Reflecting on Power

Back in the time before time (the late 1990s) which my cheeky children oft refer to as “the olden days” I was an enthusiastic undergrad comms student.  Study was a mixed bag for a neurologically diverse freakish and awkward geek such as I was and still am.  It seems lifetimes ago as I have changed career trajectory several times and have recently relinquished my position of referent power at the right hand of the maker, my inventive and entrepreneurial ex-husband Steve West.  

Thinking back on how much has happened in the past couple of decades, and how priorities, people, and power dynamics have changed has had me feeling reflective about a first-year comms paper that introduced me to the fascinating concept of power types.

Early articles by French and Raven (1959) proposed that there were five bases of power:

  1. Legitimate – Hierarchical organisations that allocate and communicate/amplify positions and pecking orders create the foundation for this type of power. If you “report” to someone because they are your “boss” then that dynamic/base is allowed to exist. This only works if both and/or most parties agree that one person is legitimately and recognisably in a position of power over their subordinates. So. Yeah. Not my favourite. And generally I don’t know if I like the word legitimate for this base as there are good bosses and mediocre bosses and quite frankly there are terrible and reprehensible people in these positions of power across the globe.
  2. Coercive – Gossips. This is the power that is harnessed by your office gossip. Again, not my fave. Coercive power is wielded by those who prefer the stick to the carrot and create a sense of being able to punish others in some way. This could include blackmail, bullying, taking away social or professional rewards including a sense of inclusion or any other variation of remuneration or reward.
  3. Referent – I hate this one less than the first two bases. This is a somewhat fickle form of power as it hinges on the goodwill that exists in others accounts of you. This is the power that comes from “personal brand” strength and consistency. It is a lovely, warm, socially fortifying power base. However (isn’t there always a however) you can be front page hero one day and cringey has-been the next, so this power is fleeting for many or most.
  4. Charisma – Simply is what it says it is. If you are the kinda human that makes other people feel better in your presence, or can own a stage or work a room, then the chances are you have power that comes from charisma. Politicians tend to flex this one. This is the power of likeability and we all have days where we are bursting with charisma and days when are insufferable grumps, so don’t put all your eggs into this one basket, as mastering a few of the other bases through trial, error and authenticity might indeed be a much better strategy.
  5. Expert – This one I actually quite like. One of my favourite eccentrics and thought leaders the amateur mycologist rockstar Paul Stamets totally embodies this. Paul is a GOAT in Mycology and naturalism, despite not having the ivy league education of two of his brothers and having a severe stutter for most of his life. That guy adores his work, worships and respects old growth forest and lives his truth and his passion through his work and his epic story telling. There are experts all around us, learn from them. Respect them. And the coolest among them are generally pretty keen to keep learning and share what they know.

And then some years later they added a sixth:

6. Information – This is the classic “I know something you don’t know” dynamic. This power comes from knowing something, or arguably someone that gives an advantage. The thing with this power base is, as soon as the information becomes common knowledge or is shared and grasped it means the person originally holding the information has lost this advantage. HOWEVER (there I go!) sharing and exchanging knowledge can also increase informational power, particularly for “big picture” or “strategy” minded or incredibly detailed people as well. This power base belongs to people who hold the key to helping other people achieve. Keeping that to yourself or bartering with it seems a bit basic and I don’t think people should play that card.

Today we acknowledge four more bases:

7. Reward – This one is kinda the flip side of coercive power. If coercive power is team stick, reward power is team carrot. Reward power is wielded by people in a position to offer something you want. That’s a lot to think about, so I will leave it there and you can digest it however you’d like.

8. Moral – I LOVE this one. There are a few sweary, rough around the edges, brilliant misfits I have had the honour of knowing over the years and their moral compass and penchant for stirring the pot and poking the bear to keep those around them on their toes and honest is a huge source of respect and admiration. Morality is such a fluid and personal construct and concept. I guess we are all drawn to and impressed by different forms of morality. Some people are impressed with Brian Tamaki… I find his morality and activity really upsetting and offensive. Some people are offended or annoyed by the curiosity and confrontational nature of activists such as Gil Scott Heron or Russell Brand while I am genuinely impressed by both of them and so many other confronting and curios souls who have worn their damage on their sleeves and shared their passion though it made them so vulnerable. Moral power is serious power, but it is of course dependant on the perception of those who are judging that morality.

