Sparks will fly #35 #Spring

Been pouring all night, so appropriate for waters breaking to birth the new season of spring. Like so many new beginnings, first there is the heaviness of pregnancy, then the waters break before something formed but not quite fully operational, arrives. This is the season of buds forming, then opening, the seeds who have been busy gathering up their energy in dark places push through and poke their green heads up. This is the season where possibilities emerge and what looked like it might have been dead or at least in a deep Sleeping Beauty kind of sleep, opens and transforms.

I am constantly impressed by how seeds quietly go about storing up their energy and  push and push and push, until there is a crack in the brown ceiling they hit them selves against, and keep striving towards the light, but that comes after the dark and often shitty, dank place they are in and at the other end they build a system of roots that do deeper and hold themselves in place. This two way stretching and striving for nutrition and life is a constant reminder to me of what is needed to get by in the world. The human condition is fraught with times we are in the dark, know leaning into the light will help us unfold, and that we have to go deep to draw on what gets left behind in the soil. All those micro-organisms, humus, worms are there to help us reach for the stars.

Sparks of life, new ideas, possibilities and invitations start turning up to announce that hibernation has come to an end. I wonder what I have unknowingly been hibernating that might burst through some of what has been hiding under ground?  Within two weeks I will have packed up all I have left to make a home, packed a bag to hit the road, said goodbye to a village that has held me for the past fifteen years and closed a lot of chapters. I will wander away quietly with no ceremony, not quite a disappearance as I am sure to find my way to being close by on my return, but I will be without a permanent address for the first time in my life. This new season in my life comes from heavy clouds, plenty of precipitation and fodder churned into the earth from scraps, shit and disease, breaking down and turning into fuel.

Spring following winter is reassuring, even on day like today Father’s Day in Australia, where I miss my Dad. He  always had hope even well into his dying days. He was a man who opened himself up to new possibilities from ideas, words, food and was never short of advising on what might need to be transformed or changed to bring new life to a situation (he continued to write to the coaches of his football team even in his last days).  He died in spring and this year I will be on the other side of the planet when it will be his anniversary and birthday. We buried him on his birthday and when we talked about dying, he told me he wanted to be buried so the earth and all its creatures would take their time with him.  These words have held me in good stead during the winter seasons past and this one in particular. The title of a book he wrote, Help Yourself to Happiness, I am taking as a clear message from him to enter this season.

Letting nature take its course and being reminded to lean into what the winds, rains and Gaia herself wants to teach me and invite me into a practice. With the practice comes the discipline and truth that winter is followed by spring.

As we wake up and enter the spring, coming into what was in the dark, beneath the surface, where there are expectations for sparks to fly, I turn to David Whyte’s poem What to Remember When Waking, to hold me as the new season arrives.

What to Remember When Waking

 

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?

— David Whyte

bookKeith

Dad wrote this book and it was published by Lothian in 1999. Nothing says spring like a daisy.

Sparks will fly #34 #toddling

Recovering from trauma is all part of the human condition.  Most of us begin in trauma as we journey through the birth canal and surprisingly come out a bit squished, bruised, maybe even a bit jaundice.  Over the life course, we have plenty of opportunities to experience trauma. The first falls when we learn to walk, may well be interrupted by tops of tables, kitchen obstacle courses and ambition beyond skill. The toddling is instructive. We cry, dust ourselves off, maybe get a hand up, sometimes have our hands held to steady and shepherd us to the next effort and then over time build our capacity, resilience and eventually (if we are lucky enough to have two feet) are able to stand up straight and tall for all the world to see. We get grounded and from there we learn to walk, dance, jump, leap over, run.

My experience in getting over trauma is an act of toddling. There are the inevitable bumps on the head when I raise up with confidence I am ready to stand, and then find I misjudged where the top of that table was, and end up with a bit of a bloody knock.  There are the all the visible and invisible hands pulling me up to help me get back on my feet. Some of those hands consciously know the practical help they are offering and others have completely no idea. There are even people who don’t realise how they are being deployed by the UniVerse to help me along the way.  These hands turn up every time I get out of my own way and catch the invitations as they come tumbling in to me.  I don’t even have to ask sometimes, but I do need to keep my awareness alert and ready to catch as others pitch.

I have people watching me, to see what I will do next, how I will handle situations. Mostly they are kind, generous and encouraging family and friends who want me to bring my best self to all situations. Some have special talents to warn me of obstacles in my path, that might lead to a fall in my toddling. Some have the capacity to cheer me on and chuckle at my more interesting moves as I fall gracefully and not so gracefully from time to time. I noticed this week I have started laughing more and that is surely a good sign. I have also noticed I am beginning to get more playful again, this feels like relief, I have been missing that piece of myself. Truly something is shifting and lifting. I know that I am still toddling though, and falls are inevitable.

