Monday 25th May
I’ve finished working at the Green Earth Awakening camp and returned to the tearful self. How do I feel about the fact I wound up in tears before I ‘got out’, about the collapse of the competent self? I have spent years so invested in ‘keeping it together’, feeling as if my life depended on it, that when it cracks, it does not feel good.
It’s been an amazing weekend. The eco-psychology conversation was wonderful. I began by saying Descartes got it wrong when he said ‘I think, therefore I am.’ It’s ‘I experience, therefore I am’. I love that I’m ready to take on Descartes, have the confidence to challenge a Cartesian world view. I wondered if I should explain the extent to which they were getting ‘the world according to Dearbhaile Bradley’ because I’ve never read what I’m saying in any book. I am speaking my heart’s truth. I stepped forward into a place where I know what I think – there is a coherence emerging. I am weaving together strands from many different sources of knowledge. What delighted me was what others in the circle said, the sense of this truly being a sharing and ‘education’. What I can do is provide a space that allows people to hear their own wisdom and feel its resonance in their hearts.
I have had many powerfully moving encounters at the camp. My encounter with R particularly touched me. He saw me perform poetry at Sunrise three years ago. On the strength of that, he came and did the Work that Re-connects workshops at Buddhafield, when he saw I was one of the facilitators. On the back of that, he changed his life to reflect his commitment to living sustainably on the Earth. I am looking at him recounting the story of how he ‘took the ball and ran with it’ and can see that he is happy now. I may feel powerless but what happens through me, without my knowledge, without my ‘doing’ anything but being myself and sharing what I am learning with other people, can be powerful.
He’s not the only young man who thanked me with that depth of sincerity. I can hardly take it in, this ‘feedback’. What they don’t know these young men talking to me, sharing their stories, is that I am searching for my son in the echo of their being young. I can’t help it. It is a heart whispering curiosity without my say-so. I do not know young men and am hungry for their views, their take on the world. It is a secret drum beat underneath every meeting. What they share with me is more precious than they could ever guess.
Right at the end though, tired and trudging up the hill pushing a wheel-barrow, I felt alien and excluded. I’d overdone it just by walking up and down a hill more often than I could physically cope with. I am struck by the irony of the fact that my work is about connecting. In the safety of the circles we create doing the Work that Re-connects, I find myself able to connect in a way I find profound and moving. But when I look around the field now I’m leaving, it seems to me that other people can relate in a far more relaxed and natural way than I do. I may assert that the sense of separation is a culturally-induced delusion but I still feel it at times.
So it’s fine that I cried and was comforted, that I left my tears on the Earth.
Friday 29th May
I’m annoyed with myself for not having posted a blog sooner than this. I’m annoyed with myself about all sorts of stuff. I’m tired and cranky and flustered. I ran out of tablets at the weekend and it’s Friday and I’ve still not managed to get the prescription made up. I’m in one of those phases where the things I’m not managing to do are like endlessly rolling credits. Every time I walk towards the front door I think again ‘I must weed the front. It looks terrible’. And every day I think, at least once, that I need to buy a bed but I’ve no money to buy it with. I’ve people I want to see and, weirdly, don’t seem to have time to see them.
What the hell am I doing? I spent 4 days working on a job application because I’d agreed with the employment advisor from the CMHT that I would. Maybe somewhere along the line I will see some benefit in having done so, but today it feels like the most complete waste of time. It’s eaten up my week and I couldn’t finish it. All that time and energy and thought for what? It’s a process that totally did my head in and leaves me feeling despondent.
My youngest brother wrote yesterday to say he’s just got a new job managing a charitable mental health project in Ireland. He’s principled, compassionate, intelligent and hard-working – and I’m in a position to know. It’s quite a combination and I think that the people who selected him over candidates with more experience in management have made a decision they won’t regret.
But the juxtaposition of his news and my failure to even complete an application form has awakened the gremlin. It’s all very fine and dandy that sweet people at a festival tell me I’m inspirational. Return home and I return to trudging through, not managing to keep on top of things, not getting as far as contacting the people on my list of ‘people I want to see’, not completing the application form, not posting a blog, not …….
Count blessings. Fill the well. Be nurturing towards this crabbed unattractive negative self.
