Second, I also apologize for the length of this entry you're about to read. If you're busy, come back later...if you have time, please get yourself a refreshment before beginning.
Last, before I say this, please know: I don't do drugs. I Do Not Do Drugs. I was, and still am, a total, vanilla goody-two-shoes about putting things in my body that would make the Drug Enforcement Agency want to arrest me. I have always been like this, always. But yesterday? Yesterday I got high. But I'm back to normal now. Sort of.
Let me explain:
Miss M likes to connect to people. Specifically, Miss M likes to connect to other children. If you are an adult and Miss M meets you for the first time, she's slightly shy...for about 5 minutes or until she can find something about herself she thinks will amuse or astound you. Then she won't shut up, because you MUST pay attention to her. The. Whole. Time. However, if you are a child and Miss M meets you for the first time, you are instantly her best friend forever. Forever. The next day when M talks about you, she won't have a clue who you are, where you're from, what your name is, or how to even get back in touch with you. But you are friends. Best Friends. Forever.
That's the kind of high I was on yesterday. I made new best friends. Forever. I don't know their names or even how to get back in touch with them. But they are my best friends. Forever.
Here's some more about connections:
So I had a bad week one week. Actually, I've had about 6 bad weeks. (Actually, I've been having 86 bad weeks, but that's another blog entry.) It's been a stressful start to a school year. Last year was, too. And the year before that. And the year before that. Teaching is hard. (I think I've alluded to this before.) So it's hard, and it feels like it's getting harder and it doesn't seem to be letting up, and I've been in a quandry because 15 years ago if you asked me: Do you love being a teacher? I would have said: YES. It's hard, it's a lot of work, some of the families are really challenging, but YES. I would have said this 10 years ago, too. Even 5 years ago.
I cannot say this today; I don't know what's happened. I have theories about what has happened, and these may or may not be correct or insightful, but the point is: Me, personally? When it comes to teaching as a job, I can't say YES today. And also, I hate how I sound when I talk about what I do for a living. I cringe when people ask me things like: "How's your school year going?" or "Do you like being a teacher?" because I have to stop and think: do I tell them the truth and ruin their day and spew negativity into the world? Or do I lie and participate in perpetuating the ick I see going on right now in public ed at the expense of children? Because I certainly can't and won't say YES to any of that. But by not responding at all or staying silent I feel like I'm not participating in Life, that I'm not connecting, that I'm not being real, and god. THAT isn't who I want to be. I want to be many things, but I know I do not want to be someone who brings the bad but also is afraid to tell the truth.
So I spewed about it on Facebook one night. And then I started thinking: I need to change my perspective, or I'm going to have either a mental break down or a heart attack. *I* need to change. So I started looking for blessings, and I found some. And I wrote about them on my public writer Facebook page. And then someone at work I really like saw my blessings post and read it. And then she read all over my public writer Facebook page. And then, the next day? She ate lunch. And someone else I work with who she works happens to have a cousin who had some tickets for Oprah Winfrey's Life You Want Weekend at Philips Arena Friday and Saturday. And after lunch, my friend came and asked if I wanted those last minute tickets. And I said YES. I had a bunch of stuff to do this weekend, some of it of timely importance, but something inside of me said: SAY YES. And then the other coworker emailed them to me and I said YES (and THANK YOU) to that. And then I checked with my husband, and he said YES. And then I checked with M, and she said NO (but then I explained how important this was, and she said NO again and I said, SORRY, YOU DON'T MAKE THE GROWN UP RULES.)
Because my friend noticed, on my writer page and here, that I pretty much hero worship Elizabeth Gilbert's brain and writing abilities. And I bet you can guess right about now who was going to be presenting at Oprah's big Life classroom thingy, right? That's right. THE Elizabeth Gilbert. And her amazing brain. So that's why I said yes, because it was a chance to be in the same space as someone who's been an inspiration to me. And I used to watch Oprah when she had her talk show, and I figured that would be cool, too.
So I went. And I got high. Totally, completely, unexpectedly HIGH. The kind of high the DEA can't arrest you for. The kind of high that won't involve mug shots or bad skin or visits to emergency rooms. The GOOD high. (I apologize if you're very let down right now because you thought you were going to read a story about my first crack experience or something. Sorry if you were looking for a drama post.)
