The Search

“Live today fully and you create a lifetime of meaningful memories.” (Sophia Bedford-Pierce THE KEY TO LIFE)

The quote floats at the top of my morning page journal–a message from the universe to combat the sadness which wells inside of me the moment I drag myself out of sleep.

It’s a message I yearn to understand and to fully embrace, but something deep inside myself  questions whether or not I’m even capable of truly enjoying life. What is a full life? This inner voice asks. What is a meaningful life? This inner voice demands.

I have no answers.

I yearn to lose myself into the oblivion of writing about someone else’s life, but the characters are silent. I yearn to find my connection to that creative energy where the characters live . . . where inspiration lives . . . but it seems out of reach.

I yearn to lose myself into the oblivion of exercise without thought, where the mind can then open to other possibilities. For me that place has always been a swimming pool, but I don’t know where to go. So I try to tap dance,  but my feet don’t move correctly and I am reminded that I’m clumsy and awkward.

I take myself to my place of retreat. The botanical gardens that appear here so often. My intent is to walk and walk and walk until I’ve reached that rhythm of not thought where possibility has room to grow. Not possible today, as everywhere there are people cutting branches and trimming trees. A walk through the  gardens becomes an adventure in an obstacle course, with the danger of falling  limbs and the sound of saws disturbing the silence.

I did, however, finally figure out one thing that was wrong with my camera, and managed to get some beautiful shots. Flowers and beauty, but no answers, no peace.

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I treat myself to  lunch there, and try to find my way through words. I end up grading papers and that is all.  I head back out and notice all of the older men wandering through the gardens, taking pictures, enjoying the beauty. They remind me of all the things my Dad didn’t get to do in retirement, before  Alzheimer’s overtook him. They remind me that he is no longer here with me, and can’t walk through the gardens with me. He never did.

Hiking the Robert Frost years ago (when Sarah was around 2)

Hiking the Robert Frost years ago (when Sarah was around 2)

I cry.

I return home. The radio filled with stories that I no longer want to listen to, about the bombers and wars and death and hatred and congress and I can’t take anymore. Just yesterday I learned that the boy who died in the bombing was closely connected to a high school friend. It’s all too close, too much.

I find no peace.

I return to find messages of kindness from friends. One tells me  to “Go out in the sun, and force yourself to write two pages about happiness.” The clouds have rolled in. The sun is gone.  I search for the words about happiness . . .

but all I find are these.

What do you do when you can’t find peace, or words, or that magic place of calm? What do you do when sadness rules?

 

 

 

 

Lessons Learned and the People Who Teach Them

This week has been a challenge. I’m not just talking about writer’s block (which is there) but a darker struggle inside myself, as I question whether or not anything I do has value in this world. I’ve been dealing with:

  • students who seem to think attendance during the last weeks of school is optional
  • students who think that my assignments and the deadlines associated are optional
  • administrators who think that my opinions do not have weight or are not worthy of consideration
  • young students whose lives are so difficult outside of school that its hard to see if anything I am doing is reaching them
  • at least one class where the women in the class refuse to speak up and participate, they defer to the male voices a large percentage of the time. It drives me insane as someone who truly values mentoring young women.
  • a complete lack of faith in myself as director, writer, artist, teacher

But then, Siobhan Curious over at Classroom as Microcosm, posted this prompt as part of her Writing on Learning Exchange Series: she asks this provocative question “Who Taught You?”

That message made me think about what we learn when we least expect it, and who teaches us those important lessons. Sure, hopefully we have teachers throughout our educations that actually teach us something, but I am beginning to think that perhaps true learning comes to us in a different way. This isn’t to say that we have nothing to learn in a classroom environment . . . there’s plenty to learn through those formal methods, but sometimes we learn in unexpected ways, and sometimes we teach without knowing we are  teaching.

In my own life, lessons have come from so many unexpected places and people:

  • the fellow teacher from Australia who didn’t graduate from high school, used less than legal means to get hired to teach English in Japan (you were supposed to have a college degree) and showed me that a love of life and a passion for following your heart is in some ways more important than what you learn  from books. Too bad I didn’t fully absorb that lesson until very recently, despite the fact that she taught me it about 20 years ago.
  • the lessons I learned about prejudice, hate, and racism while working with a group of Roma children in Slovakia.
  • the lessons I’ve learned from the leaders of that Slovakia trip, about caring, sharing, traveling and living life with the understanding that there is more to the world than our small section of it.

