Last week I attended a Montessori conference and had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Timothy Purnell, the Executive Director of the American Montessori Society. With the kind of energy that gets a guy walking through the aisles of an auditorium instead of standing behind a podium, he talked to us about the importance of connecting & sharing about Montessori through social media--a platform that has the capability of spreading good through its enormous reach. It's through connecting and relationship building, he reminded us, that we are part of a movement. But to be a part of something great--to be part of a movement--you have to stop keeping the good stuff to yourself and share with others.
In other words, you have to "get off your island".
This is always an enticing concept to me--sharing with others, talking about the things that we're passionate about, helping move something I believe in forward. Yet I notice that I often fail at getting the good stuff I know I have to share actually out there. I had to ask myself, when it comes to this topic, why does there always seem to be this gap between the things I desire to do and my actions?
Why do some of us (myself included) struggle so greatly with social media--heck, with all things social--while it seems to come so easily to others?
I don't think anyone holds back on connecting and sharing because they have an intention to withhold from others or because they dislike people (well, maybe a few, but not most of us). Instead, I think it boils down to the difference between extroverts and introverts.
It's not a difference so much in intention, but in how we get our "juice"--introverts get their juice through solitude and going inward, while extroverts thrive from putting themselves out there and connecting with others. The best example I can think of is a relationship I once had with your quintessential extrovert. After a long, stressful day he'd say "ugh, today was awful, I'm gonna call up my buddies and see what's going on", while I'd say "ugh, today was awful, I'm gonna curl up with a chick flick and a cozy blanket". (You can guess how that worked out...)
Most introverts want to be movers and shakers--contributors--just as many extroverts do, it's just that the process of putting ourselves out there is a greater struggle. For us, the amount of effort, time, and energy it takes to constantly get out of our comfort zone can be exhausting and, when we push forward for periods of time and do it anyway, we often feel the need to retreat and recover afterward.
This raises the question, why "get off our islands" when it's so cozy living there?
If putting ourselves out there is so uncomfortable, so exhausting...why do it?
I think the answer lies in another powerful message our speaker had: you have to define your WHY. You have to be clear about why you do what you do and how you desire to spend your time. My biggest reason for doing all I do is, like many others, my family. But my second biggest "why" is because making a contribution, making an impact in this life, matters to me and I feel I do that through teaching & writing. Well, not so much in writing per se, but in sharing my writing.
See, the reason it's critical for me to "feel the fear and do it anyway" is because sharing and connecting is key to my vision as a writer. Mostly, I write for myself--to make sense of life. But I share because there's just about no greater feeling than hearing someone say "Yes! This! You put words to what I was feeling but didn't know how to say." Networking, connecting, sharing, marketing--all the things that are uncomfortable and time consuming for me are, like it or not, the very things that will help connect my writing with more people and make my vision my reality.
So what's an introvert to do? Do we continue fighting the good fight for the sake of something greater or do we redefine our why and just surrender to our true nature?
I do know that the answer is NOT trying to become an extrovert--fighting who we authentically are never works out well or lasts very long. I think we introverts can be a part of something really great, it might just take us a little longer to get there (although, who really defines where "there" is anyway?).
I think the key might be in working with our true nature rather than against it. We need to allow ourselves those moments on the island because recharging is key to getting our creativity back when we're feeling depleted. But waiting until we're "ready" to rejoin the world won't work, just as waiting until I'm "ready" to workout or sit and prepare my taxes won't work either. There are simply things in life that we have to, at some point, make ourselves do for our own well-being.
When we've allowed ourselves a respite and we know it's time to jump back in and rejoin the conversation we'll inevitably feel resistance, but I think it's important for us not to view our resistance as an enemy we have to fight--you know that saying "what we resist persists." I think it may boil down to feeling the resistance come up, recognizing it, and then proceeding anyway.
And we can support each other. We can make each other accountable. Whether you're a fellow introvert yourself or an extrovert, when you notice your friend's been hanging out on the island for awhile, remind him or her that you miss their contribution. Remind them that the stuff they put out there, their voice, makes a difference and is missed. It might just be the little push they need.
This is my goal for 2019--to honor my true nature, but get off my island when I know it's time to come home. Because getting out of my own way is also part of honoring myself.
Now excuse me while I painstakingly read this over and over again, endlessly edit, and then contemplate for an hour whether or not to hit "publish". Oh and then spend tomorrow going through that whole process again trying to share on social.
Hey, it used to take me a week. It's called progress, people.
