Friday, November 1, 2013

The Glory of the Valley

     It hasn't been an easy week. Truthfully, the last few months have been something of a huge light display of disappointment strung together with all of these little flickers of disappointment, like Christmas lights, but not nearly as festive or twinkly. And like every other person, when I hit the low point, get scared, lose my sight point, I ask for prayer. Because when you sink to the bottom, sometimes you need something a bit stronger than gravity to pull you back up... for me that's the prayer and encouragement of others.
   I came across this quote earlier today in a book I was pretending to read when I was pretending to ignore what I didn't want to be paying attention to because it made me sad: "Only if you have ever been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain." Richard Nixon said that... I figure he probably knows what with the whole impeachment thing. But that started me thinking about the whole "valley" concept and how we use it to describe being at a low point. I think it all started with God, not to place blame, but when He whispered those words of inspiration that we call the Psalms to David, little did He know that he was pulling a Mean Girl on valleys for the rest of eternity. "The valley of the shadow of death..." it doesn't get much worse than that, right? How do you come back from that?
   Pity the valley... No one wants to be in the valley when there's a mountain top nearby. Those mountains, we love that metaphor don't we? As Christians we associate the mountain top with good things: the 10 commandments, man's covenant with God and don't ever forget the fact that if you are on a mountain top, you are basically on God's front porch because we associate the geographical location of heaven with "up there." Maybe there is some kind of truth to that, in an existentially profound kind of way that I would pretend to understand, but really wouldn't. I can only understand my current situation in relationship to previous experience and that has brought me to this revelation:
   I have spent most of my life grazing in the valley.
   Don't misinterpret that as feeling sorry for myself, because I don't. In fact, I have spent most of the day thinking about that whole metaphor and where I fit into it. I'm not much of a mountain climber and in all honesty, I don't think the majority of human beings are. We SURVIVE our difficulties and we do what we have to do to make the best of them. But rarely if ever have I seen one of my own kind jump up and down with excitement at the fact that they are facing the equivalent of a herd of woolly mammoths sporting anger control issues in their day to day lives. The mountain metaphor, to me, has run its course and I think it's time to be honest about the valley.
   In the valley, there is almost always vegetation because things grow there. The perfect blend of sun and shade creates a fertile climate for growing and changing. In the valley you can almost count on a steady stream of water, an opportunity to wash yourself clean, to take at look at a reflection that you will never see again as that water will never stop moving. In the valley, there is a chance to quench the kind of thirst that is easily forgotten in the celebration on the mountain top...
   And let's not forget the most important thing about the valley: when you reach the valley, you have stopped tumbling. There's only one way down from a mountain and this is to go DOWN from the top.
   Most of you will disagree with me, and that is fine. Most of you will take those mountaintop moments and never think about the valley... until you end up there again and your tears will be so monumental that you will use them to literally pour salt in the wounds of your fall. But when you stop and dust what's left of the mountain off, when you realize that God is not a geographical landmark and that He is just as close to you in the valley as you are to Him on the mountaintop... that makes a huge difference. For it is never about WHERE you are when it comes to God, it's about what you are doing while you are there.
   So I'm content to camp out in the valley and watch the others roll by; watch the others turn and curse their last mountaintop and shield their eyes from the sun that I am soaking in to try to find the nearest and next one. And if you seek some company while you are in the valley, I won't be the only who is willing to allow you to draw near...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Losing my Atticus

     I was forced by my grandmother to read "To Kill A Mockingbird" when I was only six years old. It was a punishment for an attempt to flush potatoes down the toilet to test the sucking power of whatever mechanism made everything go down the toilet. It backfired, both forcing me to read the book that would become my favorite book of all time (I've read it 42 times to date) and the toilet as one of the little bitty potatoes made it through the initial sucking mechanism and met with a horrifying fate in the sewer. I know the fate was horrifying because the sewer had to be dug out...
