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.”