Letters #1 through eleventy-three

Here is a looking back to go forward. I had an interesting bout of amnesia this past week, about being a writer at all, let alone a poet. Someone called me a writer and I had a “Are you talking to me? Who are you calling a writer?”,  moment in my head. A few days later, I visited a teacher who I hadn’t seen for a few years and found myself volunteering the fact that I wrote a poem that was inspired in part by something that happened in his class. Going back and reading this abandoned piece of writing from February, I found that I concluded with the discovery that I am a writer. With some cleaning up, I’m sharing it today.

Coincidentally, I have been stalling on chapters 7, 8 and 9 of the Artist’s Way. The theme of chapter 9 is developing compassion in the face of fear of vulnerability that comes with creating. Julia Cameron calls this turning away from creative work and self-sabotage a creative U-turn. I have been putting off doing the homework for these last few weeks or discounting the work that I did do thinking, that I didn’t do it well enough. In any case, I felt like I should take a pause and do the homework properly before moving ahead. One of the assigned pieces of homework was to read the morning pages. I still haven’t done that, but I did do some research for a section of the poem and scanned through some old emails, which I could barely make myself do, dreading what I might find. I set a timer and took a look. Then I needed to do some weeding – the actual pulling of dandelions out of the ground kind.

Yesterday, I saw a fledgling magpie fluff ball on the road in the morning. In afternoon, I saw it on the lawn under a tree. That one may have fallen out or maybe it was pushed. It didn’t look like it could fly. I saw that the momma magpie was still feeding him. I think that little one is going to be okay, but who knows. I trust I will be okay in this still unnatural feeling writer thing that I am learning to wear.magpie

Letters #1 through eleventy-three

letter #1

An open letter to principal and fellow staff,

One copy pinned to the cork board in the science department staff room.

dear principal,
did I really hear you give what seemed like last year’s opening day speech when teachers are possibly going on strike?
I am new here, I need help and some leadership. I would prefer to hear you say, “I don’t know what will happen.” rather than acting as if nothing is out of the ordinary.
It seems like lying by omission to me.
Sincerely,
A new teacher.

In the days that followed teachers came to shake my hand.

Saluted by the old guard declaring,

“The teaching profession safe in the hands of young teachers like you”.

Days later, a summons to the principal’s office,

and “oh, bring along your union rep.”

At my one on one plus one meeting,

I only recall one phrase of the dressing down,

“You have no commitment to the teaching profession.”

Left shocked and bewildered.

Collapsed inward and derailed.

Almost forgetting the voices of the many.

At the next staff meeting, dear principal was heard saying, “I don’t know.”

Suggestions in the letter were taken up.

Still, I struggled through the rest of the year and made it to the end.

That year I married my partner in adventure and set off for France.

Leaving teaching behind for a while.

Never to speak with dear principal ever again.

A pregnant pause or two later and a dozen years,

letter #2

Dear directors of yoga teacher training,
Val,
you remind me of a principal I had. You look a lot like her and that freaks me out a little.
I have realized that I need to forgive dear principal and eventually I also got around to forgiving myself too.
Thank you for helping me to see what is standing in my way as I broke down in grand fashion before teaching my first pose,
thus breaking open as well,
with the right questions, at the right time and the hearts of all my peers to hear.
I left behind one reason I can’t.
Rob,
I used to be stressed in your classes, straighten this, go deeper, hold longer, lift that, more, more and more…
Until I saw that it was all just good for me.
Thank you for teaching me to stand on my head and embody virabadrasana – warrior poses strong and true.
Thank you for building a fire in me.
Whether meant for me or just the message I needed to hear that day,
thank you for the pose of equanimity.
Parsvottanasana embodiment of balance, strength, expansion and grace,
a step forwards lifting upwards then surrendering,
bowing with hands behind the heart meeting in prayer,
humility,
and then upwards to centre to pause before taking the next step.
Sincerely,
Cracked Open

I would get a response about a year later from Val at the yoga teacher graduation banquet.

Letter #2 was called bed time reading material.

She said that I could have not returned at any time.

I remember feeling surprised and thought, ‘really? Why didn’t I think of that?’

I had held onto instead, the Divine Light Invocation,

Recited at the end of each yoga teacher training Friday

Recited many hundreds of times during the snowy autumn month spent in hospital with a mysterious ailment

I held onto the mantra from Val,

her final words to us each Friday before parting,

“Trust the process.”

Thank goodness those words weren’t,

“Have a good life in case you don’t come back in two weeks.”

I was awarded a heart of courage,

which at the time left me puzzled.

who me?

I thought I was just the girl who lived.

A few years later following my fifth workshop with Kate,

A weekend of moving with breath,

Embodying steadiness, strength and spaciousness.

The inbox of the one who inspired me to become a yoga teacher is the destination for

letters #3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8….

She started by saying write fast, just go…

[Just a few slices from the emails too many]

Dear teacher crush of 7 years,
Will you be my mentor?
…vulnerability…I hate this.
Integration is a bitch.
This is exactly what I need. I love integration.
Remember when you said, “what are you wearing?”
and “you just need to pick up one thing from a workshop…”
and being “relatively good”

[wading through the swamp

perfectionism

monkey mind

weeds,

fear,

tears,

crankiness,

big hurts, scraped knees and paper cuts

have their time in the sun

blah blah blah blah blah…send.

oh god, did I really press send?

and make room for delight,

huge gratitude,

germination of self-trust and self-compassion,

circus tricks

and monologue

Many journal pages later,

a few blog posts,

daily yoga practice,

and even a poem captured on new years day…]

I don’t need to wear so much armour.
I don’t need to wear, “stop, go slow!”
I can wear, “You never know… go!”
I feel my heart has grown a few sizes, just like the grinch.
I think I need to write.
thank you for being there, for not minding the messiness, for hearing me.
love!
your student friend

in response

sweet one,

I get teacher crushes too

your words are powerful

keep writing

though, perhaps as a diversion, you may be interested in studying the teachings of “no-self”

I have no answers for you, just a little more experience.

I have learned a ton too.

emboldened new years wishes

and onward to our new adventures in simplicity and freedom

with love,

your assistant chef.

how lucky am I to have teachers like this,

and so many others along the way

How lucky am I to have picked up a pen?

letters written over 15 years

cracked me open

set me free

to make my way.

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