Monthly Archives: January 2013

Sad, not depressed

After a series of colliding events, both professional and personal and having worn out those around me with my frustrations, and used up several boxes of tissues, I consulted a psychologist for support and advice.  That resulted in  a clinical diagnosis of reactive depression. My scores, the interview, my presentation, the length of time the events had been occurring, all supported the diagnosis.  The only problem was that while it was true, the real pathology was I was sad. Why isn’t sadness valued and honoured for what it is?

Sadness is a totally appropriate response when you are excluded, betrayed, silenced, not respected, told bad news.  The assault on the emotional self and then the corresponding physiological impacts are deep and painful. As well as the psychologist, there has been the physiotherapist, the acupuncturist, the masseuse and now a chiropractor, yoga teacher, meditation, theatre group, the journal, the music …. all engaged and locked in for my mental and physical health … the gym … I have been paying attention to myself and caring for myself well under some trying conditions and getting tired … And sad … Trying to avoid what happens to so many others who get sick and tired …

To be told I am depressed, while it might be correct clinically, is not correct for my human condition.  I am sad.  And why wouldn’t I be?  It is right and  proper to be  sad. My husband has, what the doctors call, a “life limiting” illness and I’m sad it is a one way street. I am sad that the people I was working for didn’t send a card or bunch of flowers to say goodbye. I am sad I am having to get my work act together – again. All reasons worthy of sadness. Why diagnose all sorts of illnesses, instead of wallowing in the emotions?

Hildegard you taught us about groaning loudly and sobbing in these times – not an existentialist angst but a fully human and appropriate response. In my quest to bring more of myself to more of the situations I find myself in, may mean people around me might see more tears for a while than they have been used too. This obsession with pathologising sadness is a dis-ease that doesn’t sit well with me and I am not going to collude. Instead, I will buy another packet of tissues and get on with being sad.

I usually move through sadness by getting angry and then getting creative. I have already started organising the first poetry in the pub and a I concert so can’t be too depressed.  I have  just enjoyed three amazing playtime days with interplay, I saw 50 years of satire embodied in Barry Humphries Farewell Tour this week and will be dancing to Elvis Costello on Sunday.  How lucky  am I to have access to all that creativity, laughter and music. This is my kind of medicine.

Being sad is healthy; and from the muck and mulch and compost the seeds are sown and the green shoots appear.


Cloud of Witnesses

Photo taken at Whitby off the coast of Northern England – site of ruins of the monastery and church founded by Hilda of Whitby (c. 614–680)

I have been reflecting this past week on the idea of the cloud of witnesses and the cloud of the internet and the relationship between the two.  Last night I was flying home from a meeting, an exit interview from my job of the past four and a half years as the flight took its path into the setting sun the clouds parted and the sun’s rays were emblazoned on the clouds and refracted from the horizon – it was a glorious sight.  I reflected on the cloud of witnesses who had been supporting me of late in a time of transitions. The cloud of living and dead, known and unknown to me. The poets  -David Whyte and Mary Oliver; and the musicians Paul Kelly (Words and Music, especially Little Kings), the Cologne Philharmonia Chamber Orchestra (who played at St Joseph’s Willunga this week) who have been before my eyes and in my ears, I pay homage!  You too are on the honour roll in my cloud of witnesses.

The people who have sent me a text wishing me well, the friend who posted a photo of her child with me and a big smile to remind me of the love and bonds of a new generation, the brother who face booked me with greetings, the friend who sent me via a recruitment site a potential job and the list goes on of Facebook messages, tweets, LinkedIn recommendations, emails and text messages, telephone calls and skype messages, the music link, the You tube video to the trailer of a new film, the gift voucher to Amazon … all in the cloud.

I have sojourners in the flesh as well and nothing beats face to face and the physical contact of a hug and a hearty audible laugh uninterrupted in real time.  I love the serendipity that this photo has now brought several years after it was taken bringing the past and the present together due to the digital platform on which it was saved, now retrieving it for this post to reflect the theme of this blog.  The person who witnessed my exit from my job, was with me the day I took this photo. I love how this all works, or in the words of Desiderata, “the universe is unfolding as it should.”

I do pay tribute though to all the care and support that I have received via the cloud and I am impressed by the cloud of witnesses that accompany me on line and together give collective witness to me and my journey.  I think there is so much more to unfold and the mystery of the  clouds suspended outside the window of my plane and the mystery of cloud computing I benefit from in my online communities is truly awesome!

More than 400 years after Hilda of Whitby played host to the first synod, fostered peace-making and education, was sought after for her wise counsel – another Hilda – Hildegard of Bingen found herself doing similar works.  Hildegard is in my cloud of witnesses as is Hilda of Whitby – two remarkable women who didn’t need the cloud to communicate with their constituencies or their God.  I live in the clouds. I  am finding it a good place to be. In the clouds I  trust that the plane doesn’t fall out of the sky. In the clouds I read the Facebook messages. My story will be witnessed and I too can bear witness to the lives of others with a simple click of the like button on Facebook – new cloud of witnesses and an enriched understanding of what that means for me in my time.

