Monthly Archives: November 2017

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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