It was the first day of middle school for me in yet another new school. Another first day that found me, as was now routine, being brand new and knowing not a single person. I never got used to it but by that point, I had perfected the art of not letting my painful shyness and anxiety show. I took my seat near the back of the room and tried to look like I was busy doing something so that my awkwardness and discomfort at being surrounded by everyone else reconnecting with their friends after summer break wasn’t too obvious.

A girl near me who was the only other person not chatting and laughing caught my eye and asked me if I had a pen to borrow. the teacher walked in and the room grew quiet just as I handed her a pen and said a quiet “here you go”.

“There is no talking in homeroom. Miss, you will be joining me after school today for detention.” Ms. Sage spoke clearly and loudly over the shuffling of bags.

Welcome to room 7-211.

I was mortified and I wanted to crawl under the desk. All eyes were now on me and I could feel the tears hot and stinging in my eyes. I had never had a detention before. I was a good girl. I never did anything wrong or got in trouble. Assignments were never late. My marks were always perfect. I never drew attention to myself. In one sentence, Ms. Sage had impacted me in a way that I couldn’t make sense of. With her words, she showed me that she judged me based on a split second and that glimpse of my actions was not in line with who I was. I wanted to argue and explain but that would have just brought more attention. So I sat and nodded, trying to make myself as small as I could. As invisible as I could.

That moment was a stark contradiction to how that year ended for Ms. Sage and I; and to this day, she most likely has no idea how much she affected me. For the good.

 

Room 7-211, named for Grade 7, Room #211, was my homeroom and the way our school functioned was that every morning, all students went to their homerooms for first period, which was 20 minutes. It was intended to be a time for students to be briefed on daily notices from the office, schedule updates and to get ready for the day essentially. But that was a blip for Ms. Sage. She would run through the sheet of information that was on her desk from the office in record speed and then we were to do silent reading for the remainder of the period.

Her room had two racks of paperbacks in the back. The kind of racks that were made of metal and that spun on a single tall rod. They were filled with books of all genres and lengths. No graphic novels (this was the eighties and it would be years before those came along), no comic books or romance novels. They were filled with novels that she brought in and changed out regularly. To this day, I have no idea where she got them all. Some had stamps from city libraries with “discard” written across and all were clearly used. Maybe she had bought them, maybe they were donated, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that from that first day when I didn’t have a book to read, I found a treasure trove of books I had never seen before.

I was already an avid reader. I lived in my books. I loved being lost in made up worlds and stories that were anything but my life and the things that I didn’t want to exist in, but did. Since I was a little girl and had learned to read, it had been part of my day so I welcomed the chance to have a safe, familiar thing to do each morning in a place where I was definitely not comfortable.

That year was magical for 20 minutes every day. Those moments lost in new found adventures were my solace and it didn’t take long for her to notice. By Christmas, Ms. Sage had started to walk by my desk every couple of weeks with a book she had pulled from the racks and she would place it next to me as I sat reading. She never said a word as she did this; she would simply put it down, pat it and nod at me. That would be my next book.

Bradbury, Tolkien, Asimov, Bronte, Fowles, Poe, Steinbeck. Frank. I devoured them, fell in love with them. I was mesmerized by the nuances of styles and imagery, by the different ways that each author crafted and danced their words to fill the pages. Her picks for me never failed to incite something inside of me that I hadn’t felt before. One day she dropped a book of poetry on my desk and yet another world opened up. We rarely spoke one on one and I never asked why she would pick books for me.

The last homeroom of grade seven and as we were getting ready to leave she spoke, her voice cutting through the chatter of the students. She looked at me and said “Please come see me before you leave.” I groaned inside. All eyes were on me and there was laughter and the singsong of “you’re in trouble” from a few around me. I gathered my bag and trudged to her desk. She was writing something and without looking up she said, “Go to the racks and you can pick out three books to keep.”. She never looked up at me but she smiled.

To this day, two of those three books still sit on my bookshelf. The third was lost somewhere along my years and when I finally settled where I live now, it was the first book I sought out and bought at a little used book store in town. It’s not the original but it still holds a place in my heart – and shelf – along with those other two. Everytime I look at them or read them, I think of her and wonder if she has any idea how she shaped who I am today with those few moments. Those books she placed on my desk broadened my views and sparked fires that I hadn’t known existed within me.

Thank you Ms. Sage.

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We live in a culture that spoon feeds us contradictions right from the beginning.

On the one side, we are told to never settle or accept less than what will make us truly fulfilled and happy. The mere hint of settling in life is an abomination against our potential and our dreams that burn like little sparks of amazeballs inside of us. We were meant for more than to just go to work and die. You can be anything that you want to be when you grow up. The only limits are the ones that you place on yourself. Never give up. Keep striving and reaching for the stars. Mediocrity and complacency are the slow death of our souls’ brilliance.  I could go on, but you all know the speech.

