Promises to tomorrow #44 #assumptions

Moving through the emotional spectrum I arrive at relief and release, and no grief is yet to find her roots in my heart – wandering around in a misty universe.

The constant shadow of keeping alert and being never fully present to where I was when I was away from the house where my love laboured has lifted. A new discipline is being invited in to regulate my outings as I experience a loosening. Others induct me into new spaces and bestow new titles like widow, wife of the deceased, executor of the will – these are unfamiliar roles and I am discovering are endowed with many assumptions.

The assumption that flew like an arrow to my heart this week, was being asked: When did I last have a job in the workforce? Completely gobsmacked I answered by explaining my recent role in palliative care and the death of my love. My response to being asked this question revealed so much to me about what I hold dear. This is my litany and the answer I wish I had given.

I do not define my time by whether I get paid or not. Time is my currency and how I spend it is what matters. It is priceless to spend time with someone you love, be it a sick child, a friend in play, a husband dying. These appear on the balance sheet of life and have no place in an accounting system and their worth goes beyond anything money can buy.

I do not define roles I play as being transactional as a paid employee. All my life I have volunteered, cared for others, walked alongside, acted in solidarity, played. These roles are invaluable and while not monetized they bring a value to the national accounts by public or personal funds not being spent on home care, mental health, housing, the arts. I am never short changed in these roles and have reaped plenty of bounty over the years, and expect to for a long time to come.

I do not know why my grey hair and hitting sixty in a year, is not valued as a sign of knowledge turning into wisdom, experience accumulated over years of trying, testing, learning. This treasure trove of mistakes is at the disposal of my peers and younger generations. It is shared in a spirit of generosity, with no expectation of a return, for it is giving we receive as the saint said. In the giving the gift is already returned through the attention of eager learners and the ability to celebrate others achievements. Why is generosity viewed with suspicion?

I do not know why gender was a factor. and because I cannot imagine a 59 year old man being asked when he last had a full-time job for a role that did not require employment, I think gender was at play. The underbelly of the question implied my passion for equity for all and gender justice was more of a hobby than a life-long pursuit.

I do not know why movement building for systems change at scale is such a big idea – in a week where the same-sex marriage survey results were released – movement building is visible to all. And while there are visible leaders, it is in the grassroots groundswell we all get to see ‘blessed unrest’.

For the record, I haven’t earnt any new money for a couple of months. I am having a break that I give myself, being my own boss I will decide when I go back to that piece of my life. I will continue to volunteer, share my time with all kinds of value exchanges and my movement building activities are cranking up a notch or two. I am not ready to be released from paid transactions and will be returning to those roles in due course.

I doubt I will ever get used to be given the new title of widow. The root of the word widow, comes from an Old English word meaning to be empty and in many cultures was aligned with the concept of being destitute, and in the Latin from viduus – to be bereft was to be widowed. When I was asked that question, my mind raced to these meanings of less than, a vacuum and my life is not like that – it is rich and full, I am sad, not bereft, I am certainly dealing with changes at many levels, but there is relief and release as well.

These new questions apprenticing me into my new state, are joined with the enormous consolations and support, both visible and invisible, holding me through this time. The essence of me is still here, and I am not being diminished but enriched, by these new beginnings. I will take my time. I need to get more practice at holding fast when being defined by the assumptions of others.

My promise to tomorrow is to confidently rest into myself and not be held to definitions of me, made by others. I will remind those who seek answers, that not all transactions are monetary, and the fruits of love and passion give a harvest not measured in dollars. I will test my own assumptions, more often, as no doubt, this is the lesson from that question.

Promises to tomorrow #43 #turn

In this past week several people from a range of parts of my life have given me clear advice saying; “It’s your turn now”. Reflecting on my turn … my turn for what? To be nurtured? To be sick? To take up my old life? To create a new one? To turn towards? To turn away? What does it mean to turn? I can’t help but to go to Ecclesiastes for that timeless poetry Pete Seeger put to music in the 1950s:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

This has indeed been a season in my life – a long 9 year season, as I’ve written before, an ultra marathon. It has been a time where the purpose of heaven revealed itself a little more everyday. The incredible patience and diligence to stay the course. A dear sojourner of Tim’s, a wise elder in his life, wrote to me this week saying “Tim taught us how to live and how to die”. What if we lived knowing we had a terminal illness – which of course we all do – we are all dying each day – and yet how many of us embrace and savour the moments we have and saturate ourselves in joy? Br David talks about grateful living, which is beyond living with gratitude. It is a disciplined practice to live this way and one Br David’s 90+ years are testament.

