SOL Tuesday Taking Up Space

We can choose how we take up space. Sometimes. We take up space by being, by existing. How much of that we experience as choice depends. Depends on what? On which spaces we’re talking about; depend on which boundaries and containers apply. On how that space or those spaces may be shared and with whom. What are the conditions for occupying space, for identifying a place as our own? Who gets to decide and when?

To write – that’s a way to take up space, to claim space on the page, I suppose, but ultimately and ideally in the mind of the reader. When we read we are offering space to someone or something. We create and occupy space simultaneously when we read our own words, I guess. How we may feel about taking up space definitely depends. On how we were raised, on what were told was our place and to what degree we accepted, rejected or negotiated those parameters. How we feel about taking up space is inevitably tied to messages we’ve internalized about who is entitled to more space and where we stand in relationship to them. How we feel about taking up space has a lot to do with being a boy, a girl, neither or both. How we feel about taking up space depends on our worst experiences more than on our best experiences I’m willing to bet.

It’s possible to create, hold and/or share space. I know. I’ve done it. Sometimes I might even be good at it. Who opens up space for you? Who welcomes you warmly into their space and how do you reciprocate? When do you recognize the need to create space by removing yourself? Where have others held space for you? How did it feel? I mean, sometimes we’re invited to take up space among or alongside others. On certain occasions we may be asked to stand in the center of attention; we are given the floor but we do not own the space. Which spaces do we/can we own and whom does it serve and how?

How do we choose to take up space in public? How do those micro and macro decisions come about? Taking up space in public is a social endeavor and therefore fraught. Place and space all have these intricately woven, visible and invisible structures/boundaries that are deeply contextual. How we show up in one instance may not translate well to a different instance. There are rules upon rules and still we make up our own to be on the safe side.

How I choose to take up space depends. It depends on what the stakes are. For me. Depends on the weight and composition of expectations that permeate the space and the occasion. Depends on what I believe I can afford measured against my fears of what I imagine an absolute failure might be. How I choose to take up space is always a calculation.

SOL 22 #31 Mad Libs Thank You Note

Dear ___________________ (people who write in community),

________________ (Indicator of present time) I want to express my ____________________ (adjective (kind)) gratitude for this _______________________ (synonym for special) opportunity to _______________________ (verb) and __________________________ (verb) with you all. I have really enjoyed reading about your _____________________ (plural noun), ________________________ (also plural noun), and __________________________ (yes, a plural noun again!). Thanks to you and your generous sharing, I am a _________________________ (adjective, comparative) reader and _________________________ (adjective, comparative) writer. You have made this month a __________________________ (happy noun)!

We ____________________ (verb, past tense) it! I hope that our _________________________ (adjective) paths cross again soon!

Take _____________________ (noun),

Sherri

My first draft:

Dear literary comrades,

This evening I want to express my extensive gratitude for this one-of-a-kind opportunity to lurk and learn with you all. I have really enjoyed reading about your pets, insights and recipes. Thanks to your generous sharing, I am a greedier reader and sturdier writer. You have made this month a fairground!

We crushed it! I hope that our tree-lined paths cross again soon!

Take aspirin,

Sherri

  • Seriously, take aspirin. No, I’m kidding, well maybe not entirely, but I do want to say thank you and congratulations! 31 days of slicing should be celebrated. It has been a delight to share time, space and comments with many of you! Be well and maybe we’ll connect again on a Slice of Life Tuesday. I’d like that.

SOL 22 #30 At the end of a not very good day

Grouchy, grumpy, ill-tempered, hot
impatient, irritable, sour a lot
resentful, cranky, dissatisfied, pouty
angry, mad, exhausted, shouty


Need better words for tired:
weary, exhausted, weakened, worn
reduced, at half mast, almost gone, shorn

The causes run deep 
the constant cost of "no"
of insisting on order, for here and to go

Holding my ground but
stealing my joy
Not sure how much longer the show can go on.

