An Explanation.

It has been a while, gentle readers, hasn’t it?

This is partly because I’ve been run off my feet.  It is also because I’ve been a bit lost for words. It is true that when we don’t keep up our good (or bad) habits, we fall out of them.  So there’s that.  But it’s also a question of integrity.

Lately I’ve been watching this show Girls.  It’s something I’m selfish about…I don’t share it with Chris, not because of the presumably girly nature of the show itself (Chris was a die-hard Desperate Housewives fan for years.  True story.).  Anyway, it’s not even just a girly show.  But it does bring up a lot of emotional junk for me.  I started watching it, incidentally, because there is a character named Shoshana, and as many of you know, one of my besties is named Shoshana.  Not an uncommon name, but I only know just the one.  My Shoshana is also a little crazy, but more in a Liz-Lemon-as-schoolteacher sort of way, not in the way of Girls‘ Shoshana.  And I miss her a lot, a lot of the time.  There are many other reasons I heart this show, including that the main character (who happens to be played by the writer/director of the same show, the ridiculously talented Lena Dunham) is so fantastically flawed I can completely relate to her.  In fact, the likenesses between us are frightening…our differences lie only in what we are and aren’t shameless about.  I really need to take a step back from my friends on the small screen.

(I am not, by the by, comparing myself to the real Lena Dunham, who happens to be way younger than me and stupidly – if completely deservedly – successful already.)

So anyway, the point is that in a recent-to-me episode (I’m a few behind), one of the characters says to another, “I love when young people are passionate about something and then they just give up the second they have to struggle.”  And it got me to thinking about the fact that I’ve been thinking an awful lot lately about some things along those lines in my own life.  I am, admittedly, no longer part of that category of people we call “young,” but damned if I feel like any kind of a proper grown-up.

Here I am, this person who tried unsuccessfully to be a writer after a nearly-successful go at NGO management consultation (this close!) after working in the homelessness sector in London after a very long and drawn-out academic career resulting in exactly one Bachelors (including a minor, damnit!), this person who has been gainfully employed in more than 30 capacities in her 33 years on the planet and who is now…drumroll, please…teaching English.

Listen, I respect what I do.  I am really, really loving it, actually.  My students are excellent, and I’ve always loved the idea of teaching.  I just never fancied teaching English in my dining room…my fantasies were more along the lines of me standing in front of some freakishly large blackboard, so far away from the students in the back rows of the auditorium classroom of the Ivy League university where I’m teaching they couldn’t possibly make out my laugh lines, preaching passionately about the rights of humans and daring the system to bring me down by nature of my refusal to stand down and be silent…something like that.  Instead I find myself banging on about the present continuous and demonstrative pronouns and what have you.

Who are we?  Are we who we thought we would be, or who we actually are right now?  Are we who we’ve been, or who we’re going to be?  And what measures do we use when we look in the mirror and decide between, “Yes, this is good, you.  Keep it up!” and “What the fuck are you doing with your life?”

I don’t want to be this person who is always satisfied with the state of things.  I don’t want my world view and my expectations of myself to be so maleable that they change with the rising and falling tide of convenience, energy, and age.  But equally, I don’t want to spend every day thinking there is something better out there, and I’m just missing it.  Because eventually those days will be up.  Finito.  Kaput.  And I’ll have to look back at how lovely they were, and how I wasted them wishing they were something other than what they were, which was, presumably, exactly what they were supposed to be.

A few months ago, I had this really deep thought while I did my yoga, and my computer was to hand as I was listening to some ragas during my practice, and so profound was the idea that I finished my asana and typed it down.  It said this:

“My suffering comes from wishing things were as they aren’t, or that they weren’t as they are.  Working to make things better than they are doesn’t create suffering; on the contrary, it’s that work that has brought me more joy in my life than anything else.  It is the momentary rage that accompanies the sense of helplessness brought on by this  insane – if quite pedestrian – idea that by our will we can change the moment.  The moment simply is what it is.  The future is what we make it.”

I typed it on the document that happened to be open – my to-do list – and that was excellent because it meant that I got to look at it quite a lot and reflect on it.  Consequently it only took me a few days to realize I’d simply paraphrased the AA Serenity Prayer.  No matter.  Good stuff to think about anyway.

