Learning Lifeskills: A Humbling Facilitation

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

About nala7299

Greetings Feline and Fellow Earthlings! In the interest in "brevity" I will attempt to summarize via lists. I AM, this is me, here we go, weee: writer, reader, lover of music, dance, theatre, animals, oddities, 2nd hand trolling through alleys and le boutigues of sally ann and value village, and the beautiful outdoorsy nature of my home. Big breath, leap #2: a veggie head, enviro eco freak, chocolateasaurus, transformer more than meets the eye, former ESL teacher, a happy auntie of Nicholas and Sam, my 2 sweetie pie nephews. Leap #3...welcome to me! Enough said, read my blog:)
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2 Responses to Learning Lifeskills: A Humbling Facilitation

  1. kaan says:

    There is something super gnar about deciding to “just giv’er”. Mad props to Patricia.

    • nala7299 says:

      i would agree. she was having a lot of doubt and self-recrimination the last time I saw her, so i hope she will be able to stay with it and herself. the last time i saw her she was in a very bad space. actually, that particular day, everyone was. it was very heavy…this other woman lillian was talking about killing herself because she couldn’t stay off crack because she loved it too much, but hated herself. i had no idea what to say or do. i listened, made sure they knew i heard them, that i cared, that writing was critical for their lives as they pretty much all had a love of it…and other than that, i felt helpless. and then patricia didn’t come back. nor did lillian. i am worried for them. it is very great to pursue passion absolutely; but it is really hard for some people who simply don’t have a strong support system, or really, barely anyone saying, we love you, keep going, we believe. and keeping all the naysayers at bay…especially if they’re supposed to be the one’s who love you the most eg. family, people you thought were your friends. i have gone through huge periods of incredible questioning and absolutely not believing there was any point in pursuing, even casually, things such as writing. why? well, there’s a myriad of reasons. ultimately, no one telling you’re good at anything, and in fact, the opposite, that you are bad, what you do is bad and wrong over and over and over again…you carry it with you even if it’s a lie. i can tell myself…this is false, but there’s something that gets stuck in there and wins out over logic, common sense, and love. i continue on, i work hard at shifting realities and making sure i don’t utterly lose track of myself in all of the criticism and to the best of my abilities, i try to pass this on to the folks i encounter via the channels of megaphone. and this is why i do what i do…because people in the dtes have a society full of people telling them they’re worthless pieces of shit…lazy, do nothing drug addicts and crazy people. and even when someone comes along and says, no, you’re awesome. you can do this or that, it is tough to shake the stigma, it is a daily challenge to think, “hey, what i do and think matters!” i have nothing but respect to offer the people i’ve met for falling down, being kicked down, and crawling back up again.

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