Sunday, 22 January 2017

I burn but I am not consumed

My outfit for the Women's March in Edinburgh
By the end of the day of January 20, Inauguration Day, I recognised that the tightness in my chest and overwhelming feeling was caused by a visceral, overpowering fear. Of course I've been afraid before. I'm a mother; I've felt the fear of my children being hurt or lost or having their hearts broken and the million everyday fears that being a parent can throw up. I've also personally had the fear of waiting for results of tests for cancer and the even worse times when those fears are confirmed by the words "you have cancer". The worst fear for me with each diagnosis of cancer is the fear of hurting and not being there for my family and friends and especially for my children. So fear and I are old, maybe not friends, but acquaintances. I've learned to rationalise and help to find a way through those fears, even when some of them visit me in the middle of the night. And I recognise that one way I compensate is to savour every minute with those I love and store memories like precious gems tucked in my heart.

But this fear was a different one.I couldn't find a way to rationalise or minimise. I think I've only felt that similar fear when my children were very young and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was unfolding. I was in the car with the radio on and I learned that there was a very real concern that day that the nuclear reactor was going to fully melt down, causing a disaster which would impact far and wide. I remember shaking and noticing the feeling deep in my core of an overwhelming fear. All my instincts told me this was really serious and there was absolutely nothing I could do to protect my children or my wider family? In that moment I felt too the the terror of families in close proximity; living a grim nightmare. Thirty years later I still remember that feeling.

So when I felt it again after the inauguration speech by Donald Trump I recognised it was the deep and visceral fear triggered by a sense of powerlessness and of impending doom. It was hearing the phrase "America First" that triggered it; the refrain and its delivery seemed to me resonant of fascism, just as calling out "Britain First" did when Jo Cox was murdered.  I felt sure the murder would stop us in our tracks, make us pull back. But no, instead we've witnessed a normalisation of beliefs that I find chilling.

Since the election of Trump I have been shocked, worried, completely bewildered but it wasn't until now that the reality of the shift to the far right seemed real. And I'm so afraid of the consequences.

It's why for me joining the Women's March movement felt so important. Seeing the energy, determination and love that was expressed I felt a sense of not just sisterhood but also of hope. The range of  ages there was especially encouraging......there is a new generation who will be prepared to rise up. 
Thank goodness for that because we are going to need them. I absolutely believe as Gandhi said that the path of truth and love always wins but it may be that we have some hard lessons to learn on the way.

What we can do meantime is be the change we want to see and be willing always to speak the truth to power. And we need to ensure that love does indeed trump hate. 
I leave the last word with Karine Polwart  who reminds us in her song for the occasion of the Inauguration of Donald Trump that his reign will pass and the rocks of the Isle of Lewis, the place of his mothers birth will remain untouched-they will burn but they will not be consumed.

Monday, 2 January 2017

If you want to touch the future-touch a life.

If you want to touch the past, touch a rock. If you want to touch the present, touch a flower. If you want to touch the future, touch a life. (unknown author)

I know I'm not alone in being pleased to say goodbye to 2016. Global politics have had their impact, its true and I will come back to that, but that's not been the main story for me. I started this year having my breast amputated ( I know a mastectomy is the medical term but I'm using this expression as I feel it describes more honestly the impact). I chose to have a reconstruction rather than live an imbalanced daily reminder of the cancer returning. There have been moments when I wondered if I made the right choice but of course now that I'm much stronger I'm grateful for a more normal appearance. As the new year approaches I can feel the optimism that the opportunity to close a door on this experience offers and I welcome that.
There's a risk I do my usual and start 2017 full pelt but I'm trying to avoid that. This year passing has made me take the world at a slower pace and although frustrating at times, I know I've also quite enjoyed it. My promise to myself is to maintain not only that but also the permission I gave myself in this my sixtieth year to take every opportunity to have fun and time with people I love.I'm determined to keep that going too.
But in truth I've also been blindsided by the global political context and a trend that scares me. I'm still trying to decide how I can respond to it. I see fully that if we want a kinder world we need to be kinder ourselves and that's something I've really been working on, even thinking about food choices and so on. Mindfulness offers an approach to loving kindness that I've found restorative and of course many forms of prayer do that too. But it's the question of what action can I take that challenges me.
The answer to a kinder,less isolated world can't be about politics; although politicians can show leadership and enact the right policies to create the right conditions and I will do my best to influence this. The answer lies with us all so I will continue to volunteer with Contact the Elderly and really recommend that as a way to connect. I know it's also just reaching out a bit more generally in my life and community as well as supporting great organisations like Social Bite in changing the lives of homeless people. Another thing I'm keen to support is this campaign by the UN The mantra of respect, safety and dignity for all is a powerful message to spread.
So this year I will hopefully be getting stronger and healthier, doing things with people I love and also doing my best to make the difference I can. And hoping that my fears for 2017 prove unfounded.
Finally here's a poem I wrote on how 2016 affected me. Of course I can't tip the world back up but I  do believe all of us have a role in shaping how we want it to look. 2017 I will be working on the next verse of that poem, I do hope it can be an optimistic one.

 Universal Corrective

My map of the world is
upside down
I thought I knew it as a truth
that my way was right
or at least I saw it the right way up

This way looks strange
and I'm fearful
of falling off
a small appendage
of a world I no longer recognise

The centre of this map
is a scattering of islands
in a vast Pacific Ocean
Like stars they remind me
of our powerlessness

Flip it up again
I want to call
get us back to how
know the world to be
Can anyone hear me?

This isn't how I believed it to be
I'm tied to another image
I'm clinging to my own map
But the universal corrective
has another plan