Being a woman of a certain age I have made my share of compromises and observed numerous others doing likewise. I am thinking of this particularly as it relates to relationship. Whether it be in the realm of family, friendship or the relationship of a more intimate and exclusive other, compromise is often involved in its maintenance.
“… a sense of wholeness arrives when we finally locate the beauty in our brokenness, and live in solidarity with it.”
This excerpt comes from a piece I wrote quite a few years ago but stumbled upon recently. A lot has changed in my life since I first wrote this, but what hasn’t changed is the fact that we live in a society that still seems to view emotional/mental well-being as an exercise in hygiene – i.e. an undertaking not too dissimilar from that of washing the dishes. That is, we have been led to believe the issue is one of needing to be cleansed. Whereas I have come to know the matter personally as one arising more from a need for greater depth of understanding, patient self-care, incremental restoration and, eventually, a greater sense of wholeness.
The frustration and outrage many of us are experiencing these days is understandable, but they are not enough. Working successfully with all the negativity and darkness that threaten to overwhelm means understanding in what ways we may have unwittingly been complicit in its emergence. Dark movements don’t happen all by themselves, they have help and it isn’t productive to displace responsibility solely on some conveniently placed evil ‘other/s’.
It’s that time of year again when I begin to feel restless and long for new vistas. Also I’m tired of all the political mayhem south of the border that is currently sucking the joy out of living. Time for replenishment and a re-think.
Re-thinking what? Re-thinking the ways in which I move in the world and how that contributes inevitably to the making and re-shaping of culture. I think it may just be more important than ever to live with a heightened awareness of how the ways in which we do things participates in the culture we produce. Which is to say, if we live in politically uncertain times, if extreme self-absorption and an obsession with celebrity and stardom over every other worthy way of living and being in the world is running rampant, perhaps we’ve all had a hand in making it so. If ‘ordinary’ sounds like a swear word and ‘being nobody going nowhere’ a heretical phrase, then hear this.
We like to think of our lives in the world as an act of continual, reliable progress upward, but one thing this too neat and tidy philosophy neglects to factor in is the inevitable energy of chaos. Life may indeed be one giant act of continual progress, question is progress towards what? WTF are we all working so hard towards?! Where are we going with all this ultimately?
We all know it’s unproductive and mostly pointless, but it remains compelling nevertheless. In my own experience of it I think this is at least in part because it provides me with the illusion that I am doing something when really I’m just spinning my wheels going nowhere. It is, in short, a great way to avoid real responsibility for engaging more constructively with whatever challenges face me.
What not to do? Well, there are plenty of non-constructive ways to deal with the tendency to worry, one of my favourites being to cover it up with a sense of self-righteous indignation and anger. Anger can be an artful dodge though as well. The real usefulness of both worry and anger is in the fact that they can make us aware that something in our life requires our attention and focus. That’s about it.
Donald Trump is President. Fact. Whether or not he turns out to be a completely disastrous one or only a moderately disastrous one remains to be seen. In any event our work remains the same (also a salient fact). Of central importance: being clear with ourselves about what our core values are, understanding more broadly their impact on the greater good of all, and maintaining our integrity with respect to what those values require of us in terms of choosing how we might act in the world in ways which augur well for peace and general well-being.