     Within the pages of that book, I met some of my best childhood friends. At six years of age, I didn't really understand the implications of the major themes, such as race and definition of class and relationships between men and women and coming of age. But I totally understood Scout and her inability to filter herself and I understood Dill and the lack of the father figure and I understood the small-town vibe. As I grew, the book became even more important to me, but one figure always remained elusive and unrealistic: Atticus Finch.
     Atticus Finch, the gentle warrior who allowed his children to call him by his first name with the understanding that there was no loss of respect on either part, was the father that I crave. Strong, silent, with secrets to uncover and talents that were never for show but for necessity. He was the ultimate work of fiction to me for surely there could never exist someone like that man, a man of dignity with a penchant for hard work and fairness.
    Until I married my husband and his father became my father-in-law. That was when I got my Atticus. Sometimes blessings come upon us with no warning. That is, in fact, the definition of a blessing... something we don't deserve that we can't imagine that brings us a renewed hope for something we didn't even know we were missing. But the human race tends to forget that by making blessings something tangible. A new car, more money, getting out of debt - those are our blessings. But to get my very own Atticus Finch - that was something else altogether.
     He didn't say much, but he didn't have to, really. He would share a look with me and suddenly I could breathe when I felt like all of the air had been squashed out of my lungs. When I was sick and in the hospital he didn't have to say one word. He could just stand there, in the doorway and I could see his tall, lanky outline and suddenly my head didn't hurt anymore and sleep could stop swirling around me and finally settle itself. He was my Atticus and he would not allow me to be treated unjustly nor would he allow me to allow myself to be treated unjustly.
     Quiet and reserved but when he spoke, rooms would still to hear what he was saying because to hear the edgy bass of his voice would be to hear what needed to be heard by someone who knew how to say it. Fair and just, impartial and always prepared to defend the weakest one, even if the weakness was offensive to all. And I loved him for it. I loved him for so many reasons. I love him for so many reasons. But the one reason that I love him most is because he is my Atticus. I finally found him.
     And now I'm going to lose him. I'm going to lose my Atticus. And instead of being sad for me, I am sad for him, because I cannot tell him that he is my Atticus because he wouldn't understand. His wisdom doesn't come from stupid things like books and the warped kind of machinations that come from reading and manifesting such things. His wisdom comes from life. And life stands at the lectern now ready to teach us all the great lesson: that we are not immortal, that we are not written to last forever, that there are things like cancer that make us completely disposable.
     But there are some things that live outside of that mortality. There is sadness, the deepest, darkest sadness that marks a person like an anniversary. There is this infinite lump in my throat that will not go away nor allow itself to dissolve into tears.  There is the steadfast knowledge that crying won't make it go away, won't clean up the cancer, won't end this loss that just continues to loop from my head to my heart. And I wonder what it would have been like to not know this; to still have the dream of someone who would be Atticus to me. Would it be better? I cannot imagine so. Losing my Atticus is heart-wrenching because the physical representation, the strength, the voice and smile will melt away. But like the character that was penned so many decades ago, he will remain immortal and forever written upon my heart, my mind and my memory.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Princess Epidemic

   I love Pinterest; I spend a strong majority of my "down" time alternating between food, home decor, fashion and inspiring quotes; if I were to be completely honest, a good plenty of the time I spend on there shouldn't be downtime... but I am looking at educational things so I like to call it Passive Professional Development...
   I've noticed, of late, a very scary trend filtering through the glittering craft projects and funky nail-paintings. More and more, I notice these quotes and statements and pieces of word art insisting that men are required to treat a woman like a princess... buy me things, take me exotic places, answer the phone as soon as I call, text me back immediately, indulge me, INDULGE ME AND OBEY ME. The saddest part is, it's not just teenage girls who are pinning these pinings. It's women my age as well.
   Let me start off by saying that I don't believe that anyone should be mistreated in a relationship, or even out of a relationship. I don't think people should be used, which I have, or use others, also this have I done. I don't think people should be lied to, lied about or lie. I don't think men should be domineering cavemen who drag women around by their hair. Whoops! Stereotype, right?