    The leaders of Dramatic Adventure Theatre pitching in to make sure we were well fed.

    The leaders of Dramatic Adventure Theatre pitching in to make sure we were well fed.

  • There’s my current student who faces all kinds of challenges including incessant and debilitating migraines, being struck by lightning, and numerous friends dying from suicide or car accidents and things. She’s taken all this sadness, all these challenges, and given herself a goal to help others by becoming a school counselor and learning as much as she can about psychology. She is an inspiration.
  • The lesson I learned this morning from a woman I don’t know. Mia McKenzie’s blog post starts with the words “Hey White Liberals!” and challenges me to reflect on ingrained aspects of racism and injustice that we all need to think about, and somehow change.

This list could go on forever, and my blog is peppered with posts about people of all ages, races, cultures, levels of education who have taught me lessons. The point is that we never know when we will learn something that changes our lives. Nor we will ever truly know when we have taught something that has made a difference.

With that perspective, perhaps my life isn’t as empty as it feels at the moment, because there’s always something new to learn and the possibility that someone actually learns from you.

This is my greatest teacher.

This is my greatest teacher.

 

Deep Thoughts by Lisa Kramer

No, my deep thoughts will be nothing like Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy. There’s an entire website dedicated to his deep (dark, disturbing, and sometimes downright hilarious) thoughts which originated on Saturday Night Live.

Do you remember those?

No, my deep thoughts are the thoughts of a brain that has been working overtime during the past week, but can’t seem to work its way out of the mire of thinking.

To put it simply, I think too much. I cannot move forward into some other kinds of writing or into planning if I can’t empty my brain off all the thoughts competing for attention. If I had a pensieve like Dumbledore in Harry Potter I would be pulling strand out of strand of thoughts out of my head just to give my mind a rest. But I don’t have one, so I must resort to a more mundane way of doing things (or is that a more muggley way of doing things?). I don’t have a magic wand . . . I just have the magic of words.

I want to use that magic except that I’m afraid, because the truth is that some of my thoughts could piss people off. Does that mean I shouldn’t write them? Or is it finally time to get all of this off my chest?

What exactly am I afraid of?

I guess my fear is not being liked. I still struggle with  wanting to belong somewhere, and here on the blog I’ve found a group of friends even if they are only virtual ones. I’m also aware that anyone who has dreams of writing and selling a book, needs to build a fan base. But what if my deep thoughts are too radical? Too opinionated? Or simply too difficult  to follow?

Yup, my thoughts are that deep.

Then I look at one of my writing idols, Andra Watkins aka The Accidental Cootchie Mama, who does not run away from the dark words and thoughts that sometimes haunt her. She lets her characters have a voice through her words, even when those characters and thoughts come from a scary place. Her fiction never fails to chill, thrill, and make you think a little about the meaning of  life. Perhaps I need to allow my deep thoughts to come  out  in the form of fiction, or at least I need to give voice to them somehow.

Even if they make me afraid.

Does anyone want to hear the deep thoughts of Lisa Kramer or should my voice remain silent?

Sometimes deep thoughts come while sitting on a swing and staring at the sky.

Sometimes deep thoughts come while sitting on a swing and staring at the sky.

 

We Have to Start Somewhere

Sarah at my sister's apartment in WATERTOWN, MA.

Sarah at my sister’s apartment in WATERTOWN, MA.

I woke up this morning determined to start my pursuit of happiness. I took a hot bubble bath and felt one moment of PURE BLISS. I got up to write in my MORNING PAGES and everything fell apart . . .

Is it possible that happiness can only truly exist in brief moments?

I wasn’t looking  at technology. I didn’t have my phone near me. I was writing with a modern version of  a fountain pen. And yet, the news just creeped into my system as if all the negativity is just bouncing through the atmosphere, leaping from person to person in an all-consuming wave of negative energy.

A text from a friend who was worried about us.

MIT policeman shot.

Suspect dead in Watertown, MA.

The  city shut down and people told to stay home.

Deb and Norman ignoring the orders to stay at home and going to work.

It’s all too close to home.

It’s all too real. And yet . . . it also feels surreal.

If we, as humans, continue to send all of this negativity out into the world, in such intense waves that we know the news before it is even spoken, then we are doomed.

Change has to start somewhere, and it is not going to happen through governments or laws or politicians.