For the last few weeks I’ve suffered from a condition I can't quite name but seems to flare up from time to time, especially when a new year approaches. It impairs my ability to get words from my mind onto the actual page, to get my yoga pant-clad bottom to the place where the yoga actually happens.
You see, it’s not an issue of intention, it’s one of execution.
There’s fortunately nothing physically wrong with me—my right (write) hand isn’t paralyzed and I’m thankful to have the ability to exercise my body. I can’t claim writer’s block because the ideas are there, just as I can’t blame my procrastination around exercising on not knowing how to do it…it’s just that I come up with every excuse in the world to NOT ACTUALLY DO IT.
And this is where the shame comes in.
Because what kind of person is fortunate enough to have the health and ability to move her body, to be provided with people actually willing to read the things she writes, yet actively chooses to get in her own way? What kind of person actively participates in the sabotaging of her own forward progress?
The answer to that is, in my mind, a failure. Perhaps you think I’m being too harsh, but let me plead my case.
One of the distractions I’ve used lately to stall forward progress (unintentionally but still...) is the suddenly very urgent need to clean and declutter my house from top to bottom—something I’ve decided must come first before all other things. As I cleaned out from under my bed, I found the large Rubbermaid container I’ve used as a keepsake box over the years. I opened the lid for the first time in a long while and rummaged through, finding some old vision boards and journals. On the pages I found goals from four years ago and made a grim discovery: my goals then were no different than the ones I’m still chasing after today.
I haven’t written the book.
I haven’t lost the extra ten pounds (well, I have here and there, but seem to gain it back).
I haven’t gone all organic or sugar-free.
I still have debt.
It’s not to say I’ve made no forward progress--I’ve gone after those things and, for periods of time, been successful. I’ve started a blog and gained some readers, I’ve cut back on sweets at times, and I’ve made a good dent in my debt…but it hasn’t been ONE year folks, it’s been FOUR.
1,460 days wasn’t enough time to achieve my dreams?
I can try defending my inching, rather than sprinting, forward with the fact that I’m a full-time working mother of a young child, but at what point does that fact become an excuse? And, if it’s indeed a valid excuse, it raises the question:
is it a worthwhile endeavor then to dream at all?
The optimist in me says “of course—keep the hope!” but there’s another voice that says “if it hasn’t happened by now…will it ever?” I considered this question head-on as I tucked the vision boards and goal lists safely away. I decided it was time to face whether these goals were really coming to fruition—if my progress was indeed moving forward or just circular.
I checked my blog stats and the scale for the first time in months, numbers I normally try not to look at but I also know represent reality. Despite my efforts to clean up my diet lately, the number on the scale was exactly the same as where I was last year. And, as could be expected, my blog numbers were down from my procrastination around writing. Ahhh yes…confirmation, not in emotions or belief but in actual numbers, that I was indeed failing to meet goals I'd set long ago.
I didn’t do what you might expect--internalize that sense of failure and go eat a bunch of garbage or run up my credit card or sabotage myself by going after the things I’d been actively fighting against. But I did, on some level, check out. For the first time, I didn't see the point in trying to make forward progress if I would only eventually backslide. I decided this year I wouldn't sabotage or strive...just be, well, goalless.
For three days I continued to pour myself into the cleaning of every inch of my house, a pile of items to purge getting bigger by the front door. I wasn’t necessarily feeling depressed or hopeless, but a bit weary, like my heart was hardened a bit.
I needed something to listen to as I continued to sort through and scrub my house and stumbled upon a YouTube video of a speech given by the author Cheryl Strayed. She talked about how she had once sat down to write the “great American novel” but found every excuse not to do so—and that when she was finally given the perfect setting and opportunity to actually DO what she’d always dreamed she would, she ended up binge watching reality shows instead.
After much procrastination, she finally had to face the idea that she was failing at achieving her dream. She had to reckon with her own mediocrity and consider the idea that maybe her dreams weren’t a worthwhile pursuit after all.
What she realized after giving it some thought was that her dream of writing was TRUE and REAL—it was just that the goal of writing the “great American novel” had been too big and felt too heavy. So, rather than completely give up or swing in the other direction and try to achieve GREATness, she decided to do something in between: to surrender to her mediocrity and simply make good on her intentions.
She said, “when you surrender to your own mediocrity, what you’re doing is humbly acknowledging that the very best thing you have to give us is only what YOU have to offer.”
I wouldn’t go so far as to say her words changed my life, but, again, things don’t have to be so darn BIG. What her words did do was get me to open my laptop.
