Category Archives: 2017

Promises to tomorrow #52 #courage

The last post in my blog each year has been a thank you to the readers and sojourners and usually an introduction to the theme of the coming year.  I know the pilgrimage ahead is going to be rocky and in those rocky places transformation will unfold.

I do want to thank you faithful readers who have stayed the course with me this year of promises to tomorrow.

I am wondering and wandering around in my mind’s eye labyrinth, walking past stones I didn’t know were there the first time, passing back over paths with new information and insights I didn’t have last time round. These are hard, dark and difficult days. Opening up to the shadows, the discomfort, the disturbing, requires courage.  Intuitively, I reach not to the why, but into the feelings. The same blind, unconditional love I poured out on my husband and continue to shower on those closest to me, I now need to turn to myself.  A dear friend encouraged me to make 2018 the Year of Self Compassion.  I remember I have Stephanie Dowrick’s Forgiveness and other Acts of Love on my book shelf. I first read it in the late 90s and found it a real salve and intimate guide to living more wholeheartedly and more gratefully, but I haven’t picked it up for years. It is a book I have bought and recommended many times for others after loss, betrayal, a crisis or an accident.  I know there is something about courage to be found in the pages and in the summary of the first chapter she writes:

Courage is what it takes to be fully human. It’s what pushes us to survive the daily navigations between the known and not-known; to deal with the inevitable to create useful distinctions between what we can change and what we cannot. It is what will allow us to go into our own particular versions of hell. It is what will give us the grace and strength to re-emerge and still find life worth living.  – Stephanie Dowrick

I say to myself: Breathe deep, take courage, walk on pilgrim.  Look for the scallop shells on the way, pointing a path forward to the shore.

Sea Shell

 

 

Promises to tomorrow #51 #labryinth

The season is all around me – hidden in the trees, holiday makers unfolding maps and plans for rest and relaxation, gift wrapping and unsealing of envelopes arriving from far off lands, the longest day arrives, casts her shadow and falls into the ocean. Always a time for gathering in the kitchen, on the beach, around the holy table and a time for reflection on what has been and yet to come.

This time last year I was acutely aware it would be the last summer, the last Christmas, the last year beginning and because of that awareness a little more care was taken for the turkey trimmings to be just right to meet the mouths of those who loved turkey, a little more patience and an aching sadness behind the scenes, the unspoken hovered in the air around us all. Entering this season anew, I am putting down some new foundations for new synaptic paths to be forged so the old ones can hold the memories in their own right. No turkey to cook, few gifts to wrap and most of the envelopes have arrived with kind words of condolence entwined with the joy of the season.

I am missing things, not finishing, not quite hitting the mark – one consequence writ large is the intense sunburn on my back – evidence of the lack of a hat, sunscreen and long sleeves – something I haven’t done since a teenager. There are already tiny bubbles of blisters forming puffed pink by the residue of calamine lotion inaccurately plastered as I can’t reach all the places it needs to go. While the walk and the conversation were gold and deeply cherished, the scar tissue forming is a reminder of my inability to be fully able to look after myself at the moment, There just doesn’t seem to be enough of me to do that for myself. There is a vagueness, a lack of commitment and general lack of enthusiasm for much, with rote learning kicking in to keep up appearances. Coming fully to any moment seems to be elusive or saturated in tears.

My promise to tomorrow in these days is to not be in a hurry to travel through these days and nights, and continue to meander aimlessly without purpose or direction, to let each step hold whatever needs to be held. Each aimless step is still a step and even going around in circles you are not the same person you were the last time you did the circuit. The gift of the labyrinth has served me well in many locations, McLaren Vale, San Francisco, Cape Town, Alice Springs and most recently on the beach at Port Noarlunga for the summer solstice. Each season has it’s labyrinth and each labyrinth it’s season.

May the longest of days

Bring your labours to the labyrinth

May the shortest of nights

Begin new dreams and visions

May the harvest of summer fruits

Yield sweetness and stickiness

May the cool sea waters

Soothe the sears of sun soaked skin

May the quickening of grain and grape ripening

Confirm the successful completion of a season.

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Promises to tomorrow #50 #birth-day

When you arrive at a new threshold of the next year of your life unfolding, one of the traditions is to blow out the candles, to be lit up by what’s past and then to make a wish in that moment of darkness. The birth day is just that – a promise in darkness – coming into light – recurring each year. It is heralded by a long wait, labour pains of another while you arrive through an opening often helped by others supporting your mother. We give this moment a special place in our year, it defines us as a tribe on the zodiac, a season, a destiny. Everyone is a great shout of joy waiting to be born according to David Whyte.

On the eve of birth, an experience I have had more than once, the physicality or being prised open to allow new life to come forth, is pain with breath and blood eventually settling into a rhythm and a quickening that ends whether we welcome the arrival or not. And so on this eve, as my love would have been 60 in the morn, I think of his mother labouring and his arrival being met with a little disappointment that their fourth child was another boy – she had longed for a girl for more than the nine months, in fact years and years. He. Arrived. Already not meeting expectations, wiped away quickly, but the story remained in the family narrative. How many stories do we have hanging on us, even before we have started to make our own, even before our birth-day?