Change, true change to a world that values happiness and peace over money and hatred, will only come  if each and every individual strives toward putting that out in the world. We can’t let the moments of pure happiness be fleeting. The moments of pain should be the fleeting ones. The moments of hate.

We’ve got it all backwards.

We have to start somewhere. But first I must cry for a world that has lost its way. Perhaps hope can be found from the tears.

Finding beauty in sadness.

Finding beauty in sadness.

 

In Pursuit of Happiness

I quit.

I’m done.

I can’t take more of this chaos, this insanity, this week , this year . . .

I refuse to accept that human beings have nothing more to offer each other than clinging  to stupidity in the name of the perception of freedom, and allowing a minority ignore the will of the majority who just want to feel safe from the brutality of those who see violence as the answer to everything.

I refuse to believe that we cannot find our way past fear and the perception of difference to live in  a world full of peace, kindness, and love.

I can’t continue to gather the pain and anger that fills this world, and feel so helpless. I can’t watch as media agencies care more about being first than about reporting news properly.

I can’t take any more.

It’s time to make change . . . inside myself, in society, in this world.

I don’t like walking around feeling angry, sad, frustrated, tired, and hopeless. But, I realize, that I’m the only one who can change that for myself, and maybe making the  internal changes will somehow create chain reaction that will grow into others.

Today is the day that I am going to close my eyes and ears to all the negativity in the world, and focus on happiness.

This doesn’t mean I will stop caring, but that I simply cannot take anymore in. The  only way I’m ever going to make a difference. The only way we are ever going to make change, is for each and every individual to say “Enough! This insanity has gone on for too long! We want  a better life for everyone!” And then they have to start . . . with themselves.

“Your personal contentment is more than a feel-good story. New research shows it can have a profound effect on your health. . . It’s not too late to pursue your own happiness today.” (Ronald Siegel “Why You Need to Pursue Happiness”

Today I choose to pursue happiness and love, because if I don’t I think I’m going to lose myself into a darkness m which I’ll never escape.

Today I choose pursue happiness because I cannot accept that humans cannot rise above the darkness, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Today I choose to pursue happiness and hope.

Does anyone want to join me? If we do, maybe we can change the world, one step at a time.

Yellow and purple flowers make me happy.

Yellow and purple flowers make me happy.

UPDATE (a few moments later): I’m going to learn from the wisdom of the incredible “word hermit” Andra Watkins . . . visit her post to find out more.

A Week of Lessons Learned (and it’s Only Wednesday)

I called my daughter last night to say goodnight. She’s on spring break, and we aren’t, so she’s spending a few days at Grandma’s house.

This morning at Grandma's.

This morning at Grandma’s.

Me: “I know it’s early, but I’m really tired so I’m going to bed and wanted to say goodnight.” [Note that this was 8:30 and I had already fallen asleep reading. The only reason I was awake to make the phone call was the dogs woke me to go outside.]

Sarah: Oh . . . I’m . . . um . . . I’m scared.

Me: What? Why are you scared?

Sarah: Never mind, good night.

Me: No, Sarah. Tell me why you’re scared.

Sarah: Because of the bombs.

I wish I could say that I stepped up and had a brilliant moment of parenting at that time, but that would be a lie. As my heart broke and my arms yearned to take her in a never-ending hug, I tried my best to say the right things; to tell her I understood her fear, but that she was safe and that they would catch whoever had done this.

I tried to say the right things, but the words tasted like dust in my mouth, because in some ways they are lies. I cannot promise to protect her from every evil out there, just as mothers all over the world cannot protect their children from the bombs and bullets that plague them. I cannot protect her from every individual who somehow values his/her personal beliefs over the lives of others.

I cannot protect her from it all, unless I lock her in a cave and never let her out.

Last week I wrote a post called “‘Crood’ Lessons” , where I discuss some of the positives and negatives of the movie. Who would have thought that the lessons from that movie would carry over into this week?

You see, the father, Grug, tries to keep his family safe by keeping them in a cave. He only lets them leave for food. Yet, even the safety of that cave isn’t perfect. When he and his family have to move on in search of something else (in his mind another cave) he learns that its more important to live life than to hide in safety and never do anything.

“Never be afraid . . . follow the light.”

