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I have been grappling with forgiveness.
There are so many little understandings + realisations connected to forgiveness that I had no idea about, and the more I read about it and tried to apply it in real-life, the more I found myself uncomfortably challenged, but joyfully liberated.
Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting the act or the situation, but it does mean applying the maximum amount of compassion possible to a situation. It means seeing the person, people, or situation requiring forgiveness in the most human light possible; seeing all the short-comings and vulnerabilities, all the imperfections and jagged edges, and softening into the pain and grief, the accusation.
The moment you dehumanise a situation, you walk the other way from forgiveness. Forgiveness is hard work. It’s uncomfortable and gritty, and requires tenacious persistence, and equal amounts of peace and solitude. It’s heart and intellect rolled in one, and it requires practise. I’m learning, all the different colours and nuances of forgiveness. It is nowhere near as black and white as I thought, and each time I forgive, I find a new light and shade in my understanding, and another skill in emotional problem-solving in my repertoire.
Forgiveness works really well when you try and do it in steps, or increments. You need to take time out from the intensity of feeling something, and yes, true forgiveness requires walking through it all. All damn lot of it. Every joyful moment, every searing moment of rage, every farewell, every stomach-churning moment of grief. All of the emotions. So it stands to reason that you need to take a break and, you know, maybe have a cup of tea + a Tim Tam, before diving headlong into it all again!
Forgiveness can look different over time, and might need to be done over and over, but each time you do, it definitely becomes easier. Especially if you’ve made sense of it the previous time you “forgave” and you are building upon a strong compass of forgiveness. So forgiveness needs to be done with an excellent understanding of what your own values are, who you are, and what is okay for you. And each time you make progress, or take another step, something becomes freer and easier. You might suddenly miss a person more, or want to hug them a little tighter. There is the old warmth and joy in conversation, rather than just careful politeness. You are more yourself, and there is connection. Because there is trust.
Finally, forgiveness is freedom. It is like finding more lung-space to breathe deeper, because everything is lighter, the air is clearer, and you have wings that move more. There is still ache and stretch in each step, but there is unmistakable freedom. And that freedom spells itself out in each playful word and new conversation built upon trust. Even in the most dire and difficult moments of forgiveness, there is a deep resonant correctness and rightness about the gravity of the situation. Even if another word is not uttered, there is a sense of some sort of equilibrium. Maybe not the restoration of ANYTHING; perhaps things are far too broken for that. But there are new personal understandings, hard won, and a sense of courage, strength and freedom that comes from walking away from a situation, having forgiven.
Forgiving this week for me was unexpected and simple. For months, I had lost connection with a dear friend. We were in touch, but really not. The old trust, the quirky playfulness, the immediate confidence – all replaced by polite conversation. I was holding back. There was a roadblock that I didn’t know how to shift. I was angry and hurt by distance. What did it take to shift things? Courage to articulate it and time. Time needed to pass, I needed to walk through every force of anger and disappointment, and the trust needed to tentatively grow. There needed to be discomfort and struggle. There needed to be “try” from both ends.
But this week, after 6 months of missing one of my dearest friends…I finally, finally want to hug her breathless and share a ridiculous joke with her. I finally also put into words, compassionately and lovingly, how much I missed her, loved her, and was hurt. It took all my courage to name the hurt and to risk the anger and tears. But somehow, we find ourselves on the other side of it all, freer + lighter.
I’ve taken a step toward freedom.
This brought tears to my eyes. Two extraordinary, exceptional young men. The connection and love between them. The quiet sincerity and articulateness of their responses. The fact that they argue! The unmistakeable bond between them.
They are a wonderful example to all.
We all want to be seen, heard, and loved.
I don’t start every day excited, as excited by life as I usually am. And I don’t mind at all that I feel the full gamut of feelings; it somehow makes me feel more grounded, even if it is uncomfortable. But a conversation I’ve had regularly with myself recently, especially toward the end of Term 3 when I am “Secondary Music Teacher Exhausted”, an exhaustion like no other, has been, “Why take that extra step?”
Especially when it seems like it doesn’t matter, or no-one cares, or that the joy is belittled, or that it seems like the gesture is not valued. Or that it costs way too much of the precious energy that I have left, that I’m literally scraping the bottom of the barrel to get to. Why EVEN?
Because that is the very definition of life.
It’s the very defining feature of being alive and human.
I don’t mean that anyone should push to the extremes of their limits every day, and to jump hurdles that should never be jumped. I mean to say that extra caring word, make the extra gesture, the little moment of connection and love and too often we stuff back into our pockets because, well, “they won’t value it anyways.” Or that there might be that horrible awkwardness of a tender moment somehow marooned on a desert island in the middle of the hustle of a day.
Well, get stuck on that island. Hijack a little bit of the relentless pace, and build a pontoon. The little awkward moments are the fleeting moments of being purely alive and human!
How often have you been on the receiving end of one of those leaps of faith? When someone went out of their way to come to you when you looked and appeared okay, but really REALLY, you so much appreciated their care?
Now reverse it.
Be that little fairy sometimes. Because you don’t know HOW MUCH people need tender-awkwardness in this world.
The dorky-tender shall rise up!
I was thinking today about where I’d like to head in the future. Right now, I’m up to my armpits in secondary school classroom music teaching, and I love it. It’s exactly where I want to be, and I’m happiest in the classroom, no matter how demanding the day, and love connecting + being in conversation with other teachers.
