Notes from a Genuine Novice

August 16, 2016

Oh, hi!

It’s pouring outside my window in Yorktown (and it’s been pouring on and off for the past 5 days, it seems.) I’ve been feeling under the weather, due to the weather, and the exposure to a zillion new germs in the past few weeks, and the fact that I don’t know how to manage my time yet and find a little headspace to be alone now and then. But you know I’m all about that grace at this point in my life.

I wake up each morning and still have a hard time figuring out how to make my feet hit the floor before the sun is up. I’ve said this, in jest, a few times, but quite often, my first coherent thoughts of the day are, “Oh God, please, no,” right after I turn off my alarm and recognize the warmth of my blankets against the chill of the air.

But here’s the thing. I go to school each morning and make ready my classroom for twenty-two wide-eyed, adorable kiddos. I’m actually there. I’m doing the thing that I said I would do. I’m writing that here, now, trying to remind myself of that.

I moved into Yorktown about 3 weeks ago. I’m tucked into an old room of my cousin’s at my aunt and uncle’s house. I spent a week scrambling to piece together a classroom that would be a potentially welcoming and hopefully safe place for 9-year-olds to learn and dance, and then they came in fleets, charging towards me through the hallways, whether I felt ready or not.

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And each day they return, whether I feel ready or not. But they hug me and they smile. They walk up to me as I’m mid-sentence, teaching, and they tell me about their puppies at home or their after-school tai kwon do or their little sisters…

Each and every day I’m up to my ears in assessments to grade, emails to answer, sessions to attend, lessons to plan, materials to sort, papers to print, and kiddos to herd.

And, friends, I’m a first-year teacher. I wake up each morning and wonder if I’ll be a complete failure. I wonder how much of this will be worth all of the Crayola marker on my hands and the relentless beating on my immune system. I’m seeing the time that this career will take from me, and all of the sunrises I will miss over my lifetime. And, like any sane person, I’m terrified.

I’d love to try to convince you now that I’m saying all this, knowing that I’ll be happy, but that would be contrary to the summer heartwork I’d begun in honesty and commitment. Maybe my life is not about my fulfillment. Thoughts.

BUT. My students are a wonder to me. They devour so much of life. They enter school wanting to learn. They have such curiosity and light; they want so desperately to do the right thing. I see myself as a third grader in their shoes.

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There’s a lot of pressure on teachers, and I’ve been functioning at a sub-human, overwhelmed state for the past month, but when that kiddo looks up at me as we’re standing in line to go to lunch, our eyes meet, and he just beams, that’s priceless.

I’ve had to accept that I will be carrying around this crippling incompetence for a while. This is the third week of the first year of my career. I barely know my way around my school. But my kiddos don’t see that. They know I love them; they know that I love to sing, dance, read, and hike. They know that they need to do their best and that I have things under control.

I feel thrust out on the doorstep of the “real world,” unceremoniously, sort of unexpectedly, kind of like my students on their first day: wide-eyed, timid, sloppy, and overwhelmed. I’m making choices, like how to group my students and how to challenge their learning, and I’m making choices, like how to plan my retirement fund and which dental coverage to choose. And I make mistakes. But there’s so much ownership entrusted to me, with far fewer safety nets than I found before. So, I guess I’ll rise to the occasion. Not because I’m a valiant, competent grown-up now, but because I’ve chosen to step into a career when the opportunity arose.

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I feel this weight of clueless incompetence constantly, and the tension between that and the anxious excitement of all the new possibilities. But it reminds me to stay humble, ask questions, and have a little grace. So I go to bed early. I drink 3 cups of tea. And I try hard to laugh at myself.

In truth, I am not where I thought I would be right now. Not in a bad way, just a different place. But I think I traded in some ego for some reality, and it would punch me in the gut despite the time zone in which I found myself. But I am blessed. The people around me have experience, gusto, connections, and an incredible willingness to help. There’s so much life here; there’s so much to learn. I hope for the courage to experience as much of it as I can and the strength to grow with it.

