Thar Be Dragons, or Snowpocalypse 2014!
Today, as I ventured back into a snow-free world, I found myself thinking about adversity. Snow is hard on the South. We don’t get enough of it to make it financially feasible to have all the accoutrements in order to deal with it properly, so it is best that we all just buy up insane amounts of milk and bread and stay in our houses bitching about it rather than attempt to go on with our lives. But in the glorious days that follow such an imprisonment, we all experience a unique bliss akin to a runner’s high when we can once again venture into the world. We rub the sleep and Cheetos residue from our eyes, climb out of our rank PJs, and discover the color of grass and the sun’s intoxicating heat on our skin.
Ultimately, I think we all need our dragons. When I was trapped in my car for nearly 24 hours, the snow and ice were definitely some of mine. But that experience taught me how to be better prepared in my car, for not only inclement weather, but also for any emergency. And when the next storm hit, I found much joy in watching the pretty snow from my warm house. Adversity enables us to comprehend joy; without adversity, pleasure and bliss has little meaning. Without opposites, we are in danger of falling into a mundane apathetic routine; all becomes gray. It’s Chaos Theory—a topic that has fascinated me for many years. For life to continue, we need something to react to, fight against—that which drives us to adapt and grow. Without this, there is no life, or no meaningful life.
In class, I often teach a film called Finding Joe, which is an amazing work about the hero’s journey and how it applies not only to the stories we humans tell in literature and film, but also to our everyday lives. Our dragons are the things we struggle against on our journey. We think we hate them; sometimes we spend way too much time denying them, asking why we must battle with them, bitching about how unfair they are, but eventually, our dragons are the very forces that make us who we are. They push and pull at us, causing us to evolve. Some of these are little dragons; some huge. Some of them we choose; some choose us. But we all have them, and they are an integral part of the human experience.
During my recent imprisonment in the snow globe of my house, I thought a great deal about all of this. At first, I found myself really annoyed. “Snow again—my students are already struggling and now will get more behind; I will have to make up these days; I can’t get outside and do what I need/want to do”….and so forth. But then I found my focus changing. I did what I could to communicate with my students and try to help them stay caught up; I painted—which is one of my great pleasures in life. I read books I had not had time to read; I even found I had some mad hula hoop skills! Sometimes an imposed time out isn’t a bad thing. Often such a difficulty evicts us from our mundane box and makes us come up with another plan, see things from a different perspective. It was the same such experience a few years ago that pushed me to design a website for my students, and since that time that website has streamlined my teaching and helped my students in phenomenal ways. I built on it every day, attempting to find new ways to serve our at risk population.
It is often an illusion that our dragons are what keep us from happiness; actually most often the opposite is true. It is instead our choices in how we interact with our dragons that that determines our happiness. Crisis and opportunity often come together, if we like it or not. Their gift to us is action—movement. Without action, we die. THIS is the stuff of life. This is why the Buddha said “embrace the sorrow of the world.” When I was young, I had a hard time understanding this statement, but now, it makes perfect sense to me. To be alive and in the body is always painful on some level, but it is our pain that lets us know we are alive; the ability to feel is a gift. Our journey is not to sit longingly under the Bodhi tree without movement. Our journey is to take on the dragon and feel every movement of the experience, good and bad. This is life.
So I am really okay with our little snowpocalypse after all. No use wasting time being mad about it; I would rather go paint a picture or read that novel or write that essay or hula hoop while watching Downton Abbey. And when I get back to school, I plan to discuss all of this with my classes, and together with them, come up with an even better plan of attack for next time. And when I go outside today, I will be sure to appreciate the lovely color of the world when not buried in snow, and the euphoric warmth of the sun, and the bliss of going where I want, when I want to. Thar Be Dragons—this is true! Bring them on! I will dance with them in the snow!
S.F, February 15, 2014