“There is a sacredness in tears.
They are not the mark of weakness,
but of power.
They speak more eloquently
than ten thousand tongues.
They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition,
and of unspeakable love.”
― Washington Irving
Here we are, at summer’s end, marked by the third summer holiday, Labor Day. (Funny, I feel like I'm in labor again, sending a child off to college is both a death and a birth.) How are you planning to celebrate this Labor Day Weekend - in a BIG way, or a small way?
Marking the end of the College Admissions Chapter, Round 1, I intend to continue my recent practice of slowing down, administering heaps of self care and staying with the small. This 18-month-long journey of searching, visiting, applying, worrying, applying again, shopping, packing, preparing, driving, and moving into college, is now complete. Whew! Returning home from SLU last week, a welcome summer thunderstorm provided me cover to claim raindrops, not tears, were falling down my face. While the storminess continues, I am blessed with a lessening of tears as each day passes.
I returned to leftovers, letters, and the laundry. Relieved from having to make dinner when I didn’t feel like eating, I sorted through the mail, sent my first letter off to Laney, and then tackled the laundry - that ever-present companion which keeps me grounded and from melting into a puddle of sadness.
“Toughest mom-moment yet,” I texted a dear friend checking in on me. Fresh, albeit familiar, tears streamed down my face again.
Letting go and launching Laney feels so BIG that I find only the small, daily chores keep me from losing myself in the vastness of this doorway. Throughout the move, only moving through the details of shopping and packing and unpacking and shopping some more, kept me from spiraling out of the moment or being completely overwhelmed by waves of sadness.
As you well know, I love marinating in BIG ideas and having deep conversations. That was BC: Before College. AD (After Drop-off) I find myself majoring in minutia, savoring scheduling and craving chores. In the face of something enormous, I discover that the tedium of daily life ties me to the here and now.
One of my fellow mothers taking kids to college suggested this leaving/letting go feels like someone ripping a bandage off, way too quickly. Until this wound heals, I am slowing down, staying small, and soothing myself. That’s all I can manage, for now. I admit it’s quite fascinating to observe my mind wondering, worrying and wrestling with all of this, as I avoid the BIG. I smile to think that the tedium of life feels more soothing to my soul. I chuckle when folding clean clothes puts a smile on my face. I laugh at myself as I text a friend instead of phoning her, afraid if I open my mouth to speak my vulnerability, I will be swallowed by waves of sadness.
Back I go to Bed Bath & Beyond, one last time, to return a few things that didn’t fit into the dorm room. Beyond. That’s the new place I am trying to inhabit… once I finish a few more chores. I am living into this new vulnerability - one step, one letter, one basket of laundry at a time. It turns out the best way for me dwell in “Beyond” is by holding onto something I know is true, no matter how small. The ground beneath me has shifted, in a major way. “Nothing will ever be the same again, Mom,” Tommy commented in a matter of fact way after our first family phone call. How true. How true.
And, I trust that I will soon return to the land of Big Questions, just in time for Circles to begin again next week.
“You are the sweetest gift, my little pearl. You are a bright young thing and the whole world is in front of you. Take things as they come and you will weather well. Go everywhere. Be brave and strong and free. Keep your eyes and ears and heart wide open. Look for goodness all around you. And when you feel small in the great big world, be still. Think of your beautiful roots. They are deep and true and will allow you to stretch far. So go into the world and let your little light shine. And always remember you are loved and blessed and the littlest one that ever stole my heart.’ Rebecca Puig
Lately I’ve been feeling like a character in that children’s book, The Borrowers: a small child trying with all my might to turn a page in a great big book, many times larger than I. This year in particular has presented momentous events like 50th birthdays, 50th anniversaries, multiple graduations, and a load of firsts from first boyfriends to first coed sleepover to first day in high school and next week, taking my first child to college. I told you the page was huge!
Turning the page on this chapter of motherhood mandated calling in reinforcements. On Sunday, I invited 10 of the wisest women I know to share what they wish they knew at 17. And they came - “with bells on!”
Experiment! Be prepared for… happiness…hard work…love!
Be your own person! Be kind to yourself!
Smile and shine!
