Disclaimer: I am SO very grateful to be a teacher (or as my papa says, an “educator”) and to be entering my twelfth year this August (whoa, Bessie, pull them reigns!). The school year is both demanding and exhausting, and yet, it feeds me each day through the relationships I enjoy and through the day-to-day happenings that can be so unbelievably exciting, humbling, and soul-filling. Furthermore, there is real beauty and purpose in pausing at the end of each school year to reflect, rest, recharge, and prepare to return again, hopefully with fresh eyes and a renewed spirit (for both teachers and students!). And, so while I am deeply thankful for the school year, I am increasingly grateful for sweet summer time…this summer space, this summer pace.
(yes, I’ve clearly gotten over the “empty classroom syndrome” and those lonely birds I wrote about back in May.)
Today is July 1st. Really? How did you arrive so fast, friend? Well, while I confess that I may not be initially tickled pink to welcome in this new month already, I feel the need to give thanks for what has come and gone and how it has helped shape today. Man, over the first month of this glorious summer, I have learned a LOT. As the first summer in eleven years of teaching that I have not taught, coached, or tutored, I have learned a lot about letting go and about welcoming in (sorry for ending with a preposition; it’s summer mode, folks; forgive me!). So far, it has been a summer of HEALING, and that healing has come in the form of quite literal healing in twice-a-week physical therapy, but also in cultivating friendships, enjoying family time, embracing music in a fuller dimension, exploring new parts of the ATL, writing poetry, devouring books, giving myself permission to rest, and taking risks to, again, let go and welcome in.
First, the letting go.
It has been difficult to let go of what I’ve been used to for so long; how easily we get sucked in and often addicted to our routines. For example, it’s been an adjustment to let go of doing anything related to teaching, tutoring, or coaching this summer, AND let go of the guilt that initially accompanied this reality. What will people think? Am I letting others down…my students, their parents, myself? Bah…
I have also let go of confining schedules and demanding routines that used to own me throughout the year and even into the summer, never allowing me to fully rest. Granted, these were my own choices to run, swim, bike, and work out obsessively every morning, but now that my body cannot do what it used to, I am grateful to God for renewing who I am beyond those strivings — beyond those identities I had constructed for so long and from which I still panted, obviously still thirsty…
So, this past week, I took a deep breath, and I let go and sold my bike, my beloved “Bluebird.” I am so thankful for the past 6 and a half years with her and for the commuting rides we shared to school for 3 of those years, but it is time to move on and to realize that physically, I’m in a place where I cannot do that anymore. It ain’t easy to say that out loud, nor to act on it, but it’s necessary.
and then welcoming in…
and so, I’ve traded my handbars for pirouettes along the fret board — a flutter of fingers over a steel-stringed shore — a reconnection with my love affair with music and a dusty guitar I’ve had since I was 13.
While I’ve been able to play a few tunes here and there over these past twenty years and do know basic chords, having learned from my musically-gifted papa and friends along the way at camp and in high school, I’ve never officially taken lessons. And so, on June 4th, I had my first lesson, and I have since looked forward to every 30-minute session per week. My teacher is patient, kind, funny, and unbelievably talented, and our musical tastes harmonize beautifully, as we introduce each other to new tunes and artists each week. While I’ve only had four lessons at this point, I cannot even begin to express all that I have learned, both song-wise and music-wise, but even in ways beyond my beloved 6-stringed guitar (by the way, “Debbie” is her name, for she is a Gibson (Epiphone) guitar, and for those of you who grew up in or knew the 80s, you know what I’m talkin’ ’bout).
Each session uncovers more and more about vulnerability, the hunger for challenge, and the importance of practice, and along the way, I’ve learned quite a bit about myself. Indeed, this teacher has become a student again, and in an area in which I’ve lacked confidence, especially when my calluses have gone away and the guitar sits lonely and waiting in the corner, and I think to myself that I just can’t play like I used to…
Hmmm, I wonder how many of my students have felt this or feel this. How important is it for me to put myself in their shoes and take on a new challenge — one that demands practice, respect, perseverance, and humility?
It is vital.
It is vital to remember what it’s like to mess up and fail AND to do so in front of somebody, and have to start over again and practice more.
It is vital to feel passion towards something creative AND to be able share it with others (I have shared more “sing-a-longs” with friends and family in the past month than I have in the past 15 years!).
What’s beautiful, too, is that while this guitar playing is absolutely vital for my soul, it is also assisting my physical healing; in fact my physical therapist considers it a boost to the healing process in my left elbow and arm. Who knew that what I always put aside for athletic pursuits would pull me back home and help me feel whole again? Who knew that a debilitating injury would actually give birth to this rekindled love in my life? Thank you, God; You knew.
And so, on this 1st of July, I look back in appreciation and thanksgiving for the healing that has taken place and for the light that emerges from the dark, and I anticipate a song-filled road ahead. Will you sing with me?
p.s. any requests or ideas for songs to learn?