If there’s been a common theme that’s run throughout all my years on the planet, it is a quest for truth.  When I was a kid I was first confronted with the idea of truth in what I now think was a sort of traumatic way:  the Catholic confessional.  Years later one of my university professors introduced me to Gandhi’s idea of satyagraha, a big beautiful word I’ve never once forgotten.  In my professional life I’ve only ever wanted to merge making a living with making life better, and I’m not sure I’m doing that in any kind of a big way right now, which is something that gives me pause for thought…am I being my truest self?

And that’s the thought that makes the words get stuck on the tips of my fingers before they pour out to you.  That, and also, what on Earth is exciting or thought-provoking about the work I’m doing?  At the end of the day, I can think of nothing less exhilarating than a blog recounting my day-to-day, particularly if my day-to-day is less What if?  And why not??? and more Right, this’ll do.

I’m not unhappy.  And I’m not giving up on writing, I’ve just come to terms with the fact that it won’t pay my half of the rent.  And I’m still driven to explore every nook and cranny I spy in this crazy life, and when they turn out to be exciting, thought-provoking, or even just very, very funny, I will endeavor to bring them to you, my lovely, supportive, gentle readers…

It just means there will continue to be a little more meantime between my posts…maybe a lot…I do hope you’ll keep reading.  And here’s hoping that some of that meantime gets filled in with photos and deep thoughts from WI&WN’s other magic maker, innit?

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17 thoughts on “An Explanation.

  1. suncitymom says:

    I receive a meditation daily from a Priest/Monk living in a Monastery in New Mexico. I save many of them to re-read again. This is one that kind of relates to what you are saying and is good food for thought:
    A Balancing Act Between
    Inner and Outer Authority Meditation 45 of 57

    In finding your True Self, you will have found an absolute reference point that is both utterly within you and utterly beyond you at the very same time. This grounds the soul in big and reliable Truth. “My deepest me is God!” St. Catherine of Genoa shouted as she ran through the streets of town, just as Colossians had already shouted to both Jews and pagans, “The mystery is Christ within you—your hope of Glory!” (1:27).
    The healthy inner authority of the True Self can now be balanced by a more objective outer authority of Scripture and mature Tradition. In other words, your experience is not just your experience. That’s what tells you that you are not crazy. That God is both utterly beyond me and yet totally within me at the same time is the exquisite balance that most religion seldom achieves, in my opinion. Now the law is written on both tablets of stone (Exodus 31:18) and within your heart too (Deuteronomy 29:12-14), and the old covenant has rightly morphed into the new (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

    The ability to stand back and calmly observe our inner dramas, without rushing to judgment, is foundational for spiritual seeing. It is the primary form of “dying to the self” that Jesus lived personally and the Buddha taught experientially. The growing consensus is that, whatever you call it, such calm, egoless seeing is invariably characteristic of people at the highest levels of doing and loving in all cultures and religions. They are the ones we call sages or wise women or holy men. They see like the mystics see. Many of us call it the contemplative mind, Paul calls it “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:10-16), but have no doubt it is an alternative consciousness to our ordinary calculating mind.
    Now do not let the word “mystic” scare you. It simply means one who has moved from mere belief systems or belonging systems to actual inner experience. All spiritual traditions agree that such a movement is possible, desirable, and available to everyone. In fact, Jesus seems to say that this is the whole point! (See, for example, John 10:19-38.)

  2. Max Zografos says:

    The person I arguably owe the most for the few (but important for me) things I’ve created so far, is my English teacher, when I lived in Greece. She made me love the English language and create things with it. She is one of the happiest and most interesting people I know.

    And so are you. Well worth the wait!

  3. Shoshana Levin says:

    I feel so special to be a large part of your blog post! However, now that I’ve been watching more 30 Rock lately, I don’t know how I feel about the comparison of myself to Liz Lemon. I’ve never seen myself as being THAT crazy. I also need to start watching Girls. It will be strange to hear my name on the TV.
    Thanks for the post. I’ve been feeling a little lost lately in my professional life (I guess lost can sometimes translate into stress) and I keep trying to remind myself why I got into teaching. Funny how things can come along at the right time. Your post made me start to think about why I enjoy what I do and what I need to focus on in my career. Thanks. On those days where I wish I had a much easier, less meaningful, and less stressful job, I can think back to what I’m doing and how it might affect others.
    I always enjoy reading your posts. But I especially enjoy them when I’m mentioned in them. =)

