Nature is in dire straits, how do we communicate this to others? #21daysofWriting – Day 20

Today’s topic is from Jacqueline D’ath   from New Zealand – the only person who sent a topic via email & who I haven’t met yet, but hope we will Skype one day.

 

How do you communicate anything massive and nebulous to people in a way that they are likely to understand and respond to?  Lots of different ways, lots of times, with lots and lots of opportunities for people to talk together and take action together. Video, Audio, connection – tug heart strings, make minds whirr, get folk to connect to experience.

It’s a helluva title this one. One of those meta-narratives that makes me want to hide, trembling, under a duvet, hoping a wee scientist and a good-willed politician, along with a philanthropist and an activist will fix it. Because, y’know, what can I do? (This is my flight response – Run. Hide. Pretend it’s someone else’s )

There might have been a point in time that this strategy had potential – at the moment? I fear hoping for the above is… altruistic?

Alternatively, my response is something more disturbing: Hopelessness. We’re doomed. Pointlessness. Existential angst that weighs me down and depresses me.  I see the active briefing from those in power – doubting climate change, doubting that the plastic M&S milk carton found in Malaysia, or the carrier bag stuffed half way down an Barrier Reef Sea Turtle is really a problem – and my heart aches, my reasoning refuses to go anywhere other than: we’re screwed  (welcome to my freeze response. Approximate value to changing anything: zero)

I think facing into dire straits comes in the other responses: fight and flock.

When I feel I can take action – when I dig in to the outrage or the fear or overwhelm and connect into something more energetically useful than: I’m too small/ have no power/ someone else can work on this/ it hurts too much to think about – then I can take action. It might be in small ways – my buying power, my eating habits, driving habits, heating habits, clothing habits, voting habits. I can live like a person who is respectful of the house she occupies, rather than a spoiled brat on the brink of a tantrum because her fast-fashion choice is environmentally dodgy. (and my tech… I might well have to re-think my tech – how it’s produced and recycled, how long I keep it for. I’m already looking at it. It will hurt to ditch my Apple stuff – but not as much and as long as it hurts the environment or the folk who make the damn things.)

This is fight  – I’m not the most fighty person in the world, so some may see this small fight as being not-worthwhile, but I’ll argue that “look at the size of my contribution” might well be the thing that got us in this mess to begin with. If everyone figured out more simple, less consumable habits and committed daily to be less wasteful – we’d be on to something at least.

And if you don’t want to fight, maybe we can Flock – joining in and taking part with other, like minded people who are trying to deal with the dire straits –  I’m no scientist or politician, my Philanthropic abilities are laughable, but I can be an activist – I can encourage and join, fight and learn. There is power in movement – no power in apathy.

These conversations seem harder at the moment because of the noise and the brouhaha bubbling about politics, racism, sexism…everything really. We are so distracted with what divides us, we are forgetting that something much much bigger unites us – our home is in danger. Arguing over who’s in charge of the larder seems somewhat dopey… but here we are – bickering over occupation and rule of landmasses that, in the face of an ocean, a hurricane, a flood, a wildfire we demonstrably have no actual power over. Who are we kidding?

The topic asks: How do we communicate this to others? I’d ask: how do we communicate it to ourselves? David Attenborough is one secret weapon to wake folk up, clearly – but each of us has a role in figuring out how we will respond and live in the face of depleting resources.

Obviously, one of the things I would suggest is we pay attention to our natural world more. Put bird food out, grow wild flowers that help insects – even if you live in flat with a window box.  Take your headphones off and listen to the world – for birdsong, for the wind. Notice the smell of cut grass or flowers – seek things out that don’t smell like petrol or Hugo Boss. Connect in with this part of the world – we are not going to raise awareness, or live more consciously, we are not going to convince anyone of anything, unless we start from places like this.

I can’t answer such a question in a blog – but this is my best go.

 

 

Reflection

I think in “hot topics” like these, I feel out of my depth – I have no deep reading around this stuff – mostly it’s personal views and there are QUITE enough opinions raffling about the world at the moment. As I write I feel guilty – like I’m faking something – putting something out there that makes me sound much more Woke and Worthy than I probably am.