   Let's examine the princess stereotype: spoiled, indulged, locked away, protected, beautiful but vapid, delicate, naive and innately bad with towers in general. Let's examine how that looks in real life: relationship after relationship ending because women EXPECT to be treated like princesses BUT HAVE YET to figure out how to make someone the king of their heart.
   Ladies, you are selling yourself short by stamping your high-heeled, pedicured foot and demanding that someone buy you this or that, or let you use his face as a trampoline. Hopefully, and I am beginning to wonder in all honesty, you know you are worth more than that.
    I'm going to be honest, brutally so, but what would be new, right? My husband doesn't treat me like a princess. He doesn't think it's cute or endearing when I whine or try to boss him around. He doesn't find me petulent or pert when I bull my way through and try to do something on my own after we have discussed waiting. He treats me like something much more than a child who needs a daddy; he treats me like a QUEEN. He treats me like his equal, which is what marriage made us: equal partners. But he also treats me as if he is the KING... and because of that he has won my heart over and over again.
   What is the difference? First of all, he is the king, and I'm fine with that. It has taken me a looooonnnngggg time to learn how to let him be the king because I grew up in a queendom that was such out of necessity. When we met, I had princess mentality and I will never forget the day he looked at me when I was whining about our relationship and not getting my way and he flat out said this: "You have no idea what a marriage is supposed to be like because you didn't spend your childhood in a family that had one."
   Inner Princess told me to do the lip quiver, allow a single tear to fall and to ask for some new shoes. Inner Queen knew he was balls-on accurate. Have I wanted to call it quits? What do you think? Killing a princess is not easy... But it was all for the better, and I say for the better because we haven't hit best yet and that is exciting to me. We have something to work toward TOGETHER. Like a king and a queen would... with equal interest and importance and each knowing that the strengths of the other will most definitely make up for the shortcomings of the one.
   I dare to say, to you Princesses out there, that you don't have that and you never will until you take off the tiara and put on the crown. You don't deserve better than anyone else gets. You really don't. You deserve what you work for and let's face it, ladies, some of you are living on grace. Some of you should have been booted out of the castle long, long ago. And I feel the wave a-comin'... "But I'm so unhappy..." "He ignores me..." "The spark is gone..." Let me tell you some harsh, harsh truths, your royal highnesses: the only one responsible for your happiness is YOU; he ignores you because you are annoying and only talk about and care about the things that matter to YOU; and the spark is gone because you can't flint off of an iceberg. Queens know these things and they know how to deal with them and how to fix them.
   That being said, everyone must make their own decisions. If he cheats on you, then leave him. If you cheat on him, leave him - it's only fair. See, women spent years trying to become equal to men and as soon as we did, we turned right around and subjugated them in a completely different manner. There will never be equality across the board because the women who need to read this stopped reading after the first couple of paragraphs and decided that I am a bitch who doesn't know what I'm talking about. But there can be respect and there can be dignity and there can be love... real, true, hardwork love that makes you smile when you think about it, when you decide that when it comes to relationships, both boys AND girls rule.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


   I am full of hatred. I put on a good show, though, don't you think? But the truth is that I am so full of animosity that sometimes I can't even function to full capacity. I am sometimes so completely overwhelmed by my distaste for this person that I have to ignore them completely to simply go through the motions. But the hatred is always there, a burning, seething, writhing cobra that is coiled in my gut. Who is it, you ask? Myself. I hate me.
   I need to clarify, I suppose. I don't hate ALL of me. For the most part, I have a pretty healthy relationship with myself. I don't lie to myself about my abilities, I'm not particularly conceited too much, I have a healthy dose of self-deprecation which I use to temper any thoughts that I may be superior to another person. But I do hate myself... my outer self. I hate the way I look. I loathe it. I could write volumes on the fact that my upper arms keep waving even after I have stopped, the fact that I can use my own earlobes as earplugs, my lower stomach which is full of scar tissue and is never, ever going to be flat and if you want to occupy approximately eight hours of spare time, let me talk to you about this weird underarm/backfat thing I have going on now... Hideous.