And, look, here I am writing again.
Friends, I don’t have the circumstances in place to try and write a book right now and I don’t know how to turn 1,000 followers into the 100,000 that book agents are looking for, but what I can do is share some words that speak to my heart when I’m willing to let it crack open a little. That’s all I have to offer right now.
I don’t have the budget this year to completely pay off my student loans AND mortgage AND credit cards, but I can make my payments just a little bigger than the minimum and pay them on time every. single. month. That is what I can afford to do right now.
I can’t speak for how I’ll navigate my tricky relationship with sugar next month or next week or even tomorrow, but I can make choices that feel good for my body today, one breath and bite at a time. And I can move in some way each day, not for a number on the scale, but for my health and because I just feel better when I do. All I can commit to is the next right choice for my body, on this day.
I guess it’s no longer true that I don’t have goals for 2019 because I do have one: this year, I won’t try and make myself or my life over. I won’t commit to things that feel too big or too heavy. Instead, my goal this year is to surrender to my own mediocrity...
to give only what I have to offer...
to make good on my intentions.
That I can do.
And, to answer my previous question, yes…I do believe dreaming is a worthwhile endeavor—it keeps us growing and retains our sense of hope. But the scope and scale of those dreams is going to change year to year depending on our circumstances. If your career, love life, and financial circumstances are thriving, you might be in a position to pursue big, shiny, sparkly kinds of goals, and that’s terrific. That's the juice we get during the up times of life that serves as fuel to keep going during the down times, with hope that they'll come around again.
But I also know this: that if everything was stripped from you this year and you could give a hoot about big, sparkly dreams and you’re just trying to SURVIVE with the few things you’ve got left—the types of things that can’t be taken from you when all else is
like your will,
and your tenacious love for those weathering the storm alongside you...
real, gritty, salt of the earth kinds of dreams rather than sparkly ones...
well, here’s the good news I’d like to whisper into your heart, reminding you of what you already know:
in this year ahead, you'll be okay...because these are the only things you ever really need anyway.
"You're so sensitive."
Three little words I've heard over and over again throughout my life. In Kindergarten I cried every time the teacher reprimanded the class because I thought she was surely talking directly to me. Kids in school said I didn't know how to take a joke. Boyfriends accused me of being overly sensitive when we fought. Believe me, I've been told on way more than one occasion that I need to lighten up or toughen up.
Do something to stop being "too much"--too sensitive, too anxious, too nice.
I spent thirty-some years being ashamed of my sensitive nature, trying to put on a front that things didn't really bother me when they did, acting as if I had a thick skin when I didn't, pretending jokes rolled off my back when they stuck to me like glue.
Then, as I approached my mid-thirties, I had a child. And my sensitive self was so overwhelmed with it all--the love, the stress, the complete upside down flip of my life that it wasn't even possible to pretend I wasn't feeling all that I was. I called it postpartum anxiety just to give it a name, but really I wasn't quite sure how to name what I was feeling--I just felt oversaturated with and overwhelmed by the love. I wondered, is it possible to love something so much that it doesn't feel, well...good?
Then one day, when he was a couple months old, I brought him in to introduce him to my coworkers and one of them said something I'll never forget--she put words to exactly what I'd been feeling. She said, "doesn't having a child feel like you're walking around with your heart outside your body?"
OMG. Yes! That's exactly what it feels like.
And then, three years later, I began to fall in love like that all over again, except this time it couldn't last. And that heartbreak felt equally overwhelming, but different. This time I was able to put words to how I was feeling: if having a baby felt like walking around with my heart outside my body, losing one felt like walking around completely inside out, every nerve raw and exposed.
People's well-intentioned but poorly delivered words didn't just fail to "roll off", they felt like knives cutting an already open wound. Edgy and irritable became my default on a good day but most days my patience felt so paper thin, you could say the wrong thing and break it clean in half. Grief took up residence as an ever-present lump in my throat, a dam holding back a flood of tears just waiting for the slightest trigger to release it.
There's no use trying to put on fronts or a thick skin living inside out--I didn't care to and, even if I did, they wouldn't have stuck. So I had no choice but to start owning living inside out. And that's where I am now, as I close out my 30's.
Those of us living life inside out--we may be overly sensitive, we may overreact, but with that comes great passion for the things we do and people we love.
We may take things harder, but at least we're not hardened.
We're far from carefree but we're not care-free...our empathy is something the world desperately needs.