But if I were to ever raise a family, I would never inflict this intensity of full-time teaching upon my children, or my husband or partner. I would rather the be poor and living on a creative shoestring than stretched to the limit with no emotional energy to spend. I wouldn’t want to miss a moment.
So I thought about lecturing, composing full time, working at tertiary level, writing, doing workshops, and at the end of it all, I realised one thing to be true.
It’s not the intensity of work per se; it’s how much connection there is. No matter where I go, there will be demands, even if I step down from full-time. There will always be things competing for my attention, and if it’s not work, then it will be family, friends, my own expectations, creative ideas, community…all of it. All MESSY lot of it! And I realise, now in this little oasis of holidays, that I can only be grateful for this peace when I’ve had intensity of work. I don’t wish maximum loading on anyone; no-one should do that for a period of time.
But life goes in ebbs and flows; there will be mad scrambles and moments of calm, times where you won’t think you’ll make it through another step, and other days where you fly through with energy to spare. The thing is, it ONLY makes sense when there IS that variety and contrast. Joy only happens in the light of grief. Rest and repose only after a period of regular work.
So wherever I go in the future, let there be laughter. Let there be joyful connection that lifts me up and inspires my very authenticity and humanness. Let there be examples of courage and love ALL AROUND ME, EVERY DAY, asking me to be better. Because I can err on the side of caution, joyful as I find myself normally. Let me be moved and shaken by people who are heartfully alive all around me, that I may be alive always, no matter where my place or intensity of work.
Through connection and love, everything has purpose, becomes interesting, has agency, and has resonance. I don’t want to live any other way.
This gorgeous girl shares her love of make up so joyfully, intelligently, and elegantly on social media. And the world got her down despite how much she loved doing her videos.
Here is her articulate and courageous response. This got my attention.
I have been commissioned to compose a choral work for the 2nd MOD Exhibition for WOLTATTI 2018, which will premiere during September 2018 to January 2019. The piece will be for a 1000+ voice choir made up of all ages and ability levels, all socio-economic backgrounds, and is a connecting point and representation of the diversity of our community.
Here is the summary of the project:
The second MOD exhibition, WAGING PEACE, will invite visitors to consider the role of machines and technology in creating peaceful futures. visitors will be taken on a thought-provoking journey that will explore what peace means and look at ways that ware and conflict can be invested to find alternative drivers of peace. The exhibition will examine the role defence plays in creating safe societies, the ethics of war and violence, as well as opportunities for peaceful engagement and community building. WAGING PEACE will also ask students and artists to challenge the role of machines in waging war by responding with their own machines for peace as a means to inspire change for the future.
“War appears to be as old as mankind, but peace is a modern invention.” [Sir Henry Maine]
I’m just starting to think in all directions about the project and how I might incorporate different layers of sounds, and different vocal abilities to represent connection, how we all fit together in a community, and how the sum of all the parts is far greater than a solo voice, as powerful as that may be. That a solo voice CAN start the ripple effect for peace.
I’m so thrilled to be part of a project that resonates with me, and that I’m excited and challenged to think about!
Here is my rough, first draft of the lyrics, hand-written + freshly typed up!
WAGING PEACE: “Dreaming of a Peace Unknown”
Who are we without song?
Song of life? Connecting point?
Dance of energy and light.
Who are we without creative forces connecting us?
Connecting points guiding us
Into the humanness of falling and being?
We are living dancing souls
Constantly challenging perceptions
Constantly changing directions
Of how we think and grow
We must live completely
We have the life force in our hands, and it can go any way we choose
Why not the way of peace?
Does it have to be a declaration of cleverness, spite, or ingenuity?
Do we have to create waves that do not serve our hearts?
Why can’t we take it all down, take away the words, the shards, the pulses of pain
And just be, simple and sacred in our truth?
Some other place and time?
Using the mind to inspire, not inflict pain
War appears as old as mankind,
Struggle is the defining lifeblood of us,
Is as old as we know, and a new invention.
A new creation
What we imagine cannot come into being without quiet strength
True strength is gentle
What is innovation and creativity without humanity?
And shouldn’t everything start with the most personal of persons?
What is art without a soul behind it?
What is song without a lifeline dancing?
We can make whatever we want…why not quiet?
Why not peace?
Why not deep connected peace, in love and quiet courage?
What not peace?
Let it be peace.
I like this. It’s very much in my thinking right now, as I have the time and space to consider deeply what I do in the classroom, and what I do for myself as a teacher.
Also applies to great leaders; ‘The things that great leaders, in any capacity, know about their “people”.’
The ONLY point that I don’t agree with is the very first one; I think great teachers DO have great lessons. They usually work hard to plan them that way, have thought about all the variables in the classroom, including the well-being of their students, and can drop the plan and be flexible at a moment’s notice. I “get” the point being made, but I wholeheartedly believe that great teachers cannot HELP but create great lessons…lessons that are excellent in content + organisation as well.
The most endearing show of imagination today!
I took a Year 7 Drama relief lesson this morning and sent 2 of the groups out on the landing between Music + the Centre for Senior Learning to rehearse. Two of my Year 12 Music kiddies stood at the edge of the unfolding creation, waiting for a good moment to cross over:
Sir Year 12: “Okay, so where are we right now?”
Sir Year 7: “We’re in a forest, with a swamp in the middle!”
Sir Year 12 to Miss Year 12, with resignation: “Okay. I guess we swim!”
So they did! My AWESOME Year 12s “swam” through the deep, dark, murky waters of The Swamp, navigated The Forest, and safely traversed into the Centre for Senior Learning.
The Year 7s were thrilled.
And so was I. 😊🙌