    • suncitymom says:

      Shoshana, Miss you so much little gal—send me some pictures of the “family”! I will bet that you are one great, dedicated teacher! Did Ann tell you that finally, after wishing and hoping=—we are going to Jerusalem!!?? But more importantly, I will get to see my precious daughter, her home, and her family in France…..and walk the streets she walks and see the things she sees everyday! 4 months and counting! Still have wonderful memories of our trip to Hawaii! Blessings little sister, r

      • Anonymous says:

        Hi Rebecca! Great to hear from you. Ann did tell me that you were going out to see her. You’ll have a great time out there! And Jerusalem! I have a co-worker who is there now. I’m waiting for her to come back and tell me all about it.
        Funny that you should mention Hawaii. I also have another co-worker going to Hawaii (teachers like to travel during Spring Break) and all I could think of was when I went out there with you. Thanks again for that wonderful and unforgettable trip. I’ll have to get your e-mail address from Ann and send you some pictures of the family. Things have been busy here with her, but very rewarding.
        Tell Keith I say hello!

    • Ann says:

      i only spend a couple hours a week in an actual classroom, but man – it’s not easy. and i’m teaching young adults! although, that does indeed come with its own difficulties…hehe…i’m always amazed by you, woman. you inspire me.

  4. my guess is that your students are learning about way more than mere pronouns from you, if they are really paying attention…i know i learn something every time you find the required inspiration to write…so rest assured there is one reader out here who will simply wait for your muse to strike and enjoy the sparks that ensue.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I completely love Girls. Mark loves it too. I think its the best thing on TV at the moment (at least until Madmen comes back). I thought of you and you friend Sloshana when I watched the show as its the only other time I heard the name. Have you ever watched Parks and Recreation? That’s pretty awesome also.

  6. colgore says:

    We’ve both been on a hiatus. You took the thoughts right out of my head with this post. At 30, I don’t feel like a grown-up. I’m not “accomplished.” But I’m sticking with this writing thing until I’m homeless. It mostly means being a ghostwriter, which feels a little fake but words keep me going. From reading your thoughts and experiences, I would say that you HAVE merged making a living with making life better. Look at all of the places you’ve been, your work with the homeless and elderly, the amazing insights you’ve uncovered about yourself and the world. What else is there? To me, you seem as if you live your truest self. Teaching gives back to the world. I wouldn’t trade a second (well maybe a few) of my education and respect those that helped me achieve it.

    P.S. The gynecologist scene was by far one of my favorite moments in television history.

    • Ann says:

      i love that scene too. shoshana. geezo. you know, it’s about this constant struggle – finding that balance all the time…my volunteering with alzheimer’s patients is only for a couple hours a week, and it’s really not enough – that much is true. i wish i could push through and keep writing in spite of it all, but when i’m knackered all the time – as i am lately with the english teaching – i can’t find the energy or the mental space to do it. but i’ve got some stuff up my sleeve…seriously hoping to put all the pieces together soon, and i’ll keep you posted along the way…
      thanks so much for staying in touch, colgore (if that’s your real name 😉 )…i treasure your thoughtful comments.

  7. Amanda says:

    Ann, I was talking to a gal the other day who is really good and interested in a lot of different things, so she freelances and does all sorts of jobs and wonders if she’s every going to pick something and make a choice. She’s wonderfully creative and she’s a seeker and a deep thinker. I tend to be on the other end of things with, “I”m going to do this one thing until it is absolutely and completely over even if I wonder if it still suits me and is my calling and is making the world better.” I had this flash mid-conversation that maybe it doesn’t matter so much what we are doing, but how we do it– with what attitude and spirit and intention.

    There’s the whole dharma thing that says we have responsibilities and work and action is our path, and I think it’s useful to be listening to clues from the inner-purusa-soul to know where we are headed, but I”m coming to think it has much more to do with relationships, kindness and patience with our selves and taking pride in our work– whatever it is in the moment.

    for the record, I have to agree with Ron on the whole teaching English thing. Spending time with people and working with self-expression is some of the most intimate and empowering work on the planet. Teaching is just as much how we come to it as what we actually do.

  8. Antonia says:

    Just wanted to say the more space you put between your posts the more time I have to catch up! Also, don’t talk to me about age, at least you’re still on the good side of 35. I’m about to come out the back end and I’m barely working on my Associates. ;P

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