Holy Outrage

“You have been telling people that this is the Eleventh Hour,
now you must go back and tell people that this is the Hour.
And there are things to be considered…

Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?

Know your garden.
It is time to speak your truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for your leader…

Hopi Elders’ Prophecy, June 8, 2000

This is not the post I had been thinking of writing for today. I thought I’d be writing about the multitude of invitations everywhere I look to make the best of these times by either learning something new (a language, sourdough, a craft, sourdough, a home haircut, sourdough, a cocktail), or streaming culture and entertainment (architecture, travel sites, theatre, film), or becoming the person I’d always wanted to be, so on and so forth. I’ll save that one for another day as I don’t think they, nor my reactions are going away any time too soon.

Nor is this the kind of post I typically write, instead choosing to use this space to reflect and write about the beauty of my imperfect, sometimes broken, and mostly well-lived life. Maybe uplifting, enlightening and inspiring others in the process. But yesterday (I’m writing this on the Friday before Monday’s post), something broke through.

For the past week, since receiving a lovely “touch in” email, I’ve been reading the posts from a woman whose way of being in the world I highly regard. Jennifer is a radiant truth-teller. She dives deep in her life, in her work. She rides the edges, weaving together a way of sense making from various disciplines and much research. Being on that edge, as a bright, intuitive, feeling type, her perceptions and perspectives can perturb and create push-back in others. I see in her, a younger, albeit refreshingly less tamed version of myself. Perhaps that’s how I’m able to “see” her, to notice and name for her. And we both know and appreciate how essential this is to our becoming.

She’s been challenging herself, and by way of posting, me and others, to stay awake to the unintended – and perhaps, even, insidious – consequences to government responses to this pandemic. I was already sensitized to the “war” metaphor being used in the messaging at home and globally. But when I first read her words and sat with her questions, I felt agitated and shaken in my gut. My head tried to make sense of what she wrote, which only made me feel more anxious. I took a deep breath, paused, and consciously stepped away until I could process more of what she had invited. Yesterday I stepped back in and saw with new eyes.

In the morning paper, in rapid succession, this drew my attention, though most every page had something that sparked with a new light:

“Liberal minister Dominic LeBlanc told CBC News that he’s already been in discussion with cabinet members, including Justice Minister David Lametti, to bring in some form of legislation to tackle online misinformation regarding COVID-19.”

And I’m thinking, holy cow, we’ve never walked this path before. What we and our international and federal health so-called experts are learning about this virus shifts on a dime. We raking them over the coals for not knowing everything and then for changing their tunes, and for perhaps, even, being in cahoots with China. So, who in hell is going to determine what is and is not accurate in social media? And is this not, despite what MPs are quoted as saying, censoring and a violation of our right to free speech?

Then on the same page this headline, “Harsh tactics wrong path?” wherein:

“experts in criminology and law are pushing back against conventional wisdom that giving police the power to levy heavy fines will make people safer…arguing that health directives are unclear…”

While I get the need for monitoring, en-force-ment (translate: with force) and discretion being given to bylaw and police officers deeply concerns me. In my country and others, we’ve witnessed, and may even know first hand, the grave misuse and abuse of power by such officials.

And on the previous page of the same paper, commenting on the hypocrisy of our Prime Minister’s Easter time-out with his family after saying physical distancing is for everyone, Lorne Gunter makes reference to a local woman who reported to Alberta Health she saw more people leaving a church than allowed under these new public health regulations. He opines:

“I hope we are not becoming a nation of snitches.”

My immediate reaction was the sudden flash memory of hearing stories about Eastern Germany, where family, friends and neighbors “snitched” on each other to the Stasi, resulting in extremes of cruelty and torture, broken trust, and a terrorized-traumatized people and country, the reverberations of which are still felt.

Call it synchronicity, but right after reading, I received an email from a friend inviting me to sign a petition to rescind Alberta’s Bill 10, legislation designed to give unbridled and unchecked rights to the government, for an indeterminate length of time, to enact and revise legislation deemed necessary to fighting this war on this pandemic. Weeks earlier, the federal government was stopped trying to enact similar legislation. Signed and sent, I then edited and customized, referencing my read of the news, the email template to send to friends for their consideration and action.

__________

A few hours later I left our safe cocoon to run some errands, the first time in over a week. Yes, we are self isolating, or as I prefer to say, in “compassionate retreat.” Yes, we are wearing face masks when venturing out into peopled spaces. And while this may seem contrary, we feel it is prudent, and probably should have heeded our own research and knowing to have done so earlier.

