Dyno Socks

A dyno is a dynamic rock climbing move (hence, dyno for short) in which the person on the boulder (who is not harnessed in) propels off the rock to grab a hold that is out of reach.  In lay terms:  you fly off the rock and reach for the sky.  To explain:  The idea of a dyno (and apparently the fun of it) is that your feet leave the rock face and the holds they are on, while you leap—mid air—towards the hold that looks impossibly out of reach.  Once you grab the hold (with one hand), you are dangling there by your fingers until you get your feet and other hand back to the boulder and on new holds.

Sounds easy, right?  Yeah, right.

When my daughter first showed me a dyno, here’s about what the conversation looked like:

“Mom, see that blue hold up there?”

“Which one?  The one way up there?”

“Yeah.  I’m going to do a dyno and grab it?”

“A what?”

“A dyno.  Watch.  My left fingers will grab it.”

“Ok, honey,” I said.  I’m really glad she’s on the rock climbing team, I thought.  She’s building confidence and really trying to do impossible things.  That is good for her.  She’ll never grab that blue hold but that she wants to try… excellent.  This could be a really good sport for her.  I’m glad the coach is challenging her.  Hopefully they’ll give her something she can actually accomplish along with these crazy, impossible moves.

“Here I go…” she yelled, interrupting my self-talk about the rock climbing experience.

And then it happened.  She bounced a bit and there she went, flying off the rock towards the sky—almost defying gravity—her left hand reaching high and grabbing hold of the blue hold that looked impossibly out of reach.

“That’s a dyno,” she said, still dangling off the rock, beaming from ear to ear.  I couldn’t help but smile.

Last week, my dog ate six socks.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Half a dozen.  Socks.  Swallowed them.  For those non-dog owners out there, this is not a good thing. In fact, it is the kind of thing that lands you in an animal emergency room and can lead to a surgical procedure.  And indeed, that was the case.  She threw up five of the six socks.  The sixth… well it got stuck and wasn’t going anywhere.  And a couple days later, Piper had emergency surgery.  The only comic relief with this story is that the veterinarian told me that no one on the vet team won the pool about the color of the sock.  They just weren’t expecting tie-dye, I guess.

Why did Piper eat six socks?  Well, that is a very good question.  I can’t confidently answer it but from past experience (I tend to have high maintenance dogs), it is likely that she had some form of anxiety that prompted the sock-eating event.  My prior dog ate an 18th century poetry book and was later diagnosed with separation anxiety as the cause of the feast (I had just started work full time).  So I can only surmise that some worry-producing event lead to this particular event.  We all know eating can be a coping mechanism, right?  Hence, we call some foods “comfort foods.”  I’ll admit—I’ve never thought of socks as comfort food, but alas, I’m not a dog.

The first day of school holds within it many emotions:  excitement, anxiety, sadness, anticipation, happiness.  You name it, it is probably there in one way or another.  Why?  Because the first day of school marks change on many levels.  There is the change of season that typically comes with the first day of school (this time of year, I am always taken to a song lyric from the Indigo Girls: “the summer’s beginning to give up her fight.”).  There is the change of status:  5th grade instead of 4th grade, a college student instead of a high school student, or a junior instead of a sophomore.  There is the change of context:  from beaches to libraries, coffee shops to conference rooms, mountain trails to dorm rooms, or corporate board rooms to classrooms.  There is a change of mindset:  the freedom of not having to perform academically shifts to the pressures of assignments and deadlines and criteria and evaluation; or the norms of the workplace are taken over by the rules and norms of academia.  And there is a change of focus:  moving from a place that is known (home or work) to a place where—by its very definition—you are present to learn the unknown.

Yes, the first day of school is packed full of emotion.  It can be unnerving for teachers and students.  Sometimes it can be overwhelming.

I love the first day of school.  No, I’m not a glutton for punishment.  I do not love it because it can be overwhelming.  I love it because it can be everything.

To explain:  I love the first day of school because it presents me—as a teacher—with an opportunity to sit with emotions that typically don’t cohabit the same space:  happiness over being in a new year, sadness over leaving a wonderfully full and relaxing summer; excitement about a new cohort of students who will walk into my class, anticipation about having to start over with students who are unfamiliar to me; peace about walking into the classroom knowing I have exactly what it takes to handle whatever is to come; anxiety about whether this group of students will hand me something I am unprepared for.  And as I think back to being a student (and as I watch my 10-year old daughter as a student) I remember that students too are invited to the table to dine with paradox: new classmates bring new possibilities and added stress; new teachers bring opportunities for starting over and fear of failure; new subjects spark motivation and incite hesitation.

So what to do, on this first day of school, if for some reason you are noticing that excitement and happiness are accompanied by friends you aren’t so fond of—anxiety, sadness, and fear?  What to do?

How about a little comfort food?  Socks anyone?

In the 5th season of Lost, during the episode “The Constant,” Desmond (one of the characters) finds himself shifting between his past (1996) and the present time periods.  The first shift back to the past leaves him completely lost (no pun intended).  He does not know where, when, or who he is.  Each time he continues to shift, it takes him less time to get his bearings in time and space and do what he needs to do in that time period.  The problem, though, is that the shifting through time will kill him—literally—unless he finds a constant:  someone in both time periods that will anchor him and can help him remember who he is.

So– I return to the question:  what do you do, on this first day of school (as a teacher or student), if for some reason you are noticing that excitement and happiness are accompanied by friends you aren’t so fond of—anxiety, sadness, and fear?  What to do?

Find your constants.  Seek out those people who anchor you to who, where, and when you are.  They might be trusted friends of past or present lives.  They might be colleagues who bring calm and peace to the room.  They might be family who keep you laughing.  They might be students that give you purpose.  And they might not yet be… actually.  You might have yet to meet them.  And you might become one of them. Yes, you might be or become someone’s constant.

Bingo.  That is why I love the first day of school.  Because of the relationships that are renewed and the relationships that have yet to be born.  That is why I walk into the first day—even amidst the fears and anxieties that sometimes creep up—with hope and possibility guiding my every step.

As you walk into your first day of school, I hope you will look for every opportunity to take in the new and existing relationships—with people, content, and experiences—that present themselves to you.  Swallow them (and yes, this is where the sock story metaphorically breaks down, I realize… because ideally these relationships don’t need to be surgically removed :-)… but allow me some literary leeway, please).

Take in the people you meet, the students who walk into your classrooms, the material you are learning, the new experiences that appear in your path  Take them in.  They can become anchors for you.  Comfort food.  Constants.

And as you walk into your first day of school, I also hope you will recognize you have the possibility of anchoring your students so they can accomplish their goals.  You have the opportunity to help them reach for those things that seem impossibly out of reach.  If you’ll permit me another pop culture reference, another line from the Indigo Girls seems relevant here:

“Perhaps all that we need is to meet in the middle of impossibility.”

Do that for your students.  And for those you call teachers in your life.  Work with them. Model what it means to reach for something that seems too far or high or difficult.  Model what it means to take a leap.  Because in modeling what it means to leap for things that look impossibly out of reach, you will encourage them to do the same for others.

You do have to let go of the rock, though.  Aye there’s the rub.

Find your constants.  Take the leap.  Reach for the sky.

That’s a dyno.

Can’t help but smile.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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