Tag Archives: overcoming challenges

How We Fight

Wild One 101
From Ciarán of Ailbhe’s Nine

Some learn to become indifferent to pain until they fight without thought. They learn how to lose themselves (their ability to feel, the essence of who they are, their sense of being) in order to win. The cost of this is high, for the selves they defend are the very same they so easily abandoned. Their eyes go vacant or hard or unseeing. They are trained to deny much of their own human being, and so likewise cannot see those they fall as flesh and blood and bone. They choose an inner death before their life is ended, believing it makes them better able to survive. It is unknown what continues to exist after such a fight is done, even in a victory.

But we learn to fight with our aliveness. The power within us forged in the fire of feeling. Our eyes are clear and wakeful, whether full of sorrow or laughter– compassion and passion being as they are two sides of a soul. We live our humanity fervent and full. We see each other eye to eye, and in the defending of all people, recognize ourselves in all we meet. No one is immune to suffering or grief. But the cries that we utter are always our own, whether of joy or of pain, and always the radiance burning inside. And when we fall, we blaze out each like a pulsing star, a heart that dared to beat with love, until the last spark fades from who we are.

***************
My own thoughts:

I’ve been having a very hard time putting anything into words regarding how I feel about living in a nation that seems to have been swallowed up by fear, prejudice, hatred and greed, perhaps in reverse order. Reading the news is like downing a glass of pesticides every morning and then trying to go about my day hoping I won’t experience any side effects. I’ve been paralyzed by a sense of hopelessness, grief-stricken, incredibly angry, tentatively resolved into taking action, terrified, and sometimes daring to dream all in a day. I’m a philosopher who spent more than a decade learning the rules of reason: all that flooding of feeling recently often leaves me reeling. I’m still trying to learn how to effectively take action without shutting down.

I used to be an avid advocate for the rights of children. I used to daily defend my right to full inclusion, equal access to education, acceptance and regard. And, whenever someone ever suggested to me that my perseverance made me a fighter, I’d be sure to defend my definite opinion to the contrary. To me, the purpose of advocacy was to build bridges, while the purpose of fighting was to burn bridges and erect walls, and the winner would be the fastest. I thought advocacy was strategic and thoughtful, but fighting was inherently destructive and usually violent. Advocacy resolved conflicts, fighting created them. That was a lot of black and white thinking.

We’re now faced with a situation in this country where our supposed leaders want to build walls, and the most effective way to resist is to fight: for compassion rather than hatred, for freedom over fear, for dialogue over discrimination, for human rights, for healthcare, for immigrants and their families, for people rather than profits and for healing rather than division.

I believe now that when people used to tell me I was a fighter, I honestly had no idea what they meant by that. I am discovering that I have so much to learn, unlearn, and relearn.

I am learning how compassion is as fierce as it is gentle, and is more powerful than fear, stronger than the deepest shame. I’m learning how wholeness is always in each of us, and that division is only as effective as the deception behind its appearance. I’m gradually accepting the fact that maybe, perhaps, I know how to fight for myself and for others… I just need to learn a new paradigm for how to go about it more effectively. I’m learning to trust more, to listen more, and to share, speak up, more.

I am not finding sharing these thoughts to be easy for me, at all. But I’m starting with where I am at, and that’s enough for now. I’m sure there will be many more insights from my ancient family to post as well, as I keep learning, so I will be sharing more from them here, too.

I Return As Dr. Éilis!

On Friday, I defended my dissertation, passed without the need for any revisions, and absolutely stunned out my committee! Each of them made a point to tell me how much they loved my presentation, and how well I did in answering their questions. I rocked it, above and beyond what I ever imagined. As Martha Beck says, Woohoo!!!

It’s been a long, long road, everyone. Weeks ago, I wondered whether, after I gained my freedom–err, I mean graduated– I’d be totally ecstatic and bouncing off walls, full of so much joy I wouldn’t know what to do with myself: maybe I’d have so much energy that I’d run until I’d get exhausted: which would only take a minute. I’m serious. Writing a dissertation takes up a lot of hours, and involves the “arduous” task of sitting still…with the exception of your hands of course, which are constantly typing. Moving becomes an unfamiliar pastime.

As it happens, I am immeasurably happy, and jubilant, and elated: and bone tired. Contentedly tired, but still very weary. They don’t tell you this when you get the acceptance letter, but graduate school is a long drawn out procedure with a recovery period. I recommend warning any graduate-school-enthusiast children you may have about this phenomenon, (but to be fair, no amount of warning ever dissuaded me from attending.)