Toddling informed trauma recovery includes understanding the mood swings of toddlers  – one minute confusion, next rage,  closely followed by tenderness.  And like toddlers who fall over in their early efforts to walk, there are still days when I want to lie on the floor, bang my hands into the ground, sob uncontrollably and have someone say “there there”, pat my back, bring me food, change my clothes and tuck me into bed. These days are getting less frequent and my internal tantrums are only for a very small audience and do not appear in public places.  I am beginning to get excited and making plans for change as in a few weeks I will be travelling, to start walking a piece of the Camino. I expect there is more toddling to come and more sparks to fly.

 

Sparks will fly #33 #presenttense

The plane was on the tarmac and already almost two hours behind schedule and this last waiting time seemed to be related to inappropriate behaviour of a male passenger towards a female passenger. It was very late in the day and meant another delay was going to keep me well away from where I was planning to be. I was being disrupted by a disruptor, I adapted, sorted out a work around.

Everyday we get disrupted by forces outside of ourselves, we are constantly making adjustments. Having a well oiled set of improv skills and a tool kit of hacks certainly helps in these moments. Nothing works better though than having a reservoir of past experiences and the knowledge that this too will pass. Time is perhaps the biggest disruptor that gets the least cred.

I am unfolding from a week, where I have been disrupted, disturbed, liberated, interrupted, cycled through a series of emotions and memories. I am fascinated in how memories show up as teachable moments. Avoiding nostalgia, I drawn on memories that have been left alone in drawers, in fading blue ballpoint ink, untouched for years. The memories flood back of conversations, touches, shared hopes and dreams, yet these words while true in every way are an alternative truth. The complexity of both and words is beyond my grasp some days and my memories fight with truths disrupting every neuronal pathway.

Some of the teachings of the week include making new memories by grounding self deeply into the present – not the past or the future.  This is living with time as the great disruptor. Time is what a clock reads. although we know time is able to stand still, run ahead of us when we aren’t ready and go so slowly that it is torture … possibly all within the cycle of the sun rising and setting.

Tense is an indicator of time and present tense living can be tense, in-tense even. Living in present tense concentrates time with the essence of the moment completely focussing the mind, body and spirit. Just a drop of the fragrance “the essence of time” can perfume a whole day.   I am often in a fog wandering in the present tense fragrance that is always with me, longing for a time, when, as Rumi says, the fragrance of flowers crushed, forgiveness, arrives.  Disrupted by forces outside of myself, my heart crushed, spirit broken, grief makes way for new  beginnings.

Trust is rooted in love and fear rooted in control, trusting the future to hold me, as I separate from what has control over me. Inevitably, these sparks disrupt and offer work-arounds to reveal future in present actions. Present tense still shines a light into the future from the darkness of the past.

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Installation somewhere in New York – I didn’t note the artist #apologies

 

 

Sparks will fly #32 #shrapnel

The fragments of shrapnel, fly loose after the bomb has exploded and continue on a trajectory to hit their target. The pieces of metal arrive through the cylinder that has contained them and with the force of the explosion breaking the casing, separating what was bound together, each piece finding its target and lodging to cause pain and destruction. Often lethal, always hard to dislodge, sometimes almost impossible to detect, sometimes becoming visible though in an infection caused by the puncture, shrapnel is designed to destroy.  There are a few ways to get out of the way of shrapnel, run, hide, protect, not being around where the bombs are likely to go off – all very good and effective strategies. In acts of terrorism, part of the power of that process, you don’t know when those bombs are going to go off, you are completely caught unawares and that is the whole point of it being a terrorist act and not an experience of being at war where the usual rules of engagement apply.

Grief is a terrorist with shrapnel at its disposal.  Just when you think you in safe territory, and have fled to a place where you won’t be under attack or even subject to friendly fire, you are mistaken as the terrorist arrives uninvited, and you have left your amour at home.  I find myself caught out more than once and despite well executed plans, I may well end up in a place or a time or have a thought that will paralyse me leaving me in the path of shrapnel that finds it way to me.

Protective clothing is not enough, not travelling to the places where I might be at risk, following directions to lead me out of unsafe locations, still leave me exposed. It seems so unfair but this is not about fairness, it is about revolution. I am freedom fighter and this is a revolutionary struggle. I need to have my own shrapnel to blast Grief and bring my  own acts of terrorism and show up when Grief least expects me too. To lodge myself into Grief’s body.