I called Sarah this morning just after I discovered this connection by writing in my Morning Pages. I finally had a metaphor to use to help her. I told her fear was okay, as long as we didn’t let it stop us from living. We talked about the movie. I think she understood.

“What are you all doing today,” I asked.

“Making fairy houses,” Sarah said.

One of the fairy houses Sarah built for our back hill last fall.

One of the fairy houses Sarah built for our back hill last fall.

Life moves on.

As it should.

This week is full of the lessons that we must learn; about resilience and life, about caring for each other, about never giving up, about kindness and strength. This morning I saw this  post on my Facebook feed, posted by a girl named Laura Wellington who was 1/2 mile from the finish when the bombs exploded. The words underneath are hers:

Please help me by sharing this! As some of you know, I was 1/2 mile from the finish line when the explosion went off. I had no idea what was going on until I finally stopped and asked someone. Knowing that my family was at the finish line waiting for me, I started panicking, trying to call them. Diverted away from the finish line, I started walking down Mass Ave towards Symphony Hall still not knowing where my family was. Right before the intersection of Huntington, I was able to get in touch with Bryan and found out he was with my family and they were safe. I was just so happy to hear his voice that I sat down and started crying. Just couldn’t hold it back. At that moment, a couple walking by stopped. The woman took the space tent off her husband, who had finished the marathon, and wrapped it around me. She asked me if I was okay, if I knew where my family was. I reassured her I knew where they were and I would be ok. The man then asked me if I finished to which I nodded “no.” He then proceeded to take the medal off from around his neck and placed it around mine. He told me “you are a finisher in my eyes.” I was barely able to choke out a “thank you” between my tears. Odds are I will never see this couple again, but I’m reaching out with the slim chance that I will be able to express to them just what this gesture meant to me. I was so in need of a familiar face at that point in time. This couple reassured me that even though such a terrible thing had happened, everything was going to be ok.

This post–along with  so many others that tell of kindness in the face of cruelty–reinforces the idea that we cannot hide in a cave and hope the bad things don’t touch us. No . . . we must face the sun, move bravely through life, and battle the evil with our hearts open.

Even if that battle simply comes in the form of building fairy houses.

Today I have this message and wish for you, my readers, my friends, my loved ones. I hope that you live each and  every day with love and joy. I hope that you raise your voices in kindness and together we can combat any darkness that comes our way.

Let’s all stay out of the caves and follow the light.

When the Bombs Exploded

When the bombs exploded, I was not there.

I was wandering through the botanical  gardens many, many miles away. I was looking for beauty and inspiration with my brother.

The daffodils  from above.

The daffodils from above.

When the bombs exploded, I wasn’t thinking about the cruelty and senseless acts of violence that fill our world today. Nor of the acts of cowardliness that are disguised as rebellion.

Because make no mistake, yesterday’s act was the ACT OF A COWARD!

Yes, the person or persons who did this are cowards. They sit back and enjoy the chaos and pain they caused. They revel in the news coverage and in their moment of glory. But they don’t have the  courage to claim or explain their act.

THEY ARE COWARDS!

When the bombs exploded, I was not thinking about acts of bravery or cowardice, or how I would react in the face of tragedy. I was reflecting on possibility and hope and ways to change the world to make it a better, more peaceful place.

Sibling Reflections

Sibling Reflections

When the bombs exploded, I was writing a poem with my brother. I would write one line and then show him the last word. He would then respond and show me the last word. And so on . . .

These were the words we saw:

Time.

change.

Possibilities.

hold?

fold?

fantasy.

world.

toes.

Eerie words in retrospect, because the bomb went off and limbs were lost, and the world changed.

Here is the poem we wrote together:

MIND’S ALIKE

By Lisa and Steve Kramer

Changes come with the seasons but also with
Time.

Moving forward, moving back, always now, always
change.

Yet with change comes growth and unexpected
Possibilities.

Ready to fly, or maybe dive beneath the depths; what does the future
hold?

Should we hold onto past dreams? Or is it time to let go and move forward? When do we know when it is time to
fold?

It often comes back on itself, or maybe makes shapes of
fantasy.

How does one turn fantasy into reality? Perhaps we can’t reach the fairies and the magic, but with focus and intent we can, indeed, change the
world.

It is our heart, it is our soul, it is the solid beneath our
toes.

When the bombs exploded, this was a poem of hope, but now it feels like a poem of sadness. And yet, the beauty of the day remains, and the beauty of those people who helped others outshines the horror of the act. The words of people who were there make me feel that perhaps change can happen. Hope can happen. Kindness can happen.