Dropping off “love parcels” to my friend and her young children, I was suddenly worried that being masked, I’d frighten the children. We managed, carefully keeping our distance, wishing we could hug. They knew me. It was OK, maybe.

In the grocery store, I felt the “sur-reality” of seeing more people than not wearing masks (except the staff, which I’ve learned in many stores have been advised not to wear. WTF why not!?!), of floors marked with direction arrows, and safe distance boxes. To soothe my growing anxiety, I had to convince myself that while out of the ordinary here, wearing face masks is “de riguer” in Tokyo. I know I was too close to people in the aisles, and touched too many vegetables, albeit in gloved hands. By the time I left, disposing those gloves in the small mouthed waste bin, washing my hands at the cleverly designed portable station, I was overcome with tears for this all. And once home, told my husband, he could resume the “hunting and gathering” for us. I’ll stick to the cooking.

At the post office, there to drop off another “love parcel” to a friend before she enters the holy month of Ramadan, the gloved clerk, behind the plexiglass safety barrier, asked if I’d be paying by credit or debit. In the moment that struck me as odd, off. When he opened the cash drawer, I worked up the courage to ask “Are you not accepting cash payment?” and was told, no, that their boss had told them not to accept cash, unless that was all the customer had. “This is dangerous,” I replied, though agreed that yes, in this immediate context, probably safer not to handle cash, but in the long term, what could be the consequences of a cashless society?

Still masked, on to the bank to deposit my GST refund. Again, my first time experiencing their safety protocol. Happy for the sun and warmth to stand outside, a woman my age complimented me on my jacket, broke the ice for a quick exchange on the oddity of these times. I shared my experiences of the morning, how shaken I felt. Not wearing a mask, she braved to share her take, could this be the move for a one world government, she offered, a theory I’d studied over the years. Then she described watching a recent documentary where Swedes and corporate employees are now micro-chipped to ease security access into workplaces and gyms, to buy train tickets, to go cashless. “The internalized smart watch,” I’m thinking. “Marked by the beast,” she suggested, eyebrows raised.

Finally, driving home, I listen to our national radio station playing a favourite classical composition, Handel’s Water Music, and in a flash, it dawns on me, “We’re being placated while all hell is breaking lose around us. Let’s soothe the masses, like when then President Bush suggested the American people go shopping to cope with immediate aftermath of 9-11.” Like hearing the sudden “chirpiness” in our local news anchors on Monday, an about face from their typical style during this period. Why? Why now? And who initiated this shift in public presence?

By the time I walk through the door, whoosh, outrage had broken through weeks of disbelief, grief, and fear. Describing my experiences to my husband as we put away the groceries, I remembered that eery but fascinating sixties TV show, The Prisoner, where throughout the sinister story line in each episode, lovely music played throughout the village.

__________

Like my friend, there is so much about all of this that I don’t know. I do know none of us, including the people we elected to our governments and appointed to oversight agencies (WHO), have never walked quite this path before. But there have been similar journeys, when those in charge made pronouncements and plans to ready us better for next time, but once the urgency passed, are forgotten or deemed unimportant. Not unlike most of us, relapsing to ease, complacency even. I see our remarkable ability to adapt and “pivot” in our understanding and responses to “flatten the curve.” I’m of two minds when it comes to “re-opening the economy.” I don’t want us to move too quickly “getting back to normal” because the risks might be too great, the new insights lost, the promises broken. On the other hand, there is so much suffering now, including and beyond the pandemic’s fatalities and their grieving family and friends. 

“We will not go back to normal. Normal never was.
Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than
we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction,
confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack.
We should not long to return, my friends.
We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment.
One that fits all of humanity and nature.

Sonya Renee Taylor, Over Grow the System, 2020

Holy outrage can inspire holy acts of inner and outer change…

…By noticing what is odd or off or no longer fits.

…By asking and calling out what is suddenly incongruous.

…By staying alert to the barely emerging patterns, and as, if not more, importantly, to the spaces in between. Focusing so much energy exclusively on the pandemic, has me wonder what am I being distracted from seeing? What else of real significance do we need to be attending?

…By burning through the mind numbing fog of “settling for and with” to illumine the fullness of what needs to be seen and known.

…By daring feel the discomfort and distress of being dis-illusioned into speaking a new truth, couraged into writing a new story, stitching together a new garment.

Since my holy outrage broke thorough, I haven’t felt nearly as namelessly agitated, anxious, scared or angry. I have felt the energy, the clarity, the focus, and the unequivocal knowing that a more beautiful “what next” is not only possible, but is in the making right now, with every breath I take, every choice I make.

Now to keep my fires stoked.

