Archive for the ‘transformation’ Category

Lemurs, living only in the island of Madagascar, are unique, endangered and fascinating. I love their bright, wild, colorful eyes.

26 million people also live on Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island. They are amazing and unique. Many are poor. Some we might say are endangered.

They live with many types of lemurs. Sclater’s lemurs have bright blue eyes. Other lemurs have red eyes. Sounds familiar.

Indris lemurs sing. The adults sing together, the younger lemurs sing out of sync. Same with us. Some in sync, some not. Across the planet, among the nations not in sync enough.

Ring-tail lemurs have stink fights, flicking their stinky tails at each other. Yup, our fights stink too. And worse. We savage each other.

Sifaka lemurs use signals and pitch intonations, and they laugh. Hmmm. Humanesque.

Lemur females rule their social groups. Maybe since we have so much in common with Lemurs, we should try that too.

On the other hands the ruling female lemurs snatch food out of the male’s grasps. Makes you wonder — matriarchy, just another form of dominance.

What if we tried an approach uncommon in the world of Lemurs or humans, a new arrangement, no dominance, no food snatching, male and female in sync, no one endangered, everyone with bright eyes.

I am the project manager on the buildout of a new counseling center for my community.

As a result, I feel weak — like one in need of therapy.

I am fairly confident that I will make the contract deadline for the center and handover a stunningly necessary, functional and even upscale set of gorgeous offices.

I feel strong.

Honestly — I fluctuate.

I worked hard today, and yesterday, and the day before that, and the week before that, and the year before that, and for the last ten years before that — and pretty much all my life on leveraging what I have been given for the benefit of others —  and myself.  I’ve worked hard on personal visions and also on institutionally core initiatives, and I’ve had some good successes — accomplishments and progressifications — but I’ve also had some keen and bitter disappointment-a-mongers too.

The week I enjoyed being part of a team that is finding housing for a resource challenged women with significant disability. I think we’ve got it, thanks to my partner, and God.

And yet, last night I dreamed of a silent, disapproving, disloyal group of fat middle-class white men hovering ominously over me. I wonder where that came from?

I know.

It’s okay.

I have agency, which requires past experience, and I have character, which requires continuity, and I have integrity (I absolutely adore integrity), and yet I have also had  bad dreams mixed up within my agency — which as I am trying to tell you — is required for success, a kind of abject brokenness comingled with unstoppable love — this is the stuff that keeps driving us forward like a giant tunneling, underground drill bit.

And so, and thus and such, like many of us I am making friends with the adversative conjunction “but.”

I’m confident, but also emotionally bumfuzzled.  My core emotions dive into the  abyssopelagic, but they also sore to the summit. I am weak but strong,  disappointed but fulfilled, cynical but annoyingly chipper.

These are normal feelings for all of us who work hard and hope for much.

The low country of emotion — despair, disillusionment and doubt — they are close companions, even friends, even family members of passion, strength and hopefulness. Empowered people suffer, keep moving;  fail, keep risking; despair, keep hoping.

When we hear of empowered people, we picture a person who is fired up, on vision steroids, on courage adrenaline, always strong. Not so much. Remember Sampson. The inspired people range, they vary, they run the gamut, they ply the spectrum, from high to low.

In fact, and this is the deal, as has been said before, “Your mess is your message.” Your weakness creates your strength, your broken moments are your credentials.  You are a hot emotive mess, and a fiery, muscle force, all in one.

Within your empowerment lies your weakness, like the core of a nuclear reactor, and this weakness fuels your success, producing within you a cardinal and necessary equipoise.

Don’t forget this: the essential, contradictory emotional dualism endemic to all humans   keeps us humble. It will keep us from becoming obnoxious, insensitive, and vegetal, and it will keep us emotionally bifurcated in exactly the way needed for others to survive the astonishing success we have yet to achieve.

“In the front room her chair is now by the door,”  said Marilyn. “That big wood piece is at an angle in the corner. It is so much better!”

I looked down at the pictures of Elizabeth’s apartment that Marilyn was flipping through on her phone.

“In her bedroom, her dresser tops are all clear. You’ll love it. Here I can show you the picture.”

And there it was, a shot of the dresser, the one with the heart-shaped cut-outs in each drawer — the hearts that work as pulls — the dresser we had just recently bought for Elizabeth at a thrift store, the one Tasia had picked it out with a, “This one is Elizabeth! She’ll love the hearts.”

There it was now, as a small bright image on a glossy phone screen — the salient, physical, incontrovertible evidence of a stunningly gorgeous, transformative act of pure love — a perfectly arranged dresser top, a warm glowing lamp, a picture of Elizabeth and her mom and a perfectly placed nick-knack.

“Maria did that! She got it,” enthused Marilyn, gushing about the professional cleaner she had hired. “She understood what we were tying to do with Elizabeth, and she is teaching her how to do this herself.”

We both gawked. We dallied in time, we astonishicated. We dawdled, we puddled, we shamelessly muckified through the splashy shallows of the pervasively miraculous.

