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When I was still in the classroom I would often offer my Saturday morning reflections, in part fueled by stepping back from another week with adolescents and how that shaped my view on things in the world, political and personal.

Tomorrow my former co-workers report back to school, something last done in that school without me a decade past.  My reflections tend to be shaped by other things nowadays.

They are also far more frequent, and perhaps in greater depth - in part because I have more time to reflect, but also because I find it of value to look at things in far greater depth than I have for years.

Over a period of just less than a month I have found myself greatly changed.  It started as the result of a chance encounter where I now sit, in my local Starbucks.  The implications of that encounter are not yet played out, so I will not now - and may never - share all of it, or of what has flowed.  Let it suffice to say that it has led to a serious reflection on how I relate to the world and to people.  My spouse and I have talked more openly than we have in a number of years.  When I consider possible job opportunities I do so with a different mindset.

I have not been here as much, either in posting diaries or in commenting on those I do post or those of others to which I consider offering my thoughts or observations.

I can share this much.  In part because of my advancing age - I am now 66 - I have watched the world flying by me ever more quickly, and my not being as connected as I feel I should be.  I want to slow things down, or at least slow myself down.

I also realize that the only way I can honestly related to the world is to be totally open in my heart.  That is not as easy as it may sound, for I have been a very wounded person.  Many of my wounds have been self-inflicted, and those that were not were things on which I too often obsessed, which paralyzed or distorted my interactions with other people.

I am going to continue this below the squiggle.

For too long I have sought the approbation of others, to be accepted, by attempting to prove "brilliance" or competence.  I have used words but not merely as a means of communication:  too often they served to isolate me from others, my apparent openness being a mask, or a barrier to real human connection.

I have in the past remarked that I am basically shy, even as I am an extravert, that I lack appropriate social graces.  That has been and remains true.  

I have come to realize that while I am often "in" communities, sometimes in positions of either respect or authority, I am really not "of" communities, not even this one, which has been my intellectual and political home for more than 8 years.  

What I now confront is my need to be totally open and totally surrendered.  That means far less cogitation and far more contemplation.  It requires that I say or write much less for public consumption and listen far more, giving time for what others say - and don't say - to sink in before I respond.

When I was at my best as a teacher, my teaching was actually informed and shaped by a process not dissimilar from this.  Part of the reason for my frustration and dissatisfaction with my teaching the past two years was that somehow I had gotten away from that.  I did not fully understand that at first, and then as I began to grasp it I did not understand why that had happened.

In the past month I have had occasion to reflect on many things of my 66 years.  I have remembered things long repressed, I have seen how I hurt other people, often coming from my own woundedness.  Then I remembered a line from Rumi:  “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”  

There is no miraculous transformation, but I am changing, very much so.  I am more patient.  I multi-task far less.  I let go of defenses, of anger and irritation, and attempt to accept other persons, to see them neither as instruments I can use for my own benefit or as irritants or barriers to what I think I might want.  

I cannot fully explain this.

I still write, but now for the first time in almost two decades I carry around small notebooks and write in them, for myself, to get the words out of myself so I can sit without words.

I find myself watching interactions of others, especially between parents and children.  Simultaneously I now find children looking at me, often smiling.

Our cats notice a difference in me.  Our most shy lady, Felicity, will now on occasion even come over to me without the security of LionEl, our biggest cat, to have between her and me as she seeks my touch.  

I do not yet know what this all means, only that this is a process that I must allow to play out.  It is not something I can accomplish by force of will, even with my almost legendary stubbornness.  It requires me to be willing to let go and trust.  It may begin in small things, as a means of acclimating myself to a new way of relating to the world and the others in it.

This in no way lessens my concern for things and for person, which have fueled some of my passionate writing and many of my actions.  The concern is there, but how I act upon it may be different.  

I have a lifetime of operating from fear and hurt and arrogance and insecurity and self-doubt.  All of these are but partial understandings, and they have had both positive and negative impacts.  The negative is the harm I have done myself and others.  The positive is that if I accept them but surrender them, I am more sensitive to the needs and wants and fears of others, not so that I can then use such understanding to control or manipulate, but rather to be com-passionate.

I reflect upon spiritual wisdom that I have read over the years, but grasped only partially, and then with my mind.

I do not deny my mind, my intellect, my ability to sometimes put things into words in a way that makes a difference for others.

