Along with the vegetables is my July co-harvester: Eduardo, who also helped my Spanish from being completely forgotten to being that of a two-year-old. I have picked up a Spanish book and am working on becoming three, soon.
Whether with vegetables and Eduardo and our hosts, on a train, in a crowd or looking for a locally owned grocery store in a new city, traveling has been teaching me who I am. The people in my life, given to me or chosen by me, have made me who I am. I have an unrecognizable accent where the original Wyoming sounds can rarely be heard. When I was quite unaware and unconscious of my ability to choose, I was easily influenced. As I work at being alert and awake, I make better choices, looking for and spending time with people who practice the principles I want to practice. Most of you reading this have some connection to me or my work which I hope inspires or supports the principles we want to become, and we have, hopefully, a good idea of why we are connected.
Ironically, recent experiences are teaching me that regardless of how influential or connected you or someone has been in my life, my life today changes, evolves and absorbs new influences. I am constantly challenged to let go of old ideas, old images of my friends and family so I may incorporate the new me, the new you, the new we. Recently, in the western mountains of North Carolina, with Boone folk, I was, in a given activity or conversation, other than who I was when I met or ate or lived with you. It is quite shocking, for example, that being a mother of twin babies/toddlers/children/ teenagers/ university students has so little to do with who I am now. Giving birth and raising twins was tied to my identity and life for such a long time and being “Mama” seemed to be what I was all about, but now you could and do meet, converse and live a day with me, and not even know that I was and am a mother.
This strange mixture of past “others” forming me and me continuing to grow out of who I was, changing everyday with new people, cannot be reconciled, if I hold tightly to anyone from the past, including a stagnant self image. Everyday I must practice letting go of the past – who we used to be together. Only then, can I accept who I am now, including all the influences from the past (the ironic bit), good and bad. Fatigue sets in when trying to wrap my mind around this task precisely because I am holding on to some self image or dependency on a friend or relationship that I perceive defines me. This grip is never neutral. Fear of loss, desire for intimacy, acceptance, love or deep beliefs on who I think I should be (to gain intimacy, acceptance and love) are the driving force fueling the attachment.
My former, languageless student, Filadelfo, a.k.a., Ildefonso. changed my life, and is part of who I am and what my life is about. A Man Without Words, the book and the short documentary (available as a gift – just write me) are also a part of who I am and what I am about. However, as I have changed, how I present them has changed. Realizing how we all influence and change each other, I prefer book talks and film screenings to be in living rooms rather than on stages, so we can share our stories, connecting in ways that build community. The more each of us move from “I” to “we,” the more we have a chance at facing and solving the challenges of violence, the insanity of nuclear weapons, poverty, global climate change, and economic systems built on greed. We can begin building alternatives, starting with that change from our society’s “me-ism” to connecting with family and friends, cooking, eating, playing or reconciling, and not running away through our many ways of numbing out from social media, packaged entertainment or snacks to a hundred other addictions.
What does this have to do with language or multilingual education, with A Man Without Words or The Boy Who Cried Wolf? Story telling connects us. Regardless of how frightened or disturbed I am by your differences, when you begin telling me your story, my defenses begin to lower and weaken. We connect human to human. I no longer see your strange stripes or “weirdness” but realize our universal needs and struggles as humans.
If you think I can be of service, to promote more sharing and community building through story telling, share this with your teaching/parenting/literacy friends, invite me to facilitate story telling in your community or inform your friends that I am available to travel to their living room or library or school or community center. Write me with your ideas, be a guest blogger and/or push the donate button (to the left) to give the gift of postage, books, DVDs and transportation to your or new communities.
Write me here or directly at susan (at) susanschaller.com with any feedback, insights and, of course, your story.
We are our stories; let’s share them.