Cris. Chaos. Urgency. Demands. Anxiety and fear. Social change.
There's been so much, lately... and while I unapologetically let myself wander into flow-zones and creative bliss and write into inspired mindscapes, I work - daily - in public service. My career has been in the study, tending, and serving of humanity since I was young.
And the two greatest gifts that working in service of others can give - are perspective and empathy.
And I love what it does for my writing, I love the deeper dive it gives me, into humanity. I love the widening lens I have on myself, my relationships, my life, as I learn more about human behavior. But I've also become better and more adept at crisis management, in times of trouble - and more precisely, communication during crisis.
Energy can rage high during times of crisis, and we've been hit with crisis after crisis, lately. The fear, pain, grief, and tension all come to a head over wrongdoing, inequality, unfairness, crime, acts of hate, personal loss, environmental devastation, petty disagreements, perceived hurt, lasting uncertainty, you name it.
It's so easy to get swept up in the fear - and it can distort the way that we communicate, even when our intentions are good and just. It's easy to react with anger. It's harder to respond with compassion. It's a practice, and a worthy one. Anyone that works in service - at any level - ought to be practiced in responding with awareness, compassion, and a calm-assertive mindset.
Confronting someone from a place of grounded awareness is often uncomfortable. It's tempting to shout and rage and blame, though it comes with regret and a handful of misjudgments and mistakes and even unintended harm, sometimes.
We've all been there, in our personal and working lives - there comes a time when we all must speak up.
Personal situations put us in the center of confrontation so often in our lives: it comes up when we have to share sad news, like an unexpected health crisis or the loss of a loved one. It comes up when there is a betrayal of confidence, or a wicked misunderstanding. It comes up when we grow and want more for ourselves - and we need to voice it. It comes up when we have to speak out against something immoral that we witness.
As we journey through life, opportunities to practice confrontation pop up constantly. The minor ones come and go, easily:
But it's the big ones that shake us and make us uneasy - it's the ones we don't like to think about. The confrontations that may cause change.
In the workplace, it comes up in the form of professional disagreements. When a supervisor must correct staff, or enforce a rule or regulation. When staff must speak up to a supervisor. When changes sweep through an organization, and staff must be re-educated. These are simple bubbles of change that rise up, anywhere.
And these dynamics occur in all sorts of relationships. In romantic relationships, friendships, work relationships, and larger scale relationships, as well. Government officials and the citizens who elect them. Between country leaders and other country leaders. Race, gender, ideology, religion, anything that denotes a kind of belief about oneself, their community, and the greater world engenders an idea of relationship. We are constantly in relationship - with ourselves and with others. We fight often, within ourselves, until we seek peace and find a resolution, and continue on down our path - and so it is outside of us, as well.
Any conversation that might result in an unpleasant emotional state, for one or both parties, can be unsettling. It's just the way of things and feeling nervous before a confrontation is normal. Not wanting to hurt someone's feelings is a normal, healthy reflex. It doesn't make us weak. But the truth must always come out if we want to ensure healthy relationships, on all levels. We must always say what needs to be said - sincerity is paramount, overall. When we swallow it down and over-accomodate others, we internalize and stifle ourselves, which is never healthy in the long run. And when truth must be spoken, those emotional soft spots should be respected, but not allowed to run the conversation.
"Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind – even if your voice shakes..." Maggie Kuhn
When the moment comes to deliver the news or ask the question or raise the issue, a series of things can happen:
But stay with it. Speak the truth, deliver the goods, even if you tremble or turn red. Your body will have a reaction the first time you do it, as the rush of energy pours out, it won't feel good. You might sweat or cry afterward or feel anger or want to withdraw for a while. Sharing truth is vulnerable. But know that truth - most times - is always better on the outside, and that the waves of emotion that rush in for both parties, should subside quickly. Nerves will settle. The anxious feeling doesn't stay long and the liberation of not holding it in anymore will leave room for something new - for some growth, for some forward momentum, for some new inspiration in the relationship.
6 min read
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." Charles Dickens' opening line in A Tale of Two Cities.
And isn't it just?
When I am able to pull myself away from the onslaught of rhetoric and political opinion and social justice warrioring and media-blitz campaigning.... and immerse into natural spaces and connect more deeply, within... I find my creative center. And it's wonderful and has become essential to my well-being.
But some days it's hard. With the world whirring around us, in such extremes, it can be hard to find a still space in the center to create. But that's exactly where the stillness is... in the eye of this storm.
The Left - while I love the more conscious conversations - is way too far left for my liking, and its statue-toppling and art censoring is starting to stink of Maoist China. :shivers: No thanks.
The Right - while I love our local police, and believe in empowering the individual and I do love tradition and nostalgia - is way too far right, and is starting to feel like a Military State run by an Administration that doesn't care about our well-being or choices, overall. Yes, this is a real virus. Yes, climate crisis is real. Please wear a mask. Please stop destroying natural spaces. And wash your hands.
We seem to be stuck in the middle, running all the way to edge to get information - here - and then having to run all the way back to the opposite edge, to absorb information - there. Constantly running across the proverbial spinning disc, hoping we don't just bottom out and collapse altogether wondering what the hell happened to us.