Perspectives with Panache, 2010

That is the gift of my holy outrage. What is the gift of yours?

#mylifeasprayer
#holygriefholygratitudeholylove

Big Pause, Big Questions

“All is well. While you take this big pause,
we have a lot of housecleaning to do.”

Wind Whispering

It’s early Saturday morning, the pause between Good Friday and Easter in the Christian tradition. I woke at 3:00, not an unusual experience. With a stomach ache. Too, not unusual these days. It’s been a good month or so since I’ve been in “compassionate retreat.” As I’ve written – day in, day out – not an unusual experience except… And those exceptions are what can throw me into the surreal reality of life now as I, we know it. Or don’t. And there’s the rub.

In these many days – which day is it? – from my read, media sources are full of conjecture and narrative trying to explain life now. How we got here. Where we’re going. Who’s to blame. How to fix. And much, much more. My meaning-making, pattern-seeking mind can be temporarily soothed or agitated as I scan, read, note, share, comment, talk it out, depending. But bottom line is there is so much I don’t know, and know it’s too soon to know, that my habit of needing to know is a fix.

Molokai, Perspectives with Panache, 2007

A few weeks ago, I took a chance to comment in the blog of a woman whose way of writing, and orientation to life, to faith, I really like, I feel kindred with. Took a chance because I was about to offer a very different perspective from the other comments on her post which had laid out, in a helpful way, the metamorphosis change frame revived and embellished by life coach Martha Beck. Here’s a slightly edited version of what I pondered on her page:

I’m going out on a limb to offer another perspective borne from l/earned life experience.

Several years ago, after a particularly raw, vulnerable time of loss and interior dishevelment, I attended my monthly community of practice gathering (we are life and leadership coaches, process designers, facilitators, educators – a kind and highly “emotionally – relationally intelligent” types) wherein the host offered a process based on these stages of metamorphosis. While I knew the cognitive calm and soothing this stage model offered, I also knew at a deeper level, that its comfort was based on Mind’s role of searching for patterns to make meaning and sense of, what was for me at that time, incomprehensible.

I knew at a deeper level, to follow this model, would be an abandonment, sabotaging even, of my own inner process. That giving in to the “oh, I know, what comes next is the butterfly” would prevent something totally new from coalescing and emerging, as I exchanged comfort for uncertainty, premature pattern for chaos.

I knew I was in the patternless void, the soul’s dark night, the mystic’s desert.

Could I trust that the patterns of stars in that black void of sky might emerge, though NOT be the constellations that I knew before?

That is the question for me now.

Pattern will emerge from this chaos, but most likely, unlike what I/we have ever seen, or ever known before. It might not be – most likely will not be – a butterfly that emerges from the messy imaginal cells. That is what I needed to let go of then, and need to now. This is where faith, trust, love come into play.

What new forms of being and living and loving can we breathe into those formless imaginal cells if we allow them their time?

What new stories are wanting to be written if we are patient for the words to emerge? If we trust we are each writing the new story with every choice we make (even the “no choice” choices), every day we live our lives as prayer?

What holy grief, holy gratitude, holy love, can we evolve together?

So here I sit, best I can. Big pause. Big questions.
Big breath in. Big breath out.

“I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir,
to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart
and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms
and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.
Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.
Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it,
live along some distant day into the answer.”

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, 1986

The Coming of March

winter frost 1

Wind blew strong yesterday morning.
Rattled the leafless branches. Made the tall spruce and pine dip and dive in
a pre-dawn dance.
Egged on clouds to race across the still dark sky, streaking it with stripes of
early sunlight.

I smelled the first fresh fragrance of Spring on that wind.
She said, “I’m coming. But be patient. You know Winter likes to take her time leaving.
A bit slow and sluggish, that one.
Almost as if she digs in her heels when she feels my insistence to get things
going and growing.”

Come noon, I saw Sun reigning higher in the sky than it had been for months.
Nudging warmth into Wind’s still icy chill.
Together, though, they partner well to melt Winter’s now tiresome gifts of snow and ice,
leaving puddles the size of small ponds on streets and drives,
revealing sodden black soil and mushy remains in gardens and fields.

“I’m coming.”

Whispers the promise carried by March in these northern climes.

“But remember, I’m moody, ambivalent. You might even call me Caprice.”

–  KW –

Recalibrating to a New Now

Today, sitting around our home, still in my robe and slippers at nearly noon, with not a thing needing to get done, I realized how much my interior state is still one of having to do something to feel purposeful. Just sitting there (oh the judgment with typing “just” and what that connotes), looking out the window, sipping a coffee, and I’m feeling this pressure, this nagging urgency to get going, get doing.