For me, graduate school lasted ten enduring years. Years spent not knowing who I was, years where I faced a lot of discrimination, pain, ostracism and social invisibility, years in which I slowly but steadily moved through and eventually transformed my anger, grief, and feelings of worthlessness. Somewhere inside me was the girl who I’d forgotten in the fog, lost under harsh layers of living, but who was still breathing, silently dreaming.

I know she was there, because I have found her. I sang to her bones to rise, to walk into her own belonging. I traveled the road of shadows for her, called her name, gathered the shattered mirror pieces and pieced them whole once I heard and knew and felt throughout all I ever was that I was not broken. I learned to love those jagged pieces, a patchwork puzzle of the past. And despite all I had been through in the place to which I returned, last week when I returned, I remained wholeheartedly myself. I could have never achieved this on my own, of course, but I did have to decide to keep going, each step of the way. That is to me a testament to how far I have come.

Always the question arises, after arriving, no longer questing, for a threshold: as I look toward my whole life ahead of me, what amidst all that should be left behind is worth carrying forward? re-membering is important, relearning resilience, rebuilding a self by the soft light of a core spark that never dies, retrieving compassion from where it had retreated, backed into a corner of regret and shame and silence about much that had never been true. Freedom, walking out of the Anonymous Desert for the last time, and shutting a door of an era behind me was a right of passage in itself. But I know well that I could have never lept the crossing had I never learned to tear down walls, break through bars, and hold my own rather than hold on for dear life. (I have often done both kinds of holding, sometimes simultaneously.)

A week before my defense, I sat down and did some re-membering. I wrote from myself to myself, which I had never done before. I will share a bit of the growing with you, as I think I’ve learned things which we are all in the process of re-membering, and because I finally found the words for it.

***

Power is found within, springs forth from love and compassion for you, to hold your own sacred space within you, and claim your birthright of worth and belonging. You can stay centered in your own truth, your own power. You are the author of your life and the divine guardian of yourself.

Stop holding your breath against change. Be discerning and open. Let go. Let go of expectations. you belong to yourself and always have. This past does not define you. It will not ruin you. You will return. Keep your energy centered, your mind focused. Have great love and compassion for you. Know you are stronger than you know or believe. The grey will fall at your light. Be present, be alive and do not try to hide your eyes. Please return without any sense of small. Be the unbridled joyfulness of you. Your power, your truth, your strength, your trust, is all of and for yourself. I love you. You are already wild.

***

The journey that has gotten me here far surpasses the feat of freeing myself from a situation I never should have stayed in. If that lived experience was the only way to get me to where I am now, I am grateful for every moment of it, and that’s the truth. And truthfully, I am also overjoyed to finally be moving on, to embrace what is next in this wonderfully wild world. Let’s do this thing!

The Great Day Will Soon Arrive!

It’s happening, everyone! Tomorrow I will be on a plane to Anonymous Desert and will be defending my dissertation this Friday. Basically I will be spending 2.5 hours in a room with four committee members who will ask me all sorts of questions, and then decide, based on my responses as well as the over 200 page document I’ve handed in, whether I qualify to graduate with a PH.D. It’s been an incredible amount of work and I am still preparing! This is why I haven’t written much new content on the blog. To say it’s been all-consuming for a while now is an understatement. 🙂

My goal is to be Dr. Éilis on my return.
Meanwhile, I leave you with the poem that first began this blog back on December 3, 2013.

Being Complete

There is not one word to name
Shallow tidepools
Or rocky crags,
Wind blustering by

Or blue, deep flowing,
Growing blue
A whirrlpool of color
In the vastness of this sky

There my self of many faces passes by
The red beneath blood deep within
And blue around me reaches
Out across the thresholds of my skin

There but for her shaping hands go I
Molding new ground for my wearry feet
There but for their ancient eyes
And strong, tall forms,

Long streaming hair,
Glinting shields
And for me finding all of me,
I might never have been whole

I duck inside
The shelter of my own light house
As vast as sunrise,
As wide as mountains

As old as time
Home at last
I sweep the floor
I’ve left my golden shiny things outside

The only thing that matters now:
Unconditioned joy of living
Poured out from their hands
I once asked why,

Fragmented my soul
Against stone to understand
But now newly formed and unknowing
I am content to stand,

Belonging to myself
Beside them hand and hand.
Where haunting melodies of Lír’s children linger in the silence of the night
Where the Fianna’s hunting horn lies buried,

Where I can still follow the footsteps
That lead inside earthy knolls
Where landscapes reawaken
The absences of dreams leave holes

Along the path less taken
I discovered who I was
Fragile and bony, easily torn
Eternal and holy a spirit now born

When the rains came and washed fear away
Into the seven seas
I opened my eyes from a long sleep
Of seven years

And with a gratitude more full
Than the universe has stars
I jumped off securities jagged ledge
And soared into the trees.

