Move away from the grandiose and enjoy the NOW…
Mantras have helped me gain clarity, move through rough patches, and energetically revitalize by breathing. Since mid-February, my mind has been flooded with a myriad of ideas on ways to support children, families, schools, and all communities. As a master educator who firmly believes in the brilliance of rich social emotional learning and organic mental health practices, little did I know I would need my own work now more than ever.
I’ve never shied away from sharing my personal battle with anxiety because, well, why should I? We all feel anxiety to some degree, but the magnitude is the divider. I abhor stigmas and openly discuss my daily mental clarity practices to foster others stepping into the unknown, rather the place we all crave, the calm. When I chose to go into the classroom, I committed to helping every child and person, regardless of age, race, gender, or difference. I created an atmosphere that enabled every human to openly honor and love their perfectly imperfect self. Yes, another mantra I share daily, “I AM THE MOST IMPERFECTLY PERFECT PERSON.”
As February moved into March, the grandiose flipped to the extreme. Like everyone, my life was no longer filled with normalities. Daily subway rides, in person client meetings and working with children, happy hours in packed bars, or meeting friends for yoga classes stopped before I could blink. In a flash, all gatherings and highly anticipated vacations were postponed, experiences became solely virtual, and everything became uncertain. The only certainty I knew I had was choosing how to look at NOW. Thus, my mantra, move away from the grandiose and enjoy the NOW.
Mantras change our mind, shifting how we feel inwards and shaping how we look outwards. I woke this morning filled with joy, ecstatic to write about the endless opportunities we ALL have NOW. However, my heart sank as I read more stories about this weekend’s vandalism, countless injuries, peaceful protests that turned harsh and hateful, and watched footage of our realities stretching across America. My writing was instantly driven in a new direction.
How did we transfer uncertainty of a Pandemic to the absolute certainty that racial inequity and inequality is as prominent today as it was in the 1950s?
I’ve been working with students on crafting informational essays about the Civil Rights Movement. As a Kindergarten teacher for over 15 years in both Atlanta and NYC, I taught my students to ALWAYS stand up in order to sit down. One of my favorite books I’ve used to enrich such learning is “Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins,” by Carole Boston Weatherford, a book published on December 29, 2004. Today, only sixteen years post publishing, we are living Freedom on the Menu everywhere in America. Many questioned how and why I would teach such complexities to 4 and 5 years old. Proudly, I never had to answer any inquiries because my students articulated standing up for EVERYONE meant all of humanity sits where they please.
We choose how we teach history. We choose how we instill beliefs. We choose how to come together or divide. Today, and everyday, the only control we have in life is our effort and our attitude.
Breathe in: YOU can control your effort and attitude!
Now, take a deeper breath and marinate over how YOU will choose to make an effort in changing how WE make history!
We are at a critical crossroad, and as a nation, we MUST move towards cultivating and maintaining authentic relationships by first recognizing that mental health and social and emotional learning is critical for all of us! Acceptance of all humanity is our only route!
As my students quote Mahalia Jackson, screaming just 50 feet away ”Tell them about the dream, Martin! Tell them about the DREAM!” I stand here, shouting from the rooftops, WE MUST DO MORE! On Wednesday, August 28, 1963, a power house woman STOOD UP TO SIT DOWN! Mahalia Jackson knew the strength of her voice and intentionally helped influence over 250,000 people standing on the lawns in DC and hundreds of thousands watching on television as MLK, Jr shared his Dream. Jackson’s dynamic declaration helped redesign our paradigm, one intended to push radical responsibility by all in power. We are merely two months away from the infamous date, yet, the difference is, 57 years have passed and we are now confronting the SAME REALITY.
Questioning when our temporary time would end and launch us into our “new normal” seemed like the question we all pondered for weeks into months. However now, choosing our “new normal” is constructing and committing to the equitable world we’ve been striving towards for centuries. Our normal must be a recipe of acceptance and love for all humanity. As an educator, a community member, and an activist for equity and equality, NOW IS THE TIME to create OUR NEW NORMAL! We must choose to love as one. We must choose to support as one. Regardless of skin color, gender, and any other avenue that leads to segregation must end NOW.
Choosing new lenses can be hard, especially if your current lenses were taught to you by people you love and respect. The beauty of our mind is that we can choose to change our thoughts. We can choose to change our actions. We can choose to change our beliefs. As a lifelong learner, I choose to listen to people when they willingly speak about the heartache of today. As a lifelong educator, I choose to seek opportunities to teach how love and compassion fuels our soul, fuels our mind, and fuels our determination to triumphantly crush barriers in order for all of us to live safely and equitably. We have the power to choose kindness and acceptance. Now, more so than ever, we must guide and support children and people of all ages through rich compassion and self-awareness. In doing so, we will passionately commit to the unwavering words of Dr. King, we “will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Summer has arrived for some and is on the horizon for others. Socializing is being reintroduced, inviting laughter, joy, and freedom to be. We have choices to make. NOW is the time to remove the tarnished glasses of bigotry and hate. NOW is the time to join together as one! NOW is the time we ALL experience freedom and safety! When the pandemic overtook our lives a few months ago, we all craved socialization and being with others, running freely without fear of chaos or destruction.
Now is YOUR TIME to choose!