I couldn’t find a way to fit in the spiritual stuff – living in wonder, being genuinely awe-struck by how gorgeous out planet can be. Thinking of our smallness, not in a depressing “I’m worthless” way, but in a “I’m a tiny, important part of a great big thing” way…..

It was a tough one to write, in its own way – lots of editing and fiddling today.

Procrastination – #21daysofWriting – day 10

 

Today’s #21daysofWriting topic has been offered by the inimitable Michelle Parry Slater who has, in the years that I’ve known her, shown me great kindness and made me think.

 

Procrastination:to keep delaying something that must be done, often because it is unpleasant or boring.

“I know I’ve got to deal with the problem at some point – I’m just procrastinating.” Cambridge English Dictionary

“Procrastination is the thief of time” – My Granny

Procrastination – the art of putting off until tomorrow that which should be done today. I have to say, I’m a fan.  It’s a word I don’t think we hear often anymore – much more likely to hear about to-do lists, targets, achievements and stuff. The art of postponement – of waiting until later, of not rushing around like a loony – I sense it’s not fashionable & a little frowned up.  There seems to be a lot of value placed on Doing and being responsible and behaving as expected.

Where you do see folk take time out – refuse to be plugged in or follow the expected rhythm of “getting stuff done” – it still can have a  “I’m doing this because it must be done. It’s Self Care. I’ve scheduled some Downtime/Metime” slightly striving sense to it. Like we need to justify being a bit bloody slow, or unarsed, or lazy or self-loving.

Because somethings are truly awful to do. Insurance renewal, any single lifetask that requires you to be on hold to a call centre, tackling some really crappy conversation. Why wouldn’t you want to postpone these?

I think I have two modes of Procrastinating.

The first is akin to: this is so earth-shatteringly dull… I know I could do it. I know I should do it. I know life will be better/ cleaner/ tider having done it. but, frankly… I’d rather have a cup of tea. This mode of putting off until tomorrow is with with stuff that’s well within my bandwidth (see: Insurance renewal, tidying up the spare room, booking the car in for a service, weeding the garden etc) low-lying first world problem, being an adult in this culture kind of stuff.  If I didn’t do any of these tasks, my life would be a certain way. I choose (eventually) to do these tasks so my life isn’t that way. But this mode isn’t too concerning.

The second is the one driven by fear, inadequacy, ineptitude – the task is bigger, hairier, more complex/ scary than I understand (see: Non “friendly” conversations, especially with people that matter to me, anything to do with HRMC. etc) I don’t actually know I can do it. I might still know I should, but I can’t find the substance, the resource, to get going. Often, it’s because the outcome will be unpredictable (weeding the garden? I know how that will go. Starting a tricky conversation? Not so much). The risk attached renders me frozen – putting off the thing that needs to be dealt with because… I have no capacity to deal.

From there, I can really beat myself up. Knotted tummy. Narrative about how rubbish I am. Guilt. Fear – the whole lovely gamut.

So my question to myself is sometimes: what’s stopping you from doing this (I’m a coach, right? I’m not going to ask a judgemental “why” question & I do believe in doing unto myself what I inflict on others) and then something akin to “does it matter?”  and see where the answers take me.

I see Procrastination as pretty natural. I think we should give ourselves more credit for when we need to do it (when are you procrastinating your procrastination?  Giggling now) and work with the data when we are truly stopped in our tracks, unable to move.

Being kinder and more self aware, allowing ourselves to be a little lazier, a little less competent, a little less intense, a little more daft, a little more messy.. I think these are probably good things… we shouldn’t put them off.

 

Reflection

Hard to write todays in some ways – because on some level I have been taught that procrastinating is a bad thing and we should have more agency/ be more organised etc… something that I struggle to really get behind.