To do something to feel purposeful.

As a kid, it was always about staying one step ahead so as not to get in trouble. Hyper-vigilance became my m.o. and like most qualities, it has its double edge. On one hand, an ability to quickly scan and sense into the field, to notice, to decide, and act, or not. Very helpful in lots of places. On the other, an ever-present heightened awareness that can quickly become anxiety. Not so helpful when it takes over and leaves me lagged and jagged in its wake.

Then as an adult, both in my professional work, and spiritually seeking nature, I read and espoused tomes on finding the elusive work-life balance of purpose, meaning, values aligned engagement, so on and so forth. Titles, many of which remain on the book shelf, and which continue to attest to its selling and seductive power. Still doing something to feel purposeful.

Now, it seems those very words, phrases, steps and stages to which I aspired are backfiring as I sit in this new now place of having an expanse of wide open time and space in which to do, to be anything I wish to do, to be. I realize it’s always a matter of interpretation, and I’ve truly appreciated the authors and thought leaders from whose books and words I’ve gleaned much, but I’m wondering, yet again, the extent to which this too, is conditioning premised on a core belief of being flawed, and not enough, just as I am? Of not trusting a deep inner balance beyond myself? I wonder how much this is a ruse we’ve all bought into, the striving that becomes driven, the discipline that shapeshifts to bullying. The way we keep ourselves and others in line making, doing, getting and growing.

“All day long you do this, and then even in your
sleep…pan for gold.

We are looking to find something to celebrate
with great enthusiasm,

wanting all our battles and toil and our life to make sense.

‘I found it, I found it, I found it!’ a hermit once
began to shout, after having spent years in solitude, meditating.

‘Where?’ a young shepherd boy near by asked.
‘Where?’

And the hermit replied, ‘It may take a while,
but I will show you. For now, just sit near to me.’

All day long we do this with our movements
and our thoughts…pan for gold.”

Hafiz in Daniel Ladinsky, A Year With Hafiz, 2011

It’s been over seven years since I “retired.” Never was and still not comfortable with the word, I didn’t miss a beat before quickly launching myself into a consulting practice. I admit my drive was in part fear driven. Within two weeks I’d designed my professional web presence and had contracts. While still the fall to early summer rhythm I’d been used to for twenty-five plus years, it was more spacious, and seldom was I driving in lousy weather. I continued working with people I loved, offering myself from the place of vocation, best described to me by Frederick Buechner and John O’Donohue:

“Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” ―

Frederick Buechner

“That edge where the individual gift fits the outer hunger and where the outer gift fits the inner hunger.”

John O’Donohue in Angeles Arrien, The Second Half of Life, 2005

If taxes are an indication, 2018 was my best year ever. And then with provincial budget cuts, contracts suddenly weren’t, and others were curtailed, so that by late last fall, work as I had known it came to a sudden halt. While not surprising, even feeling an almost secret deep gladness, I realized this seven-year cycle of work post “retirement” had come to completion, and would look different here on in. I wouldn’t be “hunting” for work. I’d be content with what came my way, trusting in enough. I’d use that refined ability to scan, sense into, notice and follow the energy to God knows where, even if it was to nowhere and nothing.

While my head was making sense of it all, in December, my body responded with a month plus systemic virus, infecting my physical senses, sinuses and lungs. “Perhaps I was detoxing?” offered a wise friend. Yes, and resting.

“In the first state of rest is the sense of stopping, of giving up on what we have been doing or how we have been being. In the second, is the sense of slowly coming home, the physical journey into the body’s uncoerced, un-bullied self, as if trying to remember the way or even the destination itself. In the third state is a sense of healing and self-forgiveness and of arrival. In the fourth state, deep in the primal exchange of the breath, is the give and take, the blessing and being blessed and the ability to delight in both. The fifth stage is a sense of absolute readiness and presence, a delight in and an anticipation of the world and all its forms; a sense of being the meeting itself between the inner and outer, and that receiving and responding occur in one spontaneous movement.”

David Whyte, “Rest” in Consolations, 2015

Hesitant to give over completely to Whyte’s synthesis, I know intimately the truth of his first and second stages. Resonating with “slowly coming home” given my 2020 word. Reclaiming myself from the bullied over-riding of my body’s need and knowing. Rediscovering trust. Restoring faith. *Recalibrating, again, into this new now. But first, to pause and rest.

*Recalibrating – In 2011, friend gifted me this word to describe my inner process when I returned home after three months in Europe. It’s a recurrent life theme about which I’ve written or referenced over the course of those years since: