Here are five of my favorite learning moments. If there is anything that I hope for in 2016, it is that these glimmers of light will continue with me.
Act with Impeccability
From the time I was very small, I have been stricken with an affliction known as high expectations, also sometimes referred to in patronizing tones as idealistic.
Over and over, people with very good intentions have insisted that for me to succeed, to survive, or just get an assignment or task that I was struggling with done, my best chance would be to lower my expectations.
I don’t deny there have been times when my own expectations have held me back. Or that I could have saved myself a great deal of angst if I had learned to follow that advice.
But viewing high expectations as the problem never worked for me.
This year, someone offered me a perspective that has not only allowed me to maintain high expectations of myself, but helped along every step of the process toward reaching them. Without it, I never would have finished the MFA.
At any point in time, wherever you are in relation to your goals or expectations, act with impeccability.
It means I step into spaces that allow me to acquire new knowledge, develop new skills, and hone the abilities that move me toward my goals.
It also means I have to trust myself. In the future, I will have new knowledge, new skills, even more time. I will make new decisions, different actions that are fully aware and integrative of all that I have and know and am capable of in that moment.
Writing = Understanding
There are lots of reasons people write. Mine has always been to discover. To discover what I know, how I think, and why I feel the way I do.
But writing takes time. All too often I’ve squeezed it out of my schedule. In doing so, I’ve had to re-learn how choosing not to write cuts off my own potential for learning, self-understanding, and the opportunity to reach toward that next level of knowledge.
Writing is a must. Writing for the blog, writing poetry, writing just to write, to understand, and to grapple with the information and ideas that challenge me and push me into unfamiliar territory.
A lot of writing ends up just being for me, part of my process. My own quest to take in and process everything I can as I pursue my study of The Feldenkrais Method and the latest research on touch therapies, neuroscience, and movement.
Some of the good stuff, I also enjoy sharing with you! :)
Intuition vs. Mastery
What happens when you watch someone who is really, really good at what they do, someone who works or performs with grace, ease, and such a high level of proficiency it seems they are not working at all, but merely existing in their natural state?
If you are anything like me, it can be easy to think "but that's them. How could I ever do such a thing? I don't have what they have".
Assumptions pile up. Maybe the person started out with a lot more talent than anyone else, or they have some magical knack for perfection, or are especially gifted with something we call intuition.
I’ve definitely made this leap while watching or reading great works of art. I think the artist is so talented, so gifted. Or I watch a really exceptional teacher, and think they must have somehow started off ahead in the game.
Of course, on a social and cultural level, racial, religious, gender, and sexual orientation biases can and do lead to more opportunity and a more or less resistant journey for some than others.
But how often is intuition part of the equation?
Mary Spire, a trainer for the Feldenkrais Method, offered this response when asked how much of her work as a practitioner is based on intuition:
Don’t mistake for intuition what may have simply taken twenty years of study and practice to master.
And how devastating that can be to the real process of learning, acquiring knowledge and skill, and one day, perhaps achieving a level of mastery.
The Same Poem
When I was working on poem revisions for my MFA creative thesis, I was near completion with a collection of about twenty-five poems that were finished, and another eight that I was wrestling with for various reasons.
Finished meant not that I was certain I had crafted a great poem. It meant for the intention of this collection of poems, and for each individual poem, and for the scope that each poem strives to live within, I created and revised and revised and revised with every shred of everything I had.
But the final eight were unrelenting in their revelations of how clearly they didn’t work in relation to what I was trying to do. One afternoon, huddled in the corner of my couch with my laptop propped on a pillow and printouts of the poems around me, I set out, determined to complete revisions for at least one of the elusive eight.
I picked three that I would work with. I read each of them. I read them out loud. I read them again. I moved some lines around. I moved the lines back. I added words. I took away words. And they remained, broken.
I was frustrated. Nothing was working. Revision was done for the day.
A few days later, I was out for a short walk, a wonderful habit that I had started to integrate into my mornings. I don’t remember thinking about anything in particular. Not my writing. Not my day. Not really anything.
I stopped, mouth open in the middle of the sidewalk when it occurred to me.
Ohmygod. What if I’m just writing the same poem?
I stepped one foot forward. Stopped..
Wait. I am. I'm writing the same poem.
I started walking again. The lines started interweaving and lining up in a new way right then. It didn’t matter that one was in first person and one was in third person. Small details to be worked out. The merge was strange and beautiful.
I’m embarrassed to say the above process repeated itself with the next two sets of revisions I tackled. And I mean fully repeated itself from the angst of broken poems to the failure of my revision attempts to the jaw-opening moment of realization.
Ohmygod. What if I’m writing the same poem?
And each time, as eight poems became three poems, a clarity and strangeness emerged that I never could have anticipated or planned.
As In Creativity, In Life
More recently, I’ve been mulling over all of the academic and professional paths I’ve taken and wondering what the meaning of it all has been.
I’ve studied literature, psychoanalysis, intercultural communication, and writing. I’ve worked with at-risk youth and children with special needs. I’ve been an admin assistant, an events coordinator, and a patient care coordinator.
Now my professional life exists once again as a massage therapist, a skill I learned when I was 19, before any of these other experiences also shaped who I am.
How do I let everything that I’ve done, all of the accumulated knowledge have a presence within what I do?
Maybe I did eventually learn something from that revision process. This time, at least for now, I've been able to skip the angst and find a space of strange beauty through the persistent question:
What if I'm writing the same poem?
Every day, a little more clarity as I see how each line relates to another. I see greater cause and reason for my more recent pursuits. They are lines not yet written, a piece of the emerging whole.