Yesterday’s blog was much more personal…I suppose I’m partly drawing back from

But once I got started, I kind of warmed to it. Thank you , MiPs X

The Ebb & Flow of Creativity – #21daysof Writing – day 8

This topic comes from Annette Hill, fellow @lndconnect aficionado & Director of Workforce Development at Hospice Care.

“Ebb and Flow are two phases of the tide or any similar movement of water. The Ebb is the outgoing phase, when the tide drains away from the shore; and the flow is the incoming phase when water rises again.” ( Wikipedia)

So.. that sounds about right when I think about my “creativity”

In the ebb –it’s not accessible, it’s fading, draining away. Generally that happens when I’ve not been in touch with it for a while – haven’t written or knitted or drawn out stupid doodly-map things that help me “see” a situation. In the ebb, I feel that loss – a disconnect with something, a bit of joie de vivre fading out. I sometimes try a thing – a blog, a scarf, a project – but I’m sort of unfit & can’t quite do the distance…. In ebb, I’m less free, relaxed, more intense about stupid things. I used to not really notice the ebb- state… basically because I hadn’t fully allowed or enabled the flow.

I would notice the flow of creativity when it arrived. I couldn’t not. It woke me up, some nights. Demanding to be exercised, like a excited puppy. I even blogged at the time about noticing the manic and the mellow.

In full flow it is not to be held in my brain or my body – it needs out. Typed out, written out, sketched out, talked out….whatever. It’s just not to be contained neatly. It wants to spill and boil, grow, spread…My creativity is messy and daft, when I try to be neat and serious. It’s risky and edge-walking, when I want to be safe and secure.

As a result it is a vital part of my wellbeing – my mental health, my emotional health… physically, it lifts me and challenges me, but writing means I have to get up and move too….I’m only just beginning to understand how vital creative outlets are… and how, if we don’t have any at all, things can get bad for us…. when I think about my 20’s and how anxious I was – my focus was on relationships and career and travelling and fighting my body & hair for more perfection ( I gave that battle up. To paraphrase Caitlin Moran, “the thing about fighting yourself is, even when you win, you lose”)  – what I wasn’t doing was writing. I’m very egalitarian in my definition of “creativity” – you can find it in cooking, gardening, dancing, coding, accounting – whatever it is that feeds your soul and gives you some semblance of deep satisfaction… the making of a thing, the creation of something.. we are wired to create… I”m not sure I knew that, when I was younger…

These days, my relationship with my creative muscles is somewhat more equal. Where once it would elbow its way in, demanding space, as some part of my brain worked away on whatever mad scheme or blog or facilitated day design or worry that requires attention… like a hostile takeover…. These days, I’m learning to invite it to arrive too – the deal is I  “show up” at my desk or laptop and it comes along too. That it and I both have work to do.  If I catch the flow, it is undeniable and can feel confounding, big. It’s demanding, and impatient – I am, at times, a secretary on dictation: “catch this, would you?”

See  Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED tallk where she articulates this much more thoroughly

So I’m playing with the notion of encouraging flow & reducing the ebb. I’m not Canute. I’m not going to try to reverse any tides… but as try to write every day for 21  days on whatever may come….I can see that the more I talk to it and access it,  the more it becomes a trusted friend, a confidant, a something beloved and precious.

It’s annoying and inconvenient at times… but beloved.

 

Reflection

I had a lot more to say on this one. I was going to get political – about the lack of resources for art and music – but I don’t know enough about all that and the politics might be a distraction. These 21 days, trying to flex my style – trying to be conscious of tone and topic… it has opened up a different part of my creative process ( if I can be so pompous). The want to show up and be disciplined, to practice and attend fully to the writing, as I said I would, not just dash something off means I have to make time and energy for the writing. And I’m happy to. And it’s been more challenging to do that, at times, than access the words… its an interesting challenge.

