At 66, it’s interesting to look back – over half a century! – at my freshman year in high school. It was NOT an easy year. Could not understand why it was okay for the cool kids to compare homework, change their answers, but told with scathing hauteur that I’d be cheating if permitted into their elite study clique.
On the HIGH side, 1966 was the year I started hanging out at Glenn Hall, the girl’s dorm, where I found a group of juniors & seniors missing their younger siblings, happy for my friendship.
1966-67 was also the academic year that two of my teachers made comments that stay with me today. Miss Wilde, my Latin & Ancient History teacher who let me know with what felt like dripping distain “you are nothing like your sister” (who loved Latin & knew how to connect with the flinty, brilliant Brit), wrote of me at the end of the year, “If she ever gets those feet on the ground, she will go far.”
Then there was my English teacher – I can still recite, in Old English, the opening lines from Beowulf – Miss Lyris. She was tall, bright red hair, could touch the top of the doorway with her foot. Her description of me at year’s end – “If she spent as much time on her studies as she does on her benefactionsof charity, she would do very well.”
My mother, sister & I considered those quotes real hoots. I had no intention of getting my feet on the ground – being grounded was not an emotionally safe place for me. Keeping my heads in the clouds, getting through each day thanks to a rich parallel fantasy life, kept me on even keel. As for those “benefactions of charity” – – doing for others was what defined my value, at least in my close-knit world.
At 66, I cannot imagine how it must have driven those women nuts, seeing ability without follow through. Neither of them could have guessed the depth of my sense of sheer dumbness, my self-contempt for my creativity & writing style. Me? Worthy of good grades? It was unthinkable.
To this day, I still tend to give “benefactions of charity” precedence over self-advancing tasks. My projects still tend to help others rather than myself. And they still focus more on increasing social connection than income.
A Creativity Jam for Age Justice was an awareness – not money – raiser.
Values Visions Dreams can’t be monetarized – one of the few conditions Values.com puts on using their materials is you use them to make money.
Cooper, Keeper of the Gardens will hopefully become a money-maker, but profits go to the cathedral.
I don’t set out to find such projects, it’s that their lack of income doesn’t prevent me from seeing their value. It’s the way I’m built. So sorry, Miss Lyris – am still putting those “benefactions of charity” first. Part of my core being.
What about Miss Wilde? At 66, am forever warmed by her comment. Margaret Wilde had no time for dullards & sluggards. It matters to me that she saw someone who could make a difference, once grounded. And she could have been the most insightful psychologist in the world, there was no way that anyone was going to break through to me, at that time, that I had a natural brilliance of my own. On so many levels, recognizing that would not have been safe. But she made the comment, which made – for me – a huge difference, once I stopped trivializing it & started believing.
I like to think that Miss Lyris would appreciate what I’ve done over the years, what I am doing now, for others. Especially Cooper, Keeper of the Gardens, which I like to think she’d enjoy & would have suggestions to improve. And I hope that I’d be able to explain to a woman with a HUGE circle of family & friends & colleagues how those benefactions were life lines for a connection-starved young girl.
As for Miss Wilde’s quote – her observation was dead center. When I find myself getting distracted, have problems focusing or deciding which activity is the best to do at a particular moment, I check my feet. Are they on the ground? Or do I need some anchoring? Miss Wilde gave me that image. My thanks for the solid ground.
Much has been written about negative early messaging that creates deep traumas & sense of UNness – unworthy, unlikeable, unambitious, unnecessary, unloved. Am blessed that so many of the messages I was sent – directly – have become key tools in my quest for a authentic aligned self. Blessings, Miss Lyris & Miss Wilde for seeing what you saw & for expressing it in remarkably non-judgmental ways that let me use them over all these years.
Robert Frost noted, “I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” Dear ladies, your student if fully awake. Thanks for believing in me in the midst of my deepest slumbers. I will not go back to sleep.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.