Yesterday I set off on a long bike ride around the back roads of Northern Michigan. Perfect weather, the happiness of my 5thweek with the grandchildren by my side, 3 weeks of more constant exercise than I’ve had in 20 years, a retired life of endless summer stretching before me. And what did I start to think about?
My unhappy end to school. Not just the Covid disaster, but the feeling of little appreciation from the current admin for 45 years of service and my work that not only helped create the school culture, but helped develop it, sustain it and protect it. And the compliance of my colleagues in not noticing was equally sorrowful.
Well, that was a surprise. We can’t control our thoughts any more than the weather and our dreams, but we do have some choices as to how we react to them, how we pursue them or follow them or further reflect on them. So I made up a little chant:
“Let it go, Meditate, Sweat it out, Create.” (2x) And that guaranteed four new blog posts. So this is the first:
“Let it go” as advice is as absurd as shouting at someone to “relax!” It doesn’t happen with a casual shrug, but requires some deeper perspective. Here’s how I think about it:
“The finished man among his enemies? How in the name of Heaven can he escape
That defiling and disfigured shape, the mirror of malicious eyes
Casts upon his eyes until at last, he thinks that shape must be his shape?”… Yeats
Powerful words from Yeats. We become partly how others see us and if those others choose to see us in a “defiled and disfigured shape,” we either begin to accept their “gaslighted” view of us or dig deeper and name our own shape. Certainly with my students, kids and adults, but also with family and friends and even the cultures I visit, I am looking for qualities worthy of blessing. And because I look for them, I almost always find them—sometimes more than is deserved! I try to be a mirror of
a accepting and loving eyes based on what they show me of themselves and how I can imagine it flowering further.
As a human being myself, I also appreciate my fair share of blessing. In regards to the school situation, for example, I helped craft farewell ceremonies for some 50 to 100 teachers, made up songs to celebrate them, wrote letters of appreciation, helped lead the ceremony. When COVID made it impossible for me to have the same kind of ceremony, no one thought about an alternative version. Except me. I created four different farewells to alums, parents, kids and fellow staff and in each, gave my appreciations and blessings to the school. But with the exception of a lovely video collage my colleagues James and Sofia gathered from former Interns, there was nothing coming back my way. And the silence from the current administration was deafening.
So to telescope out to the general human situation that we all face of similar, disappointments, betrayals, unjustly malicious shapes and so on, what helps me to “let go” is to realize it’s not my problem, but their inability to bless. An inability that might come from their own situation of people not blessing them, of them unable to wholly bless themselves, of them feeling threatened by my sense of inner power, of them using outer power inappropriately and so on. Of course, we each are responsible for looking at our part in the exchange, but there are times when it’s clear that the reflection you see in the mirror of others’ malicious eyes is their image and not your own Soul's. And as such, not to be accepted. To let it go is simply to refuse it. To name your own shape, thank you very much.
Option one. Three more to come.