Thursday, November 24, 2016

On making sense

When I posted the Kierkegaard quote to the right, I was thinking of my personal writing, which was based on looking back and how it had helped me to live forward in a happier way. But that was my life--which I have a modicum of control over. Then there's the world; no matter how much I talk with others, there is only momentary relief. I would like to have a fireside chat with Mr. Kierkegaard. For, looking back at yesterday (I'm talking Election, here) --makes today murkier; understanding shifts and gets lost with each new perspective.
Today is a holiday. Time out from all that disrupts me. And yet, my mind spins. My classes are suffering; we focus on our work. Research papers, which many scramble to update with election results, are hard to pin down. Their papers on such topics as transgender, immigration, gender roles, racism, will all be greatly affected by sweeping policy changes. And so will some of them, personally. We guess at what will occur, but how can we when each day rises and falls, tidal waves that never settle. Credible journalists wrap their pens around each new nuance; but what they wrote yesterday, flails today, will do somersaults next week.

In two of my classes we're prepping for a final exam based on New York. One of our readings, EB White's "Here is New York" is an ode to the possibilities in this city, he clearly loved and loved writing about. There are three New Yorks he says: the one belonging to the natives, people like me who have always been here--we take its offerings for granted. New York two is the commuter's New York--here for the day to work and get what can be gotten, and then leave it behind for neater quarters. And then New York three--White's clear favorite--the passionate, adventurous emigres who bring desire and poetry and longing and grit.

As we discussed this in class yesterday, I couldn't help but think will we revert to two New Yorks? Emigres  from only our US boundaries? Or, are there more than three? Four five six New Yorks? White's essay was written in 1949, two years after my parents arrived from Eastern Europe. Survivors of religious persecution, my mother eight months pregnant with my brother--their New York was bittersweet. It represented new life, new chances, tons of grit. But so much had been lost. Passion, adventure, poetry--years away.

Today, New York is a stranger in a strange land. Journalists look back and try to make sense of why we are on a ship with a mercurial captain, Yet we live forward at the same time. Will we get a pass to disembark? Nothing stays the same. I give up on making sense.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

On reckoning

I won't be going to the Goddard-Riverside Book Bash today, for I am having a sick day. However--if you are reading this today, I urge you to get there--brand new books from publishers at excellent prices, all to benefit the Goddard-Riverside Community Center. It's a fun event and a way to rise above what psychologist Jennifer Sweeton calls "Post-Election Stress Disorder."

I had a long conversation with a friend who has strong Buddhist leanings; she challenged me to think about recent events as an expression of a huge ache in the heart of the country. I acknowledge the existence of that ache, but how do I balance it with the heartache that  rises in my classrooms? Some of my students are concerned about immigration status--theirs, their parents and extended family. There was a walk-out at one college I teach at, and there are meetings on all campuses--administrators, faculty, students--lots of support, information, and, too, confusion. 

Where will they go from here? Where do I go? A few months back I wrote about taking yoga teacher training--today that immersion seems ever more right. However, my body tells me, not so fast. My days of contorting myself--at least physically--are done. I can study the tenets, live a yogic life of nonharm--and do so while the world around me flails. Nobody says that will be easy.

A neighbor told me I need to think about something else. He gave me a tour book of Prague. As I write "Prague" I can't help but smile. In the past weeks, I've forgotten how much I want to go back. I tuck the book on my shelf between my other awareness-raising tomes. I write mental notes: don't forget the world is huge. Don't take for granted the freedoms of this very moment. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

On disappointment

Eight years ago when Barack Obama became President, my classes were jubilant. It was pure joy to listen to my students, mostly Hispanics and African Americans, say that now they know they can do anything. That was a moment when I understood I had a job of meaning and worth. To be listener, as their faces and voices alighted with joy, was one happiness atop another.

Yesterday was a very different day. But, hey, this is New York City, and we expected--no hungered for--a different outcome--and felt a stark collective pain. I am veering from my decree to keep this blog a "safe zone" a non-election forum, I know. But I can't today, separate myself from the realities of the external world and their impact on my internal self and my teaching self.

Class began at 8:00, which means I left home at 7:00, filled with the night's revelations, not enough time to downward dog it away. We got right on task: research papers. I told my class, "please don't take it personally if I'm short with you. I'm very sad." They were sad, too. No one was short with anyone. My second class was not so mellow. "What do you want me to write?" a student asked, in response to a note that she needed to write a fuller introduction. She was exasperated; so was I. Another student told me "You're ruining my desire to write." We're not supposed to push grammar--It's hard to not take issue with confusing commas and periods. Maybe there's something deep there. Maybe I need to put a comma at the end of this election fiasco. A period is unthinkable. 

It's hard to teach when feeling despair. It's hard to tell students opportunities they haven't yet dreamed, still await. It's hard to tell students, it will be ok, when I feel so un-ok inside. But I did my best. I did my job. I retreated from commas and periods.

I wonder what kind of teacher this new climate will make me. I feel a protest song coming on, something by Woody Guthrie, a name I haven't thought of in years. I saw Beautiful finally--Carole King's early life story. The soundtrack to my young life enthralled me, brought me joy and tears. I need to see it again, asap. Return to hope, to a cleaner time. I'm not ready to move on.