En route to teaching my poetry workshop this week, I stopped in the faculty area of the high school where I work. My colleagues were having a last cup of coffee before facing teenagers who, even in Hawaii, are feeling winter doldrums.
I’ve been facing a few of my own. With my next marathon not until July, my enthusiasm for training more than three a week is pretty tame and lame right now. The Australian Open, the first major of the year, has been over for two weeks. Work is plentiful but in a quiet, cover-the-bases phase for a busy season that revs up next month for spring.
High-charged emotions about my daughter’s progress in school have subsided as I’ve processed verbal and written summaries from her teachers and counselors. I’ve repeated several journeys in my brain, taking it all in and interpreting the messages from others, many of which have been positive, a few though that I’m still figuring out.
A poem that I recently posted in this blog about my sister and mother was not only accepted for an international exhibit, but was also published in a newsletter sent to my colleagues who work in philanthropy. Flush with courage about having reached back in my memory to write an appropriate tribute to my mother, sister, and, for that matter, all women (and men) who work hard to keep their families going while holding on to their own identities, I reposted the newsletter piece that included the poem and information about my career on my own Facebook account and a Facebook page created by my high school classmates, many of whom I haven’t seen for several years.
Some of these classmates were not exactly kind at times as I struggled growing up as a gay teenager on the edge of Appalachia. Poetry and tennis pretty much saved my life.
As soon as I posted, I wondered if some of my former classmates might kid me about being too self-promotional. As I’ve learned to be an advocate for my daughter and even for students I teach or for whom I fundraise, I’m also figuring out how to be an advocate for myself, even with people who in my past were at times (I hope unknowingly) cruel to me and others struggling with their identities when they were growing up. It’s as if, over Facebook, I’m saying, “Hey, look guys, I survived. I’m married to a man for 17 years, have a gorgeous daughter, have finished 24 marathons, have a career, am still writing and publishing poetry.” And then, gasp, perhaps I’m even saying, “So do you like me now?”
Cringe and then uncringe. Because after I posted, so many of the responses from friends or people I didn’t know were friends whom I haven’t crossed paths with in years were affectionate, generous, gracious, thoughtful, even loving.
I wish I didn’t process as much as I do, but I am a Quaker after all! It took me a few days after I made the Facebook posts to process that sometimes my fears, based on experiences from my past, hold me back from moving forward, from even making life a little more enjoyable for my family and me. Moving forward gives me a greater chance to be open and appreciate others who strive to leave February and life doldrums behind.