Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rising Up

"The greatest waste
in the world is the
difference between
what we are and
what we could become."
~ Ben Herbster

This post, if I'm honest, feels incomplete even as I begin it. Because it sort of is. I'm not sure all of what I want to say or how I want to say it. I fear it will all come out wrong or that it will reveal too much or, well, who knows. It is deeply personal. It reveals my naivete, my-head-in-the-clouds, my weakness. So I want to be clear.

I’ve been thinking lately about potential. About our ability to rise up to that which is within us, but, more often, our tendency to fritter it away with notions that we cannot achieve much. I’m thinking about this for many reasons: the insanely good writer/student I have who, sadly, prefers the football field and friends to honing his talent on the page, for one. I sat him down today and talked to him about it. I thought he should know just how good he could be at this. But he has to want it; he has to do it.

And I think that is the part that is difficult. Reach your potential--this trite little phrase repeated often. But that whole reaching bit means engaging and working and striving and acting and believing. And that alone can be daunting. Life can delay and distract us from what we ultimately want. And then that whole believing bit comes into play. And...

And here is the truth of things: I am good at a few things and know it. And because of that knowledge, I apply myself to a point. I try to excel (in varying degrees of the word try). Everything else feels as though it were a possibility. And potential or no, it feels like too much.

But perhaps I am being too vague?

I am. I know.

So let me try and begin again. I feel as though I have the potential to be a really good teacher or a really good writer or a really good fill-in-the-blank, but I sometimes fall short. For whatever reason. And it is frustrating and sad to me that I want so very many things for myself that the desires seem to cancel each other out.

My biggest fear is living a life of mediocrity--survival in place of purpose and intent. Laziness or insecurity in place of confidence and dedication.

Fear it though I might, sometimes I drift into the mediocre. I get glimpses of that potential and wonder why I'm not always there, performing at that level in my own life. I wonder when it is that I will ease into the intended shape of myself, as bread rising up.

Image found here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

From the Desk of a Self-Admitted Worry Wart: A Gratuitously Narcissistic Post

Blogging should never be a hassle, but rather, a joy. Or something along those lines. Unfortunately, as with most things in my life, it has simply become another cause for anxiety. Yes, I need help. Possibly a xanax.

Irrational though it may be, lately my thoughts run along these lines while I'm checking your blog: "Oh no! I haven't blogged anything in a while and, and, and..."

And what? I mean, really? It isn't like the blog-mafia is going to rip my firstborn out of my hands the moment s/he is born.

Nothing. Will. Happen.

But the truth is, I am an anxious being. I've come to accept this fact about myself. I'm realizing that I've always worried. In first grade I stressed about poor Brandon What's-his-face in my class. I vividly recall having an emotional breakdown to my mother about the kid who liberally picked his nose for the world to see: "But Mom," I'd wailed, "I pick my nose too. I just don't do it in front of other people."

I should have known then.

I stress. A lot. Don't mind me. I'm the one in the corner breathing into a paper bag.

But, for the purpose of alleviating some stress and possibly so I can say I posted, I'm being self indulgent and fessing up to my anxious ways.

Here you have it. The "Lucky" 21 things I commonly stress about (in no particular order):

1. Work
2. Going to the gym
3. Skipping the gym
4. Driving behind grandma's that go 10 below but you can't seem to get past them (yep, not worth it, but I stress nonetheless)
5. Being late (which I usually am)
6. Blogging
7. Work
8. Not getting enough sleep
9. Mondays
10. Money
11. Work
12. Family
13. Friends
14. Students
15. Strangers (such as people broken down on the side of the road)
16. Work
17. Unwanted tasks on the to do list (that keep re-appearing because procrastination settles in)
18. Looming dates and appointments
19. Blood work
20. Car drama
21. The possibility of a catastrophic/maiming event striking anyone at any minute (blame my roommate for working the ER's trauma bays at our neighborhood hospital)

I'm a mess, people. I even worry a little bit that some of you aren't comfortable with my admission.

So be honest, what do you stress over? And how do you cope?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

*She is too fond of books, and it has addled her brain.

This week I sat down to read. And read. And read.


I finished Lahiri's The Namesake today. It is still with me, sifting in. I love when books do this, drip and then diffuse throughout the whole of me. Like a single drop of color in clear water, my hue is forever changed, if only slightly.

I find it impossible to describe this sensation to those who aren't "book people." My students, for instance, have already separated themselves into book people and, well, everyone else. Some might jump ship later in life. Perhaps. But I think this visceral, emotional connection to books forms early. For me, it isn't plot alone that draws me. It isn't the want of entertainment. It is the characters I live with, embody, for a time. It is the prose (oh, the prose), the layers and motifs and words upon words upon words. The details. It is the ideas that lend themselves to human observation, to truths. It is the fact that whenever I see a copy of Jane Eyre I grow nostalgic for that first summer I learned what books were capable of--that summer after 8th grade I spent wandering the moors of England, fearing and needing Mr. Rochester at once. It is that my mind can still hear the sound of the sliding automatic doors, can still feel the warm summer air stirring with the cool air conditioning of the Weber County Library of my childhood. It is that this memory is still one of my favorite sensations.

It does not seem ridiculous or shameful or odd or pitiful to me that some of my life's happiest moments are those in which I fell just a little more in love with books and all they offer. The spines of books along my bookshelves each tell their own story, yes, but also relate a narrative of where I've been--each book came to me at what was so often the perfect moment in my life. Some books are a ritual, repeated year after year.

I recently read this article with my AP students and had them write their own essays about what they believe to be "The Art of Reading." As for me, well, I knew the reason I have a post card of Toni Morrison in all her wisdom posted on the bulletin board directly above my office desk. This essay only confirmed it: I connect with her. She is one of the book people.

I am aching for the year to end, for summer to arrive. To lounge about, sinking into book after book after book.

In the meantime, you should really pick up this book.

And The Interpreter of Maladies if you are a fan of short stories.

Oh, and I must thank my fellow book people who recommended Lahiri in the first place.

*(And thank you, Louisa May Alcott, for my title.)