There’s something about an overcast morning – where the sky is lightest shade of gray that it can be without being white – that makes me ruminate, stir ideas around and around in my head, trying to find answers or better questions. This is one of those mornings.

Today, I’ve got three major lines of thoughts going.

1. My cat is not well again. She’s not eating or drinking, and she’s kind of droopy. And I wonder not only why she’s sick again but also what I can do to help. Which leads me to the larger questions of when a person can’t help, when I have to step back and let God take over, when I have to step back in because I’m how God will work in that situation, and when I’m just trying to be controlling, trying to make myself feel better.

2. Yesterday, I got asked to come to my dean’s office because of a student complaint. This student had gone to the president’s office to say that I was spending too much time talking about discrimination – that’s the theme of my freshmen composition course – and too little time talking about writing. She said she hadn’t learned anything about writing this semester. Oh, and she wanted to remain anonymous.
I’m pondering this complaint because I want to be sure that I have taught writing – and after a review of my syllabus and my notes I believe I have – but I also am pondering this comment because it hurts my feelings, not only because it’s a commentary on my teaching (that’s fair and needed, of course) but because the student thought she couldn’t come to me because I would lower her grade. I understand that idea, but I pride myself on being open to criticism, on seeking it even, so it’s hurtful to know I’m not doing that well.
And then finally, I’m thinking about this complaint because there’s very little I can do about it at this point. We’re three weeks out from the end of the semester, and I don’t know who made the comment so I can’y even begin to understand what motivated it. I have to accept is as a criticism of me, when I know fully well, as does the dean, that it might also be motivated by a less than stellar grade.

3. The third thing I’m considering is the book that I’m working on – the one that explores ghosts. I’m debating whether or not this is a worthwhile endeavor, if there aren’t more important things I could be writing – like about racism, or hunger, or even simply about the state of education in the U.S. But then, I think of all the books I’ve read just to help me work out my own mind about what may seem to be a trivial topic – like ghosts – but that have helped me know myself more deeply. I think of Dan Kennedy’s Rock On, a funny book about growing up. And I wonder what is the right thing to do.

In all of this, I keep reading blogs, and came upon this amazingly clear and scene-recreating post on redRavine – it recounts an evening that Elizabeth Gilbert and Anne Lamott spent together at UCLA. Boy, do I wish I could be there. These women speak truth for me in just the way I’d like to speak truth – in honest, funny language.

Which reminds me that last night, I had the pleasure of reading Carl’s rumination about what to say and what to leave unsaid on his blog Stainless Steel Droppings.

So in the end of this thoughtful bit of writing, I’ve come to this conclusion, which will, I expect change as soon as I submit this post – life is about making choices – what to say, what to do, what to change, what to let stay the same – and these choices are hard; they are complex; they are beautiful. We won’t make all the right choices; in my case, I will make many, many wrong choices – but that is what makes life beautiful – the ability to try, to try, to try, and to fail with the hopes of succeeding on the days when the sky is more white than gray.