Monthly Archives: May 2019

Sparks will Fly #20 #yellow

A letter to my grandson in 2035

Dear Archie,

Just before your 4th birthday, Australia had a big election. A lot of us thought it was going to be around climate change and for a lot of us it was.  But not everyone can see into the future easily, and lots of people are scared of change. Being able to adapt to change is so important. I am so proud of you when you notice you are struggling and can’t always get your own way, so you take yourself off and cool down and then come back and join in again with the conversation and the play.  Being able to self-regulate and learn you can’t always get your own way was a fabulous skill and gift your Mum and Dad taught you. You are not scared of your own feelings when they bubble up and you get to know what they mean for you.

I am sorry my generation have left you with so much to deal with Archie.  I ran out of puff more than once. I am so grateful for all those young students who took the streets long before they were old enough to vote, and by the time they got to vote, they were able to turn things around …. I just don’t know if they were able to do enough in time for you.

As your 16th birthday approaches, I am so grateful for all those lovely paintings you made for me when you were little, they help me keep seeing the world through your eyes. You did one for me once when you were three you called Black and Yellow Australia. You could see the sun rising and the night falling.  It really helped me through some tough days after the 2019 election and a few more between then and now in 2035.

All I could see when I was sad for my country was two worlds – old over young, coal over climate, Presidential over team, known over unknown, comfort over risk, little over big, negative over positive, no policies over policies, men over women. I thought about your painting and realised black and yellow is not black and white – things are more complex than that. Yellow is the colour of hope, the colour of joy and happiness. It is also the colour associated with being a coward and often the colour for not being well, a bit jaundice giving you information that there might be something wrong with your liver, gall bladder or pancreas. Yellow is a paradox.

I did get more active on climate and helped out some of the students in the strikes for climate change, I cheered madly with the lovely Greta got a Nobel Prize and was so inspired when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest US President ever. So I know it wasn’t all lost, but I felt pretty sad and a bit hopeless the day after the 2019 election.

I knew then, as a I know now, hope is not a substitute for action. And if you do want something to happen about what matters to you, you have to put your shoulder to the wheel, join with others and mobilise.  And the lesson I learnt and hope you learnt too is: Don’t give up, get organised.  Let sparks fly and glow with the yellow light shining on and through you.



Sparks will fly #18 #humiliation

The different between embarrassment and humiliation has been a topic of discussion this week.  Embarrassment being an inside job and humiliation being an experience of power and something that cuts a lot deeper than embarrassment. Humiliation is often covered up and put in the corner, but it can be complete with outing and public scrutiny. The never ending dance includes familiar friends of shame and guilt.  Shame is also an inside job, and you feel completely alone and guilt focusses on behaviour and can often be shared. There is no end to opportunities to experience these emotions and see them play out everyday!  On the weekend, I was at a friends birthday party and some of the in-real-life Dad jokes caused embarrassment to the children of the father in question, but there was no guilt or shame to be seen.

Exploring these themes with aplomb is Brene Brown and her work around shame is bringing a revolution to emotional growth. Empathy, resilience and self-compassion seem to be the holy trinity inoculation and anti-dote to these other emotions, and breaking them down to be clear about what is yours and what belongs to the other.

If your heart can be big enough to hold the hurt, it might also be that strengthened by generosity, be big enough to hold the healing.  Matching the healing to size of the hurt, seems to be one of those equations of life that isn’t easily addressed.  Lots of little hurts can amalgamate in all kinds of ways, being swept under the carpet, stored behind closed doors, hidden under a bed … look at all those metaphors which imply darkness, out of sight and mediated by a solid object.  I think that is what we do to ourselves as well as our hearts harden and become impenetrable when we don’t let the hurts ooze out and act like the vulnerable human beings we are when we are betrayed and lost.

Coming out into the light, being exposed to the elements, it is inevitable we will be weathered. The innocence, power, creativity and splendour of the elements best described by John O’Donohue are at our disposal constantly being revealed in the landscapes around us and as the earth and the rivers are worn down and the wind wildly blows about us, as it does in Western Ireland, or for us in Australia how the sun beats down on us, the elements are irresistible. We are caught in their flow and our attempts to manage them with air conditioners, sunblock, umbrellas or even dams, doesn’t stop them being there. There are lessons we can transfer from the elements to our human condition. We can put up barriers, use devices, create and use psychological gymnastics but those emotions are with us and we need to work with them, not against them, to find our way out into the light and good weather of good health.

We are elemental beings where the great forces of air, earth, wind of course fire find themselves a home in our emotional selves and in our bodies.  Humiliation is in the earth from which the very word derives and has us digging deep to get through it.  Perhaps it is by working with the other elements to blow it away, give it space to breathe and let the sparks fly? Maybe then that it can be relieved of its duty to call us closer to knowing our worth and understanding humiliation as a by-product of institutional injustices. When that realisation comes to the fore … sparks will fly.



Photo by Mahkeo on Unsplash