But I am more a creature of heart, in a deep sense of that word.  I am intuitive, not a thinker.  In terms of Gardner's multiple intelligences I am more musical rhythmic by far than I am verbal-linguistic.  In music, it is not just the notes that are sounded, but the silences in between, the rests, against the background of which the notes have greater impact and meaning.

I want that music in my life.  I want to hear it in context, including the rests.

When I used to visit the monastic republic of Mount Athos in Northern Greece several decades back, I chose to walk the old footpaths between the monasteries rather than hitch a ride on the logging trucks.  From that I began to learn something I have long understood with my mind, but am now beginning to understand with my heart.  On a pilgrimage the journey we travel is at least as important as the destination.

The pilgrimage of my life may end when I die, or it may continue in some way that I do not yet grasp with mind or heart.  The destination of that pilgrimage is some kind of wholeness of self, of achieving of a kind of truth I cannot explain but which I clearly intuit.

How I travel is all that is within my control.  I do not know what I may encounter as I walk through this life, but I have within my power to take the time to reflect, to consider what it is I do or say, or perhyaps do not either do or say, but simply ponder and hold in my heart.

I am in this community.  I have not been fully of this community.  I may never be.  Because this community has offered me support and even at times love, because it has included those willing to challenge me in ways that have provoked me into growth I might otherwise have resisted, I have decided to share this reflection, which is not fully developed, nor completely understood.

I am no less passionate about justice, about civil liberties, about preserving the environment.  How I actualize that passion will change, perhaps in subtle ways, perhaps in significant ways.  I cannot predict that.

All I can offer is that I now continue along my pilgrimage of life with greater attention, what Buddhists might call mindfulness.  

I do not know how this plays out.  Part of learning to surrender is not to worry about that.

When I was young I used to worry that I was so poor at maintaining friendships that I would die alone in a room by myself and no one at first would notice I was missing, that my passing would be noticed only when my body might begin to stink.

I accept that as part of my journey it is yet possible that I might die in a room alone by myself.  That no longer scares me.

Part of surrendering is to let go of fear.

Another is to learn this of love -  when I give love it is a gift freely given for which the person to whom it is given incurs no responsibility whatsoever.  It is to wish the best for the beloved, and to hold them in my heart regardless of the choice s/he may make.

To accept love - that has always been harder for me.  It requires a different kind of surrender, one that has always been hard for me.  

It is these kinds of surrender with which I now engage.  

If I open myself up, I may finally realize how much love and support has always been there for me, but which I could not understand because I used my woundedness as a barrier.

If I open myself up, I discover - as I already have - that my ability to love others increases beyond limit - to include those I might never have considered, to love more completely those I already love.

I do not feel the words I have offered here are adequate to what I have begun to grasp in part.  But I trust they may serve as pointers, that some will be able to go beyond my limited verbal expression and understand.

I know not of what value they may be to others.

I do know that because of what I have received from this community, I felt I had to open my heart and attempt to explain.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (32+ / 0-)

    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    by teacherken on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 05:09:12 AM PDT

  •  this is probably (8+ / 0-)

    the most profound, most resonant diary I've ever read here.

    I am on my own journey, with some similarities to yours.  My best to you as you continue down this new path.  It is taking you to the place you are meant to be.  To your authentic self.

    There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.

    by puzzled on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 05:16:27 AM PDT

  •  this diary is sooo Hotlisted (6+ / 0-)

    And I am sooo proud and happy for you.

    (Despite all its horrors) Life is too good to be missed.

    Please keep sharing your journey with us. Do not assume that this means being less politically involved or evolved. Somehow in these United States we need to weave a new, stronger society where Americans are more free to be people, to be themselves, and to be with each other, maybe even of each other.

    To whatever limited extent I do (as part of being here), it is a pleasure to let you define me and to be of you.

    •  I don't think I define you (4+ / 0-)

      I am honored that you choose to make me part of your own life's path in whatever fashion you choose.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 05:33:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Many things define me (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BitterEnvy, teacherken, Chi, TexMex

        Especially since my self-definition as a Daily Kos user is a big deal for me and you are a big deal in that. Incidentally, you got one of my diaries rescued ages ago. That felt pretty defining at the time.