“… we are surrounded by a huge cloud of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that weighs us down …” Hebrews 12:1


Unrequited Love

There is an ad on TV at the moment for a dating agency RSVP. Three times the woman heads off on a date, each time in a different set of clothes, style and venue. The fourth one she arrives home with man in tow and she is just herself (although well groomed and with high heels).  I am looking for a new job at the moment and I feel like a chameleon too – making myself fit and look attractive to each potential suitor.  I seem to have an endless capacity in being able to show myself in different ways to fit the job description and somehow I can also hear myself saying “pick me pick me”.   My RSVP seems to be Linked In and several HR firms are becoming my match making introduction agencies. I know that I need to fall in love with the ideas or the people or preferably both so that my passion will come through and I can embrace and be embraced by a job.  This seems to be all apart of the intimacy that work and the workplace can be.

As I leave a job I loved and one that I can’t continue with for a whole lot of reasons that won’t appear in a blog I do think the relationship between you and your work has a level of intimacy that needs attention. I for one can’t work without some mutuality and love.

David Whyte writes a bit about this in his book The Three Marriages – the three marriages being your loved one, your work and yourself. He makes a thesis that we should be striving for a marriage of marriages as opposed to the idea of a work-life balance. I like this idea a lot.   I am not good at dualism and seem to function best when I am working with connections and  a deep centre where everything is connected to everything else.

Last year I read Melissa Gregg’s book Work’s Intimacy which among other things, from her excellent research, talked about the bleed of work into every crevice of our lives; and how technology-mediated work has changed so much for the professional in our time. I know that when I saw the cover of her book with a woman in bed with her laptop I thought she must have been spying on me!


My work in these past four years has often traversed a 24 hour period. Waking up virtually working in one time zones and going to sleep in another.  One of my friends called me “Woman of the World Clock” as my Blackberry would beep, tweet and ping at all times of the day and night.  Just like any love affair you can’t wait to hear their voice, read their message or see their photos and I was attentive to my lover’s needs and wants, desires and aspirations.  And also like any great love you want your lover to be able to reach their potential and enjoy the journey along the way. You want to bask in their achievements and celebrate with them. You want to be there for them when times are tough and the road rocky.

But lovers do grow apart, fall apart or fade away – sometimes they are unfaithful or there is a natural disaster that takes them away from you – what ever the reason there is always an end.

I am coming to the end in my current job and as I leave the job,  I can’t help remembering that 80s classic from Billy Field: You Weren’t in Love with Me.

Hildegard loved her work of teaching, preaching, cajoling, healing, organising, reforming, gardening, healing, composing, writing, singing, painting … she was a real polymath. Perhaps  if she was in the RSVP ad she too could have turned up to the footy, the dance club, the safari and to the restaurant equally happy?  She wasn’t a chameleon but one whole, amazing and in her words “useful” a woman – now that sounds like a job description to me.


Do something Genius

I am indebted to David Whyte introducing me to the root meaning of the word ‘genius’ from its original meaning the spirit of place. I’ve been doing a little research on the word and the Oxford English Dictionary has added to my understanding: the word usually meant ‘the tutelary god or attendant spirit allotted to every person at his birth, to govern his fortunes and determine his character, and finally conduct him out of the world.” It seems to me this is very much like the notion of ‘name of grace’ that is part of the spiritual quest to understand your true vocation in the eyes of God.

Hildegard was and continues to be a genius in every sense of the word; but so too are each and everyone of us a genius with the capacity to inspire by being our whole selves and fully embracing all the gifts and talents God given and destined to be shared with the world.

Hildegard I think you admonish us often for not fully embracing, celebrating and sharing full selves. Here is one of your visions that comes to mind (Book 1 The Ways of the Lord: (God) has armed every person with intellect, commanding him to be active and vigilant in the exercise of virtue and rid himself of perverseness and negligence (The Ways of the Lord tr Mother Columba Hart & Jane Bishop, Harper One p26, 2005).

I often find myself envious of those who know at an early age their genius and I love to watch a child grow into adulthood and see the seeds sown come into harvest.  The child with her head in a book everyday and sometimes all day becoming a writer and researcher, the child who cries when he can’t play his guitar anymore and tells me in adult life if he can’t play he can’t breathe, the child who looks under every rock and checks out all the bugs finishing his environment degree and building his own garden, the child who is ill and tests out most health practitioners becoming an expert in nutrition.  The genius of every person is a part of the intelligence of this universe. Universe means one word – we are all the one word of God and we all have our own individual word to bring to this whole story and it is our individual word which is required.

I am reminded of the Sufi story of a man broken hearted by all the suffering and sorrow he saw in the world. He sat by the roadside and began to beat the earth. He looks up and yells at God. “Look at this mess. Look at all this pain. Look at all this killing and hatred. God, Oh God, why don’t you DO something!?”

And God said, “I did do something. I sent you.”

Take up your genius, find your name of grace and for God’s sake do something.

“The Universe” from Scivias Codex, Hildegard of Bingen