Shifting

As she steps from one space into another, I am struck by how beautiful she is.
For a moment, I feel my throat catch and my breath shorten.
She is stepping into her future self.
It’s an oft-used coaching exercise – we hang out with the old, move into the here-and-now, step into the future.
We move physically, as well as mentally, verbally, emotionally.
We take our time.
At the start, she is hesitant – looking to me to reassure – is this right? Permissible? Am I saying the right thing? Thinking the right thing? Good Coachee?
Others react differently. They jump in and complete the task. They are sure. Unthinking. Certain. They tell me decisively How The World Is… Oh. OK then.
She is much more tentative, more hesitant.
We all start from different places, I guess.
But now? She’s up and running.
She is almost talking to herself…
And she moves.
Determinedly. Quietly. Furiously.
It’s a hell of a thing to behold.
She’s not some 6ft supermodel. She’s not high flyer have-it-all go getter. She’s not special. She’s not beautiful. She’s not quite right yet.
(She defines herself as what she is not – and she is sure about what she isn’t.
Very sure. Defendedly, properly, rudely sure.
I’ve been abruptly put in my place a few times for my questions…)
Me? I’m less sure. I’m deeply curious about the story she has set for herself – the excellent, binding narrative. The “I am/ I’m Not” story. It’s been written over years.
Carefully constructed and edited…the one that has brought her here.
Half-formed. Half permitted. Half certain (but very certain of the half)
As I watch her resolve to shift (maybe dissolve?) something, I am moved beyond measure.
Eventually, after a long time of silence, of talking to herself and to the middle-distance, she looks at me.
A little shy, a little embarrassed, a little defensive, perhaps – I’ve seen her unguarded.
I don’t say anything….
Then I realise I’m grinning and I might need to explain myself….
And we begin a different conversation.

Touch

In the moment of the goodbye, she hugs me….not a quick, rapid, throw-arms-round-as-I-buzz-on-to-next-thing hug, but a deeply present, warm I-see-you-we-are-connected-see-you-again hug…heart to heart stuff…. I literally and metaphysically find myself moved. I sink in for a second – yielding and accepting the feel of that message in my body, ready to be received, ready to give back connection, affection, love….there is a brief pause, where we’re just kind of together, and then she disentangles herself and goes… for a moment I am discombobulated, filled with good chemicals …at peace.
Then I sort of exhale and go about my day – a little heightened.
A small moment, a shifting one… how utterly delicious.

Not everyone likes to be touched.
Physically, psychologically, emotionally, sometimes socially, the phenomena of someone reaching us, connecting with us is a profound one.
It’s risky.
It can be thrilling
It can terrify.
Given, got.
Offered, accepted.
Withheld, denied.
It can’t be one-sided.
It’s a relational thing.
This stuff’s loaded.
Touch can be kind, enlivening, empowering.
It can be cruel, belittling, damaging.
It can be intrusive, a violation.
It can be instructive, a revelation.
We have, often for good reason, different boundaries and barriers around connection.
This stuff leaves you vulnerable.
It could do you over.
It could move you into different places and spaces,
It is not to be underestimated.

I’m interested in touch – what am I in-touch with? Out of touch with? What am I connecting to? Disconnect from?
I ask the same of clients… it helps to know this stuff.. or at least get a sense of it…

I have a client who hates to be touched – hugging literally makes them shudder – we’ve talked about it, each fascinated by the other’s ease of preference – I’m physical, a hugger, an arm toucher – the opposite would leave me more disconnect – I don’t understand what that preference must be like.
They spend their life being hugged and touched by folk like me, and it leaves them cold, irritated… compounded by the fact that society seems to value touch and hugs…. their boundaries constantly crossed inadvertently…Why do I need to bloody touch folk? Why can’t you let me be?
These are fair questions.

When I go and see Mum, deeply bitten by dementia, it is, at times, touch that connects us back, words won’t work here…. hands held, eye contact…a hand on a cheek… these are the gestures that garner a response.

In a novel I read recently, Karen Joy Fowler writes: “They are called feelings for a reason. It’s because you feel. Them.” Things touch us, they move us – we feel. Our physical experience of being in the world, so often overlooked, is such a vital part of who we are and how we are with others…how in-touch are we with this?