Now I do not try
To name what refuses to be a certainty
Better it remain wild and unruly,
In the history of landscape

Better to welcome those you dance with wordlessly
So you do not waltz
Into the four sided space
Of a definition

With no way to return
As inexplicably
As you have come
Slide me into the glaring light

Of your microscopic gaze
Try to holler at the silence
Murmuring along
Edges of my life

I will sift like mist between
Your fingers and nothing will linger
But the emptiness you made of me
For I am, at heart, a mystery

With no word to capture the unfathomable totality
Who I am
When all is said and done, even then,
I will be.

My son, the triathlete…

An incredible, inspiring post from Sue Vincent about her son, indomitable and amazing as ever. He’s biking in a triatholon to raise money for people with acquired brain injuries, please support him and the cause!

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

nick-trike-park-birds-flowers-trees-009

You may know my son’s story. For once, I have no problem repeating it for those who do not. I have a very good reason for it that I have been bursting to share!

In 2009 my son was 25… a good looking, successful young man with a fast car, nice apartment near the coast and a very promising career. That ended on July 4th when he was left for dead in a Bournemouth alley, stabbed through the brain in an unprovoked attack.

2009 before the attack 2009 before the attack

I have written before of the terror of the next days as he underwent brain surgery to remove the shards of shattered bone from the left hemisphere of his brain. I have told of the weeks of heartache as we waited to see if he would live or die, while his brain bled and swelled, causing further damage to the brain stem itself…

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From the Ground Up

The day somberly takes shape beneath
Comings and goings of many errands,
While I sift through shadows
For lightheartedness.

It’s got to be here somewhere.
Where did I leave it last?
Did I put it down, distracted,
Now failing to recall it’s location?

I am not unhappy,
Just strangely subdued,
Humbled by a shifting,
Unsolid world.

A prism of full spectrum feeling:
Beautiful and bold,
Soulful, sharp and fleeting,
Soft joy changing gently.

I interact with others,
speechless somewhere inside.
So moved I am paralyzed,
Returning to the present one breath at a time.

It feels, sometimes,
As if I might dissolve entirely
Eclipsed by a greater, more vivid,
More elusive star than the sun.

Standing on the edge, frontier of my self,
I marvel at its intricacy,
How it completes the puzzle of being
Love, fragile and hesitant.

That line drawn in the sand
I’ve been staring at for hours?
I know I will cross it,
But for what reasons and what time and in what way,

Enfolds itself in mystery,
A crane born from a paper sky,
A question mark with the power
To permanently alter who I think I am.

Transparent as cascading water,
All I sought to hold onto
Becomes fluid.
I am struggling with nothing.

The stars reflected
In the pools of possibility,
Collected in the land’s lost hollows,
Shine almost forgotten.

I gather them in cupped hands,
Hand them out where they’re needed.
This light I share with everyone,
It isn’t mine.

All I’ve held certain
Gets turned on its head
In the blink of an eye,
And I am fumbling in a once familiar landscape.

How am I? Indeed.
And yet, almost inconceivably,
Regarding myself like a child
Has never been easier.

So much room to grow and stumble and wonder,
A space so heart-breakingly forgiving,
It is impossible to fill it
With tears or awe or terror.

Only trust lives here,
The kind that leaves you shaking,
But somehow still safe.
A kind of ground zero:

Where we try ourselves at being,
Over and over and over,
Without judgment,
Without attempting anything.

The ones who continually catch us,
Whether we plummet or fall flying,
Rock us to our foundations
With the caring attention given to newborns.

So that in the moments we let go,
Suddenly we wake
And briefly remember our origins,
Imprinted as they are the heart of us.

Demeter’s Fire

Six months old she is
When I begin gathering her in my arms,
To gently rock her
Within the flames.

I stand by her fiercely
Every night, with love,
Sweep away the ashes
Of the no longer needed.

With ardent joy I watch her change
As the outer shell dissolves,
Her eyes take on a charcoal grey
And raw and radiant, she burns to live.

Stop, stop! her mother cries
Tearing tears from raging eyes,
Her fervent passion rivals mine,
Equal, by the love with which we’re both defined

What are you doing to my child?
I am seeing to her being wild.
Bone deep the memories I set alight,
To the song of the soul I sing each night.

I do not deliver death on one so small,
The smallness itself is all that dies.
Who questions me, when there’s only love behind
what to you appears, at once, harsh and strange?

I, born of eternal light divine,
I lit the wisdom in the child’s eyes,
Set smoldering, her limits, to shine her light free,
Turned resilient and bright all she can be.