 

Thanks for sticking with me.

 

 

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Western Exposures and the Half-Blood Prince

Okay, I know what I said about trading in my Special Snowflake card, but here’s one thing I think I’m holding onto for a while. I loved traveling with my Fujifilm QuickSnap. When I visited the Grand Canyon on MLK Jr. Day, I took an appropriate amount of selfies and panos with my phone, but I loved knowing that there were 3 or 4 photos at each park that were taken with deliberation and with the knowledge that I really had only one chance to get the shot with which I would remember the moment. There’s something romantic about the delayed gratification, risk, and reward of disposable film, not to mention the campy-nostalgic thrill. There’s the chance that some of the pictures wouldn’t come out, paired with the chance of a really beautiful photo. (Insert an obligatory allegory. But that’s LIFE, I suppose…”)

I took my camera on my National Park adventures for the months of January and February while I was out in the Colorado Plateau (truth be told, however, I usually forgot it after that.) After the anticipation of getting the film developed, I loved going through each photo and remembering the hikes, the falls, the wild, thin air, and the grandeur of each place.

More importantly, I remember how I felt when each one of these was taken, and wonder is a rare and precious thing.

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Lessons from a disposable film camera:

  1. Get outside and experience things.
  2. Be all there.
  3. Not everything turns out the way you anticipated.
  4. You win some, you lose some.
  5. Be patient.
  6. Be deliberate.
  7. Own it.

There are a whole lot of trails I’d like to hike, and I like that carrying disposable film puts a little more emphasis on living and doing and exploring than on documenting the moment and sharing it immediately. I know I look silly with my bright green camp camera, but I usually do anyway.

 

Update + Introduction: Reflective Conjecture

“The place where God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

In the past two months, the dust, as hoped, has settled in some ways. I’ve re-grown accustomed to the green expanse of the Midwest. I’ve unpacked, repacked, applied, interviewed, driven all over this state. I’ve discovered the musical Hamilton, and with it, a new sense of humility; I’ve taken up drinking coffee and red wine regularly, in moderation. (If you know me, you may recognize the significance of these. I’ve prided myself in disdaining a few basic elements of typical, mainstream life in the name of protecting my Special Snowflake punch card, which, as it turns out, recently expired.)

I interviewed at Yorktown Elementary School, interviewed again at Yorktown Elementary School, and then accepted a position at Yorktown Elementary School. The institution’s initials are YES. That’s enough for me. Really, though, I believe this is going to be a wonderful place. The staff that I’ve met believe in their kids and in their team. I can’t wait to experience challenge, support, growth, camaraderie, and brilliance in this school. In other news, this means I’m preparing to be an actual, real life teacher, which has me in alternating fits of panic and inspiration. This also means that the time is past-due for me to get my teaching license. Note to reader: I procrastinate. I self-destruct. I’m working on it.

I’ve taken on a summer job guarding a private beach (beach-watching, not lifeguarding) on Lake Michigan. I am literally given cash in exchange for sitting on a blanket beneath an umbrella for five hours at a time, and if I see someone beginning to set up camp on my beach, I ask them to move farther along to the public beach. #blessed

 

As such, I’ve been given time, sans internet, to read and hear a lot of words from Sheldon Vanauken, Tim Keller, and The Liturgists. I’ve begun thinking (which, as Lefou from Beauty and the Beast would remind us, is a dangerous pastime)  and found myself hungry for learning, wonder, worship, and growth, particularly spiritually. I’ve really missed being a part of a church regularly, and being steeped in spirituality. I’m grateful to realize the disparity, though, because it feels like I’m on a good path in the searching. Thank you to the people who have let me ask you big, impossible questions and listened to me wrestle with existential ideas. It’s been a lot of fun.