Together we filled a hope chest of wisdom, saving me dozens of lectures that would have gone in one ear and out the other, and instead sunk in deeply for later excavation. My heart overflowed as I listened to reflections and learned new stories, with each loving these women more and more. Two things were clear: this girl is loved, and so am I. That big page is now easier to turn, and also a bit tear-stained.
Once again, I witnessed with awe the blossoming of my seed of an idea - gathering women together - blooming beyond my wildest imaginings. My daughter and I received this outpouring of wisdom from these wild and wonderful women, encouraging and uplifting us all to be bold, brave, play big and take care of ourselves. We were each a gift to each other.
As I drive those 300 miles to St. Louis this week, I take a heart full of grace, knowing somehow that Launching Laney into this great big, crazy world is the very best thing I can do in this moment, and perhaps the hardest. As she spreads her wings, I will continue to water her roots. These phenomenal women have my back. Together we will turn this page. And all will be well.
At the beginning of each new season, I typically create a list of goals, stuff that needs to get done and other stuff I hope will be accomplished. This summer, aware of big shifts afoot, I put a few new items on the list. Things like surprise, socializing and exploring new possibilities, as well as revisiting a few oldies but goodies (blueberry picking and bike rides).
In addition to spending lots of time with my trio of teens, I have taken a break from my “usual” Circle topics and suspects (miss you all!), to be in Circle with teens. And so I have had the privilege to be with young people discovering their voices to write their college essays. Also, I have enjoyed introducing mindfulness practices to dozens of teens. Minding moments and making stories out of mundane moments makes this heart sing! Who would think teens would actually look forward to turning off tech to be in Circle?
I am simply immersed in teen energy this summer and it’s nothing less than SPARKY!
In Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, Dan Siegel proposes that the “ESSENCE” of adolescence (ES: emotional spark, SE: social engagement, N: novelty-seeking and CE: creative exploration) is precisely what we all need to thrive! The insights of the brainstorm during teenage transitioning are fascinating and have completely shifted my approach to, and appreciation of, teens. I am noticing how they live, what matters, how they manage life’s twists and turns. As a result, my lines and rules formerly etched in stone have become more flexible. I am really working hard on judging less and listening more. Often, I do my own thing and give them the space they crave. Healthy doses of friends and fun are simply mandatory.
In the name of having more fun, we completed a tour of musicals, all of which I highly recommend. We’ve been heckled by our very own Freckles the Heckler (Mia in A Good Knight), watched Sting’s Last Ship sail out of Chicago, LOL :) @ The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (again!) and enjoyed a shocker at Avenue Q (who would think porn and purpose could be combined in a muppets musical!?). Great memory-making moments, all. We also escaped to the beach whenever possible, ate a lot of snack suppers, and watched some old favorite TV shows (yes, you read that right). We welcomed new friends and proudly flaunted our fair city. We tried new restaurants, new summer camps and varying sleep schedules. Each week was a completely different experience.
This week, a dozen teens camped out in my back yard. I was nervous, as you might figure. Watching a whole crew of 18 year olds SO enjoy building a fire, prepping tents, grilling many meats, and just being with each other is among my summer highlights. As they prepare to fly the nest, they love making wonderful memories, by just being together. Sure, their college lists are being made and checked off. Mostly, there’s a lot of FUN being had.
Isn’t that what the summer of life is for? Get sparky! Get your fun on! School starts in 15 days. And let me know if you want to borrow a teen to inspire you to try something new!
Fireworks flash, lighting the holiday sky!
I pause, applause, and that moment of Awe
Quickly flashes by…
At the midpoint
This flashpoint reminds me to
Be. Here. Now.
At the midpoint,
I slow, sip and savor
This season that will never be again.
Eyes. Wide. Open.
I see, I blink, another moment comes.
And then another.
I will never be 49 in Chicago on July 4th again. This is clear. Every day of Summer 2014 has been a collection of moments, conversations, with people, on topics that are uniquely unrepeatable. Eyes wide open, I am aware, awake and eager to soak up all that is Summer and this season of my life. Three holidays punctuate this season. This is the second. We still have time to savor, sip and slow to the speed of this season. Life is pretty awesome, isn’t it?!
Have you ever had an experience where your expectation of something (or someone) completely transformed before your very eyes?