The night I came back from GEA, I phoned the friend whose message I got on my return from Ireland. They (himself and his wife) have a ‘speaker phone’ so as they’d their dinner, we three chatted. It was great to catch up with them. It was good to talk about Tunni (a mutual friend who died at Christmas). I realised talking to them why I’m finding Tunni’s death so much more upsetting that Patrick’s. I know Patrick knew I loved him and there is comfort in the contact I had with him as he was dying. Tunni? I don’t know that Tunni knew I loved him because it’s not something I ever said to him. He drifted out of my world a long time ago. And when I mourn Patrick I am part of a community who also are grieving his parting, whereas no-one in my world now knew Tunni. So that was a tremendous blessing, this reconnecting with dear friends who know me from way back when.
Jo turned up like the good garden fairy on Monday and mowed most of the back garden. I was working on that blasted application form. Every time I look out the back I feel a wave of gratitude. Practical help makes a huge difference.
Wednesday I did a poetry workshop with Roselle Angwin. I’ve wanted to meet her for ages and to work with her was a gift. Any creative writing group will yield surprising results but the standard of work in this group was exceptional and I felt honoured to be in the circle. And oddly, I felt like I belonged, did not feel intimidated by them. They liked my work and I liked theirs. I brought two of Roselle’s books for her to sign but in the heels of the hunt it never happened because by the time it was over I was done. And that’s another blessing, Jo saying ‘Go home.’ when I was too far gone to have a titter of wit and leave.
I’ve ended up re-reading Roselle’s book ‘All the missing names of Love’. It’s a great title and titles are one of Roselle’s things – leave room between the title and the poem and let meaning flower in the space. Am I poet again? I feel like I’m now in a similar place to where I was before I took the job. I’ve Priddy Folk Festival performance to prepare for. We’ve 20 minutes between us but the work it takes to produce a themed ‘conversation of poetry’ takes weeks of writing, selecting, deciding, shaping. Then I’ve the workshops at Buddhafield. I’m back doing what I did before I thought ‘a real job’ was the answer and wound up coming a cropper.
Back with more debt than I had to start with, facing the same difficulties I faced then about how to earn a crust. I think there’s value in what I’m doing but there’s no money in it. Last time round I went to a life coach. It opened up more questions than it answered and the job looked perfect from where the life coaching took me. I’ve been engaged in this reflection on the path for a couple of months now and I’m clearly in a different place than when I started but I still don’t know how to get from here to being as well as it’s in me to be. Earning my keep is part of that, I need it for my own self-respect. But if filling in application forms is what it takes, I don’t know that I have it in me. The problem with that specific job application form was that I’ve too much experience, too much training, have done too much voluntary work and at the same time lack the one bit of paper they’re looking for. I am not accredited, not eligible for accreditation and the fact that I’m a skilled counsellor and facilitator is neither here nor there in this crazy world we live in.
I think that the talk I gave at Green Earth Awakening provoked such interesting contributions from the circle that it is deserves sharing. It had the quality of ‘returning to centre’ about it. I remember when I did the international conference in Ireland, before I even got there, I’d already freaked out the organisers by refusing to write one of those ‘I’m all puffed up and successful, so you should listen to me’ bios. My attitude was ‘I am speaking as a bog-standard counsellor who just happened to be in Omagh when the bomb went off. The point is it could happen to anyone and I’m talking as an equal’. I don’t think they’d a baldy clue what I was on about. And then when it came to my ‘seminar’, I got rid of the rows and set up a circle with a candle in the middle. I had my rose quartz heart that I’d used in who knows how many circles before and passed it round inviting people to say why they’d come to an event entitled ‘On learning from the Omagh bombing’ and let the stories unfold and then passed it round again asking people to share what it was like to hear what they had said. The strongest memory remaining, still cradled in my heart as a precious gift, is of someone sharing what it was like when they were caught in a bomb-blast. Healing for them and moving for all of us. It was the talk of the conference because everyone else had done a conventional presentation. The wisdom is in the circle. We need spaces to hear ourselves speak, experience the qualities of a circle that ‘holds’ us. The shape of power matters. We are used to the triangular nature of power in capitalism, to power as something some have and most don’t. It’s not true, or only true to the extent we accept it. To understand our fundamental equality and to work in circle is truly revolutionary.
I am less grumpy when I started but tired, bone tired and the day’s half done.