        I am part of my setting. I cannot help being influenced. It's all very dynamic. My evolving personhood is dynamic and goes way beyond my intentionality, whether I like that or not. Who I am cannot be controlled by me although there is a lot I can do and do do to shape the package - like resisting bad things (even though that creates tension).

        "World Peace" (ha ha). When people ask me what I want, I want a better society, a stronger and kinder social fabric. How is that not better than $millions?

        I say this mostly as a parent who is now close to empty nest (one has flown and the other is 19). Raising my children has defined me most of all. I raised them through the Bush years. All those brutalities defined both them and me to an extent, but the greatest harm continues to be the social breakdown, unkindness and dishonor that other random adults inflict on them.

        Frankly when you've been hurt by school administrators not keeping their promises to your children, you really know what it is like to be partially defined by someone else. Losing credibility with one's child, at a minimum because ALL adults have been lowered in their estimation, alters one's future. I've played it and journeyed it as best I can and I am not complaining exactly. Only trying to emphasize what I've appreciated about your presence here so far. Looking forward to what is ahead with you.

  •  Best wishes with your transition (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TexMex, Heart of the Rockies

    but pls don't become less politically active.

    we're out of time, IMHO, and need all hands on deck.

    "A civilization which does not provide young people with a way to earn a living is pretty poor". Eleanor Roosevelt

    by Superpole on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 06:33:07 AM PDT

  •  Take the time you need where and as you need it (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Melanie in IA, TexMex, teacherken

    teacherken. Your place in our hearts is lofty and secure, and need not factor into your considerations. Thank you for working so hard to explain the never completely explicable, however!

    Bless you and your wife, and know we're here, and wishing you the very best, always.

    "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." _ Jonathan Larson, RENT

    by BeninSC on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 06:42:00 AM PDT

  •  It is a time of transition (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TexMex, teacherken

    and it WILL take time. Be patient with yourself, as you are becoming more patient with those around you.

    This struck me, in particular:

    Another is to learn this of love -  when I give love it is a gift freely given for which the person to whom it is given incurs no responsibility whatsoever.  It is to wish the best for the beloved, and to hold them in my heart regardless of the choice s/he may make.

    To accept love - that has always been harder for me.  It requires a different kind of surrender, one that has always been hard for me.  

    I think this is true of many people. It can be easier to turn from love than to surrender to it. Love is there. All you have to do is be open to it, accept it. It is a gift, as you know.
  •  Your diary has been inspirational in and of itself (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kestrel9000, TexMex, teacherken

    There are so many things that become difficult to express when we try to understand ourselves.  Writing about them becomes even more difficult as there is a part of us that we hope will glean a better understanding of who we are and then share same in hopes it may help others.

    I recall doing journals and when I was doing that it wasn't because I was advised to do so.  That never worked for me.  I began to journal because I felt the need to express myself.  I filled 13 books of dribble and at the time felt excited when I went to look for a new book to start. It was effective and it did help.  In the end, I tore the pages out and burned same in my fireplace.  I kept the covers because I drew on them and wanted a memento as it were that I did it.  Now, the covers have long since been gone.

    Our lives are like prisms and show so many sides.  Over the years I prefer to hear others talk about their lives.  I use to think that my life was quite the story however I do not feel that I have to share it in such a way to let someone else know that I understand.  It is enough to say I understand.

    I am one to share stories of my life's journeys yet they now invoke a positive slant and the music is humor.  If anything I want to be a living example that I can still stand, still feel and most of all still believe in myself even when mistakes tendered a mistrust of my feelings.

    Reflection is good in measured doses. I pause, reflect and try my best not to get carried away.  In so doing I stop the runaway train that takes me somewhere far from where I began. The bottom line turns out to be it is what it is. This phrase has kept me from running away with myself.  I may get on the train however the ride is brief.  Second guessing myself is not an option for me as it takes what precious energy I have left spending it on my past.  How can I get to today?

    No matter what the reason, the time and etc. you have decided to look at things in a different light.  You have concluded that it is important to know who you are and where you fit in the world.  This website is a perfect venue for it.  It is more than politics, it is more than social injustices brought to the forefront.  It is a community of people who are more real and allows them the space to express themselves. Feel free to express and share your journey.  It teaches all of us that there is more than one way to do things and it humbles those of us that think our shit doesn't stink!

    After all, Dear Abby is no longer around to spread her advice.  Gosh- I miss that!  I will look forward to reading more of your contributions and what is happening on your end of the pond!