This week I received a FB message: “Sue, your broccoli is ripe!” (Yes, every once in awhile your FB friends roam over your FB wall and into your front yard. I love when that happens.) To which I replied, “Help yourself!” She did not and I did not, and so, guess what happened!? Those two heads of broccoli became….POOF! broccoli afros. (Not my word, look it up: http://www.nwedible.com/2012/09/harvest-broccoli-cauliflower.html) From veggie to flower…overnight! Tonight, instead of gracing the center of my plate, the ‘fros will be decorating the center of my table, like sunshine bursting forth in a spray of lovely yellow flowers. As a broccoli-harvesting-virgin, I didn’t realize there was life after the head. I always thought that the green head of broccoli was the end of the line. This week, however, my image of broccoli has been changed forever - completely transformed. And I couldn’t be happier (albeit, a tad hungrier)!
It’s wild when you think about how much our brains love to stay stuck on the familiar - the known, what we think to be true. We much prefer knowing over not knowing, craving a state of constant certainty. How complacent we become with what is, or rather, what we think “is.”
How often do we look at the world around us and see the same old, same old? It makes me wonder how many “broccoli afros” I’ve been walking by, seeing only broccoli heads. How many broccoli plants have I harvested too soon, stopping at only floret, limiting their fullest flowering ‘fro? Even knowing this, you can guess that I will still most likely harvest the next head of broccoli that blooms in my garden. And I will do so with the new realization that by harvesting only what I see, I am limiting the blossoming of fullest potentiality.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending an Art of Hosting workshop in Grayslake, a former farm town, now known as a vacationers’ dreamy lake town. [The Art of Hosting (AoH) Conversations that Matter is an international movement to use powerful conversation processes to respond to challenges and change.] Fellow Circle Tenders came together from all over the Chicagoland area to share stories, stir things up, and harvest the fruits of our day. If you’ve never been to an AoH event, it’s a wonderful experience of engaging in real dialogue about really big questions with real people committed to making an impact in the real world.
One of the AoH processes not typically part of our daily conversation is “harvesting.” Here’s how they describe The Art of Harvesting conversations that matter:
“Anyone who plants a garden is planning for results. Whether the result is a fruit or a flower, a gardener is planning for a harvest. In the same way, anyone who plans to host a meeting also wants to get a good result from their efforts. In the Art of Hosting community, we plan our conversation design around the harvest we want to produce. We think good harvesting is one of the most potent ways to assure that the agreements and decisions arising out of conversations that matter lead to action.”
In my limited experience, AoH harvesting - aka collecting conversation outcomes - is usually coordinated by one person writing short phrases shared by small group leaders on flip charts: synthesizing great big ideas flowing from hours of dialogue into short sound bytes. Yesterday, the harvest felt to me limiting, two-dimensional; it wasn’t coming close to capturing the felt sense, the essence of our shared experiences. It was like taking a snapshot of the broccoli head, before it began to blossom. Much of what we are doing at this moment in time, is creating the new way of being, the new community. When we come up against our edges of growth or belief, we name it and move on. I spoke my truth and we all agreed that we need more creative methods of harvesting the richness of our feast. And we also agreed that we would carry the resonance of the relationships with us, despite whatever was condensed on the flip charts. At the same time, I noticed that my expectation of the people I had met just that the morning began to transform and blossom after I heard their stories, after I saw them in action, after I connected with them.
Kristy, the convener of this calling team, had acted on her impulse at the spring meeting to call us together again before the next annual meeting. She and the team had clearly been planning for this day for weeks. Not deterred by the sudden thunderstorm, she marched us from her lakeside home to a neighboring church. Plan B, no problem. I was struck by the generous hospitality of not only Kristy, but also her community, allowing strangers to use their space so willingly. She introduced us to a new checkin technique and we quickly entered the safe space of deep dialogue.
Kristy really blossomed at the lunch break when a harried woman intruded, clearly in need of help. Not knowing the area or where to direct her for support, I called Kristy over to assist. Even though she had clearly spent months planning this day, taking action on her desire for community, she disappeared for nearly an hour, leaving us in the capable hands of the rest of the calling team.
