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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

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 #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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Promises to Tomorrow #41 #silence

Last week was the first week in the five years I have been doing a blog that I didn’t post something. I intended too and then felt the silence was the right post. Silence isn’t emptiness – it is fullness.

To be silent

To silence

In silence

Silenced.

 

Each of these states evokes a range of feelings, thoughts … behaviours.

I have been journeying with one for whom silence was the language of God and his yearning to be in union with the silence led to deep monastic practices with all the discipline of a mystic. I revolved around his world like a moon around a sun. Meeting his every need, whim, fear, hope.

The banshees are riding on the wild winds this morning, late to the occasion, but in time for me. I have been holding on for so long, they are arriving to shake me about to let go and let down. Elementally speaking, I find myself in The Burren and can feel her beneath my feet. Stepping carefully to avoid the hidden holes, I am consistently unsuccessful, unsteady steps on my lunar landscape. To help I go fetch my John O’Donohue poetry book – Conamara Blues – and the page marked is A Burren Prayer. How is it the cellular memory and my earlier self has prepared a path for me today? All of creation conspiring to help me, so I can rest into silence.

What a gift and I am silenced and in awe. A key revelation is to put down what has been, to be soothed and to rest into this liminal space. To wait. To be still. To find the stillness beyond exhaustion. In the midst of all this life goes on. There is a wedding in a week, another family member having a job interview tomorrow … there is no perfect timing only time and no perfection is required.  My promise to tomorrow is to rest and to wander in the Burren as required and called.

A Burren Prayer

Oremus,

Maria de Petra Fertilis:

 

May the praise of rain on stone

Recall the child lost in the heart’s catacomb.

 

May the light that turns the limestone white

Remind us that our solitude is bright.

 

May the arrival of gentians in their blue surprise

Bring glimpses of delight to our eyes.

 

May the wells that dream in the stone

Soothe the eternal that sleeps in our bone.

 

May the contemplative mind of the mountain

Assure us that nothing is lost or forgotten.

 

May the antiphon of ocean on stone

Guide the waves of loneliness home.

 

May the spirits who dwell in the ruin of Corcomroe

Lead our hearts to the one who is beautiful to know.

 

Go maire na mairbh agus a mbrionggloidi

I bhfoscadh chaion dilis ns Trinoide.

(May the departed and their dreams ever dwell

In the kind and faithful shelter of the Trinity.)

– John O’Donohue

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Promises to tomorrow #40 #squeaky

‘Health system’ is an oxymoron these two words don’t sit well together  – there is little health and it isn’t a system. Once again another week of poor customer service and multiple miscommunications and general lack of oversight in the glue that is meant to be holding things together. It always falls to family and I despair for those who have no one to advocate for them, or whose level of disadvantage through lack of English being a first language, or income or access to information, education …. you get my drift. Energy levels and fear you might not get what you need when you need it if you are disruptive play on your mind and capacity too. One of the family has the squeaky wheel principle – squeak long and loud until you are squealing like a pig is his motto.

So this week’s litany goes something like this:

oh sorry we haven’t called for a week – we had the wrong number in our system (what you couldn’t google or check another record?)

no we can’t provide that piece of equipment because our records say this is your prescription (really we haven’t been at that level for a month, and yes a doctor and nurse know that; perhaps no one checked the information?)

this piece of equipment isn’t designed for 24/7 use at that level (we know that, but no medico seemed to be concerned about that … we have raised that issue before …)

yes, we will hold, no they aren’t answering their phones, yes we have left messages on their mobile, yes we are still holding (persistence pays off finally after phones ring out, time and time again, messages of urgency get left, and tenacity rules)

wonderful –  you have now given permission and have got the right prescription from the right person and the right piece of equipment will be delivered ( I wonder, will it be here on Monday?)

How many calls do I need to make before a review would be considered appropriate, I am up to two in four days, the tiniest of case management is required, as we have everything in spades – resources human and material to the max (even with a stretched system, reading records correctly, checking the logistics chain of information and elements are basics – just like taking obs – doing the basics right first time and every time is the best prevention. We have sorted it ourselves. but I am still expecting case management and have told you that – is it Ok to expect case management?)

When might the other equipment will be delivered – just a few things to help with showering, transfer … primitive assessment undertaken, no reference to resources (I remember when we used to show photos and draw little diagrams to explain to people what was on offer … why didn’t she have an iPad? No date or time on when they might be delivered – a pretty basic piece of customer service. Do they even have it in stock? I stopped helping when I wasn’t asked to corroborate evidence, some of the facts offered were inaccurate and most out of date; the presenting well client is a trap for young players, but she had been around the block a few times – she probably detected inaccuracies but I would have been reassured if I had been asked.)

I understand (and am disappointed) there aren’t enough resources to go around – because that is the only thing that makes sense. Poor performance and poor customer service at just about every junction and no visible effort of case management is more than annoying. For some people it could be life threatening or at least as in our case  comfort limiting– at a time when we are at our most vulnerable accompanying our loved one on the end of life journey there is no little energy for shit like this. If we fall over at home (literally and metaphorically), then there are cost implications for the health system – it is cheaper and easier to keep us going – so from a purely economic point of view, lets forget about dignity, good manners, well being – it is worth getting right. Time to get out of the comfort zone so we can get into ours. And I sincerely, almost generously wonder, is that too much to ask?

I am back to an everyday promise to tomorrow: to be glue when I am asked to be, to do the basics right over and over again as the shortest and most effective way to prevention and to take a leaf out of the Book of Squeaky Wheel and advocate, advocate, advocate without fear or favour. But right now I need a rest from being squeaky and am grateful I have others who can do it for me.

Wheels roll on each day

Fuelled by squeaks and squeals

Time for comfort zone.

 

 

 

 

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