Because the energy was HUGE. At first it was because I was super excited about Liz Gilbert. My plan was: see Oprah in person, go: Wow! I got to see Oprah in person! and then listen to Liz talk, and then sit through some other speakers (blah blah blah), grab some lunch, and go home. I have a ten foot pile of tests to grade. I have a 200 foot pile of grades to enter into my online gradebook because midterms go home on Friday and I didn't get anything accomplished last week because there were meetings every single day except Friday and I was exhausted on Friday and still couldn't get out of there before 5:45 and C and I got into a tussle because of this late leaving stuff and M needs her hair done and I have laundry and need to do grocery shopping and I have to cook dinner and... (BREATHE). So I was just going for half the thing and then home to do my stuff.
And then Oprah came out. And that was exciting. And then Deepak Chopra came out and taught us a whole bunch of things like:
Challenges are opportunities. We are the potential of all that was, is, and ever will be. Choices are actions, so choose consciously, with intention, because every choice you make affects EVERYONE in the Universe. We are all connected, divine pieces of star dust. Ask yourself: What do I want? Do I really want it? (intention orchestrates its own fulfillment so be careful: if you ask, you'll get it.) And don't put a lot of effort into your choices--do less/accomplish more...do nothing/accomplish everything. Because if you can be who you really are, you'll become who you've always been meant to be, which is who you really are and that's actually not that hard to do, if you're just yourself. (Freaky, huh??)
Detachment = surrender. Let go of "should" and let the bigger picture take over; it's always more magnificent than what you're presently experiencing.
Choose happiness--have goals, have compassion, know you are a divine spark as an expression of the Universe, we are sparks of the Universal Intelligence. Know the Universe is mathematically precise, so get in touch with your creative center--every single one of us has a creative center which is the creative center for the manifestation of the Universe. We are all divine manifestations. (This should make you HAPPY!)
Happy people know that to be happy, they must make other people happy. Successful people help others be successful, and they celebrate those successes. This is the key to success and happiness. You must make others happy and successful first. Give, and you will receive.
Finally, know we are Star Dust beings. We are a privileged species--we are self-aware, we know who we are.
(Please go back and re-read all that with a Deepak Chopra accent.)
And then we meditated and that was calming.
And then Oprah made us do a writing activity in our workbooks, and I sat and wrote, tears dripping onto my workbook. We were to think of one person we love with all our hearts and put them there. Then we were to write every single thing we could think of that we wanted for them, and we were to think BIG, no limitations. So of course I picked my child, even though earlier she'd attempted to thwart my big day. This is my dream for her (I'm trusting you with this, don't abuse it):
To adore and be adored. Health. Happiness. Love. To be surrounded by Art & Music & Literature. A comfortable home filled with things she thinks are beautiful. Laughter. Playfulness. To know who she is. To love herself as is and be okay with it, to see others as they are and love them anyway. To be loved as is. Supportive friends. To see the world. A connection to herself. A connection to other people. A connection to whatever she thinks is God. An ability to dream and go for it. To live to live, not to work. To be bold, not afraid of anyone or anything (no big bad wolves). PEACE.
Some of the things I drew clouds around because they were THAT important: Laughter, Connection, no big bad wolves. PEACE got a cloud and I darkened it a lot so it would stand out.
Internet, I cried as I did this, because I know Oprah and all her tricks. My heart knew I was asking for things for M, but really I was asking for myself--tricking my ego into thinking it was asking the Universe on somebody else's behalf. And I also knew that something really important was going to happen that day.
And so after all that? After the Deepak information and meditation and the crying workbook activity? I stayed. I stayed for the WHOLE thing. (And I got high.)
Here's some more of what I learned:
Breath. Life is about breathing. How often do you think about breathing? I know I don't; it's just something I do. But have you ever thought about how important breathing is? I mean, if you stop breathing bad things can happen. From the moment you're born, you take a breath. It's really, really important when babies come out that, you know, they BREATHE. That first breath--everybody in the room is waiting on it, and if it doesn't happen it's a problem. And then it's important to keep doing that, breathing, until you can't any more. Because the moment you stop breathing, that's, you know, the moment you're basically done here. Your work, your being is done here.