   I've NEVER worn a sleeveless dress or shirt in public. It's safe to say there are three people in the entire world who have ever seen my upper arms: one of them is my husband, the other is the lady that fits my undergarments and the other is my son, in the swimming pool. There may be a couple of other people, but I'm sure they have blocked out that trauma in order to move on with their lives and be able to eat pork again...
   All of the things that should make a woman feel beautiful just make me feel weird. I've never had a massage because I'm terrified that if the masseuse is small, she may actually get lost in my back fat requiring the jaws of life and heat-seeking radar to save her poor little life. Pedicures freak me out because I have a franken-foot. After a car accident I had to have three surgeries to correct the damage and there are scars all over my feet and ankles... and my pinky toe is just a big dollop of skin with a bit of nail... I shudder to think about it.
   Currently, my pores are so large and distended that I could smuggle refugees into the United States in  them, although they do come in handy for loose change... My legs are ok, except for the terrifying scars from all of my adventures as a child, from getting caught in a barbed wire fence to sliding halfway down a gravel road on my knees after an unfortunate bicycle accident.
   I don't like looking at pictures of myself because I don't want to know. It's a very, very, very unhealthy relationship that I have with my body, or how I view my body and I know that each and everyone of you probably spent the last five minutes inventorying all of your flaws. How sad is that?
   But there's a new development. One that puts all the other "This is sooooo wrong with me" laments to shame. Here it is: I am losing my hair. It's been slowly falling out since about a year after I had Kyser. I was on so many medications when he was born because we were both sick that my OBGYN told me I could possibly lose my teeth or my hair, possibly both. For years, I have held my breath... terrified that it would be my teeth... there's no way I could afford to replace them. But now that my hair is going, and it's going fast and in clumps, I'm not so sure I am willing to part with it, pardon the pun...
   But I don't have a choice. It's going... fast. I had almost grown it out to shoulder length for the first time in my life about six months ago and over Christmas break, it came out in handfuls. I called my doctor, he said to cut it short. I cut it short, it looked thicker, but I had to start using fiber enhancer on it so that you couldn't see through the bald parts of it. That stopped working so well about six weeks ago so I went and got it trimmed even shorter. I colored it red because the lady said red would make it absorb light and look fuller. We put highlights in, it didn't work. The fiber wasn't working anymore. I went to hair makeup, this stuff that you can brush directly onto your scalp to help cover bald spots. It worked for awhile. It's not working anymore.
   I spoke with a dermatologist. She said there is nothing that can be done. I spoke with another dermatologist. He said there were a couple of things we could try. I tried them. They didn't work. He referred me to a specialized dermatologist. The specialized dermatologist said to stop shampooing so frequently to slow it down. He said it might not work. It didn't. He apologized. I cried.
   I thought about everything that I hated about myself. All those wasted years. And then I got to thinking about why I hated myself. Truth be told, I didn't hate myself at all. I hated the way I looked. I hate the fact that no diet or amount of exercise was ever going to get rid of the huge span of scar tissue around my middle. I hate my Italian grandmother arms that, if they ever get out of control could possibly injure a small child. I hate my stupid long, weird earlobes. But not as much as I hate losing my hair.
   There's only one thing to do: learn the lesson and share it. I'm not sure who told me I was ugly. I'm not sure anyone ever did. In truth, it was something that I inferred. I've never looked in the mirror and smiled back at myself. I don't ever look at pictures of myself. I'm so scarred by my own perceptions of myself that I have never heard myself sing because I am afraid that if I ever heard myself I would hate that part of me as well and I don't want to hate it because I LOVE to do it.