We're sometimes perceived as the Black Sheep or the Oddballs, but we're really just, as Glennon Doyle says, "not a mess, but a deeply feeling person living in a messy world."
Living life inside out means I might not be the social butterfly at the party but I can write a piece like this. It means I have boxes of journals because I've always written stuff like this.
But owning living inside out means that now you're reading it.
Because living life inside out is no longer something I'm ashamed of--it simply means I'm no longer pretending not to feel deeply when the reality is that I do. It means I'm finally making my outsides match my insides.
I may be "too much" of something, maybe everything...but you can never be too REAL.
I walk toward the doors of my son's classroom after a long day in my own, my shoulders tight and my soul yearning for an afternoon coffee. This is the brightest spot of any given day--that moment after walking through the doors of my son's classroom when I spot him, he spots me, and he comes running, arms wide open and joy all over his face. My tired and tense is replaced with a sudden burst of pure joy that floods my body as his 4 year-old arms wrap around my neck. We exchange hugs and kisses and I take in every detail he wants to tell me about his day as we gather his things and walk together toward the car.
The end of the workday, for most people, is a welcome relief but, for me, the ride home from school is my least favorite part of the day--not because I'm unhappy to head home and be with my family, but because this is the time of day when I'm least mentally and physically settled. I feel a little like a soda bottle that's been shaken up and sat down, struggling to transition from swirling to settling. There just seems to be so much noise--both literally and figuratively. The noise of the radio, the sounds of traffic that surround me, my son's stories now stretching into twenty-minute monologues that I'm trying my best to actively listen to.
But the loudest, most distracting noise is that going through my head: the attempt to try and process all that I've taken in that day at school while simultaneously trying to let it go, to try and remember what didn't get done so those items can carry over onto tomorrow's to-do list, and the flood of to-do's that are yet to come when I step into the door of my own home. The reality is that home is not where I rest after an already full and tiring day--it's where the second half of my day begins: weekday evenings of a relaxing dinner and 8 o'clock sitcom were at some point replaced as just prep for the next day. To muster up the energy, I pull into Starbucks before tackling the grocery store.
I try to avoid early evening trips to the store by doing my shopping over the weekend--a nearly $200 bill for the week ahead seems like it should be enough, yet it's Thursday and somehow we've blown through most of it and there's nothing for dinner. Plus, it's my son's turn to bring snack for his class and my students have that project that I need marshmallows for. The caffeine boost helps me get through the aisles more quickly. The bill at the register is shocking as always and I do a quick mental scramble to make sure there's enough in the account on this day before payday. The cashier asks if I'd like to donate to help our local schools get the supplies they need. I think "girrrl, please" but politely tell her no thanks, not today, I've already donated toward the cause. As I push the cart through the parking lot, I laugh and joke with my boy and tell both him and myself "we're almost home".
I approach the door to my own home with as many grocery bags as I can carry in my left hand and a teacher cart wheeling behind me in my right, pleading with my four year-old to stop chasing lizards and pick up the grocery bag he dropped so we can get into the house. My shoulders feel tighter now as I balance bags on my leg and fumble with the key. When I walk in it feels like a mixture of relief and dread. I'm happy to be home, yet there's mess as far as the eye can see. Like my attempt at proactive weekend grocery shopping, my weekend cleaning now seems like a futile effort. I can't say it's all my son or husband's doing, I left out my own dinner plate from last night and the contents of my make up bag are strewn across the bathroom sink, not to mention our dog has knocked his food all over the floor. It's nobody's fault really, we're all busy and doing the best we can but somehow it just gets out of control so quickly.
My husband walks in the door and there's a second burst of parent/child joy. "Heyyy, boy!" my husband calls out as my son runs full speed into his arms. He probably feels dirty and tired after his own long day but looks like construction-clad perfection to me in his Carhartt jeans and work boots. He hugs and kisses me and we trade trite how was your day's, and fines. Both of us know the other is genuinely interested but that neither of us has the time or mental energy at the moment to hear genuine answers. Perhaps in a quiet restaurant with a bottle of wine, but not right now. We'll get there later.
As my son and husband commence some sort of weird wrestling/growling session I don't quite understand, I pop in my headphones to escape yet more noise. I pour my one glass of wine for the night and turn on my guilty pleasure podcast as I run through my mental to-do list of what needs to get done in the next two hours. As I pour the wine, I tell myself I should be popping in my headphones to go for a run instead before the sun goes down, but my tired body rejects that idea. Plus, that wouldn't leave enough time for everything else. I spend the next hour and a half in a whirlwind of packing lunches, picking up messes, switching over a load of laundry, and giving baths as my husband showers and helps with dinner. My son pleads with me a few times to play dinosaurs with him. "I want to buddy, I do...just give me ten more minutes."