I learned that almost every language in the world has a word for breath and that word translates to "spirit." Breath is spirit. In Hebrew it's ruach. In Greek it's nooma. Breath means spirit.
I learned that when you breathe out, if you say the sound AH, that's a pretty big thing to do, because you're basically saying the name of God. Because in many religions, the word for God contains the sound AH: Rajah...RA...Jehovah...Yuh Hey Vah Hey...Hallelujah. The very first, ancient people who ever concocted the concept of "God" and uttered a sound for it made the sound AH.
I learned that, in fact, the ancient Hebrews didn't necessarily even have a word for God, because in ancient Hebrew the word is mostly vowel sounds and so when you say the ancient Hebrew word for "God," it basically sounds like you're breathing: Yuh Hey Vah Hey.
I learned that God (or spirit or the Universe or Life, or whatever you wish to call It) is in each of our breaths. God is in every breath we take. What I took away from this knowledge is that, when we die? It's not because we got sick from cancer, had an aneurysm, suffered a heart attack, or just got old. It's because we can't say the word God anymore.
Breath is spirit.
So. Oprah made me cry, therefore I stayed. And then Liz Gilbert took the stage and I was too happy. And she favorited my SECOND tweet about her, which--I don't know if you're aware of this or not--just sends me into peels of total writer fan geekiness whenever someone I hero worship recognizes me on social media (I am 12, at heart). If I'd brought her book The Signature of All Things (which I had considered bringing, just in case we ran into each other at lunch or something), and taken a picture of it enjoying the event, I bet she'd have re-tweeted me...or (cue angelic music) REPLIED.
What I learned from Liz are 3 important stories:
1-The Hero's Journey. Every culture in every country in every language across the planet tells these: a boy (always a boy) has to go on a journey. He's living his life, la la la, and then one day has some sort of awakening in which he realizes: I have to take a journey. Sometimes it's to fight a dragon, sometimes to rescue a princess, sometimes to slay a monster. But it's always a journey, and as he journeys he always comes to a low point, a point where he is beaten down and has hit rock bottom and doesn't know if he can continue his journey. Joseph Campbell (who came up with the theory of The Hero's Journey) called this the Dark Night of the Soul. It's where the hero must decide to die or to live. If the hero chooses to live, the only way to do so is to change, and that change is always HARD. Eventually, the boy fights the dragon, rescues the princess, or slays the monster. And he comes home and is glorified and written about and stories are told of him for all of history, the end.
But the stories never include girls. Joseph Campbell would some times be asked (by astute women back in his old timey classrooms): Why not? And he would say: because you're not supposed to be taking heroic journeys; women don't need to grow. Women have babies and feed the world from their breasts and basically, you know: just stay in the kitchen, chicks. You don't want this. It's for hardier stock.
Then, to show us (and hopefully Joseph Campbell's ghost) how wrong Joseph was about women's hero journeys, Elizabeth told us about the lady with the coffee can:
2-The Coffee Can Story. She once met a lady at a book signing who told her about her Coffee Can. So, once upon a time, the lady was married. She had 5 children. One day, her husband couldn't take the hardness of being a working husband and a dad with 5 kids and so he just up and left and they never heard from him ever again. (Heroic, no?) And the lady sacrificed and worked and pretty much had a million Dark Nights of the Soul while trying to get her children safely from childhood to adulthood All. By. Herself. No help. But she made herself a promise the night she realized her husband was never coming back: My life will not always look like this. I can't do anything about it now, because I have to help these children and I have to survive. But my life will not always look like this.
And so she came up with a plan. Her plan was this: every day she would save one dollar. She figured that no matter how bad things were, she could always at least save one dollar. She got a coffee can and started putting the dollars into the can. When one can filled up, she'd get another can and fill that. And her rule was: no matter how bad things were, no matter how tempting it was, she would never, ever touch the money in the coffee can.
One day, her children were finally all grown up. They'd somehow all made it out of childhood, gone to college, and were on their own. And so she got down the coffee cans. And she bought a ticket on a freight ship. And she traveled the WHOLE world.
And her life never looked like that Dark Night ever again.
