Nos. 69 – 93: Attitude Adjustment Playlist.

Around five years ago, I was taking the A train downtown to West 4th Street. It was my usual early morning and I was in my final semester of grad school. I was feeling edgy, having taken on a project at a professor’s request that turned out to be several dozen more hours worth of work than I had anticipated, in addition to applying for jobs and considering a move.

Like any self-respecting New York resident, I had my earbuds in. I don’t remember what moved me to do it, but I put my music on shuffle. The first song that came on was “Take it Easy” by the Eagles. (“Take it easy, take it easy/Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy/Lighten up while you still can/Don’t even try to understand/
Just find a place to make your stand, and take it easy.”)

OK, shuffle. I’m listening.

Then came “You Get What You Give,” one of my favorite late Millenia tunes that is highly underrated, in my opinion.

I soon started to stash away songs for the playlist I labeled “Attitude Adjustment.” What followed was an assortment of initially random, then carefully curated tunes to turn my day from “dreading it” to “hm… ok, maybe.”

Today, I share that list with you.

  1. The Eagles, “Take it Easy”
  2. New Radicals, “You Get What You Give”
  3. Florence and the Machine, “Shake It Out”
  4. Jackson 5, “I Want You Back”
  5. Lit, “My Own Worst Enemy”
  6. Meatloaf, “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights”
  7. Smash Mouth, “All Star”
  8. Toploader, “Dancin in the Moonlight”
  9. Bruce Springsteen, “Born to Run”
  10. The Who, “Pinball Wizard”
  11. The Sweet, “Ballroom Blitz”
  12. Lady Gaga, “Born This Way”
  13. Beyonce, “Run the World”
  14. Harvey Danger, “Flagpole Sitta”
  15. Blink 182, “What’s My Age Again?
  16. No Doubt, “Just a Girl”
  17. Hair, “I’ve Got Life”
  18. Adele, “Rumor Has It”
  19. Peter Gabriel, “Down to Earth”
  20. Van Morrison, “Brown Eyed Girl”
  21. Michael Jackson, “Blame It On the Boogie”
  22. The Wonders, “That Thing You Do!”
  23. The Beatles, “Twist and Shout”

I’m Still Here. I’m Still Grateful.

I have not written a gratitude post here for three weeks. It’s the longest single stretch of absence I’ve had in either incarnation of this project.

I feel I owe you an explanation. And moreover, I owe it to myself to be truthful.

The presidential election left me deeply, truly, painfully sad. Not for a due process of the constitution or because “my side lost.” I was grieving over the spike in hate, upswing in violence and aggression, and the pervasive fear that everyone from the gas station attendant to my second graders wore like a second skin. Those of us who stayed awake that night were exhausted the next morning. Many who had gone to sleep awoke puzzled and confused. Not one of us was confident.

In the following days, I went through my routine. I went to work where I tried to answer some questions. I watched Netflix. I slept as best I could. The blog went unaddressed. It didn’t feel good not to write, but not writing felt better than I imagined writing would. Writing is deeply personal to me, and the thought of writing, processing hurt. I could continue on and deny that anything happened. I could do a full out emotional excavation. Or I could retreat.

I chose the final option.

I was reminded of a story.

When the plague broke out in London in the 1600s, the prevailing belief was that the disease was spread through close person to person contact. Not knowing what to do, Parliament attempted to contain it by closing the London Theater houses. In that time, a quarter of the city was suffered from what was coined the Black Death. When The Globe and other theaters finally reopened, the residents were terrified. Would life be able to ever continue as usual? Shakespeare, the playwright in resident, was encouraged to present a comedy.

He produced Romeo and Juliet instead.

Shakespeare saw that the people of Great Britain were numb. They had shut down emotionally to somehow function within the world, which was entrenched in death and illness and loss and sorrow. What they needed was not to be tickled by comedy. They needed to feel again.

Today, four hundred years later, I brought myself fully and presently to my yoga mat for the first time in weeks. I was honestly apprehensive to even go to class. (Many yogis will tell you, stuff has a tendency to come up whether you like it or not.) As the instructor lead us through a practiced focused on ahimsa, or non violence, particularly in application towards ourselves, I realized I hadn’t felt my feet in full contact with the floor since the beginning of November. I had not really taken a full deep breath. I had been sprinting from one thing to the next.

Yet to my surprise, there I was: exactly where I had left myself.

I am still hurting. I think this will hurt for a while. I am still struggling to make sense of this world, this world that I see so much beauty and grace and potential in, as well as so much fear, anger, and despair. (Both are true.)

But I am still grateful. And I will be back at it tomorrow, with a compiled list of things that have gotten me through these last three weeks.

In elementary school, I was read a poem  by Max Ehrmann called “Desiderata.” A copy now coincidentally hangs in our lower school copy room. It ends like this:

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

I am here, striving to be happy. It is my hope that this blog, in its honesty and humility, brings you some happiness as well.