We seem to be collectively in Joseph Campbell's abyss. The dark tunnel. Awaiting our rise, after the fall. A rebirth, a renaissance, a reimagining into how we'll be here...after all of this.
I remember reading Travels with Charley, by Steinbeck, and noting his discontent with the politics in his day. A nation so fractured and divided... that the tension could be felt in living rooms across the country. Friends clashing, neighbors arguing, dinner table fights, political campaigns getting uglier and uglier. A nation torn apart by polar opposites and extreme ideologies - lacking a healthy and grounded middle.
We try people in the press, rather than in courts, it seems. We're confused about schooling and disease and human rights and social change vs. malicious destruction and distrust in the media, and on and on. Confusion abounds. And it's okay not to know where you stand, from day to day.
I used to proudly call myself a Democrat and now I'm not so sure. There's plenty to disagree with, lately.
I tiptoed into the land of the Conservative for a good few months, seeing the value in tradition and home and empowering individualism and so on. But there's plenty to disagree with, in our current Administration. And I can only breathe - and try to wrangle my thoughts - in the middle.
And I crave true leadership in that place. From that place. Right down the middle, a marriage of both sides. Yes, rebuild our country, our infrastructure hurts, small businesses need help, we need responsible border control but not kids in cages... but also, a woman has a right to choose and environmental protections are essential and intelligent and foreign policy and diplomacy matter. A lot. It's both, and our politicians only pander to one set of extremes, it seems.
Where has the middle gone? The media presents us with two extremes, and neither bring comfort, and so we get frustrated and go back to watching happy clips of cats and puppies kissing babies. We can't figure out how to vote here in the US, many of us, in a world that we can no longer relate to. Baby Boomers don't want change. Gen Z wants to torch the White House. And Gen X, in the middle, well - we're the Reagan-Bush kids. We're a bit precious.
And what do we all do about all of this, really? All at once? It's like someone shook the snow-globe and we're all just showing up, trying to be nice and do the right thing, and have no idea where our country is headed which is disconcerting.
And that sort of tension can paralyze creativity.
But, yet, somewhere, in the middle of the wreckage of human emotion and uprising and frustration and defensiveness and fear and chaos and grief and loss ... is a catalyst. A glowing spark, down at the bottom of this proverbial abyss.
Still shimmering. Waiting. For Next.
It's here...in the deep dark of the unknown, that we can craft anew. Make. Create. Build. From this primordial mess that we find ourselves in. Expression is key, and conversation essential, and there are many things happening:
- in education
- in social justice
- in climate protections
- in wellness spheres
- in mental health
- in technology and engineering
- in business
- in parenting
- in medicine
- in food policy
- in legislation
It's a hot mess. But most messes find a way forward...after the fires settle down. And we seek organization, and some new meaning, from the rubble.
A way forward after our trials - like:
"Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons..." and how she emerged unscathed from the temple fire...
...though she went a bit mad in the end, there, this was still a thrilling scene. And who doesn't want pet dragons to fly them around and do their bidding?
But, moving on - in all relationships, from micro to macro, after voicing and raging, comes a calm conversation and consideration. Reform and renewal. Cooperation and intention. Compromise...
This is what's missing from the conversation. It seems to be either all this way, or all that. A healthy body politic finds a middle, a compromise, a fulfilling of some, but maybe not all. Progress here, but not over there, not yet. A step forward here, but let's keep this in tact. For now. And so on. Anything worthwhile is a slow and steady unfolding. Not an overnight revolution and suppression of culture, even if well-intentioned. Life always seeks truth and homeostasis, it's true.
Balance. Compromise brings balance. A lil Column A, a lil Column B. You're just not going to be eating everything from one column. I'm sorry. You're not getting 14 chicken dishes and you're not getting all egg rolls and rice. Balance it out.
And youthful world-rockers, I get what your classes taught you, and even the books that you may have read that lit a fire within you - in all their glorious ideals and utopias and visions, but in reality, on the ground, there are real people - here - now, with real investments and lives and families and responsibilities. Utopias inspire us and can lead along a path toward a grander vision, but cannot be forced upon a society unready for it (this would defeat the whole point of being a free and inspired people.)
Change doesn't happen overnight. Lasting social change unfolds and evolves, generation by generation, over time. It's important to see how far we've come. And still work toward what we wish to see.
It's both, always.
But flying high above, in blissful quietude, in communion with Nature, in harmony, plunging into silence - there is perspective. Of all of this. And in that perspective, in that wrangling of raw emotion into channels of meaning - comes art. Chaos can be rich and fertile soil for new ideas, stories, inventions, music, healing, and more.
Get your hands in there:
1. Identify the conflict, within.
2. Visualize a solution to the conflict, a resolution.
3. Use the emotions around the conflict, channel them into a vision.
4. Create an idea or story or image of some aspect of that vision.
5. Trust your art to convey its message through this mess.
For more on alchemizing raw emotion and paradox into art, check out:
Memorial Day Paradox: Creativity and the War Machine.