   So here is what a lifetime of hating myself for the way I look has taught me:
   That's right, absolutely nothing. It's a regret, but it's one that I will have to live with. I didn't learn one damn thing from being so cruel and hateful to myself. I didn't learn one damn thing from agreeing with people who felt that way about me. I didn't learn anything from it. In fact, I allowed it to steal from me and it has stolen time, energy and worry and concern that should have been spent on others. I wish I could blame magazines or society, but I can't in good conscience. I bought magazine after magazine and poured over them so in a sense I did it to myself.
   And so, in honor of my last summer with hair, there's an excellent chance that I will be tear-assing around in sleeveless shirts - all I ask is that you protect your young. I'm going to go get my first massage and ask for the biggest, stoutest masseuse in the place. I'm going to get a sassy little pedicure and not feel self-conscious at all. And finally...I'm going to forgo the hats and go straight to wigs. Short wigs, long wigs, curly wigs... you name it. I'm going to find out if blondes do have more fun, but I doubt that it will have much to do with being blonde. It will have more to do with finally, along with shedding my hair, shedding the inhibitions and self-judgements that have haunted me since I was a teenager.
   Today, Ms. Williams... tomorrow: LADY GAGA!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Pope is Dope....

    I'm not Catholic and I'm never going to be Catholic. I've sung at Catholic weddings... in all honesty just so that I can go to the Catholic wedding receptions. I've been to a couple of masses and I always sat when I should have stood and vice-versa. Truth be told, I once counted it as my cardio for the day. Pathetic.
   I don't understand them, at all. I taught trumpet at a Catholic seminary in college and I was always a little spooked by how quiet the halls were, a little intimidated by the reverence paid to everything, a little freaked out by all of the statues and paintings and the whole "Dead Poet's Society" vibe. And I never really got the Pope thing. Oh, I understand the history and politics behind it, but in a day and age where royalty is granted to pop singers and moody movie stars, I guess I just kind of found it antiquated... Until today.
   There was no tweeting from the conclave. Social media had nothing to do with it. Neither did popular vote, polling or pontificating pundits. In fact, the Catholic church communicated using smoke signals... literally. There was no campaigning, no persuasion, no money changing hands and no empty promises. There was smoke, but it was not being blown to block out the truth; it was being blown to notify the world that there was a new pope.
   And he didn't step out to meet the people, meet the world after a fanfare. He wasn't garbed in gold or draped in finery. He spoke his first words, and that's truly when I started watching this man who seemed to be draped instead in humility. I knew that I was seeing something incredible when he asked for people to pray for him before he offered his first blessing. My breath caught in my throat... I was stunned... his smile was welcoming and genuine as he did something that people don't do anymore: admitted his weakness.
   Everything about him spoke of being a servant. I realized a very important thing watching him. There is an epic difference between being a servant and acting servile. This man is a servant in a world full of masters. Yet he seems to have more power than any of us, a man who could stand in front of the whole world and smile a lazy, gentle smile without a hint of egoism or self-involvement. I like him and I like what I perceive that he stands for, something that we don't talk about or teach our children about anymore: he is the epitome of humility.
   He is the embodiment of giving the benefit of the doubt, holding your tongue, using restraint. He is the portrait of being willing to sacrifice your wants and needs and desires for another person. He is not concerned with what he gets, how he looks, how people feel about him or how others perceive him. We don't value those things anymore. I know that we don't... because I teach our children and there are very few of them who know how to do any of those things; there are even fewer who do it.  I'm guilty of it... but I am going to try to stop.
   Because how many of us could greet a world that loves us before they know us without allowing our hearts and heads to swell a little bit? Had that been me standing on the balcony at Vatican City, I would have totally done a crowd surf. But he is a man who, when he became bishop of Argentina refused to live in the mansion, refused the limo drivers, rode the bus to work and found a small apartment. Who does that?