I’m getting to the second part of the post: the conjecturing on Light. A friend of mine has been wrestling with the ideas of darkness and light as they appear in allegories for good and evil, or God and the devil in the world. We talked for a few hours about why so much evil persists in the world and why innocent people suffer unspeakable injustices. I was reminded of Fr. Greg Boyle‘s words, “if their stories had been fires you would have to stand at a distance or you would be scorched by the flames.” I have no words to offer as to why injustice, depravity, darkness, and gut-wrenching pain persist in this earth that God called Good in the Beginning. I still don’t know, and I have an inkling that this is one of Those Questions. I thought about these ideas (Light and Darkness) on the beach on Sunday, and wrote up my ideas and the pictures in my head.  A Reflective Conjecture on Light

Pro-tip: use a Ticonderoga pencil for stream-of-consciousness. Generally foolproof and can’t be ruined by grains of sand.

Twitches Upon the Tether: A Reflective Conjecture on Light

 

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Light was what first Was. God first spoke Light into being. All things within us and without begin in darkness and become in Light. The Light that God commanded began at the Beginning with His Word. It lit up the earth and filled every void. At it stretched out into the universe, and it’s expanding still. Scientists call it the Background Microwave Radiation effect; every square inch of space, even in what we would be tempted to name Darkness is expanding in Light. There is no void, no corner beyond it, and no darkness hidden from it. Where there is darkness, there is room for Light, but in Light there is no place for darkness.

The expansion, the spreading out of Light and the scattering of darkness is, perhaps among us, too. The word-over-the-water, the whisper in the void, the rising-new-from-the-waves is the life being made nw in us, the Light spreading inch-by-inch through our darkest of darkness. And although the darkness is just as real as the Light, it cannot overcome it. Once Light is spoken, all things are being made radiant. Even at the speed of Light, it may take eons to scatter the shadows, but we see from our smallest of planets to our most infinite souls, all things begin in darkness, but “live and move and have our being” in Light. All things will be spoken into being, again and again, spinning like the spheres, rising from the waters, shining a glimmer in the void.

The glimmer in you has been raised form the deep; you’ve begun again in Light. The realest of you is expanding, pulsing like a heartbeat, shining even in what looks dark. When you’re face-to-face with the ugliest, emptiest darkness, remember that you are not the force expanding. And that the dark may threaten to engulf you, but that it’s where we all began, and not even the darkest is beyond reach.

In truth, even the darkest in all the cosmos is no deeper than the darkness in me. They are one and the same: evil and darkness wrapped around my soul, turning it in on itself, suffocating the glimmer before the Light. But now in the Light, I’m called to join in the battle, to turn from darkness where I can, to seek out the truth where it’s found, to let the Light grow where it began. Darkness is ahead, and often, all around, but Light is never far away. And just as it carries you along with it, so you carry it, too. I’ve seen its growing glow, even in the dark. I’ve heard its music in the roar.

Maybe that’s a reason for all of us. When I can’t see anything but darkness in me, I may ask if you can make out a sliver, like the moon. When you can’t hear the growing music against the roar of the dark, take my hand. We weren’t meant to light the darkness alone. Being called out of the depths, into the Light means joining the Light together. In darkness we will drift alone, but Light calls us into unity, where our music meets another’s and swells into harmonies, into unbelievable tapestries of goodness. And the Light will be all the more radiant because we have known the dark.

A Settling of Dust

“I’ve come to test the timber of my heart.” -Joe Pug, Hymn #101

“And day after day I wake up feeling
Potentially lovely
Perpetually human
Suspended and open”
-Regina Spektor, Open

Graduation snuck upon us, pillaged the soggy weekend, and then left us bewildered. Here are some thoughts on that:

  1. Pomp and Circumstance does its job of instilling courage and pride in the meek of heart.
  2. When giving a speech, always come prepared. And for glory’s sake, stick to the point.
  3. Pack snacks, if nothing else.
  4. Be gracious to anyone who will take your photograph.
  5. Ringing the bell in the BSU Honors House was far more satisfying than anticipated.
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Every time a bell rings, an honors student weeps with relief.

