“This I Believe—in Love”
I know it sounds like a corny old Don Williams song, but this I believe—in love.
As an idealistic and reflective young educator, I knew that for learning to occur with the least amount of grief, it needed to be meaningful and non-threatening, and, well, fun. I have had the opportunity to test my theories the last eight years of my career—in a state juvenile corrections facility. For the longest time my career inspired me, and I think—hope–that I inspired my students. But at some point, my job stopped feeding me, and I was palpably stagnant. I felt trapped because I wanted something more, but was financially dependent upon my job. In a way, I was now in prison.
I employed every coping skill available in my vast tool chest to muddle through the next couple of years, usually a new form of intellectual stimulation, but then something happened that neutralized most of my previous beliefs about myself. We had an organizational restructuring, a shake-up that turned us upside down and dumped us on our hind-ends on the sidewalk.
Whenever there is a restructuring, there are bound to be casualties, and I was in danger of becoming one of them. Our students seemed ever more disrespectful and threatening, generally out-of-control. The negativity permeated our school like a black contagious fog. We were all so busy running around putting out fires that all forward progress seemed to have stopped. Staff and students alike were miserable. Worse still, I was taking my work home with me, and not in a beneficial way.
Then a friend stepped in and shared a piece of her journey with me, and I must say my life has not been the same since. Always the intellectual, I previously regarded spiritualistic self-help and therapy with a healthy amount of skepticism and even scoffing. After all, my mid-western fundamentalist fire-and-brimstone upbringing taught that it was the Christian God’s way or the highway to hell. But as it happened, I was just depressed enough to try anything.
And lo and behold, it worked! After learning some mediation techniques, and reading about inner-bonding and forgiveness, I took some terrific advice and made my mantra, “How can I give love?” Not the self-gratifying kind, the divine kind. It may sound hokey, but I now know that taking time for God means taking time for myself, and forgiveness heals me because I can let go of my negative emotions without prejudice, and not be responsible for the negative emotions of others.
All of a sudden, the craziness at work didn’t bother me. My blood pressure went down. One co-worker even asked me what happened to my face, because it looked so much more relaxed. The snotty-disrespect of the students didn’t irritate me, because I deeply understood that it truly wasn’t about me. I stopped being a contributing factor in escalating emotional battles. I surrendered all control, and everything became under control.
Now, when I approach a conflict resolution situation with one of my students, I ask silently, “How can I give love?” We still have to do the work together, but with far less road-rash. I have discovered that, as Budda taught in the fifth dimension, I am to a point where perhaps now my virtue can begin to exceed my intelligence. Not because it has to, but because I want it to, and none of this is at variance with my spiritual upbringing—it is a deeper understanding of it.
Things are better now—not perfect, but better. I have come to the realization that prison is not walls, and barbed wire, and prison guards, it is an individual’s own negative emotions, and the liberator is love. I know that I have more to learn in life, and I know I will encounter difficulties and hardships in the future, but as The Bard said, “It [love] looks on tempests and is never shaken.” I can weather the storms of life, even grow from them: because this I believe—in Love.
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