Do not tear her from my arms
As with Demeter of old,
Do not misunderstand
Healing in unfamiliar guise.

Do not be mistaken
By what you’ve been told.
Though tried, she will rise
Brilliant and bold.

I know, for I too am self-made
And could not help but recognize
My kindred, spark which can’t be tamed
Which as well within myself resides.

Let me hold her,
Until she knows her name,
Until trembling, leaping
Through a waking world, she flies,

And with our ones
Who stir the sleeping,
Though she’ll not see
Her world the same,

She’ll be as the sun
Is to the dreaming
Rekindling the hearths
No one thought would blaze again.

Then through this life, let me carry her,
These trials, triumphs to the wise.
There is no loss here undertaken,
She is opening her eyes.

On the Journey Unfolding

Stillness sparkles
Like beads of sweat upon her skin
Overwhelmed with not knowing
Enough, and too much at once

Off the next step of the journey
She falls as if diving
Backward, body tumbling suddenly
Into a network of outstretched hands

Cautiously she peers up, seeking reassurance
In their wise and ancient faces
Gently they explain the why of it
For a second, peace, she accepts

But silence shrouds the when and how
Unsettled by uncertainty
Stars wait to intermittently flicker
Behind the eyes she starts to close

She is a crescent of moon
Surely too small to be prepared
To rise full across the sky
Reflecting the sun

How does light, bending
Coalescing into prisms
Of the named and unnamed colors
Experience living, life dynamic and moving

She could ask them to leave her here
But that would only put an end to growing wild
And what joyful homecoming might await them
Passed the familiar with its running interference

And so, though fear taunts her
Beckons with cold stone stare
She is already changing
One fragile life, they carry her

Where are they going
Needing, again and again at every moment
To trust, letting go into love
That no matter the form, she remains who she is

Light is a shelter woven over her
Light is sharp awe, soft wonder
Seeing herself take shape before her eyes
Recognizing, eyes open, she will mirror the spiraled patterns of being

Break open and unfold

The seed sewn at the center
Waits to grow
Is always yours to hold.

As if dissolved in a cocoon,
I prepare to emerge changed
Into what I have always been.

My mind doesn’t know it yet,
And yet, I dream
Of unchecked skies and new found wings, I dream.

The metal box overflowing with my fears
Is too heavy to keep
Carrying on this journey,

So I’ll leave it on the bottom shelf
Behind the self help
Books promising “a better you.”

I am enough,
I scream at their winking gold titles.
Because even though I am

Cracked and chipped and damaged,
Dropped by accident too many times,
In turmoil with the mending of old wounds,

Still I take off again into the blue,
No longer meant to hide, or forced to crawl.
I tell the one who fights transforming at all:

Wordless love waits for whomever can
Commend themselves into the hands
Large enough to contain each

Of our sharp and jagged pieces.
Still enough,
To hold each imperfect moment, without comment.

None will hand me back such trying
Marked up red for correcting
Along with, “it would be better had you been done differently.”

So tomorrow, letting go, I’ll break down
The sealed doors to secret rooms
Behind which occupants bide their time, unwelcome.

Even if, to evict them I dissolve shaking
Into a dark shelter beyond
Which nothing is certain.

Hidden there are the keys for the freedom
To reign in my own home,
A butterfly monarch sustained by wildflowers.

Hidden there, myself unchanged.
And because there is nothing to do or be differently,
I’ll be wholly different from before.

I’ll remember what wings are, never forgetting who carries me,
The wind across this expansive, unsung sky,
And above the clouds, I’ll soar.

Phoenix Returning

I woke up with a sunrise
Echoing in my eyes,

The colors all collide,
And all that I can find

Is being alive
Engrained in every surface where it shines.

What else could I do but trade
The limits of the world for a song,

The song in whose melody
I’ve always belonged?

Believing the words held in silence so long,
I am, I am, so grateful to be.

The categories stripped away,
The day made out in perfect contour

Against the breathing sky,
And I, The crying light beaming,

Each a color that streams,
And the words form wings.

They dance each ray of light leaping,
Expanding from every point, changing never leaving.

Like a young universe, carving its own horizon,
I reach out, there Is no point

From which I begin or then return,
I am, I am, so grateful to be.

And so I rise,
With the sun rising in my eyes,

Surrendering the need to try,
I know I can’t fall, only fly.

What else could I do but trade
The fears of this world for a song,

The song in whose melody
I’ve always belonged?

There is more to our lives
Than the world will let on,

Night has it’s stars, from the ashes I’ve gone,
I rise, I rise, and always I’ll be.