Courage to Write

On the shortest day of the year,
I start my longest work,
picking up
scattered bits that
in journals and letters and memory lie,
and laying aside the question why.

Deep and wide
deep and wide
there’s a fountain flowing
deep and wide.

Why did they teach that to us?
What does it mean?
And why does it come back to me now
when evening falls?

I fear taking a powerful story
and making it dull
by putting it into words,
but isn’t this the very thing
Ann Patchett said we must forgive ourselves for?

“I never learned how to take the beautiful thing in my imagination and put it on paper without feeling I killed it along the way . . . Forgiveness, therefore, is key. I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing. Again and again throughout the course of my life I will forgive myself.”     – Ann Patchett, at Brain Pickings

Posted in courage, perfectionism | 2 Comments

Buying a Ticket for Something I Don’t Want to Attend

I WENT AGAINST MY GUT FEELING and bought a ticket for a gathering I don’t want to attend. I did it completely out of a sense of “should,” violating my own policy: Either choose to do a thing or choose not to, but don’t hide behind “should.”

So here I am with a ticket to an event I don’t want to go to, an event with which I have a very poor track record. One year I went but left before it began. The second year I went and stayed (my only success). Last year, I got the times mixed up in my head because 1) they keep changing the name and the time – a brunch, a luncheon,  a tea – and 2) I didn’t look at my ticket. I realized I had the time wrong when I pulled into the almost-full parking lot, a foreign experience for me. I’m usually one of the first to arrive at everything. Too embarrassed to walk in halfway through the program, I circled through the lot and kept on going, no regrets.

I thought I’d learned my lesson.

This year, not wishing to go, I refrained from purchasing a ticket for several weeks, then, at the last minute, bought one. I know exactly what I was thinking. I was thinking, you’ll feel differently when the day arrives. I don’t.

What I’d really like to do today……write, read, maybe roll out some cookies while listening to a book from The Mitford Series. But if I’m going, I need to go fix my face and bedhead, and choose something suitable to wear. And I need to go find my smile. I remember where I left it. I left it in the room where I was listening to that Mitford book.

What is wrong with me, that I keep doing this?

Posted in philosophical maelstroms, should-free life, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Update on the Refugees in My Sphere


Students from Nepal, Congo and Somalia

An update on the refugees in my sphere….

The numbers in ESL class are way down. This time last year, we had upwards of 30 students. Now we are down to a steady 8-10. We rarely get a new student, unless it’s someone who was resettled in another city and, after a while, moved here.

A young woman from Iraq came here from Syracuse to be closer to family. She started class yesterday.

One of our Somali students who arrived late saw her sitting across the room and said, “NICE TO MEET YOU. WELCOME to AMERICA!” so clearly and warmly we applauded.

The Executive Order (travel ban) has been hard on those waiting for family members, but they are all pros at carrying on. They’ve had to learn to be. It’s only when our mental health person comes to speak about dealing with the stress of resettlement, and translators are present, that we catch a glimpse into some our students’ concerns and anxieties. I think they all feel safe in the class and free to speak their minds. I’m happy for that.

After that, we carry on with our English studies.

My mom both credited and faulted my tendency to find a bright side to everything. In that spirit, let me now say that ONE UPSIDE of the current situation is that because of the flow of refugees being cut off, current students are permitted to stay in class longer than the 5 months they generally get. Also, we picked up several new volunteers after the first executive order, people just wanting to do something to help. Between the extended learning time and the improved student:teacher ratio, language skills are growing in leaps and bounds! A few students who were at the very lowest level when they came in are comprehending and communicating well beyond our initial expectations. We are daily surprised.

Pressing on, gently.

Posted in compassion, Memorial Day, refugees | 4 Comments