Towards the end of the day, I noticed that Kristy had returned, completely nonplussed. She had spent that time, it turns out, taking care of a neighbor in need. It really was that kind of community. I filled her in on what she had missed, including our group’s raving compliments to her for the day. Lucky me, I got to see Kristy in a new light, more of her potential revealed. Despite the gray day in Grayslake, she shined. And I harvested hope about humans being in community, truly connecting, really listening and even when it wasn’t convenient, helping each other out.
We plant seeds and expect the picture on the front of the seed packet to result. Occasionally, we receive surprising results. Something we’ve never seen before blossoms before our very eyes, if we are noticing. Blinking with disbelief and opening to learning something new we can reap unexpected harvests… and change our communities for the better.
Waking up from a too-long winter, spring bursts forth in all its glory, and now we are into full summer - having moved from a polar vortex into a pollen vortex. Some days it feels like I must dress for three different seasons. The weather outside my door mirrors nearly exactly the internal stormy shifts I experience as my parents age, my hair grays, and my teens flap their wings. My life feels so full I could burst - just like the pollen-producers beautifully erupting on to the scene. Life is intense and then some. How do you spell C-H-A-N-G-E?
Since April 1, my life has moved at hyper warp speed. I feel like a surfer riding, crashing, pausing for the next wave. But, like the Midwestern gal I am - who’s never seen much less surfed such massive waves - I have no wet suit or instructor and can’t see the shore, but I sure do love the splash of the hi’s and lo’s! Every day presents a new version of this: make special meals, send congratulatory cards/flowers/gift, shower twice to dress up (and make sure every other Lucci has the appropriate attire and attitude), snap hundreds of photos and upload them on social media by midnight. Who has time to do the laundry in the season of change?
I do. Actually, lately I find myself eagerly racing down the basement steps to switch another load. Somehow, I find those moments grounding, stabilizing, as I am reminded that this time shall pass and I should mind these rather momentous moments… even though the hours can feel like crashing waves in the midst of celebrations. Scientists now realize the both/and: particles and waves. Moments and celebrations.
A dozen daring dolls joined me this week as we paused our “to do’s” to BE - to scavenge for FUN on a pluperfect summer night. We had no time for mosquitos or stop lights. No matter the request, we sang in the streets, snapped photos, swiveled our hips, shook hands of police officers, and then sewed and slurped, intent on being chosen THE team that had the most fun! When the clock struck midnight, we were all winners.
How lucky am I? Here, at the midpoint of my life - to be midwifing the new way of being in community with such creative, committed, “throw caution to the wind” kind of spontaneous creators who love surprises and cope with Life’s big waves with uproarious laughter and deep conversation. Life is good, beyond good actually. Deep breath. Here comes the next wave!
When I was a little girl growing up in Cincinnati, as the oldest of four, I was frequently encouraged, cajoled and told to take action because “You are a leader! That’s what a leader would do.” Thinking nothing of it - and assuming everyone else was being told the same thing - I spoke up, stood up and led. (I also did a heck of a lot of chores - leaders get stuff done.) I ran for student council, stood toe to toe with playground bullies and planned parties. Sure, there was a price to pay. I was often called “bossy” and took the heat when things didn’t go well. As an adult, I led service projects, block parties and even a mini revolt or two….
Recently, I’m waking up to realize that this (“be a leader”) is not a common child-rearing mantra. Most parents just don’t talk to their children this way, or so my friends and girls in Circle report. I am learning that most of my peers do not see themselves as leaders. There are many ways to lead and I’m using leadership far beyond political roles, but I am surprised that many of our local elections go unchallenged. I wonder whether we fail to see ourselves as leaders or don’t know how to be a leader. If you think about, many problems in the world today are the result of a void of leadership, if not poor leadership. Look around and you will likely read about or witness a leadership vacuum or abuse of leadership in your church, community or school. Very few of us are willing to rock the boat, float a new idea, or risk standing up and saying something different. It can be social suicide to rise up above the minutia of personal conflicts to envision a greater possibility. And this isn’t a personal attack. It’s really hard work, being a leader, and it takes tremendous courage. Living in these times, we desperately need more of us to consider the perspective of “we” above the smaller vista of “me.”
I wonder: How do we choose our leaders? Are leaders born or bred? Is leadership something we as a culture value? If so, when and how do we teach leadership skills? Who among us see it as their responsibility or right to lead? Is there a leadership void? Or, are we in the midst of a change state redefining leadership? A very different kind of leadership seems to be required for the crises we face and frankly, I don’t see it being instilled in the next generation.