I am channeling Banksy.

I am bringing my revolution to life and sparks will fly.

Banksy flower thrower

Banksy’s Flower Thrower

 

Sparks will fly #31 #deconstructed

The move is on and there is movement while I hold on tight and let go. The bed is the last piece of furniture to part with and I haven’t done it yet. It was made by my grandfather for my parents and was part of a entire bedroom suite and various pieces have been shed over the years. One of the wardrobes he famously jumped on top of to make sure it would last. I am actually not sure where that piece ended up. I have just the base now, where the two drawers housed Christmas presents when I was a child. Over the years I treated one of the drawers as a treasure trove for gifts and cards I would purchase with people in mind as their birthday or a special occasion arose I would find a perfect match for that friend or family member. The other drawer was full of papers like passports and insurance documents, wills and love letters. Both drawers at any one time would reveal plenty about the contracted relationships with the inner and outer worlds of my life. The drawers were never available to my husband, he never accessed them as far as I can remember in nearly 40 years. This is quite a revelation as I come to new understandings about the bed.

The meta-narrative of the bed legitimizing a marriage is now over in my generation. It is now deconstructed and I continue the deconstruction and reconstruction of myself.

Being one of the last pieces of furniture to leave me, I am learning about attachment and  finding the possibilities  liberation and release offer. I am still learning what it means to live unencumbered of such a primary relationship. Learning to live with less and trying to tread a little more lightly on the earth is a daily puzzle and brings interesting challenges. One of my biggest challenges is the realisation that decisions I make can actually only be for me. This continues to be novel and without the anchor of putting others at the centre I still find myself dithering and doubting.

I am learning about the interconnections of our big story as a planet and peoples, and our little stories of our personal lives. Audre Lorde’s view that self-care is an act of political warfare is finally making more and more sense to me, as Act 3 pivots around post modernism and deconstruction of this bed that I have been laying in for two-thirds of my life. I am learning, synaptic sparks can and will fly away and be replaced with new ones in this phase of reconstruction.

Sparks will fly #30 #reasonable

Making something that was invisible, visible, is the first step in addressing changes that might need to be made. We know this inside out when it comes to equity, inclusion, justice and rights. Once you have heard or seen something it is hard to un-see and un-hear. The cloak of invisibility falls and what is revealed is there for all to see.

The gender data gap has been pre-occupying me of late in the public domain. Invisible Women a new book by Caroline Criado Perez is essential reading if you want to get schooled in the way gender data gaps are impacting on women, some are lethal. Addressing systemic, consistent and invisible bias is all about fixing the system, not fixing women.  This is in the public domain, the structural and functional experience of exclusion. We all know it, we all see it and yet somehow when we don’t fit in we try and fix the person – it has always been at the heart of my social work practice and deeply rooted in my feminist approach to the world.  Why do we have to constantly fit in with what is there … what is there isn’t working for everyone? Surely it is reasonable to expect gender equality, if not equity in data?

I was at a company directors course this week increasing my financial literacy. It was very helpful to get the formulas and learn how to apply them to balance sheets and cash flow data. The educator was an expert in his field and my fellow learners all committed and experienced governors in their various boards. I left uneasy though.  Every example used referenced a man, every time a woman was mentioned there was a slight taint, a couple of times almost derision (one example was the female partner in a couple wanted to spend her dividend on home and holidays not reinvesting in the business), and a question I raised in private about application of a gender lens in decision-making practices was responded to about gender balance on boards – completely missing the point and thereby showing me the person concerned didn’t understand my question. A woman in the conversation knew exactly what I was talking about – bingo – unconscious bias right there, writ large.  I am so curious about how it is second nature for me to apply my gender lens in these situations, but quite often find myself wanting in personal circumstances. It is such an easy default to fall into old patterns and rest in the invisibility. It takes work to keep showing up, to being reasonable when that is not what you want to be; and some days I am just tired of calling out inequity and inequality.

Becoming visible is courageous. To step out of the shadows and into the light and to be able to be seen isn’t for everyone – but what is for everyone, is the right and access to be seen and heard – their truth, their experience, their wisdom. The feminist adage the personal is political comes into its own when visibility arrives.

Showing up day after day is something else.

I am missing phone calls, not returning emails or responding to texts. I am behind in my responsiveness. I am making choices about what I can and can’t contain. I am working on protecting the asset as Greg McKeown talks about in Essentialism . This too is an inside and outside job. I am actually working on protecting my physical assets at the moment, getting my property ready for sale, liberating myself of items and issues that weigh me down, redistributing time, resources and talents to what is important to me right now. This seems totally reasonable to me (although others might find me being unreasonable, having been so used to my reliability).

