Monday, December 17, 2018

Love Letters to my life #6: Gratitude for an unending series of learning experiences

by Joyce Wycoff
Thank you, Zacatecas for giving me a word that makes me … and my tongue … happy just saying it. Deslumbrante. Dazzling. My word for 2019.

This love letter on my birth and death day reminds me to be grateful for my dazzling life. 

My life hasn’t been a Hollywood-type nor a go-viral-type of dazzling, but it has dazzled me as it led me away from being a lonely kid living in Kansas, exploring life in the pages of books, to a real-life adventure in a world that gives me community, time to meet new people, make art, and learn new words like deslumbrante.

One of the things I love most about my life is its ordinary beginning and complete lack of expectations. As hard as I look, I can find nothing in my childhood that foreshadowed where I would be today. 
Stained Glass I
What would that kid from Kansas have thought
if she had known she would grow up to make art like this?
I grew up in the 50s on a “sorta farm” outside the tiny town of Dearing, Kansas, population: 266. There were two grades in each of our four classrooms. The best teacher I ever had in the entire length of my education was a woman who didn’t have a teaching credential and was forced to resign before I got my two years with her: a loss I still feel to this day. Red-headed and a no-nonsense principal, Mrs. Boehner was one of a kind and made learning fun and exciting. 

My 50s world was a simple time and place with little diversity. Few moms worked and most of us were middle-class poor: well-fed, roof-over-our-heads, but few luxuries. Our small town offered us a couple of church choices of the Christian variety. Growing up, I knew one black family, one Jewish boy, a couple of Catholics, and no Mexicans. I didn’t know any artists, writers, scientists, or politicians, had never seen a ballet, symphony, or a play outside of a school theater. I had never traveled beyond the range of family and I was 15 before I met someone from another country and in college before I tasted Chinese food. 
What would she have thought if she had known
she would one day eat a tlayuda in Oaxaca, Mexico?

Like many others of us at that time, I was the first in my family to finish high school, let alone go off to college. The vastness of my ignorance still amazes me. I didn’t know that people “chose” a college based on their interests, and when I showed up at the University of Oklahoma, I learned that there was such a thing as fraternities and sororities and that they had already had “Greek Week” and chosen their members. Of course, I was not a candidate for Greek life anyway so it didn’t matter, but it was an early indicator of how little I knew about the world. 
What would she have thought if she had known
she would find beauty and meaning in a cobbled street in Mexico?

Revealed ignorance. That would be a good descriptor of my life. Somewhat like an onion, life has peeled away my ignorance one layer at a time. I never know how ignorant I am until some life event occurs and, looking back, I realize how much better I could have handled that challenge if I had been smarter, wiser, better informed. 
It seems to be the pattern of my life. Just as I am feeling smart, competent, ready to take on the next challenge, inevitably it seems to fall on ground I haven’t plowed. Perhaps I’m approaching wisdom as I realize that I will most likely be just as unprepared for the next challenge as I have been for all the ones that have come before. Life will keep challenging me, teaching me, opening up new bits of me to be tested.
Breaking Free
This image reminds me that life has led me on a journey of breaking free from my beginnings. I have learned, grown and lived a life I never imagined. I have been challenged and survived, becoming smarter and wiser. Wise enough to know that life is my teacher, and she will continue to find my pockets of ignorance and give me experiences to learn from for the rest of my time here on this earth.

That's pretty darn deslumbrante!