   I'll tell you who does that; someone who GETS it. Someone who understands that the actions of one affect the happiness of many. Someone who understands that talent is a gift not to the one who possesses it, but to the world. Someone who doesn't need an entourage to confirm their every menial decision because they would rather speak quietly to a heavenly father. Someone who doesn't need flames and pyrotechnics and legions of dancers to impress people but need only speak from their heart and jaws and pretensions drop. Pope Francis seems to be that kind of man. Listening to his voice is like listening to music; his eyes are kind and warm. He seems to be open and at the same time he is firm about his beliefs and feelings.
   But it all comes back to his humility, his humbleness. What a precious treasure he will be to his faith and to the world. If only we can ever, ever look past ourselves and see him...

Friday, March 1, 2013

It Should Have Always Been Like This...

     You can write them off if you want to... sometimes they make it incredibly easy. Teenagers of today pose an interesting challenge to those of us who are called upon to spend a good deal of time with them. We get to see, first hand, the handiwork of our generation: we have spoiled them, coddled them, made them feel that they are entitled... they are supremely easy to complain about.
     But then there was the incident at the beginning of February. I watched approximately 700 of these young people heartily and sincerely cheer on the athletic endeavors of two very special athletes... two Special Olympic athletes that attend Mexico High School. The students gathered in the gym, busted out signs praising the two athletes, cheered them on and the whole time I swallowed back these huge, painful tears.
     Today, as I hovered and hid backstage watching our students perform a play called The Jellybean Conspiracy, I couldn't hold back the tears... they came. The members of the readers theatre, along with some of our Special Education students performed the piece at district competition. The entire Student Council, probably 30 students, surprised them by showing up to support them. They all wore jellybean conspiracy t-shirts; they high-fived them and fist-pounded them all as they entered the backstage door to take the floor to compete.
    I snuck in after the students had taken their places on the stage and watched from the side as they read the raw, forceful, painful and touching truth: words hurt, some actions are never forgotten, the things we say to hurt others only show our ignorance. I listened to their reading, some slow and pained, some clear as a bell and I wept because I couldn't think of any way to explain to those kids what it meant that they would perform something like that. Most people my age grew up in a very different time.
   Back then, it wasn't about acceptance. It wasn't about understanding. There were very few people who understood or accepted, or even tried for that matter. I know because I witnessed it first hand. My brother was a different-colored jellybean... I remember my mother spending an entire summer worrying before he went to junior high, her strained sobs from the bedroom when she thought we were out of earshot. I knew what she was crying for; she was scared. And while my brother's junior high and high school years were not as bad as some, they were difficult. He was fortunate enough to have a handful of amazing young men and women who were jellybeans ahead of their time, so to speak.
   But for me, it was hard to hear all of that acceptance that came way too late for my brother, to be reminded that I needed to forgive.
   I went back to my classroom and floated through the next hour, thinking on the words I had heard as I hid behind that curtain. When my fourth hour class came in, they were chattering about how good the readers had done, how it had affected them. And so I started crying... and through my blubbering I explained it to them.
   "I want you guys to know how much it means to me that you are so accepting of those who are different. My brother is autistic and mentally retarded. He should have been able to be surrounded by people like you. It should have always been like this. And I want you to know how much I admire and appreciate each and everyone of you for treating them with the same dignity and respect that you would anyone else. And I hope you never have to be put in a position to understand how much it means to be able to say that to a group of people who have been on the planet a third of the years that you have."
   To the cast, the differently-abled but equally stellar cast of The Jellybean Conspiracy, thank you for reminding me that the most beautiful thing about people is their capacity for growth and change. Thank you for your voices, thank you for your dedication, thank you for finally giving me not only the permission, but the ability to move past anger and confusion and bitterness that has been wrapped around my heart like so much barbed wire. Thank you for letting me be a jellybean; thank you for letting me be a silent, changed player in your conspiracy of acceptance. You changed me today. I am in awe of you always.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Being True to More

     Yesterday I was going through an old box of memories. It was late and I couldn't sleep. There was no distraction blinking or bright enough to hypnotize my mind and trick it into sleep. I remembered the box with the books in it. It didn't take long to find the familiar, faded green fabric cover of the book that I used all through college to write down pieces of brilliance that I would come across. I found them in plays I was reading for theatre work, in books I was reading for my literature classes, in the Bible, things my friends would say that were particularly shiny.