Flip over to the other camp and you have the face slap that hits us all at one time or another. All of a sudden, the lessons learned and internalized from years of inspirational posters with perfectly graphic enhanced words of wisdom are shot down. We are told to get our heads out of the sand. To be realistic and be grateful for what you have.  That the reason you are unhappy is because you are never satisfied – what is wrong with you? You’re greedy. You would be happier if you would just stop searching and instead, appreciate what you do have. Stop all that wanting and seeking for more, different, better, simpler… insert your preference here. Then, at some point, we may even get the cherry on top tossed at us – Everyone is unhappy and dissatisfied, what makes you think you should be any different? Just think about everyone out there who has it worse than you.

So where does that leave us? Sure, we have the drive or the lack of it inside of ourselves. But we also have everything around us that leaves us like the proverbial squirrel in the road. Not sure what to do or in which direction to go. Like that ill-fated tree rat, we stall and do nothing, hunkering down and waiting for who knows what; and we all know how that story ends. The often remarked “no one gets out alive” adage assures us that death will eventually come along and finish our story for us, the way IT wants.

We can sit and watch that hapless squirrel l and determine, from our safe vantage point that offers a different perspective,  that both directions have potentially good or bad outcomes but staying there has an almost certain outcome of bad.

We have people in our lives that fan the flames of our desires with us, often times for us. These are the people who see your flames flickering out and pull out the moss and twigs and lichen (or dryer lint and balled up tissues – we all roll the way we roll) and they nurse the flames back to life with us.  If you have them, those people in your corner are indeed something to be grateful for. Our society has even developed to the point where you can hire people to be there for you and stoke your fires. People who can help keep you from sliding into the pool of complacency and stagnation. What a time to live in.

To return to the dilemma of complacency though; how do you know which side of the edge you are sitting on? Do you need to kick yourself in the pants – or have someone else do it for you – to get yourself out of the Swamp of Sadness that surrounds you because you feel like there has to be more out there? (bonus points if a vision on Artax and Atreyu just flashed in your mind there)? Or are you mature and informed about your life, options and potential enough to simply be making an intelligent decision to be okay with where you are and to understand the difference between a dream and a fantasy for your goals in life?

For each of us, it could go both ways at any given time. Eventually, like the squirrel, you will run out of time to decide though and there are no do-overs. Just ask pancake road squirrel if you doubt that. Sorry to say that there isn’t an easy answer or one that can apply to everyone. Just don’t be complacent about questioning complacency in your life. That’s definitely not something to be complacent about.

For years I had wanted something so badly, I craved it more than I can ever remember wanting anything else. It wasn’t a singular item or want exactly. It was something that I would daydream about though. I would make plans about what I would do with it when I had it and I would imagine what it would be like to have it. Oh, you can bet I dreamed and wished and planned for the elusive, but certain, day when I would have it. When it would be mine.

What was it that I wanted so badly? Time. Time was what I wanted. Not just any old kind of time though. I wanted time to myself. Time that was just for me to use as I wanted. Time that was for my pursuits and dreams and needs – and wants. Selfish time that had only one focus, me.

You see, back then, when that was what I wanted more than anything else, time was a valuable commodity to me. I was a single parent, I had young (and numerous) children and work outside of the home and my own business. Oh, and attempts at a social life in there somewhere as well. Volunteering, community and school commitments aplenty and all of the late night hours that went along with those. My time was given freely and readily to everyone else in my life. I didn’t begrudge the fact that this was my life, in fact I loved it. I thrived on the pace of it all and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

But time for myself just was never there. Each day when everything all was done, I would fall into bed exhausted and imagine what it would be like to have even just a couple of hours to myself that I could do anything I wanted with. Even getting to enjoy a bath without knocks on the door and voices asking me questions and wanting to know when I would be done was unheard of back then. I craved solitude and silence. I couldn’t even grasp the concept of what entire day or weekend just for me would be like. That was beyond even my imagination!

Now though, I have that. I have time to myself. I have crafted my life after a change in circumstances into what it is now, and that life includes time for me. I have hours to myself. Days even, all to myself. I still have work and other commitments but the demands on my time that used to fill the other hours are no longer there. Silence and solitude is the standard for this new life of mine. So what is it that I do with the time that I so desperately wanted and that I now actually possess?

Nothing, for the most part. I wanted it more than anything and now that I have it, I don’t use it.

Do I spend hours writing and creating like I always wanted to, but never had the time for?

No, barely ever.

What about those imagined hobbies or interests that were going to be sought out “some day”? Still waiting on those.

What about me seeking out the little dalliances that pique my desires to explore?

Not a single one delved into yet.

What about spending indulgent days doing nothing and feeling amazing about it?

Nope.

The one thing that I have ever wanted the most is mine now, and I don’t even use it – and it’s time that changed.

My new little foray into more image and less words for the lolabits expression can be found at my new blog site, such stuff as dreams. Still very much keeping up this site, but sometimes a picture can speak louder than words and sometimes words just aren’t needed so this new exploration fills that gap for me :).

For those of you that aren’t on my Facebook feed or haven’t seen it, a little invite to come stop by and see what it’s about.

Lola

So today is my birthday and, unlike most years, I’m embracing it in ways that I normally wouldn’t. I’m not one to put a lot of significance into acknowledging or celebrating it. It’s not a day that has usually had much recognition, by myself more so than anyone else. I don’t mean it in a way of saying that I feel like it’s been ignored or that it’s been a negative thing, it’s just the way that I’m wired for it. Some people make a huge deal out of their birthdays, and that’s all good, I’m just not one of them. I had actually kept my birth date off of social media for years because I don;t like a lot of attention being paid to it, usually.

