Destination Reality

Woman pulling off smiling mask to reveal angry crying faceThis week two pieces of inspiration have landed in my lap to meet me exactly where I was finding myself and exactly where I’ve increasingly been meeting my clients.

In reality.

Francis Weller’s utterly beautiful article “The Geography of Sorrow” focuses on the essential nature of allowing ourselves grief – whether it be personal, relational, societal, historical or ecological. READ THIS ARTICLE. And don’t expect only food for thought. I was taken deep into myself and my own reservoir of grief just reading this wonderful piece. It was healing in itself.

The second piece is Susan David’s rallying TED Talk cry to develop emotional agility sufficient for meeting life on life’s terms, exactly as it is, and to shake off the “tyranny of positivity” that has turned the best of the positive psychology movement into the worst “form of moral correctness”.

I feel as if I’ve ingested a line from each of these two as paddles for my own personal navigation of my day to day life, and for my professional navigation of the worlds of the individuals I work with;

“Life’s beauty is inseparable from its fragility,”

says Susan David.

 “The work of the mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and to be stretched large by them. How much sorrow can I hold? That’s how much gratitude I can give.”

says Francis Weller

And then, on Friday, a longstanding and dear friend pointed out to me this week that Massive Attack’s “Protection” is 24 years old this year, and I was listening to the title track walking through the City on Friday night, and re-registering the line

“You can’t change the way she feels but you can put your arms around her”.

It’s the same message. Radical acceptance. Not fixing. Not avoiding. Just meeting myself, another, life, exactly as it is, with curiosity, compassion, and courage.

Susan David says

“Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.”

If I want to create something, I have to risk failure and disappointment. If I want to love and be loved, I have to risk heartbreak and loss. If I want to leave this world a better place I have to risk feeling impotent rage at injustice, or a temporally inconvenient surge of protectiveness towards someone in need. If I want to live the most expansive life possible and be all that I can be before I die, I have to learn to contain ambiguity, questions, pain, and uncertainties and allow myself to respond.

All of these reflections have intersected with the questions I’ve been asking myself about faith and the extent to which I believe the things I do because those beliefs buffer me from acute discomfort. Does the act itself of crying out to God protect me from the full extent of my rage or grief by implying that something outside of me will deliver me? Or even just give me strength? Does that increase my resilience or constrict it? I don’t want to step back from my relationship with God to “find out what I’m made of without Her” as some act of spiritual or emotional machismo or anti-dependence/vulnerability. And I don’t want to assuage discomfort that would otherwise mobilise me…

I don’t know.