Yes, and…

It was a stupid high school theater game.  For warm-ups we would stand in a circle and give one line of a scene or a story per person.  You would step into the circle as you gave your line, and as you stepped out everyone was supposed to shout (in unison, although that rarely happened), “Yes, and…” before the next person was up.  It was supposed to get us to think outside the box, silence our voice of judgment, and create safe and collaborative community.

Turns out it wasn’t really a stupid game.  Yes and…has been everywhere lately.

I feel a charging readiness for something that is not here yet.  My muscles and nerves have been rung out and filled and rung out again in the last year.  My heart has embraced questions and contradictions like food.  My brain is so hungry for raw material with which to make connections that I cannot take in information fast and contemplatively enough to satisfy.  Far from exasperating, to walk this almost-not-quite edge is a lesson in fascination, like being in the shower the moment before the water goes from lukewarm to icy.  You have another few seconds before something is expected of you: jump out with teeth chattering or welcome this shocking sharpness.

This yes and readiness doesn’t feel like the sarcasm of the jaded, the mockery of the self-righteous,  or the boredom of the list maker.  It is an invitation.  An invitation to keep the door open to the next breath and the one after that.  Tonight I contemplate the death of a former colleague who just lost a secret battle with late stage stomach cancer.  I see his curly brown hair and Tigger-like bounce step.  He would gesticulate wildly with his hands and shout, “Yes, and….”  I look at my new haircut, even shorter than the original hacking off back in February.  It is not quite buzzed, but paired with my new purple Mr. Magoo glasses it is dramatic.  The face is mine but I don’t recognize it.  All I hear is, “Yes, and….”  The last book I finished was entitled The Crack in the Cosmic Egg.  My latest book shows up in the mail with the picture of a cracked egg on it.  The first words might as well have been, “Yes, and….”

I even hear it in my summer campers.  That’s right, I have gone from eye-rolling teenagers to little kids who bite each other, tattle about everything, and can not wash their hands without help.  But you know what they can do?  Create like nobody’s business.  Create like their fucking hair is on fire but they don’t care because there is a truck full of free candy parked outside their house.  I was playing Battleship this week with a first grader named Matthew when this conversation happened.

“You know what we should do?  We should use the marbles from the Mancala board and use them as protection spells for our ships.”  Being no slouch when it comes to creation, I was able to hang with him on this part.  “I like that, it will be like we created a whole new game.  What should we call it?”

“Battleforce Awakens.”  Seriously took him less than two seconds.  I said okay and we continued to play, but soon things got tricky.  “G3,” I said.

“Hit, I mean miss.”

“Well was it a hit or a miss?” I questioned.

“It would have been a hit but I have my blue marbles around it so it isn’t.”

“But I had my blue marbles around a ship that you sunk just five minutes ago.”

“Yes, but they weren’t dark blue marbles, they were all kinds of blue and you did not have them in the right spot under the fortress (a business card holder he was using from the desk) so they could gain power.”  At this his coach he recruited nodded solemnly.

“So if I call G3 again then it’s a hit because I disabled the force field?”

I was missing the point.  Trying to figure out the rules in a made up game left me no time to marvel that he was creating whole new systems of reality on the fly.  He was giving me yes and, but I stopped with yes.  I stopped with yes (I needed to write it again to hear myself say it again).

I am not afraid that I will miss the next step, whether it is hopping on a plane to go live in Paris or playing a game of Bop-It-Red-Rover-Tag.  I no longer wonder, like I did this year, how much I would be willing to sacrifice to find a me that is more authentic, more sustainable.  I am in my life more than I have ever been.  It may sound silly to some, but for a creature of habit like myself, the fact that I am willing to give up my “summer break” for an early rising job that is 50% sheer boredom, tells me everything I need to know about my sincerity regarding Delaney Walkabout.

I am waiting, with night-before-Christmas faith sweat, for presents to be delivered.



Calling Pop, Pop

My Dad has always referred to himself as ‘pop’.  As a child I was distinctly uncomfortable with that.  I knew his growing up on the East Coast made it more logical, but it still annoyed me.  It wasn’t dignified.  I wanted him to be father, dad, or even daddy for that matter.  At least daddy was a word that little girls were supposed to use.  Pop, on the other hand, felt more like a term for drinking buddies.  Thus, I was more than a little surprised to hear myself end a message to him last night with, “Love ya pop, talk to you soon.”

I don’t know how long I’ve been using his word for himself, but thinking about it today I realize the word doesn’t hold the same lip-curdling, teenage self-righteousness  that it used to.  In fact, it is more accurate than father or dad or daddy could ever be.  Pop implies loveable frailty, a generous heart, a tendency towards garrulous storytelling, and a slightly saucy, yet ultimately corny, sense of humor.  “Honey, did you hear about the man who was found dead in a bathtub full of milk and Cheerios with a banana stuck up his butt?  The police said it was a cereal killer!!”  Five minutes of laughter on his part, and yes, the first time he told it to me I actually thought he was relaying odd but true news from Southern California.

As I thought about the pop-ness of my Pop, a question came unbidden: “I wonder what else wants to call its own name that I’m not believing?”  Ooooo….juicy question, thanks brain.  How many times have I wondered ‘what else is going on’ with a friend who was sharing the trivial or traumatic?  How many times have I downplayed a need of my own because ‘I can make it through just a few more days or hours?’  Heck, how many times did I ask students ‘do you really have to go or are you just trying to get out of doing work?’  What if I took the motivation, the story, the need presented, as the truth of the moment, trusting that any other truth that would come later was working its way up from the roots of the situation?

