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.

J’apprends avec mon coeur et ma tête *

file-16-paris peace

*I learn with my heart and my head.

I’m writing this in the days after the Friday 13th Paris attacks.

I’m thinking about learning and the importance of it at every stage in our lives, and at every level in how we organise ourselves, our work and our society.

I’m thinking about starting with personal learning – and how important it is to keep an open mind, even if it is with a defiant heart. How our ability to see the other side to an argument and not become entrenched in our own narrow world-view has never been more important. How we still have much to learn, no matter how sure we feel.

Over the past days I have read narratives in the media, on Twitter and Facebook – some have resolutely advocated compassion, bravery, tolerance and understanding. Others have resolutely advocated vengeance, retaliation, punishment and retribution. At times over the past days I have sympathised with and rejected both sides as “the way forward”.

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Learning Echoes

hula-hoop-rug-3547
What goes around comes around.
I kind of do experience that.
The stuff I don’t deal with well first time returns to me until it is properly sorted – the life equivalent of faulty goods being returned until they are replaced with something fit-for-purpose that will last.
I’ve realised of late it is the same with my learning – something I didn’t understand or grasp first time it was seen, read, heard, experienced somehow pops back into my sightline at a random point and the lightbulb flickers on: “ohhhh… it’s thaaaaat..”   Learning I have run screaming from because “it’s just too hard” is precisely what is required to be successful in an interaction, a decision, an outcome …. Go figure.

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On Visibility

I have an idea. Something I believe in and I want to take out into the world.

In previous blog post Connection, I started to articulate it:

And what I want? What I seek and quest for and hope for? More and better connected conversations in work-spaces. Time to talk. Use of dialogue techniques, coaching conversations, facilitated team discussions, café conversations, action learning opportunities…. All those great things where we invite people to speak up and out – where the invitation is to connect.

So I have this want… and an idea on how to fulfill that… The idea is not original, per-say –grounded in work pioneered by mentor/ friend Amanda Ridings through her Pause for Breath journey….configuring work by Nancy Kline and David Kantor.. it will include Gestalt methodologies, because I think they are useful and accessible. In my head, it’s a beautiful patchwork of models and experimental spaces inbetween for people to play with they way they talk and interact both in and out of work…

And I love this idea…. And I want to bring it into the world…..It’s called Exploring Dialogue – it’s kind of space to explore and experiment with how we interact with each other – slow time to build connections and really understand what happens to us physically, cognitively and emotionally in conversations.

For the past 2 weeks I’ve been mapping this idea. If I’m being honest, it has been languidly mooching around my brain for… I don’t know… months maybe… In my head, it’s been kind of hanging out in silk-pyjamas, eating Turkish delight , looking fabulous but with no real purpose or ambition… beautiful and fantastical.

Now I want it to get dressed, go out and earn it’s place in the world…but an idea can’t speak.. I have to do that for it… and this feels edgy.

Because for me to speak up and out, means visibility. To bring this idea into 3D  world opens the possibility that my beautiful idea is flawed… or perhaps I’m foolish…perhaps this notion is folly… Oh God. What if I’m unintelligible? and Then… what if someone steals my beautiful idea? Or trashes it?  Perhaps I’d be better keeping quiet?

James Ramsay’s recent blog on: Sharing…Have you met my baby? Resonated strongly with the concern about putting your stuff “out there”.

I remember my massive trepidation when I first blogged.. knowing I wanted to write… not knowing how that would be.. trying to control… relinquishing control in the end and just posting something that meant something to me… the terror I felt and the gratefulness to the warm twitter presence of Niall Gavin( @niallgavinuk) for cheering me into the blogosphere.

I’m reading Brene Brown’s new book : Daring Greatly.  This morning I read The start of Chapter 4 and put the book down with a quiet “Yes.”

