
When we dive into the Goose Girl story next week, I hope to explore this question of being seen and of speaking our truth. They're important themes in the story for me. You might find something else -- I'm pretty sure you will. These stories hold up a mirror to what we most need to see.
I'm still committed to showing up, and acknowledging the scariness of it. Here I am. See me.
If you would like to join us on this story-led journey together, I'd be honored. Click here to be taken to the page where you can sign up.
Sara is a storyteller, writer, artist, teacher, wife, mother, and singer living in Minnesota. I write about storytelling, and about living a life with stories.