Elizabeth’s mom had died just a few years back, when Elizabeth was fifty. Then Elizabeth was alone, truly alone in an apartment that she and her mom had lived in for 30 years. There she was, for the first time in her life, left with all her mom’s stuff, left with piles of pack-ratted junk, left with a broken heart and a profound level of inexperience due to her own significant disabilities, her mom’s life-long, over-protective love and now her own, new grieving, depressive, suicidal outlook.

Elizabeth’s mom had been her everything — friend, confidant, protector and now she was gone. And what was left — the old medicine bottles, the faded bills, the cheap jewelry, the out-of fashion clothes, the dusty piles of junk on the dressers, the soft, sifting scent of memory, the scree at the bottom of the familial slope, the Sisyphean skein and the suffocating sadness of silence.

But now, now, now — totally different. Doctors had been consulted, brothers connected, counselor’s hired and friends found. People had been brought into play by the REFINERY Church — the church that found and was found by Elizabeth — and this found-community literally saved her life.

Medications, therapy sessions, Bible studies, lunches with friends, support groups, pastors, an adopted kitten, and finally, the professional cleaning and reordering of her apartment by her adoring church buddy Marilyn and one of her compadres, Brenda. By this and more, Elizabeth had been transformed.

Marilyn told us recently. “It’s like she is growing up” — in her fifties — “for the first time! She is finally becoming mature, a single woman who for the first time in her life, can actually care for herself.”

“Look at her kitchen,” said Marilyn pointing again at the screen again. The counters shone, they glowed — renewed, restored.

They look a like a lot like Elizabeth.

“She is an interesting person.”


“What? Really? Do we really want to let our ‘meh’ trump our ‘wow’ when there is evidence to the contrary.

“Meh,” is an exclamation expressing a lack of interest or enthusiasm, as in, “Meh, I’m not impressed.” We say “meh” when we judge something as uninspiring or unexceptional. We are indicating that it doesn’t stand out.

I think we “Meh.” too  much; we “Wow!” not enough.

So many people are “Wow!” but when we stay silent about them we offer the tacit, default, ubiquitous”Meh.”

This is not what is needed, not by any of us. We all need  to be noted as specific, different, particular, unique, valuable and wonderful — because we are.

My advice to our cold and cooling world — “Meh” less, “Wow!” more. It’s encouraging, and nothing is needed quite so much in the world today as encouragement. We all need encouragement; therefore, compliment more. Stop criticism from winning.

Do you yourself need encouragement? Of course  you do! But then you can’t entirely control that, can you? Well, you can excel, and that may bring some support your way — an award — but it just as well might bring jealousy and criticalness to your door.  It is what it is with success — the crowd will “Meh”  or “Wow!” you as they will — but you can control what you give..

Do you want encouragement, then give it. Do you see within yourself the need for affirmaton; that let that inward look show you the need in everyone else too. And let this awareness motivate you to give the ever needed,  “Wow!”  to the people around you. Encourage your family and friends. Compliment strangers. Shock people with deserved affirmations.

It’s too cold in here, let’s warm up the place.

Defeat “Meh,” pomote, “Wow!”

There are no isolated events, only processes that have gone unnoticed.

I have been thinking about processes lately, and like all of us, living in limbo within them. I am especially attempting to move contentedly within the unfinished sunshine of the linked-up, imbricate, tangential nature of process.

This week, I lived a process, a process of extraction, of annihilation, of removal. Everyday, in my few minutes of extra time — like some kind of deranged serial killer — I chopped small appendages into small pieces with my big loppers, and I sawed big appendages up with my reciprocating saw, and I stuffed them all in the trash for disposal.

Today the evidence disappeared, along with the hedge we had removed, when the trash truck came by, and now, in place of an old overgrown side yard, is my beautifully renewed and glowing side yard filled with flowering shrubs, stone pavers and wooly thyme.

It was a killing — and a vivifying. It was a process. It was a process of removing old thirsty sod and an over grown and entangled hedge and replanting water-saving beauty. I liked it.

Processes are good. They take some guts, often some team work and a good amount of persistence, but they can pay off nicely.

Looking back, redoing the yard was a crazy amount of work, but it was worth it. My wife and I have increased the beauty of our world; we will save water this next year, we applied and will receive a rebate from the water authority to pay for our work, and we have proven yet once again that we are a force, a team, able to transform reality together.

I enjoyed the process, but I am an American, so it was only somewhat enjoyable. I found myself rushing, trying to get through it. In American culture, we do this, and we are too often all about products. We want things done, in hand, fast, perfect.

That’s not reality. Life is a process, few thing are complete in one move, there seem to always exist a set of steps, a sequence or two, an overlap, the shift needed to get it done. And is it ever really done?

I want to get good with processes so I can be good with life. In much of life, the process is the product. The process is in itself meaningful, a kind of good end in itself, not something to simply rush through. Within every process exists hope, expectation, excitement, meaning, change, relationship, teamwork, good.

Good processes, like good relationships, are hard, long, expensive — and gorgeously and meaningfully fulfilling.

Sure, love products. They are fun.

But also, love processes! They are even funner!

You can check out the modern proverbs and epigrams that I recently wrote about “process” at