Pandora’s Box and Russian Dolls

So there I am, teaching a typical ordinary 3rd reading group, with a student teacher standing nearby taking copious notes.  A third grade student says the most profound statement I’ve heard in the classroom to date, possibly all year, and definitely ranks ‘Most Profound of All Declarations’ I’ve heard in the presidential debates. “Hope is the emotion you need in order to beat any fear you may have.” Let it soak in.  Hope.

Taken from the version of Pandora’s box written for third graders, I had asked a simple, yet deep question , “Why did Zeus put the butterfly as a symbol of hope in Pandora’s box?” The story referred to how, once Pandora opened the box, sickness, worries, crime, hate, monsters and “everything that bothered and haunted humans was released from that box.  The bad things flew all over the place like angry bees swarming and stinging.”  (Sidenote: The reference to monsters exploded into an intense discussion about how some humans, specifically these 3rd graders, are intensely afraid of dolls, scary dolls, like Chucky and the ventriloquist doll from Goosebumps. I agree, that’s freaky and scary.  The onset of nightmares.  Those dolls came straight from Pandora’s Box.  Reign ’em in Mrs. Guiles, reign ’em in.)  This insightful student totally understood that humans needed hope.  Several of the students in the group also said that Zeus knew that they would need hope before they did, and that’s why he put hope in the box.  This, from the mouths of babes.  These are the moments of teaching that I live for. It makes me feel so alive when they connect their learning to life.  Real life. Hope is real, people, I know it doesn’t feel like it some days, (especially in October right before the presidential election) but it’s real.

Then later this week, I read, in my most recent book of love, Bread and Wine by Shauna Neiquist, the chapter about Russian dolls.  I’ve always loved Russian dolls, but now I love them more.


Notice, in the photo of the Russian doll, that the second from the smallest one is missing half its body.  This is symbolic for the time in my life where I lost myself.  (I can’t help but think of Radiohead when I hear that phrase. Yes, this is how my brain works.)

So what’s the significance of the Russian doll?   Shauna spent a lot of time looking through photo albums with her grandma and grandpa.  Her grandma said this from her 83-year-old perspective reflecting on all those photos:

…getting old is like carrying all these selves with you. She said she remembers just how that thirteen-year-old in the picture felt, and how that nineteen-year-old bride felt and how that thirty-year-old on the back of a motorcycle felt.  She said you carry them inside you, collecting them along the way, more and more and more selves inside you with each passing year, like those Russian dolls, stacking one inside the other, nesting within themselves waiting to be discovered, one and then another.

I’ve often found this to be true in my own life.  This is why I don’t like to criticize who I was, at any given phase of my life.  Those former selves formed who I am now.  What good does it do to belabor and critique how different I should have been in the past?  The past is OVER.  Without that former nesting doll, I might not be my most current version.  Right? So, the moral of the story here is, love your former selves and love yourself now.  Simple.  And not so simple.  But hopeful.

I’m keeping this post short and sweet this week.  Love and hope. Complex and necessary for survival.

Until next Friday.  Love you loves.

Gastric Bypass Update:

At least two people a week comment on how much weight I’ve lost.  I still feel it necessary to blame the gastric bypass on my rapid loss.  However, I’m coming to the realization, slowly, that I have done a lot of work to get here.  The gastric bypass has been a tool, but I’ve had to take the initiative to exercise and eat better.  That’s the work I’ve had to do. Those are my decisions.

The gastric bypass can’t get all the credit, yo.






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