Yesterday, I happened upon this terrific talk by Dave Logan: http://www.mindvalleyinsights.com/the-dark-side-of-leadership/. I highly recommend his three-step process for sparking leadership. He begins with an exercise to discover your “core, core values.” Sound familiar? Nearly all of my Circles this session stirred around core values. I like his spin on it, try it out. The next step is discerning what violates your values: revealed in what outrages you so much that you say, “This has to stop right now!”? Dave proposes that all great leaders are irate at violations of their core values; their resulting action demonstrates their leadership. See: Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Dr. King. The third step is discovering your “great, great gift” - that thing about you that has no “off” switch. In Circle, we call it “you being you.”
As you may have guessed, this process involves a dip, if not a dive, into your dark side. This is not surprising: when outrage spins out of control, it’s often not pretty to behold. Therefore, we avoid it at all costs, and instead wear the pretty masks of our good girl self.
I won’t ever forget the day one of my Circle groups walked in to the song “Step into the Bad Side” (from Dreamgirls), a portent of the shadow work to come. We all took a deep breath before taking a deep dive into the dark side of ourselves in an afford to attain authenticity. None of us keep photo albums of our dark side. None of us were eager to shine the light on our darkness. To make it more visible, I asked each woman to bring a physical representation of her shadow. I brought a huge heavy rock into Circle, representing my Sisyphus complex: “I have to do it all, alone.” They smiled, and loved me just the same. Those were challenging Circles, to be sure, as we each bravely exposed a side of ourselves usually kept hidden under lock and key. Embracing with loving acceptance each others’ shadows made it well worth the effort. There is nothing quite like being seen in such a vulnerable way, and still loved. By reflecting not only our light but also our darkness to each other, we were able to see the whole person, and she is beautiful!
Did you know that the dark side of the moon wasn’t photographed until 1959? Imagine that: we only see the light side of the moon, as it does not revolve. The moon is often used as a symbol of leadership; and we only see its light side? Isn’t there something suspicious about that? Think about how our culture reacts when the media shines the light on the dark side of politicians. Consider Bill Clinton, Chris Christie, Rod. “No!” we scream, “Show us only the light!”
How often is your dark side deliberately on display? Likely only your closest friends and family have ever gotten a glimpse.
It’s not all bad, I recently learned, having your dark side reflected back to you. In fact, it can be rather illuminating. On Mothers’ Day, my family decided to share favorite “Mom moments,” a birthday tradition of ours where we regale each other with favorite stories about the birthday celebrity. I took a deep breath. They were about to share stories about “me being me.” (Recall, last month was not the best month of my life.) Well, out flowed “Mama Bear” stories, as Jim fondly calls them. Stories about me speaking up (sometimes ‘emailing up’), standing up, showing up in full outrage: encouraging teachers to be more respectful, asking principals to be more creative, and reminding boards of their missions. I smiled. What a gift my family gave by choosing to illuminate my dark side - with humor, pride and gratitude.
Dave says leaders must always hold the dynamic tension of values and outrages: without compromise, balancing the light with the dark. Otherwise, we forget who we are and what’s more, fail to exercise our super-heroine powers! The two cannot be integrated, you can’t put one down while the other is exercised. In other words, the only way to build leadership muscle is to not only shine your light but also to weave it with your dark side. Fortunately, we can rely on the power of our great, great gift to assist us. Consider Batman. With a core, core value of justice, he’s outraged at corruption, and cannot help but give his gift of courage caring for the helpless. He moves toward his fear and saves the good buys from the bad guys. So, what we need is training in being a superhero and to discover our great, great gift! What does “you being you” feel like, look like, sound like?
How great would it be if our educational systems incorporated leadership training? How wonderful if our mindset was to help each other discover gifts, discern values, support outrages, and develop capacities to lead. In the meantime, Dave Logan’s corollary to Margaret Mead’s famous quote is a great place to begin:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtless, uncommitted people
can prevent the world from changing.
Indeed, they do so every day.
Find out why you're here. Get mad.
Bring in the power of your great, great gift.
Maintain a slow burn of outrage. Change the world!"
