Tending Fires

It’s been a while, friends. Glad to be here. I could tell you all the reasons why I have been unable to write here lately, but you already know. After all, we are all in this thing of life together. Life’s many demands always ebbing and flowing around us and between us.

If you read those few entries about my cleanse, thank you. I know not everyone can relate to diet changes and extreme 30-day challenges. I know because I was (am?) like that, too. I have never been an extremist about anything really, but I am also realizing the hypocrisy of this belief. For instance, I write about “not trying too hard” because working too hard at anything, whether it’s cooking meatballs or grading an essay, can lead us crashing into an iceberg. I remind nice folks like you that trying too hard causes things to break down; we over spice; we inundate a person with too much information, so that our helpful feedback goes sinking to the bottom of the ocean. And so on.

But my default approach to life is, in truth: to try too hard. Until, at some point, my neck muscles stiffen into tight ropes and my focus scatters. And there I am, taken by the wind, going down an obsessive path of trying to make something too amazing.

As of late, I have found myself working too hard at amazing while planning for my fall courses. And being reminded by my boss and my dear husband of this.

I am not sure where this is going, but in connection with the despicable events in Charlottesville, I think we can try too hard at having open conversations with those we mentor or care about, be it our children, our students, or even our not-so-open-minded friends. And I certainly don’t know what the right amount is. When it comes to teaching tolerance and to having open conversations about white privilege and white fragility, I am a newbie.

But there certainly is a “fierce urgency of now,” to quote the late, great Martin Luther King, Jr, and I cannot turn away from the call. I have been finding some wonderful essays to get the conversation started at least.

As I go into this semester, feeling emboldened with my decision to tackle race in my two courses, I must remind myself not to wreck the whole damn thing. Kindling a fire takes patience, time, and space for others to enter, to be heard, to figure things out. But if a giant fire can be take shape and stay lit, it’s all so entirely worth the effort.

Gather your sticks. Keep adding more. Do this slowly. Stay with it. You’ll be amazed with how amazing the outcome can be. And if it fails the first three or seven times, try again.






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