Monthly Archives: December 2017

Promises to tomorrow #48 #unplanned

What to Remember when Waking – David Whyte

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?

I have often taken the line What you can plan is too small for you to live from this poem to open into the sheer wild landscape life offers. What is really waiting for you when you wipe the sleepy dust from your eyes? Waking from a deep sleep seems a luxury in real time, but in liminal time, the awakening continues of epic proportions.

Multiple times a day I am reminded of my new status, from sincere condolence motions make on the street through to a public statement in the parliament, from correspondence marked to estate executor and invitations to sell the house, purchase a gravestone, donate to a charity … the societal wrap around laying down the foundations to a role unrequited and unrequested. There are no messages of congratulations on a job well done or of welcome to a new plane, or a bon voyage of beginning travel to a new land. The grief and loss of others, is in the mantel being forced on my shoulders, which I flick off as quickly as it arrives. This is a time of waiting too and of expectation, just as real as any other advent has been, there is a coming not just a leaving.

The shape of what is to arrive is forming in the dark womb of yesterday, today and tomorrow. It can’t be planned for, and will take all the time it needs to be unveiled. It is not for me to induce a premature arrival and anticipating the coming is all part of a process unplanned. It is not black and blue though, even though this is the real time measure and expectation. It is all the colours in the spectrum and some colours I have never felt before.

There is an urgency to complete a process of allowing others to find their voice and show themselves in grief, and I am often the catalyst for the completion. I want the offerings of sympathies and empathies to be done and dusted. So I am turning up in spaces and on planes where people can express their sadness and offer their support – but it is not for me – it is for them. I want it to end and if I can midwife their need to say something by turning up then that will help me get past it as well. I don’t want to move quickly and there are times when I want to wallow that is for sure, but as well as the grief, there is wallowing in satisfaction, relief and release. There are new stories to be laid down and wholehearted living to be done, creating new pathways in my synapses, and being open will take care of how the world on this new shore I have inherited and am yet to be imagined into.

I am not making plans and I am hurtling into planning and I am working with the dynamic tension this both/and time is creating. I appreciate the compassion coming my way in the warmth of words and actions and my promise to tomorrow is to receive these as the simple acts of kindness with which they are intended, while not letting them layer into my being as they don’t belong to me.

For so long, I have planned every moment, double checked and consulted every decision, with at least one other, and often with many more. From the trivial to the monumental, I have been inclusive in my planning to bring to the shore from the horizon, what would best meet the moment forecasted by the trajectory of a disease, and the desires of the body and soul co-habitating with that disease. But now, I accept the invitation to unplan.

The future sky is forming and the horizon will come into view as my little boat sails with open anticipation to find out what is waiting for me, unplanned.

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Promises to tomorrow #47 #trust and #surrender

Trust and surrender was the theme of a networking event I went to this week. Having these two words put together instantly dropped a plumb line into the conversation circles that were part of the afternoon. I didn’t intend to share my recent history with a bunch of strangers, however told a story of how I was invited to trust and surrender when Tim was first diagnosed. For long time readers of my blog you may know this story.

When Tim was first diagnosed with IPF, he was told he had 18months to 2 years to live, he actually lived 9 more years.   At the time we were in shock for a few months. I was wondering what it all meant as I headed into my 50th birthday and for years had longed for my 50s as at decade between children and (hopefully) grandchildren, between not having to invest too much in a career as already had achieved a lot (eg been a Chief of Staff, CEO, completed post graduate studies). Instead I felt I was given a life sentence too. So I took the idea of a LIFE sentence and thought about how we could live, not die. We took the concept of living with a disability and not to adopt a dead-man-walking approach to it all. I also adopted the title of pilgrim for myself and to see everything as part of an intentional journey to be walking on this earth and whatever path I was on there was meaning and message. It served me well. But I didn’t come to it easily. I had the help of a set of dreams and that is what I shared on Friday.

Between Christmas and New Year 9 years ago, I had four dreams. Each dream had me in a devastating catastrophe. One a tsunami, another a bushfire, another a flood, and another an earthquake – in each one I was still alive and ended up on a shore. In each one I also traversed some hair-raising landscapes and sometimes I was alone, sometimes with strangers and sometimes with family or friends. The dreams were all vivid and often loud, but when I got the shore each time the dream ended and I awoke, I was exhausted, grateful and calm. After the fourth dream, I thought what is going on? What is my sub-conscious trying to tell me. I realised that they were all natural disasters, nothing I could do about them, they happened whether I liked it or not, and I was able to survive them all. They gave me the frame to be in what was ahead. I was able to trust and surrender, because in each dream, I went with the flow of the disaster, I was carried along with it, but I didn’t succumb to it and I had all I needed with me to get to the end in one piece. And this is how I have now arrived indeed on a new shore and a new horizon, still intact, but not the same because of the journey to get here.

Trust and surrender is a mixture of confidence in yourself and the universe, in a willingness to be open and vulnerable, to be carried, assured, confident. Trust comes from the word strong, and surrender is more about succumbing, letting go, deliverance. I was delivered safely to the shore by being in the disaster, repelling any temptation to fight or flee, as the force of nature was bigger than anything I could resist.

My promise to tomorrow is to remember being in the whatever it is – in itself is an act of trust and surrender – whether you know you will arrive safely to being able to rise in the morning to see the dawn or a new horizon is unknown. Trusting yourself to have all you need to surrender is a promise for all the tomorrows.

I took the photo of the Cliffs of Moher as I hung over the ledge as instructed by John O’Donohue in his poem, For Freedom, to let all that is holding you fall into the ocean from the craggiest of rocks, is to accept the invitation to trust and receive the gift of surrender.

For Freedom

As a bird soars high
In the free holding of the wind,
Clear of the certainty of the ground,
Opening the imagination of wind.
Into the grace of emptiness,
May your life awaken
To the call of its freedom.

As the ocean absolves itself
Of the expectations of land,
Approaching only
In the form of waves
That fill and please and fall
With such gradual elegance
As to make of the limit
A sonorous threshold
Whose music echoes back along
The give and strain of memory,
Thus may your heart know the patience,
That can draw infinity from limitation.

As the embrace of the earth
Welcomes all who call death,
Taking deep into itself
The tight solitude of a seed,
Allowing it time
To shed the grip of former form
And give way to a deeper generosity
That will one day send it forth,
A tree into springtime,
May all that holds you
Fall from its hungry ledge
Into the fecund surge of your heart. – John O’Donohue

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Cliffs of Moher