I have a challenge before me that is like a dog yapping at my feet. I am constantly falling over it and being tripped up. The challenge I have is to untangle myself from the lead of the dog and to decide in doing that whether that will set both me and the dog free? And like the never ending efforts required in feminism to bring visibility it is tiring and even at moments tiresome. You cannot make all things right, not even most things, but there are some things you can make right, and surrender is not something I am willing to do.

The constant see-saw of living with pain in the present and being open to joy in every moment is the way and find ways to squeeze wisdom from the intersection. Being at the intersection of fixing self and system on the see-saw is spark making, trust building and forecasting peace.  In the meantime though there are the ups and downs.  It is perhaps too why the Serenity Prayer is often only quoted as the first line and reasonable happiness is what is being requested as the means to serenity – not profound unbridled happiness – reasonable happiness. The kind of happiness within reason of the hardships and things you cannot change. I am reasonably happy. Many people talk about being in their happy place and I am discovering happy places can be found in me.

Reasonable happiness sounds very stoic to me … just thinking in the tougher times, I would like a few more sparks and sparky moments and perhaps it is OK to desire an occasional flash of unreasonable happiness in the public and private domains.

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Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash

 

Sparks will fly #29 #Lunarlight

The last cage built to keep birds on the property is finally down. It has haunted me of a time past and a practice I didn’t much care for. In its place streams of afternoon light make their way to the dusty ground littered with old straw and husks of seeds long gone. I wanted the structure to be gone and now that it is cleared and the potential of being open, revealed an empty space. Making space for all kinds of things usually means clearing things, tearing down, unscrewing, lifting up planks and finding cockroaches, those contemporary dinosaurs, in hiding. The wind started whipping up its wings as the afternoon wore on. Ruah arrived.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Ruah of God moved upon the face of the waters.

In the beginning a man acted as if he had dominion over heaven and earth.

Heaven and earth had other ideas and let darkness befell him. When all was lost and he succumbed, as all will one day, to the earth. Life above ground went on. The sun rose. The sun set. The moon rose. The moon set. And all of creation celebrated with twinkles in the sky each night to guide those wandering about in the dark. Then Ruah came and blew everything away, taking the good with the bad, washing away memories and threatening to banish anything that was not nailed down. And nothing was nailed down. In a flurry of whirling bursts and blusters Ruah came to be still. She gently fondled the last of the autumn leaves and coaxed them from their branches. She burst into song, howling and moaning through all the places where her voice could be heard. Ruah wailed to her Sister Moon. Lunar light arrived, to softly fill the sky.

Now with the empty space where a structure of wire, tin, wood and steel once stood Ruah is letting others cast their shadow and plays with the light as night descends. There is a lot of descent and a lot of dissent in these activities. The nest I made for myself is now ready to be left. I have had my time to incubate here and the twigs that have held me in place have done their job. I didn’t know if I would have the courage to leave, and I haven’t left yet, but I am on my way.

Ruah roared overnight and so it seems she too is ready to use her breath and wisdom to blow me away to my next stop. I don’t want to wander too far and I like the simplicity and liberation of not having much. I embrace the life of the pilgrim to travel and be on a journey open to experiences, and striving for that be-attitude. To be fully present, fully human, fully alive. With all the imperfections, fears and joys of the world, this is the human condition. It is complex and some days it is really hard.

Mercifully we can choose to be kind to ourselves and take moments. Although, I wish sometimes they were more days, to come into stillness and rest looking at the horizon of what is to come and just glance behind you to know how far you have come.

My journey is inner and outer. The inner as deep and complex as any trip to the moon. I remember the grainy TV in the 60s classroom which we gathered around to watch history being made with less power than a light bulb. I still am in awe of what each individual person is capable of, if we truly set themselves to do the equal inner work it sure feels like you are travelling those 376,000 plus kilometres of the lunar trek. That’s about 40 days if we did 10,000 steps a day on this pilgrimage. Thinking my walking is like travelling to the moon is one of the ways I could see my pilgrimage and 40 days and 40 nights seems like a wandering, fit for a pilgrim. Maybe this is my moon landing.
I am looking forward to some wanderings soon. To tread paths already trod and to add my footprints to those places too.

Tapping into the power of light, where every spark glows to shine the way forward. Even in the dark, sparks sneakily appear in corners and light up a dark spot, and occasionally a beam hits the horizon to make everything clear.