Returning home last week meant it was past crunch time to get my Honors Thesis turned in, my teaching portfolio requirements squared away, and everything set for graduation. After 4 months of being so entirely focused on the tasks and students and dust at hand, I was dazed, disoriented, and disillusioned with the myriad of steps I would have to take in order to realize my next steps in life.

A Moment of Acknowledgement: I was honored to work  with one incredibly tenacious, talented, intelligent, and gracious Thesis advisor who let me drive to her hometown right before graduation to have her sign my work. I wrote a few lines on the topic of discrepancies and dissonance between Navajo language and communication and the demands placed on students for Language Arts according to the common core. I put those pages in an unassuming black binder and slapped it unceremoniously on the Honors College front desk. Take that, all ye who said it could not be done. Granted, it’s not all I wanted it to be in the beginning, but neither am I, and Madeleine L’engle reminds us that “a self is always becoming,” after all. Dr. Jones and I will hopefully be working together more this summer to make my Thesis worthy of publishing in a professional journal. I love working with Dr. J. Pro tip: find the people that push you to work harder, think bigger, and be better at what you do, just by existing, and try to stick with them. She’s one of mine. 

I sent a text to my “Navajo mom” back in Aneth with a picture of me in myself in my grad regalia, complete with her turquoise. She and I send a message now and then, and she always calls me “shiyazi” (my child.) And it always makes my heart smile/ache.

Now I’m in the midst of this frantic in-between. Everything I own is in boxes, ready to be in one place or another. My days have been filled with applying for summer temp jobs and fall teaching jobs, asking for reference letters, requesting transcripts, and interviewing, and the worst part is that I’m feeling more than a few steps behind. I get the sense that everyone in my position has done the paperwork and felt the panic prior to graduation, but I had what some would call a disadvantage of being a zillion miles away, with inconsistent internet and few evenings in which I could apply. So I’m trying and hoping, and trying again to sort through the chaos of the past few days, and the past few months.

 

 

There’s all this open space inside of me right now, and I’m excited and scared and anxious and grateful and empty and unprepared. Hence the “suspended and open.” So we’ll see where we go.

My mom brought me a big box of Pixar’s Inside Out-themed Jelly Belly jelly beans the other night, with the explanation, “I know you’re feeling a lot right now. I thought you might need these.” That’s about right.

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Llegadas y Salidas

I’m feeling the need to buckle some invisible seat belt, but that may just be the fact that I’ve been driving for the past 25 hours. Really, though I’m bracing myself when it seems like I’ve already hit the water. I’m back in Indiana, safe and sound (well, relatively sound) after a 3 day journey with my azhé’é, my Papa, who was willing to spend 6 days of his life driving and driving and driving, and dealing with running out of gas in the most desolate small towns and empty fields for me.

I have so much I could say.

My last day of school at Aneth was a great representation of the past few months, a little scattered, a little wild, a lot of fun, and overwhelming. I was pulled out of helping out in my 3rd grade classroom (I phased out of teaching to give the teacher and the kids transition time when I left) and put in 4th grade as an emergency substitute. On one hand that was completely weird and frustrating, but it also kind of made the day less sad and uncomfortable, because it felt like a normal day. I taught 4th grade reading content, used TPS and everything, and then we all went for my last Friday Afternoon Walk around the school campus, sang a lot of Taylor Swift, and then came back inside for a little social studies and a lot of dance.

When my students all boarded the bus, my 3rd graders each handed me a handwritten note to say Thank You or I Love You or I’ll Miss You, and each one gave me a big hug. This meant a whole lot to me, because my students have not been warm, fuzzy, affectionate 3rd graders. They’re into high-fives, air-fives, foot-fives, and knuckle bumps, but this was the first time I’d received hugs. And my dear, stubborn student, the one who has glared at me every day and told me, “Go back to Indiana,” as he folded my worksheets into paper guns or colored glasses around the faces in his textbook, this student hugged me 3 times, and definitely hugged me the hardest. That just about put me over the edge. I’m still mystified by the way that he has made me so frustrated, hurt my feelings so much, but I still love him, and his hugs made everything okay.

