“I am Just a Maker of an Unfinished Map”

“I am just a maker of an unfinished map.”–Michelle Valois

Anxiety has been friend and enemy these past few days. Enemy in that so many things are happening at once–two angsts being working in schools and writing poetry–there’s the constant feeling of not completing things, or not completing them well. Friend in that this frenetic energy is indicative of moving, of directing self away from self, embarking on something bigger than self, and generating product larger than self.

Working with teachers has been beautifully rewarding and hard. They are under much fire (and in the fire) as per recent media events. Microscopic investigations, parasitic criticisms and surgical threats of budget cuts make teaching feel like one is trailing through a mind field. I try to walk with them through creating PDs that support them in their classrooms, being a listening ear (careful to not use their ear as a platform for my ideas, but mine as a mirror to explore their own). With former students, I try to always be a resource available to collaborate on their trials and travails so that they know they always have resources available. With colleagues who are also consultants and educators I try to be a conduit for their ideas, a supporter of their missions, an ally in their visions, a soldier expanding territories. This is why anxiety weighs on me–am I enough? Am I growing enough to meet their needs and challenges when called on for help or advice? This is a stem of the anxiety–to be “complete” and “enough” in actuating possibilities in others.

For decades I have written poems, even a full play modeling the choreopoem genre (“For Colored Girls”), as well as drafted an outline and the first half of a novel. Even have performed in several poetry venues. I have been off the radar for some time  (okay, years, and that may be for exploration in a future blog), writing on the margin inside the closet. Recently I have been devoting long hours to creating a full manuscript/draft. And have begun contemplating doing poetry readings again. What this “means,” the exposure and growing outward, is what makes the anxiety occur. Writing brings attention to the content and theme of your being, and the use of language and form you use to deliver it. You’re naked on paper each time you disclose, divulge, intimate, tell. Pretty scary, because what you share can leave an indelible imprint, transform you, unfold and even foil the purpose of your own masks. But I know this struggle and the anxiety it causes me to be a beautiful purpose for creating and living.

What to do?

I came across the quote above in a recent tweet. It resonates in a way I can’t yet fully explain, but hits the bullseye in capturing my stance and feeling. It is the doing, the devotion and investment in moving forward that completes the work. And you only know what the work is, what that need is to be addressed, by working and addressing them. And it is only then you can see the territory you have expanded, that would not be possible had you not begun at all to chart the map of threading intention into action.

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“A Blog is a Journey, not a Destination”


Louis, a high school buddy and FB friend, wrote that statement as a reflection of his own blogging experience. I read it early this morning, during my I-can’t-sleep-tonight stirrings (a lot on my mind), and it has relentlessly stuck ever since. The use of writing as a paving of a road, traveling it as you lay it brick by brick, resonates. Maybe because it feels like a promise I can keep, if I just commit to granting myself permission to travel.

I am writing a book of poetry, my first, and it has been a hard sail. And sale. In the beginning, the words and their assembly flowed and down into the computer. Like water down plate. These poems I had written over the span of two decades, so they were familiar, but then the writing starting getting harder. Some of these topics mirror back hard reflections. Some of these topics require me to learn more than I know. Some of these topics are unapologetic in demanding a fearlessness in writin that I am just developing. It’s feeling now like I am taking a fork to a mountain. I’m still standing, scraping. But committing to staying in the moment, relentless, is hard too.

Just weeks before, a great colleague, Mary, gave me homework–to start a Twitter account and to start blogging. Ugh. That was hard. Staring into blank space, reading the great things others wrote and wondering if I could measure up, stepping out into cyberspace and into who knows whose minds, unchartered territories I was reluctant to sail.  But then I started writing, writing about things I believe in and hold true to me. About topics I feel passionate about. Education and writing. Mary shared with me her process and rationale, and in her honesty I felt possibility. That the writing is doable. Writing helps you unfold page by page that which you are trying to understand.

And so, coming back to Louis’s reflection, I am writing, often, as much as possible, to get in and under what I think. Explore it relentlessly. To not wait holding breath until masterpiece is present, but to build and build and bring and bring it to fruition myself.  Two published writers I admire, Carla and Miles, encourage me to keep going. That my words are necessary, that they have something to say and share, and their breath in the world makes a difference in the world.  So, the integration of these four people and their wisdom in risk-taking give me inspiration-to reach in and pull spirit out.

So, I reach again for my fork, hold it up to the mountain, and take pride in the chisel and scraps that fall. They show me where I started, and that I am on a journey to get THERE. Writing as a journey into the destination of . . .

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