Last night I couldn’t sleep, lay awake for an hour and then woke before dawn still crackling with energy. It’s as though I am carrying the collective healing of a whole group of people and I can barely contain it, barely open my heart to let it in, it is so joyful. Who would have thought such a reaction would come from talking about grief? Continue reading
There is a force that has gripped the planet for hundreds of years. It is the force behind every marching army, every man who raises a hand against his wife, every school yard bully, every iron-fisted leader. It is the force behind slavery, behind colonisation, behind prejudice. Let’s call it… subjugation. Continue reading
In the middle of last year I was going through a creative slump. It was well after Poetrees had launched and toddled along and I was burnt out from the effort of trying to put the work out there and engage people in it. (Turns out that marketing is not my forte.) I was very fortunate to receive an invitation to do a process called ‘Renewal of Creative Path‘ with a friend, Margaret Hogg and a group of women in her community. Continue reading
The other day I got to meet some awesome new people who are living close to the Earth, growing vegies in their backyard and building community. Lots of big ideas were thrown around about worker cooperatives, festivals and financial collapse. It was exciting but, if I’m honest, also a little intimidating. Why is it that instead of being happy about people embracing new ways of living/being I turn it into some kind of judgement on myself?
They had boxes and boxes of zines from Doing it Ourselves and were generously encouraging my friend and I to go through and take what we needed in exchange for a donation. My friend amassed quite a pile but when I looked at it I felt sick. I imagined reading all those ideas and strategies and comparing it to the life that I lead now and finding myself wanting. A pile of what could be a gateway to inspiration and creativity was looking to me like a big pile of shame – some kind of indictment on my way of being in the world.
I work full time in a public health organisation, I get paid to look at the big picture of what’s going on in society and develop strategies that will change the way people think and act so that we all have the opportunity to be healthier and more connected. I work with awesome people who are genuinely passionate about the work that we do and care very deeply about making the world a better place. And yet, yesterday, in a bid to garner the approval of these ‘cool new people’ I found myself dismissing my work and the way I feel about it by calling myself a ‘wage slave.’
I’m not writing this post to get sympathy for myself or to beat myself up, I just think the strength of my reaction is interesting and I’d like to unpack it. At the end of the day I was exhausted and fuzzy headed,upon reflection I wonder if this was the result of ‘performing’ for the ‘cool new people.’ One of the topics that came up in conversation was burn-out. Apparently there are a lot of people around suffering from burn-out and I wonder if there’s a connection. Burn-out is a product of doing too much, of feeling driven to perform, perhaps I’m not the only one who can feel berated by a stack of zines I haven’t even read yet.
Reflecting on the train this morning I wondered what would happen if I ran a workshop that deliberately created that sense of shame. Delivering to people a list of criteria for the ‘perfectly sustainable human’ and then inviting them to reflect on how this list makes them feel. When I think about shame in terms of the impact on our community rather than me personally I can see the insidious ways that shame operates to keep us small. Marketing is all about encouraging a sense of shame of ‘not enoughness’ that we must buy our way out of. When we are measuring ourselves against the standard of ‘perfectly sustainable human’ we are perpetuating a cycle that prevents us from opening up, connecting with others and creating the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.
Activists, radicals and other idealists have the courage to see what is wrong with the world and dare to hope for something better. They carry the shame of humanity on their backs, but if their action is borne of shame it will inevitably lead to burn-out and if they are judging themselves they are bound to judge others and create disconnection along the way. We need to name this shame collectively, to bring light to it, and support each other to operate from a place of love and care. As one of the ‘cool new people’ pointed out to me, in practice our actions may look very similar but when the feeling that drives us is love, our lives can be gentle, peaceful and nurturing as well as revolutionary.
I’ve been on a craft spree over the last month or so. I’ve made a journal, a dress and some wall art. I lost my phone for three days (which was unnerving and liberating) and was inspired to do a bit of crochet on the train. It has made me think about the value of working with my hands.
I once taught someone to crochet and jokingly said “It’s good to have a practical skill come the environmental apocalypse.” Of course I don’t know if that’s where we are headed but it certainly seems like things need to change, (this post articulates it beautifully). One of the things that would have to change is the value of manual labour.
I find it strange sometimes that sitting at a desk pushing paper is valued so much more highly than my ability to create books or clothes. To the point where it’s just not worth trying to sell the fruits of my labour even though I love it. Our economy values the thoughts in my head much more highly than the skills in my hands.
I admit I find the thought of a reevaluation of this hierarchy … delicious. ‘Craft’ is overlayed with political and cultural connotations that become particularly apparent when one considers its distinction from ‘art‘. According to one scholar “what white European men make is dignified by the label “art”, while what everyone else makes counts only as craft.” I hope for a more socially just world as well as an Earth-caring one and this seems to be one of places where those passions combine.
I’ve had so many ideas and thoughts bubbling away lately. I thought perhaps it’s time to air them out. Let this be a space to launch interesting conversations and see what flies.
Next week I’ll be starting the We are wildness 30 day challenge. I thought it might be helpful to have a place to capture my reflections on the experience (and keep me engaged in it).
I will use it to let you know about the ‘Work that reconnects‘ workshops I run based on the work of Joanna Macy.
It’s an opportunity to share my experience of parenting, exploring ways to keep myself and my son connected to nature in the middle of suburbia. I’m about to embark on a new career, hence the bubbling of ideas. I am meeting someone different for lunch every week with a view to sharing ideas and expanding my knowledge of who is interested in the human/nature connection and what the current thinking is.