3-Find Your Elephants. The last thing I took from Liz was: find your 5 elephants. When things are really, really bad and you don't know how you'll go on? Go find some elephants.
So one day, things were down and out for Elizabeth Gilbert. She was at the post office having not just having a Dark Night of the Soul, but a Dark Life of the Infinity. And she didn't know how to go on. She just wanted to go home and sit on her sofa and cry. That was the only thing she aspired to that day: I can't wait to go home and cry. And a still, small voice said to her: Okay, Liz. You can do that. If that's all you aspire to, fine. Go home and cry. But first, go find something beautiful.
That was the deal--go home and cry, but first you have to go find something--ANYTHING--beautiful. So she made the deal, all disgruntled-like, and then she opened the post office door. And she saw 5 elephants. Five huge elephants, with gold fabric on their backs and beautiful show girls in sparkling costumes riding them. (The circus was in town, and the elephants were taking a walk through midtown Manhattan because, you know, why not?)
When it's really bad, go find your 5 elephants.
And let me tell you about Rob Bell now:
I discovered someone I'd never heard of named Rob Bell, who's a pastor of a church somewhere. He's the one who taught me about breath is the same as spirit. He also taught me about how very connected we all are; it is impossible to be a human being and not be connected. We are all the same. Every atom of us is a piece of cosmic star dust, and there is scientific data to back that up. However, he also taught me things like THIS:
"The mess is where the interesting things happen." (Because seriously: go back in your life and think of the time(s) that you learned the most from, the things that changed you the most...bet they were all messy messed up pieces of clusterfuck.)
"You can't give me data on why a song makes your spirit soar." (Seriously, can you? I mean, if you're an education reform-y type, I know you're thinking: yeah, I bet I could pay a testing company to measure that. But guess what, education reform-y types? NO YOU CAN'T. Some things aren't measurable. They just aren't. There will be world peace when reform-y types get that.)
"When despair comes to visit, STOP, take a breath and realize: you are a MIRACLE."
Because we ARE breath.
Here's what else happened:
We had to exercise. A very excited lady brought loud, pumping music and made us punch the air and pull in goodness. Before that, the DJ played songs that women like to dance to, and the entire crowd was up on their feet either dancing or clapping or pretending to (that was me). The energy was palpable. Have you ever been somewhere where you can actually FEEL electricity in the air and not the kind that will kill you? I think that's where I tweaked. (As opposed to twerk, which I did not witness at all during the spontaneous dance portion, thank god.)
Iyanla Vanzant came out and talked to us about humping puppies in our minds. Humping puppies = negative thoughts about who you are, what you can do. Don't let your humping puppies hump on you. Okay? Also, she drank champagne, but promised us it was just cider.
**I learned that if you don't know what your passion is, follow your curiosity.
**I learned you should pay attention to what shows up when you get what you want.
**I learned the real definition of OVERWHELM is when you try to convince yourself you can do something you don't really believe you can do.
**I learned that INTEGRITY is when your thoughts, feelings, and actions all align.
**I learned every choice has a short term consequence and a long term consequence and that's why you should choose carefully because you should be ready to deal with both.
**I learned we don't HAVE a spiritual life, we ARE a spiritual life.
**I learned why quests are important to take, because you never know how a quest is going to end.
**I learned why Storytelling is so important to the continuation of our species. Yesterday was all about Story. Story after Story after Story. And in the end, I felt so connected to the 20,000 people in that stadium, to the world, that when I left it was pouring down rain and I didn't care. I walked to my car in the torrential downpour and I felt cleansed and whole, and like that was the Universe giving me a great, big shower.
Phew. I think I touched on the most important things from yesterday.
Oh, also! I sat in front of famous people. They were actors from a show on Oprah's network called Haves and Have Nots. People kept making me stand up so they could get in front of them and take pictures. At first, I just thought somebody had recognized family or friends in the audience and were saying hello. Then suddenly I was surrounded by 10,000 people with iPhones and I was in the WAY, dammit. Could I move PLEASE? THIS IS VERY VERY IMPORTANT. MOVE!!!!