I’ll make the argument for opening up, taking the risk, being bigger, connecting more, putting yourself out there, being in-touch with yourself and with others… and I am one of the first who longs to lock-down, protect myself, hide away, out-of-reach.
I struggle with big crowds. I get overwhelmed in the Social Media maelstrom at times….lots of people professing connection… sometimes, the warmth I see and experience through virtual, social spaces, truly touches me…sometimes it feels hollow, vacuous….a scant touch, brief and care-less.

Which is why, when someone hugs me with such open heartedness, such generosity and love I’m bowled over for a second…and then I hug back….
Oh yes… this is what it feels like to be connected…. Wow.

Staying Upright

We are facing it again – the illness of a loved one – my family kicked in to an oddly known pattern, following a phonecall… bad news… information…response…. we gather in Scotland. We talk and speculate, we have terrible gallows humour about the grimness of the situation. We crumple. We recover. We hold each other. We separate and stay in touch – messages, phonecalls – we manage the conversations – medical, social, relatives, practical. It runs as it needs to – a strange stream – not a linear pathway – not a torrent of a river, but a small, determined stream, bubbling in a mostly-predictable direction – with sudden bursts of flow and then back to something steady.

I find myself slightly annoyed with the familiarity of it. Having been through something similar with Dad, this feels like de ja vu. The crappiest roller coaster in the park. I hated it first time round. This time it’s no party either, but somehow I have a sense of “ok… this is how this goes…” so somehow even the unpredictable parts are … partially expected. And somehow that saddens me more….That I can feel resigned and stoic. That I’m not raging against the dying of the light in the way I did before.

Emotions are complex beasts.

And in the midst of familiarity, I experience my own change, my own learning, the unfamiliar shifts in my responses. Where once I was laid flat by how I felt– worried and frightened and small and furious – I find I can now stand in the maelstrom a little better. It gets a little wobbly, but I’m definitely more upright…. Where once I ignored that I was completely flattened and attempted to crawl on regardless…I find I can’t do that now… I’m not prepared to do that now…
Whilst I’d still prefer not to be on the floor, I recognise that sometimes sitting there is right. I need to stop. To take stock. To write. To articulate: I feel this. It is this way for me. I’m struggling/ I’m surprisingly ok/ I need X – and then less is pinning me down… and I can stand… and walk outside and breathe.

In all of this, I have a sense of coming face to face with my mortality – turns out I don’t ACTUALLY have super powers. The irony of the upcoming Wonder Woman movie is not lost one me – I’m seeing her everywhere & I so love some of what she represents… and still, I don’t have super powers… This is old news… but it still never ceases to surprise me. My mode of being is one where I can affect change, I can create conversations, take action, have a plan B… in the world I create for myself, I have agency most of the time…
But in a situation where someone you love is dying, you have no agency. You can’t DO a damn thing. Circumstance dictates. Your phone becomes your friend and foe. The ringing brings a second of dread – what news? You are beholden.
These are lessons well learned…and I’m truculently thankful for them.

And in the face of no agency, I still need to feel I can choose. So I choose to continue working, to do good stuff that gives me pleasure and purpose – and to be realistic about what that means. And I choose to go do stuff that feels good – I choose to live, in the face of the alternative choice I think “live” is a good one. I choose to drive 4 hours for a visitation that is rationally pointless, but needed and nurturing. I choose to design team days that enable joy, creativity and thought-provocation and I choose to put stuff around me so I can deliver those well, and still be here and clear – and rest myself a bit after.

I choose who to talk to .. sometimes steering clear of folk who might help…or who might open me up – because I need to be not-open to function for a bit. I choose to lock down a little. I choose easy books and kids movies…I choose not to get political. I choose no sudden moves. I choose to go gently where I can.
You do what you do to get through. To survive and thrive.

I choose these things because I don’t want this to be the only thing. The arresting thing. The defining thing. The sole focus.

It’s the only way I know how to stay more upright.

Picture: Human condition by T Storm Halvorsen

Rest

winter-tree

Rest:
rɛst/ verb
1. cease work or movement in order to relax, sleep, or recover strength.
2. be placed or supported so as to stay in a specified position.
“her elbow was resting on the arm of the sofa”
3. (In Music) an interval of silence of a specified duration.

