To return. It suggests that I was doing things better before. It puts the lie to constant progress, because at some point in the past, in at least one area, I was doing better – and now I’m doing less well. I need to actually return, to go back to doing things the way I am supposed to do them. Where do I need to return – where have I strayed?
This is hard to even think about. I like to think that I am making good choices, or at least if I make poor ones, that I’ve improved. Where have I ‘unimproved’? I’m teaching instead of pushing papers. That’s good. I have more people in my life than ever. That’s good. I am working on taking care of my body. That’s good. I have justifications for everything. It takes an enormous act of sheer will (and a month of blogging, so that I’m used to looking in that mirror at least a little) to peel back all that rationalization and see the faults underneath.
And peeling back is a good image, because that’s what’s happened over the year.I’ve gotten a crust. It’s normal, of course, as people get older for them to get a little crusty – to build up walls, to become more cautious, to try fewer things. I think about teaching. Am I more sarcastic about the students and their abilities? Am I more closed off from them, giving them my education, but not my soul? I think about friends. Am I as loving, as open, as giving? Or do I weigh what I say with care, trying not to offend or provoke. I think about the world. Do I still believe I can save the environment, the Jewish people and all the hungry children from all evils? Instead, am I much too ready to let the world go its own way while I go mine? How crusty am I these days?
I am pretty crusty. It’s a lot to be that open, that giving, that trusting and that positive despite everything the world has shown. It’s a place of courage, a chance to open my eyes, a chance to return to a mindset I remember having that was perhaps more naïve, but maybe was more authentic, more godly in some ways. I read today that our life is a choice between love and fear. I think of the line in Deutoronomy: “I put before you the blessing and the curse. Therefore chose life.” I peel away the crusts of fear and disappointment. I chose love. I chose life.. I chose closeness and optimism. I smile.
My students are *all* infinitely capable and *will* succeed. My friends are *worthy* of love and trust. The world *can* be repaired by each of us doing our best. I know I need to return. It isn’t easy – in some ways, it is almost impossible. I have to pretty much fight myself, prepare for pain and tears and disappointment, grit my teeth.
I return to being open. I refuse to get old and crusty. I will always welcome learning, welcome growth and welcome people into my life. I return. I find it’s fun and funny and strong and beautiful. I know that this won’t be where I stop turning. Maybe I’ll go too far, and make silly decisions and get unnecessarily hurt and look at returning to a different pattern of thought. I turn, turn, turn – and it is a delight, and who knows, maybe this year, I’ll come round right.