breathing exercise

Today, at a talk at our university, Dr. Django Paris asked us to reflect on who our anchors are, who we bring into our work and who we are responsible to.

I continue to hear echoes of that question many hours later.

Today, because of where I’m at and where I’ve come from, I am really taking in the full gravity of that question.

Who are my anchors? Who walks alongside me? To whom am I responsible?

I ground myself and anchor my work in my foremothers, literally, in the life of my mother and her mother. Two incredible single mothers who walked with grace, brilliance and incredible work ethic, with no choice but success, and spirits that would stop at nothing for their children’s survival, for their children to have a chance at better, even when it caused them such pain.

I ground myself and anchor my work in the work of academic foremothers, mentors and colleagues who hold me accountable to walking in truth and integrity, to writing, to thinking, to acting with intention, to acting with humility but without apology, to living and learning in my fullest humanity, to honoring all of who I am, in my imperfections and constant development.

I walk alongside the many students, educators and teacher educators who have entrusted me to learn with and from them, to guide, teach and lead in my own ways, who have trusted me with their stories and a part of their journeys, who have allowed me to share my truths with them. I walk alongside a family that loves me even when I don’t have the strength to love myself.

I am responsible to my children, who have known more pain in their lives individually and collectively than I wish on any other, who have known more joy in their lives than I might ever imagine. I am responsible to a generation of children whose teachers I teach. I am responsible to those I mentor to be someone who is constantly reflecting and growing. I am responsible to those who walk alongside me and who anchor me. I am responsible to those whose land I teach and live on, to those whose ideas feed my soul, to those who speak truth and care for me, particularly when I don’t have the strength to love myself, to those who have fought battles so that I might be here today.

I am also responsible to myself, to bring my full self into my work and my life and my relationships, which I cannot do if I continue to walk in ways that are unsustainable, inhumane, mechanical.

Breathe. One breath at a time.

Walk. One step at a time.

Take one moment at a time.

I am on a journey of intentionality which requires me to slow down, to pause, to reflect, to be mindful before I move, to not be moved by the will and whim of others if it is not yet time to move, to listen, and sometimes to be still. It is hard for someone who has been in constant motion her whole life, to be called to be still.

But I am responsible to so many and I must listen if I am to lead.

A former student of mine emailed me today. She was in my very last class 9 years ago, when I taught 7th grade. She watched my TEDx talk and said how much it resonated with her, how much she had learned from her work teaching in San Quentin during college. How much she had learned from those she was teaching, how much she had learned about humanity and excellence.

Her message was a reminder. To listen. To lead with love. To lead with humanity. To slow down.

Breathe. One breath at a time.

Walk. One step at a time.

Take one moment at a time.

We will not make it any other way.

Sadness & Living Truth as a Process

Night Sky with stars over mountains

I am learning to sit with and declare sadness.

Today, I am sad for no particular reason other than that I am living in a pandemic and choosing not to “power through” but still faced with an enormous amount of work to do that I can’t dismiss because this is simply not who I am.

Integrity can be hard sometimes.

Knowing that you are capable of more while also trying to resist the idea that productivity is a measure of your worth is hard.

Wanting to work on projects that require your full heart and brain and not feeling like either of those is ever available is hard.

Feeling deeply that there is community in sadness and that only through being with what is can you make space for what you wish to be is hard.

Living with grief in the time of pandemic is hard.

Pushing yourself towards sustainability when NOTHING in your life is set up to push you towards sustainability is hard.

And I’m tired.

Because I am human and humans get tired when doing hard things and living in hard times and acknowledging our humanity.

This is all what it is. I am committed to living as fully human, in sadness, in the struggle to reclaim my humanity, in a culture and brain that pulls for over-productivity, in joy and in community.

There is freedom in truth telling even when moving towards the truth feels like a very long process.