Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Friends, The Feisty Ones

I've been tutoring high schoolers in the District for the past few months, and I'm having a frickin' blast. 3:30pm rolls around and I've got a clan of students, all smiles and jokes, gathering at my table, pulling out their homework, slipping in sly remarks like, "Where your pigtails at, Miss Rachael?" Or "Did you miss me, Miss Rachael? I know it must be hard those other 22 hours of the day you not with me, Miss Rachael."  I smile and tell them, "It's true. You're the highlight of my day." And I'm not lying when I say it.

Where I work, students can receive after school tutoring in a number of places: their teacher's classroom, study hall, or detention.

I prefer detention.

Why? Because that's where the feisty students are. And I love feisty. 

1. full of animation, energy, or courage; spirited; spunky; plucky.
2. ill-tempered; pugnacious.
3. troublesome; difficult.
To me, feisty reads powerful. For better or for worse. Here... let me paint it out...

Feisty + Confusion = A number of Tragic Situations (Bullying, Fear, Disrespect, Attention-Craving)


Feisty + Self-Development = A Chain of Hallelujahs! (Integrity, Vision, Passion, Confidence)

I think we can all agree that when you're working with feisty, self-development is especially essential. Likely even more than academic development because of the need for deeper focus and heart-felt intention to inform priorities and passions--to point that feisty power in the direction of love and more love.

I must admit, I love my feisty friends because I can relate to them (call me Miss Feisty Rachael). Every day I feel like I am on a self-developmental path right along side my students, and I do my best to let them know it, to show them the ways we're not so different after all.

I come clean to them about my fears every day. And every time I let them in on one of mine--"I'm terrified about riding my bike across country."--they let me in on one of theirs--"I'm afraid I'll always suck at reading."

We move on quickly passed our fears. We get into the assignment at hand. We take our time with it, reading each word slowly, sounding things out little by little, piecing sentences together until they finally make sense.

They ask me, "Where's your bike today?" I tell them, "I wasn't feeling brave enough." They tell me, "That's okay. Tomorrow's another day." I tell them, "For us both. Thank god!"

Together, as if we were long-time friends, we check in on each other's hearts, each other's progress, with laughs and jokes a-plenty. With vulnerability, and all. It's sweet, to say the least. And I'm beyond grateful for the lightness and connection that follows coming clean together.


I'm thinking about my young friends today, curious about what questions might continue to offer a path toward lightness, integrity, and confidence. I've got a handful jotted down, but I'd like to know from you, what questions you wish someone had asked you in high school? The comments are open for your hindsight & wisdom. And I'm thankful in advance.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Nothing More Dangerous

"Falling in love and creating safety are like the opposite. There's nothing more dangerous than falling in love." - Susan Piver

Taking a vow to love anything for any period of time, let alone for as long as we shall live, is well, terrifying. Begin even opening up to the idea of loving something new for just a short period of time, and you'll know just what I mean. Want to play the guitar (because it's awesome and you secretly think you could become a full-time indie rock star if you just stuck it out)? Great! Let the onslaught of not-good-enough-to-keep-going begin.

Loving anything with long-term intentions--your partner, your work, your surroundings, the moment--calls us to change; to deepen, to widen, to expand. And change is never safe. It calls us to question; ways to improve, what went wrong, what the heart is truly capable of. And questioning is never safe.

Loving, against our liking, calls us to trust our unmeasurable discomfort and our unavoidable impermanence as part of the path to freedom. But just to be clear, we don't travel to freedom. We open to freedom. It's always a choice, it's always facing us, and it's never without danger.

Here's the thing: I want love and I want freedom, and if that means immortality and discomfort, I want those things too. I want the tears and the laughter and the quiet simple hope. I want trust in knowing that living at life's limits is the fullest way to experience life, even if it's anything but easy to do.

Choosing to love, despite it's danger, is a like choosing freedom instead of fear.

Yes! I want that. Who doesn't? But like most things, it's easier said than done. So when Brian and I created our wedding vows one short month ago, we took the challenge into consideration. Part of what we said to each other was this:

The reason I wanted to do this is because I have full faith in you and full faith in this... our ongoing commitment to loving each other until the end, no matter what form that love has to take in order to survive.

This last part, I think, is the deal breaker. (Check back with me in two decades to confirm.) It's the difference between love that lasts and love that fades. A willingness to let go of the old, broken ways and move on to something new. Innovation. Courage. Change. 

The way we love will morph. But We. Will. Love. No matter what it takes. No matter how it has to look. Until we both shall pass.

Why? Because we're unsatisfied with anything else--any pretending or shadowing or seeming to be something we're not. We're striving, with earnestness, for satisfaction, mystery, excitement. And they don't just come from pink fuzzy handcuffs or cabin get-aways (though these things can definitely help). They come from striving for the truth. Even the inconvenient truth. Even the truth you wish wasn't true. I'm not claiming that we're great at this, and we don't always do it. I can promise you that. We certainly have and will continue to experience dissatisfaction, disillusionment, confusion and fear that we've lost the real thing. The good news is...

Fessing up about our fear of loss is the real thing. 

It's compassionate. It's fierce. It's tender. It's truth-seeking. It's the way love lasts.

We've been fessing up a lot lately. It's terrifying. It's groundbreaking. It's saving us every time.

We've also been surrendering to this truth: Dulling your alertness in order to make peace now, is a pathway to war later. And we've been opting for alertness. Not just with our romance, but our work, our dreams, our money values. We want to love them all. In a way that honors us both as individuals, forcing neither of us to de-self. In a way that cradles our union and strengthens our trust. In a way that helps the world, too. We're waking up little by little, and with every flicker of light, I'm inspired to go even further.

Committing to love is dangerous work. So dangerous, that more times than us humans care to admit (myself, especially), we implode. We diminish our partnerships, screaming, blaming, sighing, resenting. We break down our bodies, getting sick, sore, sleepless. But what we can easily overlook is that our implosion is a blessing--a signal that our fire is beginning to fade--and we have the choice to see it or ignore it. To pay attention or numb. To practice fear or practice love.

It's not easy. It takes work. And it's likely that every time we begin the work of listening with more compassion, we'll be challenged to a new level. That's the way it goes. Listening moves us farther.

The process gets easier when we begin to accept discomfort; when we begin to expect the need to morph, to deepen, to expand our openness.  

Love gives everything, but asks the same of us.

This might sound like unfortunate news. The good news is, I might be wrong. Maybe love asks nothing of us but to open our hearts and wait. (But if you've ever tried this, you'll know, it's something.) Still. Maybe love is always there, hoping for you to try it on, walk around in it some until you begin wearing it like your favorite pair of jeans. And the great news (and terrifying new--because nothing great is without a little terror) is that the sky's the limit when you're wearing something that fits. Standing in your authenticity and power creates wildly dangerous and life-altering choices. Line-walking excitement. Adventure. Heart-shattering awareness. Really sexy dancing. Sobbing release. Play!

That's what I want. And I want you to have it, too. Because I think it's a keyhole to happiness. Not a turn-key. Not an easy entrance. An opening. An opportunity. Danger, included. Heart-thumping, and all. Choosing freedom over fear. Practicing alertness and innovation. Fessing up about all the ways love is lost on you. Granting access to the aching excitement of truth.

I hope somehow, sometime soon, this door opens wider for us both. And somehow, sometime soon, you will open more doors in my heart that I don't yet know exist. I'm here listening for any clues you have to offer, listening for when and how to move. The truth is, you've already moved me this far. As much as I love where I am, I love the motion most.

Today, I'd be honored if you told me anything true. Anything at all, really. The comments are yours for the taking. And I'll respond to every one of them.