9. Connection – Networkers! Some people are just legendary at this (like my partner Damon and my Bestie Emily). They are insufferably likeable and authentic and they clearly and undeniably care about people they know. Community, connection and care and concern for our networks are cornerstones of the human condition. Social poaching and social climbing and general networking shenanigans will happen so just let it roll and be your very best self and kind to your peers and friends this power will shine.

10. Founder – This one is kind of interesting. It is the power that comes from being brave enough to be on the ground floor of things. It isn’t just for founders of organisations, it is also for people who start movements or kick off events or activities on a local or global level. This power remains long after people’s daily interactions with the company or phenomenon they kicked off or championed is severed. It is a real thing, and you’ll hear it as you pass through life: “Oh, Fred he’s the guy that started that zero waste movement out in Massey back in the 90’s… We dig Fred he’s a good sort”. So yeah, founder power is okay I reckon. It is recognition of bravery long after the fact. That’s pretty cool.

So power eh.  It is a thing.  Having personally made a massive personal, social, professional and spiritual shift, I have had to acknowledge changes in my own power and influence.  Once upon a time I wanted to be at the forefront of change and revolution at any cost.  Now, I pretty much want to be left alone.  Aside from authentic and meaningful meetings of minds and souls who I Love and respect.  These days I am disinterested in leading the charge and keen on finding opportunities to assuage my extreme guilt for years of polluting and creating chaos.  Strangely, I have never felt so whole or content or quite frankly powerful.  People have had years to get to know me and I have always carried too much trauma to mind my p’s and q’s.  So these days, those brave enough to be around are powerful creatures indeed.  The strength of connection and the power of having purpose is impossible to overstate. 

Reflecting on these power bases, something incredible and undeniable has become quite clear.  Through all of these dynamics and complexities an ingredient that distinctly impacts power is authenticity.  Being sure footed and clear with your expectations and agendas is incredibly powerful indeed, and that seems to ring true if you are plotting pure or perverse pathways.  If you are a self-righteous table thumping bully, best make that clear from the outset as people will treat you accordingly and watch themselves as you clearly back yourself as wielding coercive, referent and probably legitimate power.  People will fear you but not trust you, and that’s probably what you want so you do you boo.  Conversely, some of the most intensely powerful beings I have ever met are those who humble themselves and live a life of servitude and grace.  They lead from behind and their batteries are charged up through seeing other people learn, succeed and feel joy.  You can’t fake this stuff.  You can’t pretend to be this moral, connected, expert founder type if you are a wheeling and dealing table thumping bully.  Nope.  That simply would not work at all.

So there you are.  My Monday meanderings.

Have a great week and be kind to yourself out there in this crazy and fast changing world.  

Thanks for reading.

Easy on Sunday Morning

Dee-Light-Full Divorce

Entry Two

Easy on Sunday Morning

Sunday Morning.  Blue skies, crisp winter day.  The kids are all being handed over to our former partners before FOUR FANTASTIC DAYS of FREEDOM when we will be settling in on the Farm exploring and documenting progress on our Deemon Creative project.

View from our bedroom… pretty rough eh.

Later today Damon and I are on our way back to Mr. Morris (Arguably New Zealand’s best, warmest, most welcoming fine-dining experience) to crash a dear friend’s girl’s weekend. We were invited of course, so I guess we aren’t really crashing it. Louise and I did our Master’s in international Public Relations together and travelled the world on a whirlwind field trip. She’s one of the brave goddesses who have stood by without judgement and in solidarity and Love, albeit from a distance, and watched me fall down and get back up again. She’s a talented and authentic communicator, a beautiful and optimistic soul, and her fierceness must never be underestimated despite her gentle and elegant veneer. She’s one tough mamma. Our paths will definitely continue to intersect and I suspect the world needs to ready itself for this pocket rocket friend of mine to choose her path and slay. I am so excited to see her for our long lunch this afternoon.

So excited 😆 about lunch!!!

Steve stopped in with Stephanie who has been staying with her dad as she’s livid with her mother.  Parents of teenage girls will understand the volatile ride these years can be.  So a wee break and time to miss the kids and be missed is exactly the magic needed to maintain balance and fertile ground to grow healthy humans.  Balance.  Calm… and a break once in a while.  This is the joyful and generous side of separation.  Our kids have options and freedom and encouragement to speak their needs and live between our worlds, mostly on their terms.

Steve was off at the Amanda Palmer stage show last night which he thoroughly enjoyed and it was a joy to hear his review of the show as he sipped coffee at what was once our kitchen table.