Why are you here? What is your great gift? When are you just being you? Look for opportunities to tell others, “Your great gift is.…” What are you ready to stand up and yell “Enough!” about? Scout out people who share not only your core values but also are outraged by violations of those values. Let’s join core values and outrages, illuminate each others’ gifts, and start leading the revolutionary/evolutionary change our world needs! Who’s with me?
Fear not, my friends, I have not been completely derailed, but I will say that Life certainly has knocked me off track a bit this past month. For those of you who have missed my “Spark,” thanks for noticing. I vow now to begin again.
Have you ever started something brand new and been supported by beginner’s luck, enjoyed the creating, feeling in the flow, living in the moment? That’s how the first few months of writing my blog felt. I loved it! You responded graciously. Topics came, words flowed. All was well. And then... the college decisions (or rather, non-decisions) came and all three of my teenagers decided to become well, needy, testy, challenging teenagers. Whack! Bam! Boom! I felt a lot like this picture above, like someone switched the track on me and I was “off.” I alternated between feeling like a spark on fire! and wondering “Where the heck did my spark go?”
What to do when disappointment reigns? “Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?”
I refer frequently to that line “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” and have used (if not, overused) it to lure/coax/force myself and others out of tricky situations. To me the lesson is, in the face of challenge, don’t just sit there, make/do something! The juice is in the creation, especially in the face of destruction. Courage is not about being fearless, it’s about facing your fears and… doing something anyway.
Last Saturday, I attended Sonia Choquette’s “Creating Your Heart’s Desire” workshop. From the first moment, she invited me way out on the edge of my comfort zone. One of the first exercises was one I’m familiar with and actually have used in Circle. She put us in dyads to discern our heart’s desire with this lead-in: “If I wasn’t afraid, I would…” No problem. Except that the foreign face of fear reared its ugly head the moment I opened my mouth to speak my desires. Yikes! A huge lump appeared in my throat and tears flowed from my eyes. Much to my partner’s (and my) surprise, I couldn’t speak a word. Really? Really! Ugh! Looking into the beautiful blue eyes of my 19-year-old partner, I faced fear. She was sweet, and didn't know what to do but listen. She took her turn. I listened. Luckily, the next session was lunch. I raced outside to tangle with this foreigner. I wrote, railed, cried, and tried to discover what this block was. I came to this weekend to discover desire, not face fright. Whoa! I started writing fast and furious everything I was suddenly afraid of…being alone, being invisible, not succeeding, not mattering… It was only when I read the list over out loud, that I found myself balancing the list by adding…not being alone, being really seen, succeeding wildly, mattering more than I ever thought possible....and a huge smile erupted on my face. :) “Oh, that’s it,” I thought, “I’m afraid of EVERYTHING!!!!” And somehow, that made it all easier to understand and to hold. Being afraid of everything felt a lot like being afraid of no thing at all. And so I decided to step into all of it, even the crazy dancing Sonia was mandating back inside at the workshop. My path to desire was through the juiciness of facing fear.
The weekend opened up for me (or rather, I opened up to the weekend) and I began to dance with these strange new friends of mine. Sonia’s invitation to dance on over to a new edge for this edge walker was exactly the edginess I needed to get back on my track. The very worst thing to do when derailed is nothing. There is nothing worse than being mired in your own muck, stuck in neutral, wallowing in woo woo at your own pity party. “I think I can, I think I can, I know I can, now I am!” is my new refrain, little red engine that I am.
The juice started flowing for me again once I stepped back into that conference room, freed to face my fears and discover my heart’s desire. I revived my spark and... you won’t be surprised to know what my present desire is: “calling, convening and creating Circle.”
The wonderful women who really really really showed up in Circle this past month - ready, willing and able to transform and be transformed - gifted and shifted me forward. My heart overflows with gratitude for you. Thanks for listening, for speaking your truth, for coming to Circle, because without you - I can’t give my gift. You are the sweetness I can add to Life's lemons to make lemonade. Yum! Yay! Yes!
And now, it’s May, my favorite month of the year! Here we go, spark renewed, ready to shine again! How do you deal with Life's lemons. Let me know... is fearless dancing required, I wonder?