Unfolding into a new year, the old one is not left behind, it oozes in and has already left a fingerprint, forecasts and predictions are enabling decisions, the future is already in the diary. Not all birthdays are welcomed. There are the times with the new year arriving is heralding a beginning or an ending of a time that is not yet over or not yet ready to commence.

On this eve of his birthday, one he can no longer celebrate, one that for others arriving at this junction would be one to celebrate a harvest, welcome in wisdom, drive home the possibility of eldership, he is not. He is not here for his appointment with candles and cake. We will gather and remember his lasting impact that will go long and deep, we will be grateful he was born and gifted us with his essential self. We will hold the space for cake and candles and my promise to tomorrow is to mark birth-days with respect from how they came to be where heaven and earth joined in a woman’s body and appeared in the shape of a child.

He was born in the perfect season for the life he lived, ordained by an Advent birth. Living long enough to embrace the next generation.

To be more child-like is one of the great invitations and birth-days are an annual reminder to enter the new year of our life with the same bewilderment and optimism of those first breaths.

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Embracing Tim and Archie on Sunday 15 October  (Tim 17.12.57 – 19.10.17)

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 made 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

Promises to tomorrow #45 #petrichor

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 Petrichor (/ˈpɛtrɪkɔːr/) is the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil. The word is constructed from Greek πέτρα petra, meaning “stone”, and ἰχώρ īchōr, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.

When your week includes a Paul Kelly concert and the petrichor on the inside and on the outside, there is a cellular knowing of kairos. The warmth and dryness of stones heating up in the sun, the skies unburden their load and trickle down through the crevices to the core, refilling the aquifer deep within.

Raindrops on roses are one of my favourite things, and the scent of them opening after rain wafts through my bedroom window, as spent petals fall onto the fishpond silently disturbing the mosquitos. The raindrops find their way to the hard earth and in the in-between spaces meander slowing down, down.   The earth releases her scent and we all know it has rained, there is an audible sigh, birds sing, blinds get pulled back, windows creak as they open matching the roses in their capacity to invite the fresh air into lungs.

The rocks hold everything in place, but still give a little for those raindrops to seep down deep. That is what seems to happen to me to when in conversation with those who have been my rocks in these times, keeping me in place, as my tears find their way to the well inside of me, bringing comfort and reassurance. Rock people, not hard people, but people who let tears fall and guide those tears in silence to where they need to go. My cheek takes its turn at the micro level to be the rock, the platform, for my tears to fall and like the clouds, I release my load and get lighter as the earth beneath my feet smells sweeter.

I am making landfall.

It is no wonder Paul Kelly has so many songs about rain, the elemental celt bring us little aches and pains, takes us to deeper water and most of all helps us to smell like rain.

The misty droplets of a winter’s day through the sploshes and splashes of tropical storm, the rain breathes us in as she kisses the earth. I am smelling, like the rain smells, the happy hormones of the afterglow of a first kiss are pumping through me as well as through the veins of the ground beneath my feet. This is a timeless love affair.

When we make rain, be our own earth, find spaces between the rocks we get the chance to breathe in the fragrance of release. Kairos. Osmosis. Petrichor. This is definitely a process and a journey determined by the elements, forces of nature and with all the predictability and unpredictability of a weather forecast.

I know there are seasons to pay attention to that are fixed in the diary – his birthday, Christmas, wedding anniversary. I can plan for those and be intentional in creating artificial climatic conditions. There are other times where such plans have no place and the audacity to think it even possible to plan is to put myself up against all the gods on Mt Olympus. The weather will change, the rocks will shout, the clouds will fill and get darker and heavier – these are laws of nature – and there is change coming.

My promise to tomorrow is to be rock for others, to let the smell of rain seep into my pores, to be confident that after the rain, the earth is refreshed and dust is settled. My promise is to also remember that one good rain does not a drought break.

I wrote this poem 23 November 2014 coming to terms more and more each day of what was ahead by being fully present to the moment –a discipline that still ensures tears. The interesting learning I have now is that once I get past the osmosis, petrichor is welcomed in, this is a kind of resurrection, transformative release. I am not ready to write a petrichor poem yet, but my promise to tomorrow is that I know I will in good time.

One Good Rain 

One good rain

Grief hangs heavy in the air.

The clouds gather

Threatening like a drunk in the city on a Saturday night – could be harmless could be lethal.

The body is yearning to weep;

To sob.

The whole body,

All of heaven and earth.

The whole body weeps,

Sobs.

After drought;

Rains,

Tears bring healing.

An electrical storm sweeps through the whole body.

Zipping, zapping

Through synapses

Unlocking all energy,

Energy once trapped,

Once stored.

Just like the cop talking the drunk down

So too are the clouds being coached to turn into rain,

Turning now into tears.

You do know don’t you that can experience a storm

in the desert

without rain?

The body aches,

Cracks appear.

The earth aches,

Cracks appear.

Rains fall

Tears fall

The drought is over.

The earth begins to heal.

The body begins to heal.

Has it broken?

Ah we all know …

One good rain

Doesn’t mean the drought is over.

(c) Moira Deslandes

 

 

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.