    I thumbed through it, inhaling the smell of age that lands on pages after years of sitting next to other pages in books that sit cover to cover in boxes that wait to be reopened and resuscitated after years of well-deserved rest. I landed on a page that I supposed I needed to see. A quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet, an homage to the professor who taught me how to love the language that seems so far above me with its misplaced adverbs and adjectives and antique formality, had been scribbled at the bottom of a page filled haphazardly with U2 lyrics. "To thine own self be true..." spoken by Polonious to Laertes, I can see my professor's eyes light up, his hand rise up in point to the heavens as if he had just been inspired to teach us this ancient piece of literature, as excited as if it was his own. I remember the way that he looked at us. It wasn't a creed, it wasn't prose or poetry, it was a challenge. I abandoned my book and wandered back to bed, drifting off to sleep
     It was the first thing I thought about this morning when I woke up. I looked in the mirror at the self that I owned and I realized something. I wasn't particularly interested in being true to myself. And if it wouldn't have been so weird I would have called my professor to let him know that twenty years give or take later, I get it. The impossible selfishness of being true to thine own self.
     Shakespeare wrote it, so it must be brilliant... and the preponderance of the idea that being true to yourself is the way to make it through life looks great painted on barnwood and plastered on Pinterest. We YOLO and Carpe Diem ourselves into thinking that living and seizing the day is living full of truth. I don't know that I believe that anymore.
     I want to hold myself to a higher standard than myself, quite frankly. Knowing what I am capable of, it would probably be a good idea. You're looking at a girl who has hot glued the hem of her pants out of laziness and has become so unphased by dirty laundry that she will give any piece of clothing in the house the "sniff" test. I no longer need a spoon to eat a pudding cup and the five-second rule has been extended due a back injury to the 10 to 15-second rule. Being true to myself, I am afraid, would be diving headfirst into the pool of mediocrity wearing lead panties. I want to be true to more.
     I want to be true to the outdated ideas of manners and common courtesy. I want to be true to the things that my mother taught me were important, barring the whole "dusting the top of the refrigerator every other day" idea... I want to be true to the expectations of my profession, notice I did not say "my job." I believe that the profession of teaching is steeped in dignity and respect, in knowledge and in curiosity; I believe that the "job" of teaching has become political and frightening. But in that same vein, I want to be true to the expectations that my students and their parents have for me. I want to be wise, I want to be seasoned, I want to be without error. Unfortunately, I am precluded from being all of those things because I am human. I was born of missteps and miscalculations, I came from another human being. But still, I owe it to myself to be true to more than myself.
    Being true to thine own self makes for a selfish nature. It makes you believe that you are free from error, not responsible for the way you make others feel, not responsible for your own actions, not responsible period. Being true to thine own self means making excuses for your selfishness and worse than that, believing your own excuses, buying into them, and allowing them to make you reckless. Don't get me wrong. I believe in a certain amount of reckless and wild; but being reckless and extravagant with other people's hearts and feelings under the guise of "exploring" or "learning" is selfish, it's cruel, it's happened to me and I'm sure it has happened to you. And when it happens, when you are on the other end of the YOLO-yelling free spirit who holds your heart in their caution-free hands, when you are the one that gets thrown to the end, you realize that being true to your own self means disregard for others.
    So, Shakespeare, I'm calling you out. I say that you have influenced generation after generation to be true themselves without bothering to know who they really are. I say that while your words were beautiful and while your talent goes without saying, you were, at the base of your very self, a selfish person who was true to your self at the cost of the hearts of others. I say that I want to be better than Shakespeare; true to more than myself. I want to be true.