Eventually the noise settles down and so do we, the three of us crammed into our bed to read a few books before my son goes off to his own. I let him lay with us because I feel guilty about having worked all day and most of the evening rather than connecting with him. My husband opens his laptop and I try my best to feign interest and keep my eyes open as I read Ten Thousand Facts About Reptiles yet again, but I'll read it over and over because I know someday soon he'll be able to just read it himself. On fact twenty-eight, my son nudges me and says "moooom...keep going!" because I doze off slightly. It's not even 8:30. I tell him that's enough for tonight and toss the books aside. We say our prayers and my son requests his nightly bedtime back tickle. As I tickle his tiny, soft back, I take in his precious face and relish in the quiet.
I now feel settled and satisfied, but it's tinged with a little guilt.
I wish I'd made more time for me. I could stay up and take a hot bath or watch my favorite show but my eyes are too heavy.
I wish I'd said more than five sentences to my husband and I wish they'd been something fun, not a reminder that he has a dentist appointment tomorrow.
I wish I'd gotten just one of the papers from my Bag of Good Intentions graded.
My wish list is interrupted by the sound of my phone going off--the familiar ding of a work e-mail coming through. It's now a little past 8:50. I take a glance and notice it's a message from a parent. I sigh and silently wish I taught in 1989 when I would receive a handwritten note at 8:50 in the morning instead.
Against my better judgment, I open the e-mail because the curiosity wins out over my desire to set boundaries. The message is in response to an activity I've arranged for the class to participate in next week. It reads "thank you for doing this for our kids. You are an awesome role model and teacher...you're like a second parent to him. Our son is lucky to have you."
I take a breath and put the phone back down on the nightstand. I needed that tonight. Because, while I'm exhausted, this reminds me that my efforts aren't in vain--that my time and energy that day meant something to someone. I kiss my husband and my son one more time. My husband's "I love you, baby" is sincere and, with my son's arms wrapped around my neck, I am again reminded that the tired and the hustle for my family is also worthwhile--that it's contributing toward something that matters.
Look, I probably won't die rich or well-known by many or having been able to say I traveled the world. I probably won't look back and see a very glamorous life. But I do believe in the things I'm working so hard for. I do believe I'll be able to think back on the hundreds of students I connected with, my marriage, and my relationship with my son and feel I've lived a life worth living--a life that meant something in the grand scheme of things. And that's what keeps me going.
That and the lattes, of course.
She was my 4th grade teacher and one of my all-time favorites--a bubbly, brunette, thirty-something woman with dimples that made learning fun and always wore the cutest high heels that perfectly matched her dress. She handed out Star Student certificates every Friday, signed in perfect cursive, to students who showed good behavior and boy, did I aim to please. That was my main goal at 9 years old really--to gain friends and the teacher's favor by laying low and being good at all costs. I was conscientious, polite, and on-task ALWAYS—a model student.
Until one day, when I made an uncharacteristically bad choice: when I thought no one was looking, I took a Sharpie to the head cheerleader’s jacket.
A little while later Mrs. S. called me out into the hallway. My stomach was fluttery and I felt a lump forming in my throat--she knew. When we were outside, just the two of us, she said “Krissy, I couldn't believe it when another student told me, but is it true that you were the one who damaged Ashley's jacket?” I silently shook my head yes as tears of shame filled my eyes. My teacher knelt down and her voice lowered. “I guess you’ve probably been frustrated with her for some time now, huh? Calling you names and joking to the other girls as you pass by?”
She knew?! I couldn’t believe it; I had no idea anyone knew. I thought I'd been successful in going unnoticed. I nodded as the tears started rolling down my face.
“Krissy, what you did today was very wrong and you will need to apologize—you should’ve used your words with Ashley. But next time, don’t wait until you’re this frustrated to speak up for yourself. Because what you did today, that’s not who you want to be.”
She was right. That was the thing about Mrs. S.—while I tried my best to be hidden, to blend in at all costs, she tried her best to allow me to be seen for who I really was.
One morning a few weeks later Mrs. S. came in smiling, saying she had some exciting news to share: she was expecting a baby in the summer and we would be having a substitute when the time came closer. I was so happy for her. But no more than a few weeks later, I walked into class to find the principal at the front of the room, saying she had something important to tell us.