When do you rest?
How do you rest?
Do you rest?
Ah.

I was saying how much I’m looking forward to the holidays – I’m a lover of this time of year, all things Solstice and the dead dark of the winter – and I began to notice how much I was craving rest. Proper, intentional, rest. 2016, for all it has been scolded for its disruptive, destructive madness, has been a year of more stability for me, personally. A new home. Proper holiday. A sense of family and community. New working partnerships. Interesting new clients and good work with existing ones… and still, I’m OK with it coming to a close.

I’ve had the privilege of working with an eclectic mix of cultures in 2016, from Ballet Companies, to a European Motor Company; from start-up Research outfit to Fire and Financial Services (separate services for the record, just in case that reads badly). I know how I work defies the received wisdom about having a “niche” or a “thing”… which get a little tricky at times as folk try to place me – and the eclectic thing means I cross-pollinate learning solutions and cultural conversations as I go and that means I’m constantly learning…and that means my breadth and depth of subject matter itches are both scratched……..and it means I have to have more conversations about “fit” than I might otherwise need to have if I had a schtick… which is kind of hard work at times… and these are my choices and I like them….

Nevertheless, I’ve been feeling that raggedy end-of-term sense – where the end is close, but there still seems to be a lot of homework and final projects complete – and in my head, I was kind of looking forward to collapsing in front of the telly, bubbles in hand, for some vintage movies and a lot of snoozing… and yet my heart was gently pointing out somehow this wasn’t quite going to cut it, still…

What I’ve realised is, I’m in need of rest. Not oblivion. Not sprawling, vacantly staring, at the TV, flicking endlessly for “Something Good”. Not giving up and lying in a Spa for 2 days, whilst real life patiently waits in the car park to be dealt with… Not locking the doors and switching off the phone, battening down the hatches and running scared from the neighbours.

I need proper rest – nurturing, nourishing, quiet; with a dose of hectic and lifestuff thrown in to add zest and joy. I need time to read a little, cook a lot, exercise a little, walk outdoors a lot, hold my loved ones, reflect on the year a little…

For many of us, the concept of “rest” is an altruistic one, a much-sought holy grail. There is something of the “tomorrow” about it –it will never come.

For me? It needs to be fought for. Rest in the sense I need it doesn’t mean dropping out and ignoring everyone and everything, only to find stuff still looms large later… it means some matters need to be attended to first, in order to carve out the rest space. For me, it means being able to rest within and alongside your life, learning where and how this is possible. It means allowing myself to be looked after (no easy feat for me) and relishing being allow to look after others. It might mean getting up before the rest of the house for a bit for some quiet time… it might mean sleeping in….

So the presents need buying and Christmas lights are up, the kitchen will have “store cupboard” stuff in so we don’t have to run to the supermarket every two minutes. The wine will be stocked. We know roughly who is where on what day… roughly… and space to Be is in there… and we just need to hold it… and that’s sometimes the tricky part.
The house will be cleaned, tidied and cleared, with as little mania as we can muster – clean and tidy enough to be welcoming, not so much that it’s threatening etc. There’s a bad Christmas Playlist forming (including the much beloved 12 Hawaiian Days of Christmas “ Five big fat pigs/four flower leis/ three dried squid/ two coconut & one minor bird in one papaya tree” – I defy you not to giggle) There are loose plans – new Star Wars Movie, a Theatre trip, kids coming and going, walking off the Christmas pudding etc. At points, everyone being together in the same place will feel like a chore, no doubt – and then the trick will be to carve space for everyone to be Elsewhere or Otherwise Occupied for a bit.

And at some point, having spent half an hour reading a book and then stomping up the hill with dog & humans in tow, knowing there is food ready on return and not really minding when we get back, I will feel that slightly melty feeling and know myself to be relaxing.

I think rest these days is hard-fought for. I know it is worth the fight.

To you and yours I wish you all the best for the Season & good rest, when the opportunity comes.