The time to be born is in each and every single moment, to awaken to the moment with the bewilderment and openness of surprise without being hindered by expectations sitting on the precipice of disappointment. The time to die is embodied in every moment – the dying to ego and false self is an invitation that keeps arriving. The times for planting and reaping are never ending too, with the seasons coming and going with natural rhythm, and don’t stop just because our needs are changing, the sun continues to revolve around our little blue planet.

Times to kill and heal – killing off our bad choices, discomfort and anxieties can be inoculated or matched by acts of self-healing, and allowing others and nature to bring therapeutic and restorative powers. The gleeful giggle of a toddler will banish just about any thoughts of destruction. Yet we live in a time where peace in the lives of so many is for self-destruction and self-harm, let alone the national acts of killing that go on in our name. How easy is it to turn towards the joy, the peace?

The everyday choices we make towards make a difference to others, but most importantly to ourselves. Listening to Gill Hicks last night at a dinner to raise funds for a dinner for a peace foundation she re-told her own experience of making a choice for life when the seductive voice of death came calling and the choices a 19 year old suicide bomber made on that fateful day in 2005. Because of his decision, thousands of lives were changed that day and every day forthwith.

The times we have to weep, laugh, mourn, dance, embrace, cast away stones, and gather stones together …. these are those times. All mixed together times to turn toward and away from emotions, reflection and actions. All of these bundled up in every season of our life. And that life is a time of living and dying and we need to behave as if that is true (it is true) in order to squeeze all the joy out of all the moments so we can turn, turn, turn … keeping turning towards the light knowing that even in that light there will be shadows and times of darkness …because how else would be know the light without the darkness? And we all know that it only takes a spark to dispel the darkness.

My promise to tomorrow is to take my turn, as it is being offered, and at each turn make the choice to turn toward, to embrace, the season on offer, to greet it with the wonder and awe it offers unconditionally. After all, it is, always your turn.

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Promises to tomorrow #42 #Vows

I haven’t been able to get to write on Sunday as is my practice. Two young lovers betrothed and commitments already made in state law, were consolidated with nuptials in the heart of a forest this week. What an intense time for our family. So much we are asking of ourselves and each other – turning emotions on and off like a tap just to get through. Love and respect around every corner and being held deeply and consistently by those who know how to hold and be held.

Forest floor layered

Slivers of light

Breaking into hearts

Witnesses wait

Fairies are found

Music glides

Bands of gold

Trussed peacocks

Humble ground

All season vows

Bonds and binding

Promises to tomorrow

Rose petals dried

Perfume distilled

Showering lovers

Remembering my vows: “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honour you all the days of my life.” I kept my end up on the good times and bad and felt the scales definitely tipped not in my favour for the sickness and health one. It is a big vow to make and one that you don’t ever really fully understand until you are in it. I did OK on the love and honour one and notice that it ends with all the days of MY life, not all the days of your life.

The vows we make to ourselves are as strong as the ones we make with another. The promise to tomorrow to be true to myself in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love and honour myself all the days of my life, is actually harder than the marriage vow to keep. Regardless of our marital state making such a vow to yourself is worth it – because we all need to be own best friend first and where ever we go we take ourselves. Vows are not made to another but to yourself, to hold yourself to account, so in the darkest days you have love, in the saddest days you have courage and the wildest days you can grasp the rudder and stay the course, and in the sunless night you remember the moon’s powers.

Pilgrim! Walk on! is the promise to tomorrow and for every day forth. To keep walking the path where ever it goes in trust, courage and humility knowing all the while it is your path that you make by walking it. The instruction for walking is one foot in front of the other and it is that kind of walking that also needs to have pepper and salt moments looking the heavens as well as looking to the ground. Courage will come on the wind and in a new voice sourced from the same love that started the journey.

 

“Lucy looked along the beam and presently saw something in it. At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like an aeroplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of wings it was right overhead and was an albatross. It circled three times round the mast and then perched for an instant on the crest of the gilded dragon at the prow. It called out in a strong sweet voice what seemed to be words though no one understood them. After that it spread its wings, rose, and began to fly slowly ahead, bearing a little to starboard. Drinian steered after it not doubting that it offered good guidance. But no one but Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.”
C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

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Promises to Tomorrow #41 #silence

Last week was the first week in the five years I have been doing a blog that I didn’t post something. I intended too and then felt the silence was the right post. Silence isn’t emptiness – it is fullness.

To be silent

To silence

In silence

Silenced.

 

Each of these states evokes a range of feelings, thoughts … behaviours.