So. That’s it. Handover day today and the kids are going to be tucked in by team Dad while I have four nights with my fiancé on the farm. Our new project is rolling along at a steady pace and this is the first official week of my beloved being able to focus entirely on himself and our plans. He’s taken the plunge and is moving to a consulting role and project managing our farm dream, after nearly 7 years as a beloved CEO in the community sector here in Auckland.

Damon left his role as CEO at ecomatters and we still arrived to the Saturday community planting. A lovely team and we will still be seeing a lot of them I’m certain!

So… tomorrow is kinda the first day of our new life.  A Monday without meetings or mayhem, and we will wake up on our hill and ready ourselves for an epic journey we are both incredibly excited to share with you all.

Dee-Light-Full four days ahoy!

Hope you are well, thanks for reading.

Dee-Light-Full Divorce – Entry One

To celebrate our official separation Steve and I went on a Star Trek cruise 🚢and the next year my brave and patient boyfriend joined us (seperate rooms obviously 🙄). That’s pretty civilised imho.
Dinners with the ex in attendance are common and always fun!

A series of seemingly small but not small at all stories from our amicable separation

First Entry:

Tuesday Baby!

Last night, after engaging in the roughly choreographed tag-team effort of preparing dinner alongside Damon in our tired but terrific kitchen, I had a brief but beautiful moment of joy and clarity. It wasn’t a big deal, but took so much respect, effort, time and tenderness to arrive at this moment I thought I would share.

Let me set the stage briefly.

If I Love you (and I do genuinely Love most people. I am so blessed to see magic in, and vehemently cherish a vast tribe of new friends and old) there is a pretty good chance I call you baby.  Or baby cakes.  Or sweetheart. Or darling… Baby is far and away the most likely though and it’s how I address all the kids, my ex-husband and Damon (my fiancé for those of you who have not heard from me in a while).

The result of my peppering this term of endearment across everyone in ear shot can be confusing, but generally Dee-lightful.  

During busy family outings, or gatherings at the “big house”, I can be fumbling around and need a hand or a question answered so I will pipe up from wherever I am to bellow: 

“Baby…..!?!”

And a barrage of “What? Yup? Yes?  Huh? ‘Sup?” and these and other varied responses will echo from various directions into ear shot.

Last night my beloved BFF and former husband Phteven was losing to me at cribbage while sitting across from me next to his mother at the kitchen table.  Meanwhile, my future husband was characteristically busying himself in the kitchen cooking and cleaning, I checked my phone and realised I had an important question for one of them.

“Baby?”  I exclaimed, and they both responded simultaneously and in stereo

with half their attention on the other things they were engaged in.  

I belly laughed out loud, and totally forgot my question.  Damon laughed at me and said “Oh, you love it…” while Steve also laughed and rolled his eyes and said: “Force of habit” and we carried on with our genuinely glorious evening. 

DO NOT for a moment think this comfort and ease is the norm or was handed to any of us.  It has been hard fought and needed consistent communication, a lot of humble pie, compromise, conflict, tears, laughter, tantrums… It has never been simple and my heart (and Steve’s) have been irreparably damaged by the realisation that we were both better off as friends.  When we said forever it was what we meant.  Things changed.  We built some stuff and we broke some stuff and our journey has been harrowing and horrific at times.

This series is really just personal challenge for me to get back into writing regularly after a long and much needed sabbatical.

This series will just be a few stories from my heart and head to your eyes and destined to settle wherever they land once you’ve absorbed them.

I will not rant or rave or swear or complain about my situation or the sometimes crippling journey we have all been on.  This is a series I promised several strangers I would pen as I tell so many people how on balance our divorce has been incredibly… Loving, brave, empowered and empowering.

This is not the norm of Western society, and we all carry scars.  I would like to place the gauntlet down and commit to a true and uplifting series of stories about mine or other people’s separations at least once a month.  Happy to do much more if there’s an appetite for it.

In the meantime please consider following the Instagramming Page heartache and Cheesecake or getting in touch as myself and a few of my fabulous friends are working behind the scenes to try to cobble together a new social enterprise to empower women through change. We have called the movement Heartache and Cheesecake because hurt and comfort food are a part of grief and healing. You are very welcome to reach out and I apologise in advance if I am inconsistent in my response and activity, however, it is an exciting and inspiring concept that will evolve and I’d love to have you join the journey.

Thanks for reading.