Last year was a bit out of the norm for me. My partner did make a deal of. She treated me to a surprise night out at an amazing show and a wonderful home-cooked dinner. Being made to feel special was a new experience for me. The way she did it was the best and I loved it’s simplicity and it’s personal nature. It felt good to feel good and to celebrate something that is so intrinsically personal and all about me. Not an easy thing for me to understand.

This year, from the moment go this morning, it’s been a new experience. I’m not “doing” anything for my birthday but I am “being” different today and how that is feeling to me has taken me by surprise. It began though, before today even. Last night I took the time to pick up a couple of things while I was grocery shopping. Items that would help make an already planned and looked-forward-to dinner even better. Items that will compliment the scrumptious pasta sauce that my sweetie sent me home with from the weekend.

I took the time to think of how to make my planned experience even better.

I took the time to think of myself and how could I could make myself happier.

I put my attention on myself.

That’s a big thing. That’s not something that is my usually way of being and thinking. Felt good though.

I woke up this morning and made myself coffee and took my time getting ready. I actually dawdled and sat and scrolled through social media and smiled as I saw messages and wishes for a happy day.

I made a conscious and very intentional decision to pick out something to wear that I loved and that made me feel good today. Why? For the unheard of reason that I decided that I wanted to feel amazing today and that I deserved that.

What a concept! One that, as simple and easy and obvious as it sounds, isn’t one that I operate with as part of my life usually. It’s not anything as dysfunctional as “I hate myself” (most of the time) but it’s just that I don;t register on my own radar for doing something, anything, for myself beyond necessity and basics.

Being, what I would consider self indulgent, or even just being attentive to what will put a smile on my face or make me feel good inside or out doesn’t exist for me really.

But you know what? I have spent the day (so far! It’s not over yet!) paying attention to myself and putting myself and feeling good foremost in my mind – even while working a full day and getting things done!

I’ve taken the time to indulge in thinking about  myself and in recognizing that my feeling good is important and worth spending time and energy on. This may have to become a daily thing, it feels so good. This could become a thing!

Seeking

  1. to go in search or quest of: to seek the truth.
    2. to try to find or discover by searching or questioning: to seek the solution to a problem.
    3. to try to obtain.
    4. to try or attempt.
    5. to go to: to seek a place to rest.
    6. to ask for; request:to seek advice.

 

Trying to even come up with a word for how I’m feeling the past while was hard. Seeking seems to fit though.

I find myself feeling lost in a sense. Roles and actions that used to be a part of how I identified “me” are no more. They have changed and with that change has come a sense of being adrift. A sense of feeling unknown in a way but at the same time, acutely aware that the core of me is very much clear and there. A dichotomy that leaves me feeling propelled and paralyzed.

Instead of lamenting what has been lost or what has changed, I am trying to look simply at what is now and what I want for the future. Looking back can only do so much for guidance moving forward and the truth is that what’s past is past; what’s gone is gone. Done, now what?

I came across a show the other day that had this thought in it: Our “issues” are gifts. While that is hard for me to swallow on a few “issues”, I get the sentiment and actually do embrace it. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without the experiences I have had to get to this point. Things I have lived through and and with (and still do) have shaped the facets of who I am. Definitively, without a question, they are what made me, me. So where does that leave me in my seeking and what exactly is it I am seeking?

Simply, freedom. Release. The ability to move forward and to express what is deeply and authentically, me. I’m the only one who can give myself that and I am, slowly, recognizing that. It is sad and exciting to realize that the only thing standing between myself and how I want to live and things I want to do and achieve is me. What stops me from doing all of those things that I say “I know, I know” when my partner points out actions? It’s me. Just like it is for all of us.

We vent and express and talk about changes we want to make or things we want to do and if we are lucky enough to have someone who listens – and offers ideas or directions – we sit and nod and say yes, I know, I will, I should, I am going to…. We even say it to ourselves when it’s just our own voice that tells us what we already know we have to do. So why don’t we? Why don’t I? There’s the question; and only I know the answer. Just like it is for all of us. Only I can find what I’m seeking. Only I can make happen what I want. That thought is what has propelled and paralyzed me for so long it feels like. Not anymore though.

Life has a way of flitting by. Each day is so filled and busy and so just “life” that it goes by almost without notice. There has come an awareness lately for me that is raw and hard to live with. The awareness that time is not on my side. The years have slid by so fast and I have found myself grieving a life that I wanted to live that I haven’t. Experiences that have always been “some day”. The freedom to live true to who I am finally realized but it feels so late and like so much of my life has been lived small and that so much has been unrealized. The weight of what I haven’t accomplished or expressed or tried or experienced is so much more of a burden to bear than what I have – and that’s not the way I want it to be. So the time to change that is now. Now, because I am done being paralyzed. I’m done being held in place by the sheer feeling of being suffocated by regret and fear of “what if”. Propelled, not paralyzed is how it needs to be.