It is not unprecedented.  I had a student come out to me for the first time ever this year.  The last day of school she handed me a note that popped my tear ducts like water balloons.  The first lines read: “Dear Miss Delaney, you are the first adult I ever came out to.  Thanks for making it easier by believing me.”  I would never question a heart offering of such a fragile nature, but in her mind she did not yet have the right to call her own name.  She was, as we often do, testing out how much permission she had, in the hands of one she hoped would love her.

I’ve even spoken to myself without inquisition quite recently.  Laying in bed a week or so ago, unsuccessfully trying to ignore mounting anxiety over upcoming dental work, I finally gave in to the skin stretching flaying reality of panic attacks and started to question.  “You know you’re not going to die.  You know you essentially bring this on yourself by not going in more often.  You trust your dentist and she has been immeasurably kind to you for many years.  Why are you still so afraid?”  No answer.  I got out of bed, stood in the dark of my apartment, and started to move whatever parts of my body were calling.  Finally, like the whisper from the side of a scared child’s mouth, “Pain means you are not loved.”  I didn’t stop to gawk at the new creation.  I kept moving, I felt what emotion it stirred, but what I didn’t do was question it or try to construct a story of how it came to be so.  In fact, the few times I wondered if I should sit down and write about it, I knew that it was a not yet.  The truth of the moment was here, telling me all I needed to know for now.

As a writer, my taste for questions makes this a very different way to approach life.  I will never give up asking questions, nor do I believe I am being called to.  Questions help things be birthed.  But what would it be like if I let something be that has just been born?  When I talk to my Pop tonight, I will thank him for seeding that lesson, whether consciously or not, from my earliest days.  I do not get to tell someone what their name is.

Notes from the Field

Hello from Day 6 of Delaney Walkabout!  This is the title I’ve decided to give to this year, one of many heartfelt parting gifts of the school I walk away from.  Yes, that’s right, for those of you just tuning in to my saga, I have started my year’s leave of absence from public education.  People keep peeking to see if I’m elated yet, but mostly it’s just confusing.  My mind is aware that we need to start this process of discovering the new creation, but my body has said repeatedly, “Why aren’t we drinking yet?”  In my defense, that has been the reliable pattern for the last thirteen years–I was last priority during the school year, and my reward was ridiculous sloth and excess during vacations.  Doesn’t sound very balanced?  It wasn’t.

So, as I approach the end of this week, let’s recap successes in order to keep the goblins of confusion at bay:

Jobs applied for: 3.  One of the “serious” variety and two of the “not-so-serious” variety.  I’m having problems with the not-so-serious jobs however.  First,  the applications themselves.  Although Will Smith’s Getting Jiggy With It (or Getting Jobby With It if you are clever like me) is a great song for loosening up before the experience, I can’t quite get loose enough to write down my former hourly wage in the work experience section.  I contemplated writing in very small print, “Way more than you pay anyone here, but that’s okay because  I know this is a minimum wage job.”  That seemed a little condescending however and so I ended up leaving them blank, with a very respectful line drawn through the space so they wouldn’t perceive any eye-rolling tone on my part.  I also balked at putting down references.  Both my principal and vice-principal are good sports, but there is not much they can say about my ability to work a cash register or not drop plates of food (I can do both by the way, if either of you are reading this).  Finally, I can’t understand why you’d want a resume and not just an application for a retail or food establishment.  Both give you the person’s experience?  Are you trying to weed out the mature from the immature by seeing who knows what a resume is?  I’m trying to maintain a straight face when I encounter requests like these, but my brain is getting a cramp from rolling its eyes.

Jobs considered but discarded: 2.  Transcription–listen and write stuff down.  Should be easy, right?  Wrong.  It’s REALLY FUCKING DIFFICULT.  I took a test to gauge my abilities, and after 15 minutes I still wasn’t sure about the accuracy of the 16 second practice clip they had given me, although I was sure I wanted to punch sports announcer Skip in the face.  Considering the fact that the pay scale was .08-.35 cents a clip, I figured this was not going to be a big game changer in the battle to pay rent.  Next, sex texter.  It is an actual thing.  You no longer have to have a seductive phone voice to do sex work, just be good with your thumbs (ha!).  This one had real potential until I read the fine print and saw you had to send 2000 texts a month in order to get paid at all!!  The boyfriends and lovers of my past will attest that I have a great imagination when it comes to chicka-chicka-bow-wow, but even I highly doubt I can send 2000 texts a month.  Just to be sure I looked on for synonyms for ass.  Sadly, only twenty-something.  Sex texter, dismissed.

Pledges made and kept: 1.  I have never done this in my life although I’ve heard it suggested as best practice a jillion times: write every day.  I know, I know, it seems common sense, but I much prefer writing when it comes in a rush of glory and not a calamity of toe stubbing and cursing your own brain, or word hole as I sometimes call it (“Come on you stupid word hole!” is a phrase my cat actually heard me utter last night).  But, I have written for six days in a row now, and I can see the appeal even through the frustration.  The highs may not be as fancy, but the door stays open more easily, and my patience for revision is greater.  Stay tuned for how long I can stick with it, but my goal is the whole year.

Some parts of summer are of course the same.  By the time this week is over I’ll have gotten to see so many of the people I love and catch up with them.  It’s such a treat to not have to force myself to socialize with what little energy I have left at the end of a teaching day or week.  I also start the yearly summer ritual of reminding my body what green food looks like–carbohydrates and cheese covered foods being the norm in May.  Finally, tomorrow on day 7, the day God rested from creation, I’ll finally get some drinking in.  Or, as my friend Erika likes to call it, Wine in the Daytime!!!!! 

All in all, not a bad entrance into the wild.