After school, I sprinted to the school cafeteria to say goodbye to my “Shi’ma,” my Navajo mom, Melissa. She’s the angel that took me to the Kináálda, the sweat lodge, the Song and Dance, and given me blankets, turquoise, traditional dress, not to mention smile with my lunch every single day. She gave me a really big hug, and when we stepped back her eyes were shining as she said “You girls are like two of my babies, my kids.”

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Taylor, Melissa, and I way back in the day.

She and Mr. Nez, my Diné parents have shown me so much hospitality and kindness, and I think what has endeared them to me so much is the fact that they’re both so traditional, but so willing to bring me into their world. I really don’t deserve it; I’m an outsider, a tourist, but they’ve treated me like part of their family. I don’t want to be a “Belegana Princess” (which was the phrase written in big white letters on my windshield on Friday morning) I wanted to learn, and we built strong relationships and learned from each other.

Friday afternoon it stormed. And nothing out West happens half-way. So when the rain was letting up, I laced up and went for a little run down into the canyon behind campus, down the rocky trail, stumbling forward into the wilderness and muck, and just kept going until I reached the San Juan river. Mr. Nez says that water represents love; we can’t do without it, and it’s at the center of everything. I sat there for a while until the clouds were churning again overhead.

After a while, I turned and faced East, where everything begins, and ran back to pack up the apartment and prepare to leave the Rez. I already miss the big-ness of the land and the sky. I love being back where there is grass and trees grow tall, but here I can’t hear the sound of birds’ wings. I guess no matter where I go I will always be missing somewhere else.

*Please say a prayer for Navajo Nation and Ashlynn Mike‘s family. I don’t know what else to say besides that.

 

April 10-17

 

Ha’a’aahjigo dighádídeeshwoł – I will run to the east.

{The principles placed within the four cardinal directions are blessingway teaching translated to English as “the four corn-pollen footsteps”: child-youth-adult-elder.

  • EAST – child: sunrise-spring-spiritual moral standards for living}

(Via NativeAmericanConcepts)

 

It’s difficult to assign words to the beginning of an ending that aren’t cliché. It’s hard to believe that in two weeks I’ll be heading home, though. There are a lot of things I’m thinking about as I consider heading home, but my feet are still squarely on this red earth, though, so I’m not checking out yet. I’m listening to this song on repeat and eating copious amounts of rice and lentils with salsa verde.

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Brought my uke. Sang to Bridge. Climbed on rocks.

Last Sunday, Taylor and I drove to National Bridges National Monument. I love visiting the smaller parks, and this one was nearly empty. We hiked a steep and short path down to see the arch, and then relaxed in the breeze before looking up and realizing we had to hike all the way back up. We keep telling ourselves, “I’m not out of shape; it’s just the altitude.”

This past week was a roller-coaster in every way. My cooperating teacher was absent Tuesday-Friday, and I taught 3rd grade as usual, with a substitute in the classroom. My students have a few raging cases of spring fever, and so I’ve made P.E. a daily installment in our schedule, which I really don’t regret. Some days this past week were really, really good. And some were really, REALLY bad. I guess that’s the way it goes sometimes.

My students have started asking me if they can get a drink or use the restroom in Navajo. I wish I could type out phonetically how to ask this, but my Navajo language skills, among other things, are not as fine-tuned as I’d like. It’s really adorable, though, that they were really excited to ask me and even more impressed when I figured out what they were asking. I’m all about making my classroom more linguistically diverse. 🙂

Wednesday evening in the school dorm was an evening obstacle course, AKA my crowning achievement. Running and doing anything active has been a challenge this semester, but I was determined to finish this course. I mean, my kids all did it, so how hard could it be?