“Unfortunately, Mrs. Shaw has learned she is no longer expecting a baby. A substitute will be filling in for her for a while until she can return.”
Not quite understanding how it all worked, one of the students raised her hand and asked what we were all thinking: “why will we have a substitute just because she’s not having a baby anymore?” The principal paused and then answered,
“well...because she’s just too sad to be here”.
Her words were like a brick in my stomach. Too sad to be here? I had heard of people too sick to go to school….but too sad? I wasn’t sure I’d ever seen anyone that sad before in my whole life. My heart ached picturing our bubbly, smiling teacher so distraught.
Later that day a group of us plotted in a small huddle on the playground to problem-solve Mrs. S's sadness. One girl said she knew where she lived and suggested that maybe we could all visit her at home and bring her things to make her happy, like chocolate or coffee. Another insisted that we go to her and remind her that school is where she is happy and refuse to leave until she comes back with us—a kidnapping essentially. We brainstormed all the ways we could think of to fix her sadness and bring her back to us.
Eventually the day came when I walked in to class and found Mrs. S. behind the teacher’s desk once again. Finally, she’s back! I thought. But I quickly noticed something was different. Rather than jumping up to greet each of us as we came in, she nodded half-smile hellos from behind her desk and then looked back down at her work. Her bright high-heels were replaced with black flats and her eyes seemed to always look tired. When I would ask her a question she would sometimes snap at me for reasons I couldn’t figure out. Our teacher was back, but she was different somehow. I wondered if maybe we should’ve gone to her house to cheer her up after all.
Almost 30 years later I found myself standing in the same shoes Mrs. S. had stood in all those years before, unlocking my own classroom door after being out for a week, wondering how I’d face the students who’d learned I was no longer expecting.
I thought about Mrs. S. and how badly I'd wanted to fix her sadness,
how desperately I’d wanted her to just be her old self again,
how I was too young to understand that the change in her had nothing to do with us.
I remembered how I’d analyzed her demeanor, her clothes, her tone of voice in an effort to see just how worried we should be about her. I’d better put on a smile, I thought.
But then I remembered something else Mrs. S. had taught me all those years ago during our talk out in the hallway: how I don’t have to be “good” or “perfect” all the time, just honest about how I feel…before it all builds up and comes out in ways that aren’t me; ways I don’t want to be. And I wanted my girls to hear that from me, too.
My usually talkative class was somber and silent as they arrived that morning and slowly walked to their seats and settled in. I could feel them studying my face just as I had studied Mrs. Shaw’s, trying to measure my sadness.
I asked them to come gather with me down on the rug and said “I know you all have heard that my family’s received some sad news.” I felt the lump rise in my throat and took a breath. “The truth is, I AM sad. I might be sad about this for a little while or a long while, I don’t know. But I also want you to know my sadness has nothing to do with you. In fact, being here with you all, and teaching….this is where I want to be because teaching you all makes me happy. So, even though I may feel sad, I’m choosing to be here.”
Their bodies relaxed and their faces softened. A few of them mumbled that they were glad to have me back, too.
Twenty or thirty years from now it would be fun to be remembered as the lively teacher with the cute shoes and snazzy certificates in perfect cursive--the way I remembered Mrs. S. for all those years.
But the reality is that every one of the girls sitting in my classroom will one day face their own great sadness, whatever it is, and I hope in those moments they remember me less for my shoes and more for those “hallway conversations”. Because, in my own moment of sorrow, that's when I remembered the things Mrs. S. taught me that really mattered.
How she pushed for me to be seen when all I wanted to do was hide in the background.
The way she encouraged me to be real about how I was feeling rather than stuff it down.
And her guidance to take the high road rather than lowering myself when I feel beaten down.
I think of Mrs. Shaw often and wonder if she ever started wearing her cute shoes again...if she ever went back to that old bubbly self I once loved. I hope at least a part of that spark came back, not just for her students but for herself. Because, while it's good in the sad times to let ourselves fully feel what we feel, it's also important to eventually let yourself allow the joy in again—to put your smile and your cute shoes back on, to get your zest for life back.
I can remember in my own shock of grief thinking “I’ll never smile or laugh again” simply out of respect for the love I’d lost. But I eventually learned that allowing in happiness doesn't take away from the gravity of the loss or dishonor the one you're grieving for in any way. You don’t leave them behind when you move forward, you carry them with you.
That’s what’s so amazing about the strength of a woman—she can carry her smile, her obligations, her losses, all of it along with her everyday, everywhere she goes.
Even in cute high heels.