XXOO

Dee

Deemon Playlist – this is interactive please contribute 🤗

Playlist

Damon and I were perhaps a little surprised by the intensity of cosmic messages clearly encouraging us to become and stay a happily loved up coupled. We’ve been serendipitously reminded we are on exactly the right track, continuing our individual work but together as ageing activists in the social and environmental justice space. It’s like our lives have led up to where we are, and we are both a little gobsmacked daily at how much better we feel together. People notice. Damon gets told regularly that I am the happiest anyone can ever remember seeing me, and I am reminded regularly by someone in his vast and varied fan club that I better treat him well, or suffer the karmic, cosmic and probably rather concrete consequences. Kidding/not kidding. He has some seriously protective Wahine Toa keeping an eye on the situation. One actually looked me straight in the eye at a book launch and told me I better be good enough for him, as she hadn’t had the time to scope me out and approve. This kind of rhetoric is not uncommon. I like it. He has a tribe and I like and respect all those I’ve met who belong to it.

So, the whole of space and time feels like it has colluded to ensure a former hot mess (me) and famously aloof goof (him) had almost no choice but to settle in and start planning a life and a fresh new project together. Damon bravely agreed to join me on my geekfest Star Trek convention March 2020 aboard a big boat through the Caribbean and that absolutely sealed our fates. From the decks of that cruise to the emptying out of Miami, NYC, then LA, to a solid and blissful seven weeks of being locked down together, we’re both clearly ready to take the plunge in more ways than one.

I can’t recall when he first asked me to marry him, but I know I have Loved that his inquiry had been resolute, and since that first time his questioning has been frequent and unfaltering. We chose an heirloom ring in Wellington which we both loved because a) it had already been in circulation, and b) because it was a Tiffany ring and Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a favourite film throughout my teens and twenties. He couldn’t wait to get those shiny stones on my hand and I would feel decidedly naked without the traditional signal explaining to all that I am spoken for.

The stars just kinda keep on aligning for us. Most days are easy. We argue less and talk more. We drink less wine and more tea. We stress less and nap more. We worry less and plan more. Seems that the hours we spend together fly by and those we are apart drag on endlessly. The honeymoon phase is pretty fucking great tbh. I suspect it will be replaced in time with the mellow groove of two doddery has-beens and we are both pretty happy with the prospect of that progression. We have a project to complete that ought to take us 3-7 years depending on how far we take it, and that’s been an incredible source of creative energy for us since we spent our first few weeks together at the farm self-isolating.

So. This weekend we are hosting a high tea at the “Big House” where we live with the kids. And if you are unable to make it along to this event we will hope to see you at the farm in March 2022 for the wedding itself. If you are feeling in any way mentally or physically under the weather please do not push yourself to join us. There will be plenty of time to catch up as our plans unfold and we are able to collaborate and share with more people.

NOW! The fun bit.

This is for all our friends near and far. I have added a link to a playlist and would LOVE to have our friends and family from around the world contribute with a song. Our official song is the ever cheesy (not unlike us) but undeniably accurate Anne Murray classic “You Needed Me”. We definitely needed each other, more than either of us knew. The song you choose could be your song as a couple, or something that reminds you of Damon or Dee, or something that reminds you of our friendship or time we spent together. You can add to the playlist directly as we have made it publicly collaborative, or you can leave a suggestion and quick explanation in the comments section. Either way, it would be lovely to have you with us, even if it is just on the playlist as most of the world remains locked down but is slowly waking up.

THANK YOU!

Look forward to seeing some of you on Saturday!

XXOO

Reflection and Protection

I’ve just been reading a few of the harrowing and heart breaking real-life mental health crises the activist and advocate Mike King has been sharing on social and traditional media. It highlights that we are a nation faced with a genuine epidemic, and I have so much respect for all those who share their stories.

At the same time however, I know for myself, that I need to protect my own wellbeing, and that may mean I need to manage how many of these stories I engage with. Heaven knows I have been very open with my own mental health happenings, hoping it might help someone somewhere. But I’m still in recovery from a disastrously inaccurate diagnosis, the wrong medication, and a domino effect including a plethora of self-destructive behaviours.

I write this today happy, healthy, calm and unmedicated. My own recovery leaves me hopeful that we can get through the tough times and experience a brighter more hopeful present. I would love to see some earnest changes in our society and mental health system to support others to feel unashamed and have access to the help they richly deserve.