Here is me, crawling through mud, finishing the course. When I hobbled over to the finish line, bullheads in my feet, and blood dripping down my arm and leg, I was out of breath, but restocked on dignity. Cleanup, aisle 5.

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Blood, sweat, and tears

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Judge me if you want, but our chef told me that Thai people always take pictures of their food, so I’m not even going to feel bad about it.

Thursday evening was Parent Night in the dorm, and Stanley Nez from the local chapter house spoke to students’ parents about the importance of maintaining Navajo tradition and supporting their students’ linguistic and cultural identity. He spoke about 60/40 in Navajo and in English, and occasionally caught my eye and explained himself and what he had said. During his talk, he mentioned that during the 1970’s he was really “anti-bilagáána” (anti-Anglo) but he said that he has changed his mind. He pointed to Taylor and I and mentioned that we should be accepted by the community, likening us to missionaries that were sent here for a purpose. I know he meant well, but I thought back to the prep phase before I arrived, and reminded myself that I’m here to learn and listen, and I’ve learned day in and day out, in the classroom, the dorm, and meandering through every National Park that I certainly do not have all the answers.

Friday afternoon, Taylor and I drove into Cortez to run errands, and grabbed a last dinner at our favorite Thai place. After a long week and a drive through some nasty rain, Thai tea and donuts do not disappoint.

Saturday, April 16, I visited Glen Canyon’s Horseshoe Bend and Navajo Bridge. Horseshoe Bend lived up to the hype, and was a lovely, breezy hike. At Navajo Bridge, a Diné craftsman pointed out my first Condor sighting as I overlooked the beginning of the Grand Canyon.

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We went to the early service at the Methodist church in Cortez, and so it’s only 10:30 in the morning, which means we should get back to Aneth in time for lunch and in time to get plenty of planning and paper work done. I’m up to my eyeballs in portfolio work, my Honors Thesis, and applications for schools in the fall, as well as planning instruction in between bouts of testing for the next week. Is it realistic to try to finish To the Lighthouse as well?

Thank you to all the people who have uplifted me in the past month. Since spring break, I have been feeling discouraged and anxious, but thanks to God’s goodness in the form of your love, the passing of time, and the plucking up of my own knotted bootstraps, I’m feeling ready to take on the end of the semester with a little more mojo.

April 5-9

April 9, 2016

 Doo yázhnízin da- do not be shy

Here was my pick-me-up, dance-me-around this week.

When one’s backyard is mesas, running in the open air is a great escape.

This past week contained the one-month mark for the graduation count-down. Initiate hyperventilation-hyperdrive in 5…4….3…2…1

The week was a complete blur of testing. What I mean is that I didn’t teach anything that I had planned to teach. I proctored testing for 3rd and 4th grade All. Week. Long. I also had no prep time, which also means alone time/breathing time, which made for very long days, very cranky kids, and more than one very tired teacher.

Thursday evening, after Zumba in the dorm (zuuuuuuuummmmmbaaaaaaaaaaaa) I drove down to the local high school for the sponsored program, “Voices of Women: Empowering a Positive Lifestyle.” I had no idea who would be there or what I was getting myself into. I sat with a family I knew from school, and eventually the school principal arrived and sat down next to me. During the invocation prior to the program, the principal leaned over to me and whispered, “That’s one thing about us natives, we like to talk. A lot.” I laughed and said I wasn’t sure if that was an exclusively native characteristic. But, I mean WOW. People in general just like to have the mic and be listened to. It was a long night, but really good. 5 very different Native artists sang, rapped, and did spoken word poetry. Some were really traditional, and others were R&B singers with poofy hair. Kids from Aneth school were at the program and stormed the stage to sing traditional songs with Talibah and to sing back-up for Honey. It was super precious. I could gush about my kids for ages. If you know me, you know how I get when I hear my kids sing.

