The Boomerang Nebula

The Boomerang Nebula is purported to be the coldest place in space. Science says so, anyway. It’s all relative in my mind–I could name about 300 galaxies in my own soul right now that would give this place a run for its money. According to mine and Carl Sagan’s calculations, we are all made of stardust. Einstein chimes in to further complicate the matter by proving¬†everything is relative.

‚ÄúThe nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Carl Sagan, Cosmos

I introduced the Boomerang Nebula to my eighth grade class this week. “Located 5,000 light-years away, this young planetary nebula has a morbid creator: a dying star at its center.” The kids didn’t catch the solemnity in my voice when I said this. Nor did they piece together the enormity of this reality. I explained to them that stars are at their brightest when they are dying. After nebulae are¬†done expanding and exploding, they’ve fulfilled their duty of¬†blowing our minds.

I heard one chuckle. Someone murmured, “oh cool.”

I should give you some back story to my star sadness here. Things have been a bit rough at school. This week was the first time I applied my newly-acquired, more complex teacher school skills to the classroom. Eighth grade responded the fastest and in the most positive way. It’s fair to say that all my classes responded well. That is, until the nebulae exploded Friday.

After lunch, ¬†my sixth grade class filed into the room more quietly than usual. I prepared the SMART board for our lesson on heredity. Almost immediately, two students raised their hands to ask if they could talk to me in the hallway, it will only take a minute. Keep in mind that one of these students recently got our class “MVP” award for most improved in science, not to mention the “Peacemaker” award for the month of April. In the hallway, they explained to me with hushed tones that they learned in a previous class they should confront someone when they feel disrespected. Their teacher told them to confront whomever made them feel bad in any way. One kid expounded on this, saying he has issues with anger management and he needed me to know he didn’t like it when I called him out on talking. He doesn’t like getting blamed when he isn’t¬†always the only one talking (note: he is always the one talking). I felt myself getting defensive, but I responded by saying I appreciate the way they approached me so maturely. I told them I was proud of them for having the courage to tell me how they felt. I listened more than I spoke. But when I did chime in, I explained that it’s my duty as their teacher to be consistent in how I uphold consequences when students break the rules. They shook their heads in agreement and we returned to the class.

As I walked in, every student looked up silently at me. There was an eerie feeling to the room. I sat down to scroll to our next lesson. I opened my mouth to speak and a student’s hand shot up. “Ms. Lucy, we have something to say to you…as a unit.” I told them to go for it, having no context for what they were about to say. For the next 30 minutes, each student, one by one, stood up to air their grievances. The class had choreographed a teacher roast, ostensibly to manage their anger. This was a “planned group confrontation.” Comments included how “disrespected” they all felt by me. How “wrong” it was when I shared a stat about women–African American women in particular–suffering from heart disease at a disproportionate rate than the rest of the population. How much they “hate” when I “talk about David Bowie.” That my class and their art class are “the worst classes we have.”

This was not a group confrontation–this was a mutiny.

I managed to keep my shit together for the duration of class. At about 5 til 2pm, I set them up with a reading, put a student leader in charge, and excused myself to “make copies.” I rushed to the bathroom downstairs to cry in private with what little dignity I had left. I wiped my eyes and returned to the room to dismiss the kids. I locked the door behind the last one to leave. After about 2 minutes, the kids came rushing back, banging on the door. They knew they had fucked up. I didn’t answer. My last period class came in and they could tell something was wrong. So amidst our chats about DNA replication, we discussed some strategies as a group for how to not take things personally. We decided to make this a “life lessons” class period. I did my best not to go into too many details about what just happened, but news travels fast in a small school.

Friday hurt. Friday hurt real bad.

So I did the next best thing I could think to do. I met a newcomer, new best friend, for coffee at the ‘bucks. She told me her story, and I listened. We went together to a speaker meeting afterward. One alcoholic talking to another–that is the glue that binds us. More accurately, when we share our joys and woes, we act as fundamental elements that work together with cohesion. I taught something along those lines about surface tension. Because science.

I felt like shit yesterday, but I didn’t drink. I didn’t want to. But I could see why I would have in the past. Instead, I exercised a recovery muscle by¬†listening to someone else. That halted the neurotransmitter shit show bonanza in my head, at least for the night.

The first thing I did when I finished breakfast this morning was meditate. Then I called a lady from the program. Then I got a 95% on my teacher school test. Then I remembered the most important lesson I’ve taught that sixth grade class thus far:


The Hater Ratio – 4:1 – which postulates:

For every one amazing person, there will be 4 haters who will try to bring you down. If you don’t have haters, you’re doing something wrong. ¬†Pay them no mind.


After many reflections filled with staring out into space, I came up with a lesson plan for Monday. I will have the students read the Saint Francis Prayer. The Objective: To identify effective ways to love one another. They will spend their 50-minute class period writing and re-writing this prayer. I will smile, but I will not speak. I’ll let Franny do the talking.

Saint Francis Prayer

Then I will tell myself this, over and over again:

“So, the next time you are having a bad day, try this:¬†close your eyes, take a deep breath, and contemplate the chain of events that connects your body and mind to a place billions of lightyears away, deep in the distant reaches of¬†space and time. Recall that massive stars, many times larger than our sun, spent millions of years¬†turning¬†energy into matter, creating the atoms that make up part of you, the Earth, and everyone you have ever known and¬†loved.”¬†

x0.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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Off The Sauce September

Did you know that September is National Recovery Month?