The best place for some of us to offer support, advice and advocacy is simply by taking our own mental health needs seriously so we are well enough to be a part of this conversation as it evolves in our homes, workplaces and wider society.

I am not saying you should ignore the weight of the accounts that are being published. If you are of sound, mind and body, and touched by these incredibly real and important conversations, I hope they will spur you into actions that could have wonderful knock-on effects for healing yourself or someone in your circle. I’m also not saying turn a blind eye. I’m suggesting it might be a good time to implore some of my more sensitive readers to consider putting your own mask on so you are in a better position to help those around you.

Channeling the sadness and anger you may justly feel when faced with the reality of the mental health crisis here in Aotearoa will be different for everyone. If you are hurting in any way and you stumble across this little blog, I want to remind you that YOU are a worthy, beautiful, miraculous being. And that whatever state you are in as you read this, you are incredibly important, and there is the possibility of comfort and joy on the other side of the types of pain that are being discussed online. But also, you are not responsible for every person, crisis, or event that makes you feel something. AND… You must take care of you before you can help anyone else.

That’s all I wanted to say. Reach out if you read this and need a virtual hug. As you know, I am really bad at getting back to people in a timely manner but it would be an honour to talk to you as I have the bandwidth to tell you honestly that you are wonderful.

Call of the Countryside – Te Aroha

Years of chaos, confusion, hustle and high flying have taken their toll on many people. The global pandemic put the breaks on in a huge and abrupt way for millions of us. It brought some industries to their knees, and others were given the opportunity to emerge. Zoom shares skyrocketed, online sales figures shot through the roof, and some urban dwellers decided to sell up and slow down. Lockdowns, layoffs and learning have led many Kiwis (including Damon and I) to a wish for a simpler and more self-sufficient life.

We will be focusing on plans to develop and regenerate 50 acres north of Auckland. We are tethered to city life for some time while the kids (youngest is nearly 7) grow up and get through school, but shared custody and planned sabbaticals mean plenty of time to focus on feathering our country nest. Damon has also made the difficult decision to let go of his gorgeous Blacksmith’s Cottage (built as a token of Love for the Blacksmith’s wife in 1891) in Te Aroha.

It is with a bevy of bittersweet emotion we are announcing the sale of this beautiful heritage homestead on Koromiko street in Te Aroha.  Since being serendipitously stranded there for the February week-long lockdown, we have finally managed to get it to reach the rather lofty Damon standards that see it finally ready for sale.  Every weekend we have meandered back down to the village together, and I have fallen hook line and sinker for this sleepy little town that time forgot.  Just wanted to share some of the many discoveries, attractions and distractions that made me fall so in Love with this aptly named village in the Waikato.

