SOL#31 Last Dance

Remember Donna Summer’s “Last Dance”? Signature disco hit of the ’80s? It starts off slow with a hint of melancholy, then builds to a stirring crescendo of fever pitch “dance now, die later” emotion. Now as I describe it, I realize how much I love this song and all the memories it activates.

It’s March 31st and we’ve reached the end of this daily writing challenge. How will we go out? Dancing and singing? Strolling and contemplative? How do we see ourselves now? What changed?

I am currently out of my comfort zone. Today I’m on a mountain, high up where skiers’ paths cross and one lift leads to another. Let’s be clear: I do not ski. I have tried a few times but it never became my jam. My husband and both sons ski, though. So taking the big lift all the way up with my husband and our 11 y-o, I finally admitted to being scared.

One piece involves just riding on the 4 seated lift, high above snow covered slopes. A second aspect is more complicated and difficult to convey. It has to do with belonging and purpose. I’m up here but without skis or the ability to ski. Do I belong here? Where may I tread without endangering myself or others? This of course leads to all manner of inadequacies that surface just from feeling out of place.

At the same time I notice that it means a lot to my husband for me to see what he sees, to take in the magnificence of these Alpine panoramas I will never view from the valley. It means a lot to him that I see him with our son, conquering the slopes with remarkable grace and speed (although I will probably not see them actually, I have a picture in my mind’s eye.).

So being here is both humbling and enlightening and in this way, a fitting close to this year’s Slice of Life challenge. I leave this month’s work both humbled and enlightened, grateful for the many lessons and generous connections. Thanks to so many of you who have made this trip incredibly rewarding and instructive.

SOL #10 A Challenge to fellow Slicers to share a story about race

So I’m into a slicing groove now. Got a reasonable rhythm. I know how to not overcommit. I keep my posts short and manageable. Don’t worry much about the yardsticks of creativity or originality. It’s day 10 after all and things are humming along, right?

Here’s some truth. When it comes time to comment and I need to pick at least 3, I am overwhelmed on a couple of different levels. First it’s the sheer number. Depending on the time I check in there could be anywhere from 12 to 149. As I scroll up and down I look for titles that call to me. I try to find at least one person whose slices I haven’t read yet at all and leave a comment. Perhaps like the teacher I am, I regret that I won’t get to comment on more. I feel a little guilty that I’m not taking on 6 or 10 or more. But time is limited and I need to be realistic about what’s doable, so I stick to 3 -5. Done.

The other thing, is that as I scroll through the many profile pics, I am struck with how white and female this collective is. There are very few people of color that I can readily identify based on those micro pics and I also know that this is largely representative of the field of Language Arts teachers in North America. And while I appreciate the work of several educators in this community and elsewhere incorporating anti-racism and anti-bias work into their curricula and book selections, I cannot ignore that feeling I get of being one of so very few.

And there’s the hesitation to say anything at all. To not want to put a damper on all the good vibes we’ve already created in 10 days or for some, over several years. Why rain on anyone’s parade? So what if the group is almost all white women? Who’s to say that that’s not one of the strengths of this particular community? And from someone who fits in so seamlessly, who am I to make waves, throw stones or rock the boat? (mixing my metaphors like cocktails, this morning.)

Alas, there’s the rub. Who else notices this fact? Who else is wondering about why this is the case and how it might matter for what we do and think outside of this community? What if this community reflects the contexts that most members experience in their day to day lives? What if most of the white people in this group only know and talk to other white people?

What I want folks to understand is that this state of affairs has very real and concrete consequences for how we understand and interpret events and experiences. Talking about race is uncomfortable for a lot of folks. It hatches all kinds of difficult feelings including guilt, shame, anger, defensiveness, helplessness. So many of us avoid it like the plague if we can. So on day 10 of the slice of life challenge, I want to offer a challenge to all of my fellow slicers:

During this month, if you are willing, please talk a bit about race and how it affects your life. An episode, memory, an insight, a book you read, a class you took, a conversation you had – whatever you are willing to share. Tag me on Twitter @edifiedlistener or send me an e-mail: sherspelic@gmail.com.

We have the benefit of community here. Please let’s use it to grow ourselves in multiple ways. Talking about race is necessary and critical. We have an opportunity. I wonder how we will use it. Thanks for hearing me out. I appreciate your being here.

SOL #6 Persistence Counts

Some folks may know about me and my writing aspirations. Others may not. As I write through this month, I like to use this particular space to explore sides of my writing that I otherwise might not make time for: whimsy, humor, family stories, and tales from the classroom.

At the same time, the work that I’m doing on a couple of serious projects calls me to attention, demands that I sit up straight and craft the pearl others believe I am capable of producing. While I may be a pretty good writer, I am an inexperienced and clumsy reviser (and yes, I needed to look up that word because who uses that?). Which explains why I enjoy blogging: No need for perfection or even completion. Say some things and get it out there. The upside is that I’ve become braver over time. I’m also learning, slowly, how to work with editors who are indeed a gift to published work.

I struggle with serious writing and I keep trying it. I have ideas I want to see out in the world that carry my stamp and I have been fortunate enough to meet a few folks who tell me that’s a valid pursuit. This slice reminds me that persistence counts. That dreams require labor. That the big wins are made up of hundreds of little wins along the way.

Deep breath.

Now I can turn to those other pieces.