On Friday night, Taylor and I drove through gray rain and wind to Farmington for (some Qdoba and) a powwow. And what to our wondering eyes should we see, but our four fellow student teachers from the Global Gateways/Navajo Nation program. Our three groups have been spread out around the Reservation at different BIE schools, teaching different grades and encountering vastly different challenges, joys, and learning in new ways. It was such sweet serendipity to see Connor, Eric, Bethany, and Kelsey at the powwow, and the 6 of us were having such a fun time swapping stories and anecdotes from our schools that we took our little party to Denny’s (as one does when one is a college student and it’s far too late.)

We stayed up until far past midnight laughing more than I had in quite a while, venting and commiserating our workloads and frustrations, and talking about NPR, sheep intestines, and the names we’ve been called. These people did my soul some good. Taylor and I ended up sleeping at Bethany and Kelsey’s dorm apartment in Nenahnezad, NM instead of driving back to Aneth at 3 in the morning.

At sunup, we drove back to Aneth and prepared ourselves for a traditional Song and Dance benefit at the local high school. Last week we were given these beautiful, traditional Navajo outfits, along with the instructions, “You can wear these to Song and Dance. They’re just something to remember us by.” So naturally, we did our best to pin up our skirts and throw on all the turquoise we could find, and drove down to the high school. Per the usual, we were about an hour early, and made a few gas station runs and fry bread stops to pass time.

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Poised and Turquoised for Song & Dance

Suddenly, wearing my traditional Navajo clothes, I was exponentially more self-conscious than usual (and I’ve been fairly self-conscious since I rounded the Mesa in January.) Something about dressing the part and feeling like I was trying to assimilate made me feel completely out of place. I didn’t know how to act, or dress, or carry myself. When I’ve gone to community events before, always in my own clothing, it was as if I was able to own my own skin. I didn’t fit in, but I was outwardly okay with that. But in my blousy top and peasant skirt, with strands of heavy turquoise clinking around my neck, I suddenly felt like a fool. However, I mustered my courage, munched some more fry bread, and committed.

I linked arms with Melissa’s niece, who reminded me gently, over and over again, when to stop dancing the two-step circular dance around the high school gymnasium, even though I consistently forgot to pay attention to the words of the traditional song.

This month is difficult. And seeing Melissa and her family brushing each other’s long, dark hair, wrapping up each other’s moccasins, and linking arms to dance made me feel really lonely for my own people. That’s something else I’ve realized, too: I’m owning that I do

n’t feel like I belong here after just a semester. I miss the corners in the places with the people I’ve called home. And I’m working on giving myself some grace in that.

 

As of now, I have 3 more weeks left in this place, surrounded by these mesas, with lizards under my bed and tumbleweeds under my car. I’m trying to feel something besides anxiety at the amount of things I need to sort through and finish before it’s all over. I’m able to look at myself now and then and chuckle, because I didn’t grow nearly the way I thought I would. So I take a lot of deep breaths, make another cup of tea, and brace myself. I remind myself I wouldn’t trade a moment. There have been way more bullheads that sting my feet, more sand in my socks, lizards in my bedroom than I anticipated, but how could I ever trade what I’ve learned?

April 2, 2016

Hwe’iina’baa nitsíjíkees – think about your future

Doot t’óó bóhólnííhgóó nitsíjíkees da – avoid negative thoughts

My feet smell. I spent Saturday hiking at Arches National Park in Moab, UT. I finally did the Utah Thing! It was a long, steep hike up an incline to reach the arch, but the beautiful view was worth it, and Taylor and I sat like two pale lizards in the sun until my hiking sock tan lines were becoming apparent.

I officially have less than a month left teaching in Aneth, and I’m trying to come to terms with that in more than one way. I love my students and I love teaching here, but I didn’t expect to be excited at the prospect of returning to Indiana soon. And that itself has been a kick in the pride. I thought I would embrace the unknown, the difficult, the new, the impossible, and it would embrace me back. But instead I find myself embracing my own weakness and admitting that I don’t have the answers I thought I would have, but Lord, have I learned.