Here’s a list of my personal top ten attractions in and around Te Aroha 

  • 20 Koromiko Street (a home with so much history) – Damon purchased this home when it was in need of some serious Love and attention. It had been a bit of a “party house” before he bought it in 2006. When he purchased the house, he found that many locals and people he knew had some connection or memory of it. This rich history and prolific profile only served to further Damon’s desire to restore and renovate this beautiful historic villa. Rather than go on and on about the house, I will share with you a few pictures of the cottage after weeks (years for Damon) of elbow grease and vision whipped it from a bit of a fixer upper to a lovely and inviting space.
  • Te Maunga – At an impressive 952m high, Mt. Te Aroha is the highest point in the Kaimai-Mamaku ranges (thanks department of conservation website) It is an ever-changing backdrop to this sleepy little town that seriously feels like it stopped the clock in about 1972. There’s a horn that blows thrice daily to tell long since silenced factories in town it is time to get to work, eat lunch, and knock off for the day. The mountain has been listening to this and watching the towns ebbs and flows for many decades. My personal favourite thing about the mountain is that there is gold in that thar hill and this majestic Maunga is not about to relinquish it under any circumstances. In stark contrast to a very closely neighbouring town (Waihi) mining never took hold here and the plights and tragedies surrounding each and every attempt to emancipate this mineral are documented in the town’s history, at the museum and also at the foot of the walking tracks at the longs since abandoned Waiorongomai settlement location. This mountain is magic and has seen peace and bloodshed at its feet for centuries. Highly encourage people to enjoy this sacred location through the scenic cycle way, or any way that suits you.
  • Walking/tramping – I had NO idea how much there was to do and see in this area. From the wetlands to the mountain. From one of the highest waterfalls in the Southern Hemisphere to bush walks and rural views, this area is replete with options for every tramper from novice through advanced. Again, I will spare you my verbosity and share some of our pictures from a handful of the hundreds of walks that are possible in the area.
  • Classy to Kitsch treasure hunting – Paeroa is known as a preeminent antique hunting destination town, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. There are, however, heaps of hidden treasures all around the place. I got some beautiful authentic antique petticoats in Morrinsville to feed my daughter’s latest obsession with cottage core. There is also one of the most fantastic antique furniture restoration stores I have ever seen right on the Main Street of TA. Again, pics or it didn’t happen.
  • Te Aroha Mineral Spas – this is the crown jewel in the TA tourism spreadsheet. People come to enjoy the therapeutic warm waters from near and far. I had no idea it even existed. Being a Thames girl I spent many an evening soaking in the Miranda hot pools, but these spas are absolutely stunning with period buildings and a wide range of options for kids, couples and anyone wanting some pampering. Mid week specials were an extra treat as we were able to soak for a discounted rate after Damon spent his days working and on zoom calls and his spare moments painting and plastering.
  • Surprising Culinary Scene – Food, I am a fan. I have packed on the quarantine 15 and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. There are quite a few family owned and operated ethnic food establishments that are affordable and delicious. Thai in Paeroa and Morrinsville was amazing and the Indian restaurant in Te Aroha is clearly run by someone who has cooked for family and friends and makes their dishes with Love and care. Absolutely impressed by these places and felt great to support these small local businesses every night we were in the area. For more upmarket culinary experiences you can also visit the Falls (you will need to book, it is ALWAYS full and with good reason) or the Waihi hotel (amazing Bluff oysters, great staff and superb atmosphere) or any number of impressive Italian and Contemporary restaurants.
  • Hamilton Gardens – Just. Wow. I had no idea how magnificent and world class this place is. Treat yourself to a visit soon. Here’s some of my pictures.
  • The People – I met so many wonderful women who are raising families or relishing the good life here in the Waikato. Many had escaped the rat race up in the city, one is a Share milker from Auckland who I met at the local arts and crafts store on Te Aroha’s main drag. I adored them all and everyone we met is/was so friendly and magnificent. There’s a big difference between country and city protocols and I will take the provinces hands down, I am perhaps a little too rough around the edges to fit firmly in the city’s fast paced and flippant social scenes.
  • The Pace – escaping the race. Just bliss.
  • Meeting Mittens – Last, but not least, was meeting my fiancé’s rescue cat Mittens. A sweet, chatty, and very timid little kitty who wouldn’t come near us for our first couple of visits and then wouldn’t leave us alone when she became comfortable. She slept at our head every night on our last visit, and followed us as we walked over to the spas for an evening soak. The reason I am bringing this up is that she is an absolute sweetheart and we all Love her so much, but she needs a forever home. We will keep her with us until a perfect place is found, but we already have two male rescue cats and a rescue dog (who she hates) and rescue chickens. She’d make someone who needs a cute and chatty feline friend very happy and she is very low maintenance indeed

So, thanks for sharing my enthusiasm for this terrific little town! Hope you have a chance to check it out soon and fall for it as hard as I have.

Monday Poem

Looking for more leaves so much behind

We break our brains just hoping to find

Something truly worth feeling

Not transactional dealing

In you are the answers to the questions you’ve asked

Yet we attended schools in the hopes that we’ve passed

The measure and bell curve 

What we want or…

deserve…

Joy is a gift bestowed to the ready

Life is a chore requiring a steady

Moral compass, hope, insight, passion, truth, adventure

Or perhaps a nap when we really can’t venture

Farther into the greater chasm of the great unknown

Look to see what is given not told or easily shown

It wasn’t ever going to be easy

There’s no such thing as power or glory

You are the answer to the questions you seek

You are the truth when your voice gets to speak

Simple is something we don’t get to endure

Hope springs eternal… of that I am sure.

Suffering is sublime and struggle a gift

And your duty is not hard, it’s simply to lift

The you that you were who you see in a stranger

Out of themselves and t’ward safety from danger 

You can count calories, deeds, actions, possessions or money

But you know nothing comes from counting those false “blessings” honey.

If you’re still lost in the trappings of some day

Know that choices will find you and say:

“Today will happen if you embrace it or hide.

So be there completely with your arms open wide.”

Kindness is simple you know when you are.

Path of least resistance will lead you, not far

You are the author of the fate that you choose.

