Saturday, February 13, 2021

Driving In Silence


When I am booked for a day of substitute teaching, I start my day with this view: the sun rising over the River Philip where it meets the Northumberland Strait. 

I have a particular practice for my drive to school: I do it in silence. I listen to the 7:30 local news as I'm pulling out of my driveway, then I turn off the radio. No more news, no chatting, no music. Not even classical.

I tried classical, it was lovely, but I prefer the silence.

I need the silence.

Whether I'm doing the 15 minute drive or the 30 minute one, this time of silence -- and eye-boggling beauty -- centers me for the day. It calms me and allows me to speak kindly to myself (especially necessary if my brain has given me a 3 a.m. blast of negativity and doubt and worry). I tell myself I am a good teacher, I am capable and intuitive, and trust my instincts. I remind myself teaching is meant to serve the students; this work is not about me, about my insecurities and regrets, but about being the best teacher and mentor and cheerleader these students deserve. Even if I feel I have failed to become the teacher I should have been twenty-five, even fifteen years ago, I am not failing them when I bring my enthusiasm and creative and good nature into the classroom, when I meet them where they are in that moment on that day. 

And it works. By the time I arrive at school, I embody the words and I carry the power of the silence into the school. 

One of the greatest problems of the modern world is our lack of silence. We are bombarded all the time with sounds and images -- noise for our ears and eyes, for our minds and spirits -- and we don't get the chance to think our own thoughts, hear our own voice. 

We don't give ourselves time in silence anymore. We are afraid of what we will discover, what we will hear, what truth we will face. It happens -- I've been shocked and upset by what surfaces in the silence as I walk or drive. But it's necessary -- the silence AND the truth. We can't keep rolling down our road without knowing who is driving and why we are going in that direction. 

I told this to the Grades P-1-2's the other day, that we need to take breaks from our computer games, that we can't hear our own voice if we don't find silence every so often, that we need to hear our own thoughts and our own ideas rather than listening to everyone else's all the time. 

I attempted to plant a seed of knowledge, self-knowledge, in them. 

I do this, in my substitute teaching -- toss little seeds of hard-earned wisdom to them. I get a day, one chance, and all I can hope is my seeds fall on a couple of fertile hearts and minds. 

Monday, February 08, 2021


 I tried to put it into words in a conversation last night with my best friend: "It's as if everything else has to fall away so that I am forced to do what I've been avoiding, so that I'm forced to do what I have to do." 

That's as eloquent as I could be but she understood: The writing is done because the teaching wants attention. As long as I can justify writing a book or working on an article, I will not pursue teaching opportunities, and honestly, I want to. And I need to. 

I never thought, after the last fourteen years, that I would reach a point where I wouldn't be writing anymore. But I'm tired of my freelance life; I'm tired of juggling three jobs that don't provide a routine or financial stability. The pandemic, and the new focus on Indigenous writers and writers of colour, has shrunk publishing, leaving little or no room for the gentle musings of a white, middle class, middle-aged woman. It's sad that my writing is better than it ever has been, but it's still not good enough. 

This happens. A great hockey player gets hurt and can no longer play; what does he do with the rest of his life? A famous soprano develops nodes on her vocal chords; what does she do with the rest of her life? A brain surgeon hurts her dominant hand in a car accident; what does she do with the rest of her life? 

You get my drift. 

Someone is always letting go of a dream, of a goal, a plan, a relationship, a future they'd hoped for, counted on, really, really wanted. 

Right now, I have five books on submission. 

Five. In four different genres. That's incredible. Incredibly stupid, perhaps. It's just me doing what I've always done: not putting my eggs in one basket, throwing a lot of rocks up into a tree to see what I knock down, trying to keep my options open. If no one wants my non-fiction, why not try fiction? If no one wants my novel, maybe they'd want a children's book? People seem to like my spiritual writing so let's pitch that book. It doesn't matter, as long as I'm writing. 

Then again, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and hoping for a different result. 

I've run out of options, and I've run out of hope. That's why I've shifted to curiousity. Hope is attached to something - a certain book I want to publish, a particular class I'd really like to teach - and that hope can be dashed. But curiousity has no attachment; curiousity allows me to try, apply, reply, to  see what happens, and be happy when it does, whatever it is. It's different, I promise - hope versus curiousity. The non-attachment is important; it frees me up to let go of writing, let go of expectations, and lets me try anything. Curiousity gives me confidence, whereas hope makes me anxious. 

Trust me, I know what the opposite of hope is and it's not a happy place. So I'm curious about what is going to happen next. 

I'm still writing, of course, but there's no pressure on it. It's contest season so there are four essays to submit to four competitions; likely the last year I'll do this. There's a novel I'm going to work on but I'm not thinking about getting it published; it's just to keep me writing, it's just to say I finally finished it. 

Being adrift -- drifting like snowflakes in the wind -- piling up and melting away -- is not so bad. I'm curious what I'll end up doing. I'm confident I'll end up doing something interesting. I realized the other day, I've always done interesting things, I just didn't realize it. Didn't appreciate the opportunities I was given because I had certain ideas about my life and my goals locked down -- which didn't allow me to see better ideas. 

What am I going to do with the rest of my life? I don't know. For the first time, I'm not concerned. I'm not even scared -- and I should be! I really should be! That's the power of curiousity: Something better will come along, and now I'm ready to welcome it, whatever it is.