Posted in Poetry, Teaching

Underneath

I spent the weekend grading my students’ journals, and it made me want to post this poem, which was published in Encore: Prize Poems of the NFSPS in 2015.

Underneath

I straightened the mirror a couple of times,
     so I have OCD,
then got distracted by a dog,
     so you added ADD.
I washed my hands after your high-five,
     so I’m a hypochondriac,
and when I frowned in the crowded mall,
     you said, “Don’t have a panic attack.”
I didn’t cry in Titanic or Bambi,
     so you think I’m a freak,
but I’ve seen Star Wars a hundred times,
     so I must be a geek.
I got 2300 on my SAT,
     so now I’m also a nerd.
Then I tensed when you gave me a hug,
     so you say I have Asperger’s.
It’s hard to live with so many labels—
     you have a name for each of my moods.
Despite how much you think you know,
     there’s something you forget to include.
While you catalogue each sign and symptom,
     trying out every disease,
underneath those acronyms,
     is a person, and that person is me.

© Carie Juettner

Posted in Life, Teaching

Be the Rubber Band

On Saturday night, while Austin was getting its relatively mild dose of Hurricane Harvey, we ordered Chinese food (and gave the poor delivery guy a hefty tip for braving the rain to bring us kung pao shrimp and egg rolls).

When I finished eating, I opened my fortune cookie and found this:

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Um… what?

I shared this piece of “wisdom” on Facebook and got lots of responses. One person thought I should turn it into a horror story, and another suggested it came from an opium den, but most people seemed as clueless as I was. No one offered up a possible meaning. So I shrugged, chalked it up to one of the mysteries of the universe, and forgot about it.

Until tonight.

After a shortened day of teaching that seemed extra long, I went to yoga. Jess, my Hatha teacher at YogaYoga is amazing. She is a patient, supportive, experienced yogi who helps her students challenge themselves in safe ways, but she’s also just a damn good teacher. People who are truly born to teach can teach anything and do it well. Jess not only exercises our bodies, she exercises our minds. She never fails to inspire positivity and light and compassion for one another (and ourselves) even in the darkest of times, and she does so with humor and grace. I’ve been to her class the day after tragic shootings. I’ve been to her class the day after racist riots. I’ve been to her class the day after catastrophic storms. And every single time, she acknowledges the event and leads us to a place, both physically and spiritually, where we can overcome it. I really admire this woman, and I strive to teach like she does.

Today, at the beginning of class, Jess encouraged us to set an intention. This is common in yoga classes, to give yourself a goal or a focus of some sort. I usually try to keep mine simple. Be creative. Be productive. Be relaxed. Be patient. But today I hadn’t thought about it before arriving, and before I could even consider what I wanted out of my week, this thought floated through my head:

The rubber bands are heading in the right direction.

Okay…

The thing is, I’ve learned to listen during yoga—to my teacher, to the world, and to myself. Even when things don’t make sense at first, their meaning usually reveals itself later on. So I decided to go with it.

Fine, I thought. I shall be the rubber band. And suddenly, it all became clear: I will stretch myself, but not to the breaking point. I will push myself, but not lose sight of who I am. I will reach as far as possible, but always come back home.

During yoga, I expanded my lungs and extended my arms and stretched my muscles, but then I relaxed into child’s pose.

Tonight, I will write and work and take care of my home, but when I get tired, I will sleep and leave the rest for tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I will give my all to my students during class, but I will sit and eat chocolate for five minutes during my conference period before I check email and grade papers.

And this week, when the rain keeps falling on Houston, I will donate money, send healing thoughts, and welcome with open arms any displaced children who arrive at my school. And I will hope that the people of Texas have the strength to bounce back from this.

***

Note: Hurricane Harvey is no joke. The damage is devastating, and it is far from over. If you want to help, here is a list of reputable organizations accepting donations.