Be yourself.  

That’s yours.

You own it.

With that you can’t lose.

How Now

There was a post that flashed by my feed on Instagram a few weeks ago. A beautiful young woman with empty eyes on the left, and the same face with soulful kind eyes on the right. Apparently nearly 20 years had passed between pictures but the soulful eyed woman did not appear much older if any older at all. Her caption was something about wanting to hug the sad and angry young version of herself, which was viscerally relatable.

What I wouldn’t give for five minutes with my younger self. The most broken version of me really only surfaced a few short years ago when I set out on some wild trajectory to yell loud enough about carbon divestment that the whole world would hear me and I’d hoped to drown out the constant internal dialogue screaming at me that I was broken and unworthy. To hold her and tell her to brace and be brave, and learn to say the word no, much earlier and more often. She wanted so much to be loved and worthy, and really couldn’t comprehend how much she already was.

Over a year has now passed since I walked away rather abruptly from the trappings of fast paced high flying false friends and frenzied adventures. I’ve turned my back on luxuries that only made me feel empty. I’m still pampered and powerfully connected to people (only those who I choose and actively choose and support me as I do them) but my days are calm and my evenings are most often quiet with a few social and soul satisfying sessions. I still get sad, bicker with my family, and sometimes my partner and I argue and feel insecure or unsure, but the constant nagging desire to end my life has completely quieted. I’m at peace with my choices and my mistakes and ensconced in richer, healthier routines.

People still judge me harshly and snipe mean remarks or recount my mistakes gleefully, I can only assume to make themselves feel superior.

How now is life different to the insatiable people pleasing and “look at me!” days that weren’t that long ago? How now do I decide what to pursue and what to ignore? How now do I manage stress? How now do I exist?

Well, every day I’m hugging the frail version of me by choosing calm and not caring to nurture the needs of people who probably wouldn’t cross the street to throw a blanket or bucket of water on me if I burst into flames. I’m still deeply and importantly in Love with most everyone I meet, and see potential and opportunity in situations a lot of the time. Boundaries and clarity are how I roll now, there’s nothing more interesting happening than this.

Another Think Coming

Etymology doesn’t have much to do with what I wanted to talk to you about. I’m here to check in with you. See how you are. So many of us have had cause, pause, and necessity to re-examine and re-think so many things this year. I’m genuinely curious about where your thinking has led you, and as such, I am going to share with you a glimpse into my various re-thinking in this surreal reality we are wading through.

What a year. How are you holding up? Did the vast and varied changes tip you up or top you up through 2020? Have you stayed a similar course to the way things were in the before time? Are you in one of the industries that’s been crippled, changed, or created? Are you, like me, packing a quarantine 15? Have you chosen to completely change your situation by moving home, career, or changing your personal situation?

Did you know the etymology of that phrase “another think” which so many people mis-speak as “another thing” coming? Well, if you do, cool, and if you do not, let me enlighten you with this article from the guardian that pointed out the evolution of the phrase, and crystalised my choice to stick with “another think” rather than accept “another thing”. Both phrases are valid, I’m just stating the fact we have a choice about which phrase we use if we choose this phrase for any reason.

I’ve been keeping a bit quiet, however, recently my confidence is returning.  There’s no shortage of observations and stories to share, there’s also no rush back to the dizzying pace or crippling loneliness and emotional pain that was standard operating procedure before 2020.  There’s more than a trace of shame in admitting that this has been the best year of my life on this planet so far.  There are others like me.  People who had a chance to slow down, or were forced to do so.  People who have made significant and brave changes to their priorities and trajectories that they’d never dreamed possible.  

I’ve mic dropped my old life and chaotic schedule completely and moved toward an arguably obsessive interest in regenerative practices and carbon capture.  I crashed and burned rather spectacularly and twice after screaming into the void for a decade about carbon divestment.  I still LOVE divestment.  But that’s someone else’s journey now as I am too tired to keep battling the bureaucracy and bullies that have surfaced through the years.  Needed to slow down, and soil is seemingly less sexy and therefore less likely to attract greed and hubris I hope.  Guess we will see…

For years I was stuck in the cycle of doing the same dumb stuff and expecting a different result.  As is in my nature, I did not make changes by halves.  I stepped out of my marriage (never my deep and integral friendship with Phteven my Phoulmate) any and all public and professional roles except those I could actively commit to in good faith, and completely retreated to the safety of my family and tiny social bubble to rest and re-assess.

