9/27/19 - Maybe I'm Blue!
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Sometimes I think I am under a lot of pressure, and then I realize that it’s nothing compared to what my kid’s purple crayon is going through right now.
Hi! This is Coach Sarah, and this is the Morning Mantra!
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Hi, my name is Sarah Axelrod. I'm a run coach and a lover of poetry, and a person who cares about your well-being. You don't have to be an athlete to be #coachedandloved, and if you need an anchor to hold onto as you move through a tough situation, you've come to the right place.
Today's mantra is: "Maybe I’m blue!"
If you’re a parent of an early reader, you may be familiar with the story The Day The Crayons Quit. It's by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers, and I have to give it credit for getting my previously reticent daughter VERY interested in using crayons to give shape to the things in her imagination. The crayons in the book reflect on what it means to live in the various stages of crayon-being. The favorite color who gets used to color everything until it’s too stubby to see over the rim of the box. The seldom-used color who suspects gender-based discrimination. The poor color who somehow lost its paper wrapping and is now too embarrassed to come out. The colors who fight over who gets to depict the sun. It’s charming and cute and we actually have two copies of it now, which my daughter does not consider too many.
I am mostly grateful to this book, however, for spurring her to pick up another book featuring a crayon as its protagonist. It’s called Red - A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall. It features a crayon who appears to be red but somehow can only draw in blue. His fellows range from indulgent (“give him time, he’ll catch on”) to demeaning (“He’s lazy - he’s got to press harder - really apply himself!”). He tries so hard. He wants so badly to be red - he knows everyone sees him as red and expects him to perform red. He picks red subject after red subject: fire engines, strawberries, ants, and on and on. Nothing seems to work. And just when he’s starting to buy into the notion that he’s truly broken, someone comes along and asks him to draw a blue ocean for her boat. “I can’t,” he says, “I’m red.” “Will you try?” And he does. He does it perfectly. And it’s easy. And once he understands just how much there is that he CAN do as a blue crayon, there is no stopping him.
I was a double major in college - Italian and Political Science. Political Science was the major I declared early, as a freshman, because I loved the classes but also because it felt legitimate. And, it was hard. I struggled to do well in those classes, which made them even more alluring to me. They were a way to show that I could do hard things. Italian, though - I loved Italian. I could put it on like a pair of warm slippers and nestle into it comfortably. It came easily to me - too easily for me to consider it a legitimate pursuit. When it came time to commit to a thesis project for my senior year, the political science thesis felt Huge, Daunting, and completely Unattainable...and therefore I felt it was the only way. I mean of course I loved Italian, and of course I could write a thesis in Italian, but since when was it impressive to do something that felt natural already? It was my boyfriend - who is now my husband - who really held up the mirror when I declared my intention to write the poli-sci thesis. I sure wasn’t making it sound like I wanted to do it - and if I loved Italian so much, why not write the Italian thesis? Why not take the post-graduate internship in Italy that was basically being thrown at me, why not say yes to the boyfriend who wanted me to take it so he could come with me? Come draw this blue ocean, he said. We can sail away together. And I did, and we did. It wasn’t easy, but it felt good, like nothing else ever had.
In the last few years of teaching college students, I looked at them and remembered with great intensity and emotion how hard I had tried to be red when I was really blue all along. How exhausting and confining it felt to doubt myself all the time. I both envied them - they were so young, they could do anything! - and wished I could tell them (and make them believe) that they had more choices than they thought they did. So many of them felt constrained by the confines of red, already, according to the expectations of their parents, professors, peers, and the world. So many of them were afraid to pursue what felt good at the expense of what seemed right, and for all of them I hoped that maybe they would remain open to the possibility that they had been blue all along.
What I want to do with this mantra is empower you to keep that openness inside you. Whether you are red or blue or peach or chartreuse is not for me to say; only you know what color - or colors - you contain. But when you are trying really hard to be red and all that comes out is blue...that’s something to pay attention to. And if anyone tells you that the problem is you, that you’re not applying yourself enough, not pressing hard enough, I promise you they are looking at it incorrectly. Smile beatifically - I love a good beatific smile - and say to them in your best new-age-crystal voice, “maybe I’m blue.” Because if you focus on what you CAN do, you never know where you might sail off to.
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