In 44 BC, the “Ides of March” became a turning point in Roman history, marking the transition from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. Something happened when Caesar was assassinated. “Et tu, Brute?” Something is happening 2058 years later to us, too, my friends.
Did you ever have the feeling that you are in the middle of a turning tide, on the crest of a rising wave or standing in a changing wind? I have.
Everyday for a week now, I have found myself sitting in a circle of change. You know I love calling circle, but I did not call these. Last weekend, the One Earth Film Fest shifted the minds and hearts of 2300 Chicagoans. Together, we fell in love with our one earth, were inspired by stories of our fellow earthlings and dreamed of doing a better job of inhabiting this precious place we call home. On Monday night, I circled with souls actively hoping and planning a great turning. (Read Joanna Macy’s Active Hope and you’ll be ‘in the know.’ Great book!)
On Tuesday, I was part of a circle envisioning a more inclusive culture for River Forest. In and with the school administration. (This was a ‘pipe dream’ for me just a few years ago. Change. It comes.) On Wednesday, I was in circle with trained peacemakers sharing ideas for bringing restorative justice circles into our schools, part of a growing nationwide movement to create peaceful places for teens to share, shape and heal. Thursday, I paused to play mom and community citizen, relating one to one, determined to change the conversation to shift a stalemate that’s gone on far too long in my little town. I proposed a circle in the political arena. It was not rejected.
If I can sit in circle nearly everywhere I show up these days, I know for sure that “something is happening.” Connections are made. Necessary conversations had. Truths spoken, safely, sanely, in supportive circles. Hearts are softening. Talk is turning to dreams, away from despair and destruction. Minds and actions will follow suit. Something is happening.
On Friday afternoon, as they have for four years now, a circleful of teenagers sat at my table brainstorming ways to deal with pet peeves, hurt feelings, relationship issues. An ordinary day in the life of a teen? Perhaps. Or maybe their developing skills of listening for higher wisdom from an intentional group is part of the sea change coming. You won’t want to miss out. Catch a wave, sit in circle. All you need is time and space to slow down with some open-hearted folks to share a vision of being better, together. If we can dream it, we can do it. And maybe we can melt this mini Ice Age of the status quo and get onto the business of creating the new norm, peacefully.
Chicago entertainment genius Harold Allen Ramis died this week. Don’t recognize the name? He’s best-known for creating the so-called “smart-dumb comedy,” the best of which is Groundhog Day. He also directed, wrote or acted in other greats like Ghostbusters, Stripes, Caddyshack, National Lampoon's Vacation, and Analyze This. Ramis was at Second City with comedic greats like Belushi, Murray, Aykroyd and Radner. Imagine how much fun those days were!
I’ve been feeling like Phil in Groundhog Day - the weatherman who finds himself living the same day over and over again: “I'll give you a winter prediction: It's gonna be cold, it's gonna be grey, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life. There is no way that this winter is ever going to end.”
In my town, it sure doesn’t look like there is an end in site. Christmas decorations are up despite the calendar saying March 1st! If the weathermen are correct, another 6 inches of snow are on their way. How will we ever break this cycle: extreme cold, excessive snow and grey skies? Surviving the third worst Chicago winter is no piece of cake, even for the sunniest among us.
I wonder if this winter feels even longer to us in the Lucci household because we are also waiting for college letters. For the first time ever, my daughter does not see her next step on the horizon and she cycles among feeling afraid, anxious, angry, and annoyed as she waits for an answer to where she will spend the next four years of her life. We do not hold liminal space well in our fast-food culture, do we? The word “waiting” implies impatience as we remain ready for some purpose. The word’s origin “to observe, to be watchful” reminds me of our Circle practice of mindfulness. How do we stay present and patient until our purpose appears?
Last night, I decided to create my own weather and invited the sunshine in. My fabulous, fun friends came out of hibernation to “wine about winter,” which involved far more wine than whining. My personal chef, Angie, made delicious delicacies. We had so much fun. (My trio of teens even dropped their tech to see the source of so much ruckus!) And now I see green in the forecast. Here comes Fat Tuesday, followed by St. Patty’s Day and then Spring Break. Before you know it, I’ll be planting tomatoes. In the meantime, I’ll practice mindfully waiting, grateful for the transformative power of play.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” C. Wyatt Runyon