I’m gonna rock my rhythms into 2017

I am about to rock my way into 2017, re-membering and re-calibrating to my own rhythms.

As the year turns, I will be blessed once again to visit Assateague Island, wonder at the shaggy wild ponies as they wander roadside fields, see what changes the weather has brought this year.

Assateague is a barrier island, 37 miles long, stretching offshore of Maryland and Virginia. At no point is the island more than a mile wide. Overwash continues to move the island landward: winter storms move sand from ocean-side beach and dunes and deposit it along the landward side, sometimes opening new inlets or closing old ones. Depending on the severity of the storms and the extent of the changes, recovery may or may not take place over the gentler summer months.

I will take some time to sit in one of these generous wooden rockers on the deck at the Visitor’s Center and consider how the year has re-shaped me.

A year a go I found myself aware not only of possibilities but also of hesitancies, uncertainties, limitations: irresolution. I passed up goal-setting in favor of some open questions – and now I have a few answers.

How am I being drawn forward in my life as well as shaped or impelled by my past?

I have been drawn forward into teaching and group facilitations by hearts, minds, and hands extended toward me in partnership and collaboration. And impelled forward by consuming interests  from my past (I mean past, as in 20 years!) that have reappeared, seeking re-integration: social activism, Jewish renewal, the texts of Kashmir Shivaism.

It has, in fact, been a little spooky how people from that earlier era have made a series of reappearances into my life, and we have picked up conversations as if we had left off just yesterday.

Clearly there is some Very Large Rhythm at play here.

What is the thread I have followed, sometimes consciously, sometimes not?

When I posed this question a year ago, I had in mind some theme, a result perhaps, like, oh, becoming more myself. But I think the thread I have followed has been a process thread: listening and choosing. Listening to what Life is saying, what Life is offering, what Life is denying. And then choosing. And then making myself responsible for my choices.

What do I know that I have not allowed myself to know that I know?

That the Universe has my back. And not just sometimes. All the time. I’ll admit I have come to this from a place of doubt, even skepticism. I came to it through outcomes much grander than my partners and I could have created out of our own volition and skill. And through losses that did not fell me.

That with the Universe at my back, I need no longer sit when I should stand, stand when I should walk, walk when I should dance.

Which is a very good thing, because, my friends, 2017 is calling us loud and clear to stand together, walk together, dance together. 

There are some very Large Rhythms at play, and some very Large Dissonances at play, and the Universe has our back.

May you delight in the blessings of Winter

May you delight in the blessings of Winter

a season for restoring body and spirit,

and for savoring

friendship,

long quiet nights,

warm, nourishing soups and stews,

herbal teas that soothe, warm, and cheer,

candle and firelight,

the sheer beauty of nature’s forms stripped of all finery,

the still small voice within.

However you observe the season, may you find yourself in good company and in good cheer.

At an intersection: But what do you love to do?

“But what do you love to do?”

JC has stopped me in my tracks with his question. We have been sharing our respective histories and current engagements with activism and social justice, and I am suddenly and unaccountably inarticulate.

Here I am a couple of hours later trying to understand why.

I met JC Faulk as a facilitator of conversation circle events several times over the summer months, and we had spoken before. Long enough to discover our shared admiration and debt to Edie and Charlie Seashore, who had trained both of us in group skills and diversity work, albeit a half generation apart from one another. An unexpected intersection, rich with a shared understanding of group process.

Red Emma’s, where we met over breakfast, sits at its own notable intersection. Charles Street runs north-south. It is typically described as “Baltimore’s Main Street,” “a historic cultural corridor,” ripe for development and redevelopment, and “a place where people want to live.” North Avenue, which crosses Charles Street just outside the door, runs east-west. It is “targeted for revitalization, improved safety, economic opportunity and access for residents.” This corridor gained notoriety for the Uprising that took place about two miles west of here in April 2015. These corridors can easily stand in for the city’s racial and economic fault lines. Red Emma’s sits at this intersection, drawing a mix of customers from both corridors, a stew rich with possibilities. A rarity in Baltimore.

I have just written myself to a new understanding. Now I see that I am pinned by his question at my own intersection:

Who I am and who I wish I was. Who I am and how I’d like to see myself: more skilled, more willing, more courageous, tougher and more empathic, grittier and more loving, ready to put not just my voice but my body on the line. The for-real Sara and the idealized Sara. The Sara who wants to make a difference in the world, be a difference in the world and thinks she has to be some other person to do this. The Sara who has just effectively devalued her life’s work.

And oh, my. The fact that I have crossed and recrossed this bridge with pretty much every single client I have worked with over the years does not save me from the same dilemma.

Now that I have named this problematic intersection, here’s my answer, JC:

I love to write. It helps me to see myself more clearly, to see myself whole. When I share my writing and hear back that it has helped some readers see themselves whole, I am nourished even more.

I love to explore life’s challenges with another person, to see the light come on in someone’s eyes. See a face soften, a body relax or straighten up as it needs to.  A flash of understanding. The “oh,” or the silence that says: I really get that, I get that in a way that restores me to something essential in myself, I get that in a way that I can make a different choice, I get that in a way that I see you in a fresh way. I love to travel with someone as she takes root in herself, breaks through hard soil, and unfolds towards the sky.

I love to play a role in a community that shares a clear focus and intention for a common good. Every such group is an intersection of differences rich with possibilities.

I love to work with people who are ready to talk, and want practice. Help design welcoming and safe but not bland or superficial group meeting spaces. Where strangers can build lasting and resilient relationships over time, become allies and friends. Where we human beings can show up with our strengths and limitations. Grant one another dignity. Listen to and tell stories. Learn and teach. Be together in “we don’t know.” Shed tears and shake with laughter. Drop through anger and fear and open to heartbreak. Stand together. Grow, grow up, grow in self-responsibility. Build the generosity, willingness, fortitude, trust to have one another’s backs.

And by nourishing connection in these ways, draw down grace. Because when we humans come into relationship, especially when that relationship is big enough to hold our differences, the world does respond and signal.

I love to work with practice groups, where we can practice being imperfect, genuine human beings together, and carry that out into our lives.

Thanks for asking, JC.

Now, friends – read more about JC’s work here.


 How about you? What do you love to do?

Make yourself useful

It is my mother’s pen knife (pictured above) that I hold most dear among the items I selected when my family members and I were disposing of her belongings. Because she used it every day: to open mail and adult-proof bottles, to cut out a coupon from the paper, to move a reluctant button through its hole. Her hands touched it. This pen knife made her life manageable in the small ways that nourished and her independence. It lived on her kitchen counter, within easy reach – perhaps dating to her eighties or her nineties, when her twisted, arthritic fingers were not up to the job. I found it where she left it when she for the hospital with a broken ankle.

Mom raised me to make myself useful, although my ideas about that, and my actions have changed over the years: change the diaper, change the oil, change my viewpoint, change my pig-headed idea. Change how I look. Change how things look. Change how things are. Change the world in small and large ways.

These days, here’s how I make myself useful:  I choose my words, my tone, my intention deliberately. Sharpened to the needs of the moment. To open a heart, soothe a vulnerability, set a boundary, fix responsibility, validate a feeling, challenge a lie.  To seal a bond or break a connection.

God spoke the universes into existence. I choose my words to keep them spinning for the common good.

How do you make yourself useful for the common good?