With gratitude,

Christina

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming….

I have never considered myself a political person. With the deeply impactful election results this week, I’ve been examining why and found a few core reasons.
– I have considered the topics of religion and politics to be taboo in personal conversation and social media (funny, considering that I am a theology teacher.)
– I am pretty empathetic and really, agonizingly, truly prefer not to take sides in disagreements.
– Looking even deeper, I have seen that within me I’ve internalized the untrue belief that polite people, especially women, do not talk politics.
 
All of this is changing within me as a result of the last election. I understand and respect conservative politics. What I cannot respect is the hate rhetoric, marginalization, and the policies of President-Elect Donald Trump.
 
While my love for you all, regardless of your political beliefs, and who I am at my core has not changed, what has changed is my need to speak. This time, there is too much at stake for me and for those I love.
 
I hope that you respect that I can no longer be be quiet over my opinions, just as I respect your right to share yours. Should you find this offensive, or problematic, you are welcome to unfollow me. I will not think any less of you, and will love you all the same.
As the Protestant Pastor Martin Niemoller wrote,
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
I will speak, loudly and clearly, on behalf of myself and those who are afraid to speak for themselves. And I will do so with a voice of love.

No. 68: Being Short.

Today’s prompt: “What about your body are you grateful for?”

I’m going to keep this short.

It’s my height.

(See what I did there?)

I have not grown since I was in seventh grade. Specifically, March of seventh grade, when my legs shot out of my hips that were already wider than my friends’ and my mom started packing Tastykakes in my lunch because she thought I was becoming too skinny. (This lasted only two weeks, because I told her she could stop.)

Now, in my late 20s, I consider my height an asset. I believe that it helps my students see me as more approachable. I fit into children’s clothing from time to time. (My new raincoat came with a nametag that said “______ is my name and exploring is my game!”) I’ve been compared to both Peter Pan and Tinkerbell more than once.

I wouldn’t be me if I were an inch taller. And so, I smile when someone calls me small or tiny. I like to use the rest of my personality to prove that I’m anything but.

No. 67: Italian Hot Spring Village.

Prompt for today: “What place are you most grateful for?”

I have searched high and low for the name, but low and behold,  I cannot find it. So the name of the place will simply remain “Italian Hot Spring Village.”

The summer after I graduated high school, I had the privilege of going to Italy to perform with other high school students, as we performed free outdoor jazz concerts. It was one of the most formative experiences of my early adulthood. I was on my own in a foreign country and my eyes were wide to all around me.

One night we stopped in a tiny town that was previously home to the Pope’s summer home. We performed, the locals danced. I chanced into a blue dress and got a rum and coke from the bar, a big deal since I was only 18 and unable to have a legal drink in America.

I went and sat on the crest of a hill that had small hot springs running down. With the hot water bubbling over my feet, I looked around me. There was no light pollution in the valley below, and the stars above twinkled like I had never seen before. I felt unfathomably fortunate: to be in Italy, to be singing great music, and to witness this beautiful moment unfold around me. I was filled with awe. I loved that small town, and it loved me right back.

No. 66: Directing.

Prompt for today: “What opportunities are you most grateful for?”

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Today I closed my first-ever Shakespearean directing project. If you had told me five years ago I would have been directing, and it would be Shakespeare, I would tell you that you were crazy. Yet, here I am.

When I was offered my job part of the offer was directing the Upper School fall play. I had never directed a show before, outside of a scene for my Theater 35 “Intro to Acting and Directing” course as an undergrad. But I took it on anyway.

Here is what I’ve learned:

  1. Directing is just telling stories, and I like doing that.
  2. If I set some level of expectation and get out of my students’ way, they will take care of the rest.
  3. I care about my actors as people first, actors second. They appreciate this, especially on the tough days.
  4. No rehearsal ever goes as planned.
  5. … and the shows always go better than expected.

 

No. 65: Memory of my Award.

Today’s prompt: “What memory are you grateful for?”

There are five goals that anchor our teaching, and each year, staff or faculty members can submit nominations to share why their colleagues are deserving of recognition in practicing these goals. The nominations are then reviewed by the school board and one is chosen as the recipient.

This past May, I was honored to receive one of these awards, in recognition of Goal 1: “A personal and active faith in God,” specifically the teaching of “inter-religious acceptance… and a deep respect for the religions of the world.”I received a kind note from our head of school, a certificate acknowledging my contribution, and a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

Why this memory ranks above all the many wonderful recollections I have is that it’s my proudest professional moment. It doesn’t recognize my resume so much as who I am: and to me, that’s what’s more important. I was so humbled that my colleagues had recognized this quality in me, in my teaching, and then took the time to write about it.

When I think back to the legacy I hope to leave someday, I hope that it’s that I left the world a little better than when I found it. This award gave me the encouragement to know I was on the right track, and that others with me share my hope in a more diverse world.