I have re-assessed.  I have re-thought.  I have retreated.  I have rejuvenated.  I have not retaliated only emancipated myself and others from any non-virtuous cycles.  There are some serious concerns I’ve had the time to consider, and I am genuinely hopeful for the first time in a very long time about my own future, and that of humanity and the planet.  We’ll all need to be ready for another think coming.  And another.  And I guess we will all adjust if, when and how we best can if we are given the opportunity and information to help us make thoughtful choices.

I’ve never shied away from ruffling feathers or questioning things or asking for clarity. I’ve also been regretting my previous choices to let the whole world into my heart and head at times. This meant some pretty dark and vulnerable bits of myself were laid bare over the years. A few times this has had devastating results and offered truly sad, dangerous or evil people to do some grave damage. It’s also weeded out a lot of evil and drama and taught me the power of no. No is a gift to the person who gives it and receives it. No is powerful and is the only way to make space for heartfelt and enthusiastic participation in only those things and to those people who deserve a yes. 2020 really helped me create and observe the boundaries and culture needed to keep me and my family protected from harm and even unnecessary stress and drama. Not going to lie, there’s a few gentle waves of schadenfreude (joy at others’ misfortune) as some peoples’ active propensity toward dishonesty and antipathy to authenticity and grace often leaves them hoisted on their own petard. I do not relish or enjoy anyone or anything suffering needlessly, but I always celebrate and feel joy in the prospect of growth. Not sure if the past few months living with a Buddhist have affected my idea that suffering can be a gift (there was a time long ago that this sounded like nonsense) but it is just one of the many re-thinks I am still thinking about. Put simply, there are some people who have a lot of growing to do on their journey, and sometimes that takes a shove from the universe or experience or society to set into motion. As such, my faith and optimism stays guarded at a safe distance from people who have run out of chances to disappoint me, but I will celebrate any win or evolution I observe from the safety of my chosen and trustworthy tribe.

I want to speak clearly to those of you who I know have struggled this year.  Whether I have had the honour of holding you in my heart and arms and speaking to you about your struggles or online.  Or if you’ve been treading these stormy seas without mine or many other people’s knowledge or support.  If you have been wading through difficulties, redundancy, divorce, isolation, change, and challenges of any nature, please reach out and keep reaching until you find safe and adequate help and guidance.  I will not tell you that these things were sent to try us, or that you have to toughen up.  The fact is, I don’t believe that we are only given what we can handle.  Many people are forced into absolutely extraordinary grief, challenge, hopelessness and pain and it is confounding how anyone could manage that level of torment.  Sometimes it could be consequence of illness, decisions or luck, sometimes it just sucks. 

Now for the good part.

There is so much magic in the world.  There are so many glorious opportunities and people.  Metaphorical rock bottom is arguably the only place to build a truly sound foundation, but as one of my absolute heroines of history and the universe Jane Fonda famously said:

“It’s never too late. It’s never too late to start over, never to late be happy.”

Even if you have another think and change your priorities or even your entire life and turn your back on some of the things that were difficult and insurmountable it won’t be a smooth path and there is no guarantee of success or satisfaction.  If you find a new and brighter path following your bliss, you are still going to struggle. Struggle is inevitable.  Failure is inevitable.  But success and joy are impossible if you stay siloed in a system that doesn’t even give you time or access to the things you really want to say yest to.  All I want to leave you with is the philosophical nugget that perhaps you can and should put effort, struggle and resource into things and people you truly Love and are worthy of you and your gifts and talents?  Perhaps you should spend your time and energy on activities that give you joy, and avoid people, things and situations that are unsafe or unfulfilling?  

I am embarking on a whole new trajectory, and facing fear and doing it anyway.  A new relationship, a new family culture, a huge new project.  Any of these things could fail.  But fear of failure would have seen me rotting in some dark corner hiding in a bottle somewhere.  So, I am armed with a tribe of fierce friends and trusted allies, but most importantly, I am making decisions and taking risks that are well thought through and considered, rather than rushing off in all directions attempting to be all things to all people.  I will honour my past and always be a clear and enthusiastic advocate for divestment, innovation, collaboration, diversity and social justice.  But I will no longer hand over all that I am and all that I have and keep nothing back or safe for myself.  That’s it.  That’s the epiphany I wanted to share and am hoping someone out there needed to read. 

Wherever you are, on the planet or on your own personal journey, I really do wish you the best.