Think & Be Wretched: Want/Need

{Warning:This just got personal. No one ever told me that student teaching/being a senior in college would mean questioning, un-learning, and reformulating everything I’d believed about myself, my relationships, my faith}

When you don’t want people but you need people:

I’ve realized, living in rural, Reservation Utah, that I ought not live alone, at this station of my life, at least. I love having my own space to be “free to think and be wretched,” as Jane Austin would say, and I love being able to recluse as need-be, but my comfort level seems to lie, as so often happens, in the paradox: I enjoy, need, and am rewarded by solitude only when I have been able to expend my energy with others. Solitude compounded upon solitude, while sometimes seeming to be all I long for, jumbles my thoughts around each other, and I begin to forget how to be a socially acceptable human. I start feeling feral in my own home, as if I, upon leaving the confines of my room or apartment, might forget my manners and bite a passerby on the leg out of fear.

Life for me, so far, seems to be an ongoing journey of learning that I can usually do, by the orchestration and upholding of God, a few deep breaths, and lots of cups of tea, far more than I ever thought I could. That means that I have learned I can love people and expend more energy on them than I believed I could, and I could also recede into my own mind and heart, and be more alone than I thought I could. But I also learned that the best is in the balance. Food tastes the best and sleep comes the deepest when I’ve run for a long time in the sun and my body is exhausted. As an introvert, my first instinct is to preserve my “people energy,” to save the best of me for myself, to hang on to the energy that would let me stay up reading Virginia Woolf at night or exploring down the canyons, rather than spending it on coping with socializing with large groups of people or having conversations that seem fruitless. Or even veggie-less. So I don’t want people, but I need them. This semester, I’ve found that the growth I have seen in myself, spiritually, relationally, and personally, would not have happened as concretely or quickly were I left to my own devices. I need people to see outside of myself, to see the ways that I fall short, and the ways that I’m growing. And, practically, I need People in general to give me a sense of grounding and purpose. When I am feral, alone, I grow anxious because I don’t have a frame of reference for what I should be doing or where I should go, but just having other humans around me gives me at least an idea of how people do life.

When you don’t need people but you want them:

On the flipside, in my closer relationships, I have grown to love the feeling of being needed. Maybe that’s a female thing; maybe its an instinctual maternal instinct that makes me want to be relied upon to ease hurts and comfort fears. I love that; it’s beautiful and makes me feel powerful and majestic. But it also destroys me, and my relationships, because it has the potential to make me incredibly selfish. I have felt needed without feeling wanted, and that has bred only resentful fear and exhaustion in friendships and relationships, because feeling solely needed means that I make myself more of a service, a good, or an object, than a person being picked by choice.

The most dramatic example I can think of, the clearest as well, of being chosen, is the fact that God chose to draw me to Himself and form me into His image. He wants me, although I am this completely muddled, fumbling, messy work in progress. But that makes me sure of His love. Being chosen for who I am, even despite who I am, because He has a clear vision of who I will become, despite who I am, means that I am loved. If I were to choose that I wanted out, that the risks were too great, that the bar was too high, I think He would let me walk away. He doesn’t really need me specifically in order to accomplish His vision for the world. But He wants me. I think He wants me to want Him, too.

How does this play out in human-to-human relationships? When I realize that I don’t need specific people: my closest friends, my family members, and my beau, that frees me to love them genuinely, gratefully, and extravagantly, because the joy they bring me and the ways they teach me are serendipitous.

I want to love purely out of choice, not because I would unravel if they were to vanish, because my true needs are met by the Lord, and because each person He has put in my path brings before my eyes a different reflection of Him.

Love has different expectations than Need. Love is surprised by grace, Love is thankful for every phone call and postcard. Love endures all things because it doesn’t harbor expectations of grandeur for self, but of sacrifice. So Love gives joyfully and forgets about feeling appreciated. It’s something I hope to understand a little more.