WE GET A WHOLE MONTH.

I remember when I got a chip for 30 days of sobriety in April of 2014. I had never made it 30 hours sober–much less 30 days–before that. At the time,¬†I had a humorous case of the nervous sweats and an incurable desire to wreck every double-shot, Trenta iced coffee from here¬†to eternity. I numbed myself with phone calls, constant coffee to the face, Now and Laters, entire economy-sized jars of pickles, HBO Go and Netflix. I walked over a mile one way¬†every morning to my home group meeting at Caf√© Tropical on Sunset Blvd, leaving my¬†apartment by 6:15 am to make the 7am meeting (and to have time for two smokes beforehand with my friends). I chose the morning¬†AA slot due to¬†its magical charms and my utter disbelief that I could be up that early and not still be legally drunk.

sbxAn entire month sober–that¬†blew my fucking mind.

And it still does. I celebrate 18 months sober on September 17. My heart grew one size bigger with the realization that I get to celebrate this milestone during the one month a year that is dedicated to shining a light on addiction and recovery. I recognize the magnitude of this shit–it is¬†my right and responsibility to speak up. I am one person in recovery out of millions. I am alive and well today because I got help for my addiction to alcohol.

My enthusiasm for recovery hasn’t smoldered, but it has morphed into something far better than I could have imagined. The best and most beautiful gift of my sobriety is¬†the freedom to be available to other people. I connect with new people¬†and old friends who have resurfaced in my life now that I am not a complete C U Next Tuesday. It seems there is no shortage of love to go around. Forgiveness¬†and acceptance are¬†the prime suspects for my criminally large joyfulness.

I’m stepping up my game this month. Gratitude lists all the fuck over social media at least once a day, accompanied by topical memes and pictures of pandas (Google “panda daycare”– a surefire way to get you¬†really happy, really fast). I’m doubling my meetings this coming week (my attendance is more sparse than I would like it to be). I am calling, writing¬†or texting¬†at least one person in recovery every day. I am following up on a story I wrote about the Unite to Face Addiction Rally¬†by attending it¬†in DC October¬†4.¬†Lastly, I am “talking to Bowie” on a super frequent basis–i.e., praying a bunch for people and showing my flamboyant love to whomever is around to receive it. I am making myself more available, is the thing.

So let’s do this.

xo

Consciousness is Sexy

The cosmos feel more benevolent than usual this month. I’ve been trolling the internet more fervently at month’s end to see what kinds of fuckery we’ve gotten ourselves into, only to find that June fuckery has turned into fortuitous blessings.

I am currently living in Petersburg, Virginia. Very few people–save any Civil War aficionados and re en actors–know of the significance this city held in the fall of the South. Petersburg was the last stop before the end of the war. Towards the end, the Union wanted to bring the city to its knees because it was a major supply line for the Confederates, where multiple railroads converged. The Union embarked on an 18-month siege. When the Union tunneled underneath Confederate earthworks, they set off a huge explosion that produced a giant crater. This backfired, bigtime. The Union charged after the explosion, only to be met with the Confederate defense. This event is known as The Battle of the Crater. There were other battles after this one, but the Union eventually wore Robert E. Lee down. Lee’s army evacuated Petersburg, after which the Union occupied the city. A week later, the South surrendered.

The CraterTo be clear: I could not possibly give less shits about the Civil War. I do, however, give many shits about how Confederate history has pervaded my city as well as Richmond’s. I take it personally when my eyes and ears are assaulted by fear-based racism. When a white psychopath decided to attack members in a church at Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina, he was met with the most significant defense of all: forgiveness. I suspect he did not see that one coming. When the Charleston massacre occurred at an historically-significant black church, the presumptuous, insidious relics of racism prepared to die.

I am part of the minority in Petersburg’s population of approximately 36,000 people. I am a white person in a city that is 79.1% black or African-American. And I love my city.

I am also a straight woman. But I would estimate that 98.88888 % of my friends (and some family) are of the LGBTQ variety. And I love my friends/family. The Supreme Court decided yesterday that they can now legally love and marry each other, too. Is it just me, or do you feel a shift in consciousness coming on?

Our country has an expansive history of learning the hard way from its self-manufactured misery. As an alcoholic, I can relate. We are stubborn. We are also innovative and persistent. We have been more comfortable creeping in the shadows of pain than living in the light of love. That doesn’t seem to sit well with us these days. My heart has fissures in it from years of trying to forcibly remove intolerance from my ignorant neighbors. That being said, I have not experienced being a person of color in this country, nor have I lived as a member of the LGBTQ community. I have loved, though. And for those of us who love, we learn to exercise that love by taking cues from others who are different than we are. We start off not knowing; that is when we take the leap to learn. That is how we raise our consciousness.

Everything that has transpired in the last couple of weeks forced us to open our eyes. Reality uncovered a black hole of despair to bring it to the light of our own understanding. We cannot hide behind cowardice or intolerance anymore. The light has punctured our tired version of darkness. We have to look at each other in the harsh light of day. We get to live in a country that rises in love, despite our defects of character. We are the lucky ones.

I feel all kinds of charged up by the bravery of those who meet calamity with serenity. I am taking my cues from you, America.

Now that’s sexy.

Photo courtesy of warfarehistorynetwork.com