“..as adults we realize that to live with courage, purpose and connection – to be the person whom we long to be – we must again be vulnerable. We must take off the armour, put down the weapons, show up and let ourselves be seen”

I want to show up and be seen as someone who supports better, more skilled conversations. I want to create a safe –yet-experimental spaces to work in slow time on dialogue and connection. I want fuchsiablue to be associated with something authentic, meaningful, purposeful, useful (no hanging about in pyjamas, looking lovely –we have work to do). I want that and it scares me a lot – to say it and to want it.. because it could go horribly wrong.

In the last 2 weeks I have spoken quietly to a number of people about my idea… showing up slowly.  My infinite thanks to David Goddin (@ChangeContinuum)  for 4 words, posed on 12th September at the end of a tweet : How can I help? In the time & space in-between, he has shown himself to be simply awesome.

So I have this idea…and it feels right to bring it into the world not with vast fanfares and taster sessions advertised on Linkedin… not to mail drop hundreds of people or rely on a pretty flyer where I can’t seem to articulate myself on 1 page. It feels right to show up here, on the blog, where I’ve been working to show up since April.

My aim is to run “something” on 6th December in London for a half day. And “something similar” in Edinburgh on 7th December… It’s fairly formed in my head, but I’m feeling my way into this visible space.

If you’d like to know more about Exploring Dialogue as an idea, please comment here or email me: info@fuchsiablue.com.

ps: My deepest thanks also to Martin Harvey for time, good challenge, encouragement and wisdom.. and all for the price of an Americano… 

Gentle Learning?

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

 A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor. 

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in. 

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~

It’s odd how things circle and loop sometimes.  I was first introduced to this poem two years ago whilst on Pause for Breath (http://www.originate.org.uk/Pause%20for%20Breath.pdf) and I remember hearing it read very beautifully by someone and loving it. At the time, however, I’m not sure I fully “got” it.

In recent weeks I have been exploring the Nature of my Practice for the MSc at Ashridge. The path I’ve taken is to ask peers, colleagues, clients and a few close friends how they experience working with me. The poem was offered to me by a colleague during this period of inquiry – and this time, it landed beautifully and well…. Because MAN I can be tough on myself.

My story of late is I’ve found myself at times in some weird introspective, introverted, critically reflexive bubble. I’m not saying I’ve had a full-on crowd of sorrows violently sweeping my house, but I’ve not been picnicking with Teddy Bears,either. While this is not wholly comfortable or familiar territory, I’m kind of learning that this is my process. I’m action orientated – so in order to truly learn, I need to go out and do stuff; seek widely, absorb loads, go through a period of playing & poking & battering into the information – leading to sense-making (the exhausting part, I’m learning) and ultimately I’ll have some deeply-fought for understanding and take-aways…

..and yes. I get that there is fighty- battle language in the above. If I were coaching me, I’d have a word!

This process is exhausting at times –I could seriously do with a gentler one…. And I’m figuring that in order to create a new, kinder process, it might be useful to understand the battlefield I currently seem to occupy when I’m learning.

So Rumi’s poem reminds me to laugh and smile and be a little wry in the face of HUGE new learning. Watching the inspiring Brené Brown in Her TED talk Listening to Shame: http://youtu.be/psN1DORYYV0 reminds me that my inner critic is louder and harsher than anything offered to me by those who have been generous enough to share their thoughts, time and words to enable my learning. She asks us to “dare greatly” – and to do this with empathy and vulnerability – not to battle ourselves into submission.

So I’m looking to not hang out in the introspective, existential room for the next few weeks. Looking to lighten up and show myself some kindness and empathy – in the hope that looking after myself thus will allow me to look after others better. I’m looking to do this and I will forget at times… and I’ll need to be kind to myself when I forget. Ah well… this being human is a guest house.

I’ll end on my favourite quote from Caitlin Moran in the excellent How to Be A Woman, because I use it often: “But the problem with battling yourself is that even if you win, you lose”

Yup. I concur.