I went to my first session at Lifeskills Learning Centre on Cordova as prepared as I could be. I haven’t been a leader of anything in quite some time, nearly a year in fact, so I let my whirly swirly demented marionette dance about my mind. When I taught, I never had consistent confidence, not fully, in my abilities. I did a good job, I think, at least some of the time. I was creative, busting at the seams sometimes after having spent hours prepping fun, informative lesson plans; I reassured and supported my keen students and tried to pep up those who weren’t in the least interested. Joked, laughed, challenged; all of the things a good teacher should. But, I couldn’t see my own reality and I couldn’t seem to stem the tide of my inconsistency. It is hard not to lose patience with my mercurial personality. While I rarely lose my temper, I also do not hide displeasure well, or sadness; I am a heart on the sleeves of every outfit kind of gal. My hypersensitivity has run interference my whole life; if I am feeling naked, I cannot handle challenge or criticism. When my students didn’t like me, criticized me harshly in reviews, I couldn’t appreciate those who praised. I couldn’t seem to shut off the circle of despondency; I didn’t want to go to class, I didn’t want to leave my house.The mixing of demons hasn’t produced beautiful results except sometimes in the written word. Dark beauty, albeit. I am grateful for all of it though, more and more.
Needless to say, as I sat down to prepare for the workshop I was supposed to lead, I felt panicked. What if I ‘d bitten off more than I could chew? What if the group didn’t like me and wanted their other facilitator back and complained? I had certainly experienced this inflexibility in students, having been a TOC, a sub, and being subbed for. Students are human and many humans struggle with change; they found it disorienting to have some stranger meander into their presence and present them with a different style and approach and personality type. I tried to be grounded by preparing well, more than I could possibly use for one lesson, and bringing it to the audience with unbridled enthusiasm. Like I said, I would joke around, smile a lot, and laugh louder than most anyone. Of course, what was going on a lot of the time was a complete dread of being disliked and so the mask of hilarity would go on. Whenever I encountered a student immune to my charms, I would falter. I took it deeply personally and struggled to hide the flustering.
I knew I had to put his aside and go about my work with great heart and intention, no matter what were to follow
As I sat in the room with the wonderful work-shoppers, I was awed at their bravery. Here are these people, struggling with addiction, low incomes, living on the street, in sro’s, etc. They aren’t tidy looking, rather rough in fact. No conventional beauty to be found, and here they are writing stuff that is gutsy, raw and brilliant. Absolutely genius. And yet, they don’t have “jobs” or nice clothes or typical hair cuts, so they aren’t worth as much? Scarred skin, blackened teeth, drug and mental health issues..and… so what? Everyone has beauty. I thought I was fortunate and I am, I suppose, that I can walk the streets without getting a second glance. But at the same time, I want people to think I’m something I’m not so I can be accepted. But at the heart of it all, what I really want, what anyone wants, is to be loved for who they are; when they are ugly, have sick thoughts, are destructive to themselves, when they can’t stop crying, when they don’t know how to stop putting the needle in their arms, when they have committed crimes.
Many people, rich or poor, operate from an imprisonment mindset. There are sentences for each and every error. Penalize until someone learns their lesson on how to be good, but until then, there is withholding. But that’s the trick; if there were real love in a person’s heart, if it weren’t blocked or locked up, there could be no withholding. Period. That is how someone could go into a prison and look into a killer’s eyes, the one that murdered their child, their wife, their aunt and say, “I forgive you.” That is what love looks like.
So when I sit in this room, a facilitator, I am overwhelmed by a feeling of acceptance, of compassion, of goodness, of truth. I don’t think I remember a time when I’ve spoken to a group of people and felt heard like that. And that is when I knew it; there is no separation. It was a fleeting moment. And then I got back to feeling I didn’t deserve to be there. But when I read, they appreciated what I said, they wanted to hear, so I knew I was wrong…that I belonged. I was scared to share, because it wasn’t “good enough” and I am not used to it anymore, but I did it anyway, and there was a gentle, receptive audience waiting to listen.
I will pull back to where I started. I learned a lot in one day. There is a woman in the class, and she said she is going to pursue writing, that’s it. She is going to focus on that and that alone. She is tired of giving in to the pressure to “get a real job.” And she has heard it all; she’s crazy, she should be realistic, practical, etc etc. She’s heard it from her family, from her friends, but she’s made up her mind. I just sat there in awe. Low income, unconventional, against all “logic”, but she’s going for it. Even if she doesn’t “make it” according to someone else’s standards, she has already made it by choosing herself. Courage, even when very few are in her corner. She is a hero to me. That one day has facilitated my vision, cleared me briefly to see what I don’t need, what I’ve done and what I’m doing that I simply don’t want to do. So thank-you, Patricia.
On this note, I will end by quoting an Alanis Morrisette song:
“That I Would Be Good”
that I would be good even if I did nothing
that I would be good even if I got the thumbs down
that I would be good if I got and stayed sick
that I would be good even if I gained ten pounds
that I would be fine even if I went bankrupt
that I would be good if I lost my hair and my youth
that I would be great if I was no longer queen
that I would be grand if I was not all knowing
that I would be loved even when I numb myself
that I would be good even when I am overwhelmed
that I would be loved even when I was fuming
that I would be good even if I was clingy
that I would be good even if I lost sanity
that I would be good
whether with or without you