Open Wide – Say “Ah-h-h-h”…

Summer is my favorite time of the year. Being from the upper Midwest and hating the cold, I look forward to the hot weather we enjoy in the South. And while the heat remains (though not as intense), Labor Day has come and gone – which is usually the point when it’s time to think about the fall. In fact, as we were driving through our neighborhood a few days ago, I noticed leaves of color had fallen on the ground. I was a little disappointed.

Yet real disappointment is no longer (at least right now) a tool in my repetoire. This past summer was a time of renewal for me. I had to “open wide” and face myself, what I had been, what I had become. I had to come face to face with a person I didn’t particularly like all that much. And I had to face myself and say, “This is not who you are, nor is it who you want to be.”

And so, as I mentioned in a previous post, I read a book entitled When Your Past Is Hurting Your Present. That was the beginning of, and fundamental to, my change. Through my readings, I really, in my heart of hearts, realized how my reactions to circumstances was really bringing me down. I realized how not getting control over my emotions was hindering my life. I spent about a month with that book. It’s a great one. Christian-oriented, and I highly recommend it for anyone.

But what really did it for me was The Courage To Teach by Parker Palmer. Oh, such a fabulous book (and not just for teachers)! I actually purchased it when I started teaching seven years ago. I don’t recall reading it, even though I’d highlighted it almost all the way through. Yet I must not have gotten it. If I had gotten it, I wouldn’t have had the year from hell I had last year. But I read it again. Here are a few quotes that impacted me greatly:

“As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together…teaching holds a mirror to the soul.”

“…the most practical thing we can achieve in any kind of work is insight into what is happening inside us as we do it. The more familiar we are with our inner terrain, the more surefooted our teaching – and living – becomes.”

“…the self is not a scrap of turf to be defended but a capacity to be enlarged.”

“‘Be not afraid’ does not say that we should not have fears – and if it did, we could dismiss it as an impossible counsel of perfection. Instead, it says that we do not need to be our fears, quite a different proposition…I need not teach from a fearful place: I can teach from curiosity or hope or empathy or honesty…I can have fear, but I need not be fear – if I am willing to stand someplace else in my inner landscape.”

If I could sum what I learned from this book, in a nutshell, it is that I don’t have to be afraid of my fears. I don’t have to rid myself of my fears. I can recognize my fears, understand my fears, learn to identify when they rear their heads (notice I didn’t say ugly heads), and enter a different place within and come out through those other places within myself. And I can not only teach, but I can be, out of those other places. It was so liberating for me to know I don’t have to rid myself of my fears. Not only is the effort draining, but the claim that I am not afraid of whatever, someday, would not be the truth.

But if that weren’t enough, I finished the summer reading Let Your Life Speak, also by Parker Palmer. In it, he talks of listening to yourself to determine your vocation, your calling. He speaks of living the life you were intended to live. Here are a couple more quotes:

“Each of us arrives here with a nature, which means both limits and potentials. We can learn as much about our nature by running into our limits as by experiencing our potentials.”

“We will become better teachers not by trying to fill the potholes in our souls but by knowing them so well that we can avoid falling into them.”

If you are experiencing depression, this seems to be a great book, as Parker Palmer discusses his dark nights of the soul and how he emerged from them. I found the narrative of his journey to be real and authentic (like I’m supposed to judge – how crazy!).

On top of that, I also began and continue to read Stephen Covey’s books. All of these readings, sources of wisdom, have taken me to another place in my spiritual and emotional life. And I’m so grateful. I’m more peaceful. I’m more playful (ask my husband). I don’t react to circumstances and situations with the same lack of care I did before. I’m by no means where I ought to be. Yet, I see the incredible potential of my life, my calling, my relationships as being so great. And I’m experiencing some of that greatness now. Because I made a choice to open wide and say “ah-h-h-h.”

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3 comments

  1. Anna says:

    “If I could sum what I learned from this book, in a nutshell, it is that I don’t have to be afraid of my fears. I don’t have to rid myself of my fears…”

    And you don’t have to let your fear control you. I allowed fear to control my life in so many ways that I really enjoyed very little of it. I’ve been learning to experience life on a whole new level, with more freedom then I’ve ever had before. It feels wonderful. But I’m sure you know know all about that.

    Take care KWiz;
    Anna

  2. Danielle says:

    Hi KWiz!!!

    It’s been awhile for the both of us, it seems. Just wanted to stop in and send my warmest wishes to you and your family.

    Be well and enjoy the day.

    Danielle

  3. Sam Freedoms Internet Marketing Controversy Blog says:

    Hang in there, Kwiz! It’ll all pass… even the euphoriia. 😉

    There really is a “peace that surpasseth all understanding” and when it occurs for you, you’ll find any more direct talk about things like “fear” and “peace” and “letting go” and all that to be unnecessary. In fact, it’s really counterproductive.

    I say that, because often its written to hear one’s self say it. There’s no real audience, most of the time… just a “maybe” bunch of passers-by or someone whose ear gets caught at the local coffee shop and nods politely while inwardly screaming for a way out of the conversation.

    When real peace of understanding dawns, you’ll be completely what you described above – just more playful but also more discerning. What the people coming up the road behind you need is to see peace and understanding in action… happening in the everyday circumstances they live in – it could be just in how you drink your coffee and roll with whatever people are saying or doing around you.

    Anyways. nice to have met you.

    I found you via wisdomwalking where your comment (29th) was a suggestion to write something controversial and, well, gauging by the title of my blog in the name field, I think you can see I own that niche. 😉

    Best wishes for your ongoing enlightenment,
    Sam Freedom

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