  •  Funny ain't it, when shy people can do so much (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    but get them into a friendly group of like-minded folks who know our heart through out internet writing and we just walk past and hide behind a pillar.
    But hey that is me. I will take the floor and tell strangers to do this or that to help Obama win. But in the end I go home to hubby and they just had a great dinner with their phone-banking comrades.  They have community, I have family.
    Right now I am ok with that. But isn't it the way it always was?  In high school, I could take to the stage as a chinese boy or recite lines in Arsenic and Old Lace, but did I go to the prom? No.
    I think you miss your teaching friends. It is all about relationships.  My neighbor also retired from teaching and says the usual..... "The new tests are too hard!"  But she will miss her friends.
    When I left teaching I was plunged into "community" big time. Now I want family and gardening.  But who knows what is around the corner.  We live much longer than we think we will for all our awareness of mortality.  There are quite a few of us like you on this path but our individual stories will continue to spin out as we are forced to deal with "WTF am I gonna do now!"
    So thank you for describing the last few years of my life as I went from being a "science teacher", to a "President's wife" to the "wife  of the Ex Pres." What on earth is that?
    At least now I can see my old folks and help them stay happy and healthy in their home. But I still feel in limbo.
    Take care Ken, do something useless and silly too, after all you used to do that with the kids.

  •  When did you leave teaching? (0+ / 0-)

    I've read many of your diaries but I missed the one in which you announced you were leaving teaching. A short recap?

    •  I retired at the end of the school year (0+ / 0-)

      I had told people earlier in the year I was considering the possibility and exploring some options

      I did inform the community probably around the beginning of April.

      I also posted several diaries as my final year wound down on what it meant to me.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 12:42:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  all the best to you... (0+ / 0-) you continue your journey.  It's the journey of life, and bless you for your self-reflection.  Sometimes that is the hardest part.

  •  Having read your diaries for a long time, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I know that you have lived a very, very busy life.  Up early to write a diary, a full day of teaching (very demanding) and undoubtedly school work and preparation when you got home.

    It sounds like release from those demands on your time, every moment counting, has allowed you to be more free, to take your time, to reflect and not to worry how each minute will be spent or how much must be accomplished.  Almost like you were bound tightly and those binding cloths have come off.

    I've been in this situation twice in my life, and even though I enjoyed what I was doing, the release of pressure when the pace changed was like being let out of jail.  Since the last time I "freed" myself, I have tried to avoid a life so programmed and filled that I didn't have time to  just to be.

    I look forward to hearing about what you wish to share about your journey.

    •  well, I would like to work more (0+ / 0-)

      and now that I am beginning to have greater understanding in depth might even be willing to return to the classroom in the right setting

      unless I were to relocate, I need around 18K/year more than the combination of my pension and social security to maintain the buying power I had in my final year of teaching.

      And it would be nice to have health care beyond medicare -  I did not sign up for part A effective in July so I have to do something beginning October 1 or I will be going naked

      so there are a number of issues that will contribute to the entirety of this exploration

      but the spiritual aspect of it still predominates, almost certainly because of my advancing age

      and btw -  I still get up at 5 AM.  I did this morning.  Sleeping in late is sleeping until 6.  The difference now is if I want I can take a nap after lunch  :-)

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 03:26:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I very much identify with your words here (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Have spent nearly 25 years as an active menber of a 12-Step program, respected and admired by many.  Put out my hand to help others and am not shy about that.  But still essentially a loner.  In the world, but not of the world.  

    To a lesser extent, the same thing is true for me here at DK.  I don't publish many serious diaries, but try to spend time encouraging others.  Most folks who have come in contact with me here would consider me in a positive light.  Yet I don't let down my guard too far.

    I have also been spending more time in reflection and meditation lately.  A few months ago, I lost a close friend in circumstances that led me to the mirror.  Discovered that I had a lot of "adult child" work to do.  Also, I spent a few hours most days talking to this person.  Have been taking pictures, reading, re-connecting with old friends, and so on.  Less isolated, more engaged.  Who knows; maybe eight years after having separated from my wife, I'm ready to date again.

    Best wishes to you in your journey.

    Ancora Impara--Michelangelo

    by aravir on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 06:38:20 AM PDT

  •  Thank you (0+ / 0-)

    for sharing yourself. It enriches all of us.

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