Beauty still exists.

Snapshot_2013415 (41)

When the bombs exploded, a  poem was just a poem. But now everything is different . . .

because the bombs exploded.

#atozchallenge: Kangaroos, Kites, Koalas, and Kraft

I had to reblog this, because Sarah helped write it and it falls under her poetry. 😉 Enjoy!

What Holds You Back?

The excuses are abundant . . .
no time
no money
I’m blocked
no ideas.

But they are  just excuses.

What really holds you back from achieving your dreams? From changing your life?

I’ve been  thinking a lot about this question, and have come to the conclusion that there is only one thing holding me back.

The Culprit

The Culprit

The Buck Does Not Stop Here!

During my first year in my doctoral program, I was given a graduate assistantship (along with an MFA student)  that involved helping to plan a multicultural youth arts festival on the campus of the university. The assistantship was split between the theatre department and the presenting organization that booked events for the performing arts center on campus.

This Multi-cultural Youth Arts Festival brought 10 different performers/groups–ranging from traditional dance troupes to a professional theatre company–to perform simultaneously at different venues on the campus to elementary school students from all over the county that were bussed in for the event. The festival lasted 3 days, and most of the performances were done to full houses.

That’s a lot of children.

My job included: reaching out to the schools; writing and editing an educational packet that included all of the artists; scheduling which schools would see which performances on which days (each school saw two shows in one  day); and coordinating the student volunteers who would help run the event, among other things.  I was working under the supervision of a young arts administrator named April, who decided that she would give me any of the tasks that she wasn’t interested in doing. That meant I did a lot of tasks.

The weeks  leading up to the festival found me running around to deal with all of the last-minute details an event like this requires. Because there was so much to be done, I went way beyond the hours I was  supposed to work to fulfill this graduate assistantship (and I was scheduled for more hours than the MFA student), while simultaneously juggling my own course work.

Andrea, another one of the administrator’s who worked there noticed how much time I was putting in and asked what April was doing while I did all this extra work.

“Supervising . . . I guess,” would have been my response, although perhaps not those exact words.

During this time April also came to me in a panic about needing finish the layout/editing for another program that went on a few weeks before the festival. I agreed to help, but I asked for extra pay. I got it.

On the day before the festival began, when I was pulling the second or third 10 hour day, running around in the Arizona heat and sunshine to hang signs all around campus to guide people to the different venues . . . April disappeared. She went home. Her work was done as far as she was concerned. I broke down and cried, and went to Andrea (who had stayed to help) and asked for help.

Andrea called her up and made her come back.

In the end the event was a wonderful success. However, that was the final year of the festival, as the presenting organization pulled out for financial reasons or something like that.

The school’s loss.

I was proud of what I accomplished, and very exhausted. I thought I had learned through that experience that sometimes you have to say no, sometimes you can’t please everyone, and sometimes you just have to ask for help and say this is too much.

I thought I’d learned the lesson, but perhaps I was wrong.

I’ve found myself thinking a lot about that situation in recent days, as I face another work challenge brought on my an administrator who wants the world but doesn’t seem to understand the details of what it takes to achieve her goals. It’s not the same, in that I am supposedly the Creative Director of this program that I’m working on, and I’m not a graduate student. However, the administrator who  hired me and I have vastly different communication styles and visions for what this program should look like.

I  have tried and am trying to make the program fit her vision without completely compromising what I believe is right.  For her the product is the most important, for me it’s the process. I believe that a good process will create a good product. However, nothing will get me to the product she seems to be envisioning, with full lights, sounds, set, costumes, etc.

It’s impossible.

Now, I find, that whenever something goes astray in the program, the administrator puts it all on my shoulders. Even the things that I’ve done to try to accommodate HER vision, despite my own concerns that they weren’t the best solution.

Perhaps my title to this post is incorrect. Perhaps the buck does stop here, because I have tried to be accommodating when I knew it was wrong. Perhaps I need to learn to say NO! with more confidence, and to believe that my assessment is just as valuable as hers.

But she’s the one who gave birth to the idea and wrote the grant. I’m the one whose supposed to make it happen.

I don’t know if I can do that.

I don’t want to let the kids down, but I feel like I’m on a sinking ship . . . and I’m the captain.

 

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