SOL 22 #29 How many words?

When I was a kid I loved playing games with words. One of my favorites was making as many words as possible out of the letters of a big word. I enjoyed the puzzle aspect of switching letters around, noticing patterns and considering varied iterations of root words. In many ways, I suppose I still play this game but with books and sentences, essays and tweets. Which leads me to the actual slice I want to do.

*Continues adding more backstory*

I attended a workshop yesterday entitled: “We Don’t See Color… and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves in International Schools,” delivered by the expert facilitator and tremendous human, Alysa Perreras. What struck me was how thoughtfully she brought her audience to an understanding of racism as systemic. Systems thinking sounds abstract but it becomes very concrete when we open our eyes to the overwhelming evidence that surrounds us. So this slice is both a shout out and thought experiment in response to Alysa’s provocations. Here goes.

SYSTEMIC OPPRESSION

Pop my mic, press on time, mystic cops 
Sir system, compress, rise, mister
Copy costs come in, step into
Or test crime notes seen most
I, stoic, stymie poor stress toys
No more rest, sister
Micro mop entices mites
Nosy mentors cite men 
Open yet rote motion
Tiny prose nicest tone
Crisis emits noise to oysters
Motor rips roses' stems 
Yes it seems so pricey
Oppress mice stir rice
Notice top poster store
I'm sore too, miss me, person
Ripe pipe meter city
Notion crop meets spirit opposite
Composite compost impresses


I could go on? At any rate, I'd forgotten how entertaining words become when we break them down and repurpose them. It also reminds me that few things are as fixed as we assume them to be. We can break, change and rearrange things - including our thought patterns and behaviors. Start with words, go from there.

SOL 22 #28 What I’m not writing

What I’m not writing is how I feel about the Will Smith-Chris Rock- Jada Smith – Oscars debacle.

What I’m not writing is how my all my classes had Awesome Gym Day and it still felt kind of empty.

What I’m not writing about is missing that damn hour that was stolen from me over the weekend.

What I’m not writing about is what I was doing a year ago, a month ago, a week ago, an hour ago.

What I’m not writing about is the extraordinary workshop I attended and co-hosted this afternoon.

What I’m not writing is the undeniable exhaustion of being.

What I’m not writing about is Blackness, respectability politics and the popular imagination.

What I’m not writing is anyone’s guess.

What I’m not writing is more therapy for everyone!

What I’m not writing is a recipe for disaster or a weather forecast.

What I’m not writing is surprising even me.

What I’m not writing is a list of everything I’m not writing.

Except, here it is.

SOL 22 #27 Spine Compositions

Ghost Work Automating Inequality;
Liquidated Status.
Book spines stacked horizontally with titles from top to bottom: Ghost Work, Automating Inequality, Liquidated, Status.
Predictably Irrational Entitled
Stupid White Men
Look Both Ways;
Having And Being Had
Book spines stacked horizontally. Titles read from top to bottom: Predictably Irrational, Entitled, Stupid White Med, Look Both Ways, Having and Being Had.
Ask Me How We Show Up Under Pressure.
It Won't Be Easy.

We Got This Radical Hope:
Being The Change.
Start Here, Start Now.
Book spines stacked horizontally. titles read from top to bottom: How We Show Up, Under Pressure, It Won't Be Easy.  We got This, Radical Hope, Being The Change, Start Here, Start Now.
What To Expect When You're Expecting
Thick, Eloquent Rage - 
Do The F*cking Work.
Book spines stacked horizontally. Titles read from top to bottom: What To Expect When Expecting, Thick, Eloquent Rage, Do the F*cking Work.
Becoming The Bitch In The House
When And Where I Enter.
Book spines stacked horizontally. Titles read from top to bottom: Becoming, The Bitch In The House, When and Where I Enter.