I have been journeying with one for whom silence was the language of God and his yearning to be in union with the silence led to deep monastic practices with all the discipline of a mystic. I revolved around his world like a moon around a sun. Meeting his every need, whim, fear, hope

The banshees are riding on the wild winds this morning, late to the occasion, but in time for me. I have been holding on for so long, they are arriving to shake me about to let go and let down. Elementally speaking, I find myself in The Burren and can feel her beneath my feet. Stepping carefully to avoid the hidden holes, I am consistently unsuccessful, unsteady steps on my lunar landscape. To help I go fetch my John O’Donohue poetry book – Conamara Blues – and the page marked is A Burren Prayer. How is it the cellular memory and my earlier self has prepared a path for me today? All of creation conspiring to help me, so I can rest into silence.

What a gift and I am silenced and in awe. A key revelation is to put down what has been, to be soothed and to rest into this liminal space. To wait. To be still. To find the stillness beyond exhaustion. In the midst of all this life goes on. There is a wedding in a week, another family member having a job interview tomorrow … there is no perfect timing only time and no perfection is required.  My promise to tomorrow is to rest and to wander in the Burren as required and called.

A Burren Prayer

Oremus,

Maria de Petra Fertilis:

 

May the praise of rain on stone

Recall the child lost in the heart’s catacomb.

 

May the light that turns the limestone white

Remind us that our solitude is bright.

 

May the arrival of gentians in their blue surprise

Bring glimpses of delight to our eyes.

 

May the wells that dream in the stone

Soothe the eternal that sleeps in our bone.

 

May the contemplative mind of the mountain

Assure us that nothing is lost or forgotten.

 

May the antiphon of ocean on stone

Guide the waves of loneliness home.

 

May the spirits who dwell in the ruin of Corcomroe

Lead our hearts to the one who is beautiful to know.

 

Go maire na mairbh agus a mbrionggloidi

I bhfoscadh chaion dilis ns Trinoide.

(May the departed and their dreams ever dwell

In the kind and faithful shelter of the Trinity.)

– John O’Donohue

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Promises to tomorrow #40 #squeaky

‘Health system’ is an oxymoron these two words don’t sit well together  – there is little health and it isn’t a system. Once again another week of poor customer service and multiple miscommunications and general lack of oversight in the glue that is meant to be holding things together. It always falls to family and I despair for those who have no one to advocate for them, or whose level of disadvantage through lack of English being a first language, or income or access to information, education …. you get my drift. Energy levels and fear you might not get what you need when you need it if you are disruptive play on your mind and capacity too. One of the family has the squeaky wheel principle – squeak long and loud until you are squealing like a pig is his motto.

So this week’s litany goes something like this:

oh sorry we haven’t called for a week – we had the wrong number in our system (what you couldn’t google or check another record?)

no we can’t provide that piece of equipment because our records say this is your prescription (really we haven’t been at that level for a month, and yes a doctor and nurse know that; perhaps no one checked the information?)

this piece of equipment isn’t designed for 24/7 use at that level (we know that, but no medico seemed to be concerned about that … we have raised that issue before …)

yes, we will hold, no they aren’t answering their phones, yes we have left messages on their mobile, yes we are still holding (persistence pays off finally after phones ring out, time and time again, messages of urgency get left, and tenacity rules)

wonderful –  you have now given permission and have got the right prescription from the right person and the right piece of equipment will be delivered ( I wonder, will it be here on Monday?)

How many calls do I need to make before a review would be considered appropriate, I am up to two in four days, the tiniest of case management is required, as we have everything in spades – resources human and material to the max (even with a stretched system, reading records correctly, checking the logistics chain of information and elements are basics – just like taking obs – doing the basics right first time and every time is the best prevention. We have sorted it ourselves. but I am still expecting case management and have told you that – is it Ok to expect case management?)

When might the other equipment will be delivered – just a few things to help with showering, transfer … primitive assessment undertaken, no reference to resources (I remember when we used to show photos and draw little diagrams to explain to people what was on offer … why didn’t she have an iPad? No date or time on when they might be delivered – a pretty basic piece of customer service. Do they even have it in stock? I stopped helping when I wasn’t asked to corroborate evidence, some of the facts offered were inaccurate and most out of date; the presenting well client is a trap for young players, but she had been around the block a few times – she probably detected inaccuracies but I would have been reassured if I had been asked.)

I understand (and am disappointed) there aren’t enough resources to go around – because that is the only thing that makes sense. Poor performance and poor customer service at just about every junction and no visible effort of case management is more than annoying. For some people it could be life threatening or at least as in our case  comfort limiting– at a time when we are at our most vulnerable accompanying our loved one on the end of life journey there is no little energy for shit like this. If we fall over at home (literally and metaphorically), then there are cost implications for the health system – it is cheaper and easier to keep us going – so from a purely economic point of view, lets forget about dignity, good manners, well being – it is worth getting right. Time to get out of the comfort zone so we can get into ours. And I sincerely, almost generously wonder, is that too much to ask?

