Sunday, December 11, 2011

Goals for before my birthday

For some reason I fluctuate between whether I love to cook or hate to cook. I came across this post today and great freezer meals and wish I had $95 to spend on a summers worth of meals. But, seeing as how I have neither a family of 4 to feed for less than $2 a meal nor a summer to cook for, I am not too disappointed. It sounds like fun for the future though.

Now, I found this trough my twitter I recently revived, and it was recently revived because some of my high school students started a twitter about hipsters (which is not linked because the joke lasted for about 45 minutes). However, I would like to continue to stay connected to the outside world, whether it be through twitter or Pinterest or blogging or whatever. I've felt very disconnected and withdrawn and not like myself lately. My Pinterest request is still pending so we will see when that comes through for me.

Having said that, I would like to make official a few of my goals for between now and the end of Christmas break (January 2nd, 2012, which is also my birthday). In the spirit of my recently completed round of therapy to deal with stress, I would like to offer both a goal, a plan for reaching this goal, and a checkpoint to know I have reached each goal.

1) Read more: online as well as books, professional as well as personal.

 I joined the committee to select the summer reading book and now have been lent Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran. And I organized my blog bookmarks and went searching for a few new bloggers to read. And I've got a spiritual exploration book sitting on my night stand. This is a very tangible goal because I will know that I have achieved it when I finish the books just listed. Three books in three weeks...I'm an English teacher for goodness sakes. That is very manageable.

2) Clean out my closet. When I got pregnant and was hard core nesting I packed four boxes of clothes that I needed to try on after I was done being pregnant and decide to keep or throw away. That was over a year ago and the boxes are taking up the space in my closet that should be used for clothes I can actually wear. Again, tangible, and easy to see when I have completed it.

3) Continue my journey for further spiritual understanding. Over the summer I realized that I could no longer continue to pretend I had meaningful coping skills and sought professional counseling. It was the best decision I made in my entire life and it has made me into an entirely new person. At the same time I started seeing a counselor I also was reading Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. A large part of this book is about her experiences with meditation and it was something I wanted to learn more about. I don't have a lot of free time without the baby so I spent my one night a week that he is at his dad's with my counselor and resigned to look into meditation after I was at a stopping point in my therapy. Literally, the day before my final meeting with my counselor I met a man who practices meditation, has done extensive reading and research into the practices of zen, and who told me he had never met anyone who was interested in his spiritual practices. Everything happens for a reason, and he has started to give me books and talk with me about these philosophies. Currently, I am reading a book called Tap Ddancing in Zen by Geri Larkin. I am less then 20 pages in and I already know that this book is meant for me. Larkin explains the purpose and practice behind Buddist sutras, or spiritual poems. The idea is that you memorize the poems and recite them to yourself when you need guidance. As someone who has book quotations and song lyrics that I live my life by, this makes perfect sense to me.

And then she wrote something that blew me away(I don't have my book with me currently, so excuse the paraphrase instead of quotations): She said that on your good days you repeat the poems to yourself as a part of your joy. And on a bad day you say the words looking for consolation. And on your neurotic days you can be neurotic about the sutras.

YOU MAY BE NEUROTIC. I have permission to be my crazy self and to use that to bring me closer to understanding life, as opposed to my personality being something to fight against?! This is an idea that I have told a few of my students from time to time when they were feeling particularly like a failure, but I didn't realize that this was something already formally practiced. I want to know more about this woman's writings, and I want to know more about the beliefs that frame these writings, because they say out loud what I have come to believe: Don't ever apologize for who you are but rather let your personality shape your life. I didn't actually need permission, but this was one of those moments in life where you hear someone say something and it's like listening to yourself talk.

She says Budhism teaches you to memorize the poems and let them guide you. So, my method and benchmark for this is simple: Memorize the Gilmour Student Prayer so that I can say in chapel every morning.

"Oh, but that's not a Budhist sutra" you say? The point is that it doesn't matter what it is.

The Buddhist Boot Camp on facebook (I only started reading this; I don't exactly understand yet what it is to cite any better) says beautifully what so many have said before: "The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves." Though this is only kinda applicable, it goes along with how C.S. Lewis wrote in The Last Battle that it does not matter by which name you know your god, only that you know your god.

So, in the light of this, my first buddhist sutra will be the Gilmour Student Prayer. The checkpoint them is saying it in convo from memory the first day back to school. 

4) Continue to be a real person. After several exhausting relationships, I very recently started seeing someone (the before mentioned person who gave me the Tap Dancing book) and decided that I am too emotionally exhausted to play the dating game. But, I've know him for all of two weeks and you can't just marry someone after two dates and you can't just magically know each other without the actual introduction period. So, instead I decided that I didn't want to go out and ask him to spend money on me and then feel guilty, or spend my own money and then be too broke to pay my bills, or pretend that I wanted to sit in Starbucks and recount endless facts about our personal histories. So, instead we agreed to just "be". This is a stupid sentence, I know, but when I explained it to him just like this he said that's what he wanted too. So for our second date (first was the normal bar junk) we stayed at his house, his son played while we watched a movie, he cooked me dinner after work and...it felt like we were actually letting each other into our real lives rather then being too afraid to just be real. I don't really know what a checkpoint for this one would actually look like, but I know what it doesn't look like: It doesn't look like having high expectations about how someone is supposed to impress you, and it doesn't look like questioning if my actions will turn someone off. It doesn't look like fear or resentment of the past or bitterness for all men. I think as long as I continue to just "be" I can avoid these things. 

Four goals for three weeks. Yeah, this is manageable. 

Oh, and here is the prayer. It is easy to tell that it is something worth committing to memory.

Gilmour Academy Student prayer

Lord, grant me the patience to get things done, the desire to work hard, and the ability to learn from my mistakes.

Allow me to have an open mind and guide me in making the right decisions.

Help me as I grow and mature, and allow me to use what I have learned and experienced in future endeavors.

Lord, thank you for the talents you have bestowed upon me, and allow me to use them to my greatest potential.

Thank you for all of the people who have helped me along the way; my classmates, teachers, family, and friends.

Above all, thank you for the blessings of each day.

Amen

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