SOL 22 #26 Layer Upon Layer

Whatever makes me want to begin with an apology comes from deep down, although no apology is necessary, I suppose I want to at least warn you that I don’t know exactly what will happen next. I feel a need for a disclaimer, not a trigger warning, per se, but some indication that I’d prefer to elude responsibility if your feel something unexpected or raw. I suppose that’s my thinking: it’s that I invite you to read at your own risk, which I suppose is what any of us does whenever we open another tab and begin scanning or actually reading the words, sentences that form an argument, that make us think and give us pause. This is not that, I don’t think, although it might be, I mean, it could be for you, but not you. To each his own, I guess, is what I’m saying. I know that I wanted to say something about layers – layered clothing, layered meaning, layered tastes. The way things overlap, partially cover each other yet together yield something warmer, deeper, more interesting because of surfaces touching and influencing surfaces. There are so many uses for thinking about and in terms of layers. I have a lot of questions. How layered is the world we inhabit and what’s your best springtime or fall combination of outdoor layers? When do you notice the competing yet complementing flavors of your second cocktail – what is cucumber, what is mint, and how does vodka get away with murder? Layers of understanding to process the news – I mean, Ginni Thomas over here versus Judge Ketanji Jackson over there and Clarence Thomas in the hospital but we are somehow all infected and shame is no match for shamelessness if you fancy your own layer of power is destined to stay on top. How to shield oneself from the corrosive layer of political decision-making that makes good books apparently bad, caring parents apparently abusive, inclusive institutions apparently discriminatory?

See, this is what I meant. This is what I was alluding to without knowing in advance what exactly would happen. Maybe you got more than what you bargained for. A strong wind you weren’t quite ready for. At the same time, I got to say something about layers. About layers operating in layers: spreading ideas out then laying them on top of each other and noticing if patterns emerge or not, if different layers stick to each other or not. Layers invite both piling and peeling; building up and stripping down. One of the best parts about dressing in layers is being able to pull off pieces as the body warms, replacing them when outside begins to cool. Layers speak to me of adjustment and responsiveness; of addition and subtraction. My mind works in and through layers. My writing dreams in layers, too.

* True story: anytime you write a word repeatedly it becomes harder and harder to believe that you are actually spelling it correctly: Layer, layers, layered, layering, lay er, layer, layayer, lalayer, lalayayer.

SOL 22 #25 Wish vs. Reality Balance Sheet

WISHREALITY
long uninterrupted sleep, awakening to soft daylight and chirping birdsFitful slumber but functional alarm allows for a timely wake-up.
Tasty leftovers from night before stored in an airtight container easily retrieved from the fridge and placed in lunch bag. Oh, happy anticipation!No leftovers, no creativity, no desire to make something out of nothing. Will buy sandwich at school cafeteria. It’s fine.
All students are caught under a spell of unshakable friendly attention which enables us to complete all the planned activities with joy and incredibly smooth transitions. Everybody knows it’s Friday and we still have so many miles to go before we sleep. Under the circumstances it’s a small miracle that we get as much done as we do. Give self several pats on the back.
The laundry, shopping and housecleaning have all been mysteriously completed by the time I get home on Friday evening. I enjoy the weekend lounging and enjoying a spectacularly tidy and well stocked household.The dishwasher ran while we were at school, so clean dishes. Yay! Weekends are for catching up with laundry and hey, the rest? As usual I will engage in bursts and flashes of cleaning activities and otherwise observe the connective properties of dust at various heights and prepare to vacuum next weekend.
A relaxed Friday evening with nice music and my feet up, a couple of friends and great conversation.Dinner in town with friends after dropping off the teen. Looking forward to the company, feeling a little hesitant given the recent surge in COVID numbers.
An open weekendA mostly open weekend with almost no fixed plans.
A clever slice to finish the week.One more table slice to toss on the heap. Still, in slices I’m 25 for 25 so far. Yay me!

