One of my students recommended Sarah Kay’s Ted Talk to me, and frankly, it’s awesome. It’s particularly awesome if you’re a mother, a writer, a teacher, or all three. There are three basic parts to her talk: a review of her journey as a spoken-word performer and teacher sandwiched by two spoken word performances (“B” and “Hiroshima”).
In my favorite lines from “B,” a poem to the daughter she may one day have, Kay says
Baby, remember that your mama is a worrier, and your papa is a warrior, and you are the girl with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more.
If only I’d written these words to my Free, but thanks to Kay, I don’t have to; listening to her say them, I had that tingly, teary-eyed moment of recognition–the kind of felt connection that she says we must aim for despite the way life will continue to remind us of pain and sadness.
Kay says that she uses poetry to “work through what I don’t know,” which is exactly how I feel about a lot of my writing. She shares a strategy that she uses with young writers: list-making. Since I’m the queen of lists, I’m borrowing her idea here to write about 10 Things I Know To Be True.
I dedicate this list to my mother and to her son, Brian, who lost his life 34 years ago as a sweet 11 year old boy. Yesterday was his anniversary, and as I snuggled Free into bed last night, I shared memories of my brother with her. She woke me up this morning with a smile and a hug, telling me she had dreamed all about Brian.
For Brian, then, and for our mother, and also for Free:
- If you open your heart completely to somebody, you will never fully recover from the heartbreak of losing that love. You may know it’s better to find a way to move on and you may move on, but your heart will always remember the shades and scars of the first, and the hues and patinas of your subsequent loves will be richer or rustier for it.
- Opening your heart to a child is the best way to learn true patience and true beauty.
- There is such a thing as “Truth,” and there is such a thing as “truth.” The latter can appear in the form of fiction, but it is no less true for that.
- There is such a thing as perfection. It exists all around us in a million forms–from the first word spoken of a baby to the first bloom of spring. We are constantly being reminded of it and invited to experience it.
- Being able to notice the perfection around us starts with being able to notice it inside of ourselves.
- Sometimes $30 is far too much to spend on an article of clothing, and sometimes it’s a great bargain. (It’s not a deep thought, but I do know it to be true.)
- I don’t need chocolate; it’s something I could live without if I had to. Eating it every once in a while won’t kill me, however, and I really, really enjoy it.
- Sometimes giving really is better than receiving, or at least, the act of giving can also be a form of receiving. Giving of yourself, especially to children or someone in need, offers enormous power. It is perhaps the best way to heal and forgive.
- Words are beautiful, intoxicating, and delicious. When, every once in a blue moon, I read a truly amazing piece of writing by a student, it makes all the other moons of teaching worthwhile.
- There’s so much in the world that is frightening and threatens to reduce me to helplessness and tears, but when my daughter hugs me, what I feel in her arms is always enough to remind me why I’m here.
What’s on your list?
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