I am back to an everyday promise to tomorrow: to be glue when I am asked to be, to do the basics right over and over again as the shortest and most effective way to prevention and to take a leaf out of the Book of Squeaky Wheel and advocate, advocate, advocate without fear or favour. But right now I need a rest from being squeaky and am grateful I have others who can do it for me.

Wheels roll on each day

Fuelled by squeaks and squeals

Time for comfort zone.

 

 

 

 

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Promises to tomorrow #39 #befriending self

I am getting lessons on how to be my own best friend by noticing what my friends are gifting me and accepting those gifts with the love and gratitude of a receiver. The love transaction in friendship is transformative.

My friends are creating a nest for me at this time, little pieces of straws and sticks broken and re-arranged for me to fit, shiny foil reflecting light to ward off evil, catching feathers to enable a soft landing for me to rest in, keeping enough space to hold the structure together with a light touch. My friends are familial, close by, far away. They are in real time and virtual. They are known and unknown to me. Being blessed with friends and knowing the sinews and muscles of friendship that have been exercised and strengthened over time tells me who I belong to and who belongs to me. There is recognition in love, even love unrequited is recognised. My inability to return right now perhaps is a falsehood, for it is in the receiving of the unconditional that the gift is given. My practice now is to receive.

A Friendship Blessing

May you be blessed with good friends.
May you learn to be a good friend to yourself.
May you be able to journey to that place in your soul where
there is great love, warmth, feeling, and forgiveness.
May this change you.
May it transfigure that which is negative, distant, or cold in you.
May you be brought in to the real passion, kinship, and affinity of belonging.
May you treasure your friends.
May you be good to them and may you be there for them;
may they bring you all the blessing, challenges, truth,
and light that you need for your journey.
May you never be isolated.
May you always be in the gentle nest of belonging with your anam ċara.

John O’Donohue: Anam Cara

My anam cara – my soul friend – is making his way to soon be turning towards the light. It is a journey that refuses to be hurried and stubbornly almost defiantly won’t turn down the paths even though the signposts are calling. This is marathon vigil. Pheidippides ran from Athens to Sparta was made to alert readiness for battle and so there is some of me that thinks the final message while in the process of being sent, is not yet delivered. My anam cara still teaching me about friendship, forgiveness, integration, identity in the few hours of wakefulness he has each day. You might also think of anam cara as friend to your soul – and in doing that – you too could be your own anam cara. This is the love and friendship you have where there is no pretence and all the illusions have faded and fallen away.

My promise to tomorrow is to make more time to nurture the friendship with myself. How might I bring the knowledge and experience of anam cara to the mirror? There are magical healing powers in forgiving others and yourself and surely that is what takes friendship to a new stage each time, more transformational than transactional.

Anne Lamont says: In the course of the years a close friendship will always reveal the shadow in the other as much as ourselves, to remain friends we must know the other and their difficulties and even their sins and encourage the best in them, not through critique but through addressing the better part of them, the leading creative edge of their incarnation, thus subtly discouraging what makes them smaller, less generous, less of themselves.

Generosity is an ethic of abundance and is the fuel for friendship. So thank you to all those who are being generous with me and patient and kind and inviting me to be a better friend to myself.

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anam cara

Promise to tomorrow #38 #breaking

Holding the space between flight and fight is a constant challenge. Running towards is also running away, standing up and doing one thing, is also to reject other options. There are actions and reactions. Broken hearted remains, shards thrown into the air, searching for some magic dust to bring them altogether again for a seamless fusion.

 “God breaks the heart again and again and again until it stays open.”

Hazrat Inayat Khan

Staying the course to remain open to being broken seems to require a steadfastness of holding onto stillness that isn’t masquerading as paralysis. Blinded by the light when caught in the headlights invites confusion. This. Whirring of synapses trying to rewire themselves into some kind of order and then the unsteady, stop, start, inelegant dash to get out of harms way, stumbling, leaving a trail of fallen hurdles.   Watching at close quarters when each step is broken down to its essence, in slow motion the body and brain vie for supremacy. The body I witness is a track for the race between drugs and disease. The soul intact still housed by the body. The mind making its way through the brambles to find a path yet to be worn.

The shards will get rearranged once they are no longer in the spotlight. Not the same shape as before and perhaps some may not fit quite neatly together any more, and they will re-arrange, but first they have to be unlocked to find their way out.

What promise to tomorrow? To have a big enough heart for the courage to stay open for breaking.

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