SOL 22 #24 PE Survival Recipe (3rd grade edition)

  1. Begin with one basket of long beaded jump ropes, some of which will always be more or less tangled. Add at least 10 large colored hula hoops, 1 large bag of bouncy rubber playground balls.
  2. Pick up one bluetooth speaker, fully charged plus 2 iPads, each sufficiently charged for the occasion.
  3. Collect rambunctious group of 8 and 9 year olds and walk them from the meeting point to the gym. Explain the plan for going outside.
  4. Delegate equipment carriers in the group among several volunteers. You pick up speaker, plus jump rope basket with iPads. Students who choose may run out to the fun court. Those lugging equipment can take their time.
  5. With students, deposit all equipment inside fun court area. Usher the group back outside the fun court, assign them a one-lap jog around the soccer field. Watch them gain distance and take a few deep breaths and roll your shoulders.
  6. Instruct returning joggers/walkers to make all-gender groups for long jump rope practice. Do not assist them. Let them figure it out. They know how do it and it may be messy but they will get it done.
  7. Engage the music iPad, play “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” Listen to who sings along. Observe groups successfully devise their own jump rope challenges.
  8. Off-task behavior is a given. Redirect gently the first time. Use proximity as a reminder. If challenging behavior persists, let them have it. You’re outside. The winds will carry your complaint into the neighboring treetops. Students will also have forgotten your reprimand when game time rolls around in 15 minutes.
  9. Stop activity with the freeze signal (music off). Have students put jump ropes away neatly. (“Fold in half, then in quarters, then in eighths, then please put them back in the basket.”) Call group in by counting down 5 – 4 – 3 – 2- 1- 0. Place hands on hips and sigh loudly to indicate impatience with their ongoing chatter.
  10. (Do something with the hula hoops, bouncy balls and partners. Be creative. You brought that stuff out here, better at least use it. But also plan for bumpy transitions from one activity to the next. Sigh. )
  11. Say something like, “Friends, do we want to play this next game or not?”
  12. Do not wait for answers.
  13. Explain in under 42 seconds how to play “Touchdown” and designate two teams and send them to their respective starting lines. Confused children can ask their classmates. You’re starting the game in 1 – 2 – 3, Go!
  14. Teams run towards each other, there is some tagging and dodging. You either hear “Touchdown!” or “We got him/her/them!” The game is going well. Announce the upcoming conclusion: “Two more rounds!”
  15. It is time to pack up to go. Assign equipment hauling to different volunteers. Lead line back up driveway while playing “Surface Pressure,” for a moment you envision yourself the pied piper.
  16. When you turn around only half of the line is in immediate view. Correct this status by putting jump rope basket aside and calling loudly for the stragglers to hustle up. Place hands on hips to emphasize impatience with them behaving like children.
  17. Lead collected group up the stairs, through the playground (Hands off the monkey bars!) and back to their classroom. Masks on!
  18. You have completed one of five such sessions. You are on a roll. Good luck!

SOL 22 #23 Task and Reward Game

START HERE/

FINISH HERE
Teen wakes 1/2hour earlier than usual. Move ahead 3 spaces.
You and teen are ready with time to spare. You sit, read, listen to R&B for 15 min, then leave. Advance 3 spaces.Free lunch due to PD afternoon! Move ahead 1 space.
You have two good books to read on your nightstand. You think about turning in before 10pm. Advance 1 space.Rescheduled dental appointment in middle of the day. Go back 2 spaces.
You improvise on subscription meal plan and make teen very happy. Advance to FINISH!Poor route choice to dentist’s. Arrive 10 minutes late.
Go back 1 space.
Only 1/2 day of teaching, you have a little more evening energy than usual.
Advance 2 spaces.
Back home, spend 30 minutes doomscrolling.
Go back 1 space.
Return to work: clean up storage area, catch up on SeeSaw postings, last to leave office. Advance 1 space.You and teen have zero cavities and are finished with 45 minutes of arrival. Advance 3 spaces.