So I picked one of the ladies waiting to their picture and said, "Hi. Um, can I ask you? Who are they? Why?" and she was shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you. How could I not KNOW these two people??? Do I not own a television???????? And I let her know: yes, I do own a tv, but I don't watch a lot of tv. When I do, it's usually a series on HBO or Showtime or a documentary. And then she stood and told me all about the Haves and Have Nots (it's like an O network soap opera, and it's HUGE!! and these two people are STARS!!!!) and somehow we got onto Dukes of Hazzard, which I did watch. When I was ten. And only because I wanted to marry Bo Duke and dress like Daisy Duke but my mother said NO.
Last night, I imdb'd them. The man was Aaron O'Connell and the lady was Crystal Fox. Crystal Fox was on In the Heat of the Night years ago. She's also worked with incredibly legendary thespians such as Cicely Tison and Sydney Poitier. I didn't talk to them, and I didn't take their pictures. Because I didn't know who they were and I hadn't asked for permission, and also it just felt weird to be taking random pictures of strangers sitting behind me. But I did take a selfie or two. Because that's not weird at all.
(What are we doing to ourselves as a species, taking pictures of strangers and ourselves?) (But I still think asking for autographs is even weirder--why do you want someone's signature? So you can practice it and forge it when you do bank fraud? If they're going to also write you a personalized note on a piece of work they've done, okay, I get that. But just their signature? Like, on a bar napkin? Why?)
At any rate, Aaron and Crystal were kind, sweet, gracious, very normal and down to earth people, these famous people everyone wanted to talk to. And after the show started, they were left alone, and I was happy for them. Because they're star dust, too, breathing in and out God. We are ALL connected, friends. We. Are. All. Connected.
The last thing I want to leave you with is what I wrote at the end of my workbook. (Lands. WERE you busy today? I'm so sorry if you were...listen, this has taken me five hours to write--hopefully it's taken you far less to read and you've gotten something from it)
At the end of the day we were to take every thing we'd learned that day, all of the other workbook activities, and evaluate, analyze, synthesize it all into one descriptive paragraph that expresses what we want our life to look like, who we think we actually are (that's called Higher Order Thinking, Bill Gates and friends, and there wasn't a SINGLE TEST INVOLVED). Here was mine (I'm trusting you with this, so please don't abuse it):
I am healthy and well. I eat healthy food & exercise my body. I meditate every day. I am in touch with the AH, the breath, the spirit that make me Me. I feel connected to others & strive to empower them & celebrate their successes. I am open & my heart is full of light and life--I can be alone and be okay. I am who and what and where I wish my daughter will be one day. I am consciously manifesting my dreams, choosing with careful intention, accepting all the consequences. I am a writer who is surrounded by Art & Beauty & Music & Story & Words. I am a traveler, a soul citizen of the planet. I am a piece of light in an expansive Universe & feel that Universe move through & within me, every day. I am connected. I am who I AM, who I was always meant to be, who I've always been. And so it is.
Now. For those of you who got this far and are all sarcastic and eye rolling, going: oh, THIS was a butt load of freaky New Age-y bull crap in a cow field Oprah Thought-Speak (though I suspect that, if you've gotten this far, you probably aren't one of those people), I will have you know that I fully anticipate to be sort of back to my constant state of WTF?!ness by tomorrow afternoon.
The thing is, though, I think it will have a different flavor than it had Friday afternoon when I left. I will be less attached to the outcomes, because they don't apply to me; they don't make me who I am. I know this now, and that's a very freeing place to be. I refuse to let others' humping puppies hump on me, and I will no longer be participating in their strange madness. I've decided. We're too connected to hurt each other like that, and I won't participate. I will not.
Freedom is sort of what it's all about, I think. And having a plan! Which I am formulating, and I hope you are too, now. It's begun. Breathe.
Oh! And if you have even MORE time? Here are some pictures that I didn't vomit all over social media (I was like one of those email spammers who have no self-control, and again: I am sorry, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I am sorry):
|Deepak helps Oprah (and the audience) find our creative centers.|
|Writer Hero Elizabeth Gilbert tells me: Get a plan.|
|If you went to O Town, you got a special white bracelet that lit up during this part so it looked like we were all sitting in the Milky Way Galaxy.|
|We DANCED. Because we are happy and young at heart and FREE beings.|