Behind the scenes, invisible to me, some kind of decision-matrix and discernment process is being applied to determine if I am successful on getting into a tour later in the year. The invisibility of the process is such a good reminder of how we are all often subject to processes completely out of our sight and control. We may well turn up offering the best version of ourselves, or perhaps trying on a little of the chameleon so we might blend in better and be chosen, and still not make someone else’s cut. This usually has absolutely nothing to do with us – maybe there are just too many people like me and the one thing that might help me stand out from the crowd is shared by a dozen others? The judgement may not make sense to us, but we are not in the judging role. I have also put myself into a pool for consideration for a co-writing learning project and that team is looking for an international crew to reflect who is on the planet – so I guess I will be in the mix with other Australians, white middle class tertiary educated women, and expect they might only need one of those – so me missing out will be a population variable, and not personal. They don’t know me and are not making a decision based on whether they like me, trust me, care about me.
There are invisible processes like this all around us, and they are contrasted with the transparent ones, like applying for a job where all the features are listed and often the decision-making frameworks are clearly visible which has its own selection process built in. We can sometimes rail against a decision as if we have the right to influence the outcome, I suspect though, even when the process is visible, there are still some invisible ingredients lurking there. I was listening to a friend talk about a process for a role she recently applied for and despite all the experience, relevance and talent lining up she didn’t get an interview. I doubt if this had anything to do with her or her capability, there must have been other factors, invisible to her at play. This is not an uncommon experience and while incredibly annoying at times, it is worth remembering, these judgements often have absolutely nothing to do with us.
Extrapolating this out, becoming visible so the right people see you at the right time is often magical and completely unexpected because their criteria has been invisible to you all along. I was asked to speak at an event last year and it was a complete mystery to me why I had been asked, I felt I didn’t meet any criteria they might apply to such a choice. If it had been an open process of putting in an expression of interest I wouldn’t have considered applying, as to me, the criteria I was holding in my mind wouldn’t have chosen me for such an event. When I got the invitation, I was humbled and grateful and took it as a gift, and wanted to make the most of the opportunity and believe I did. It also gave me latitude to expand into the space I was given to go beyond my own boundaries. The whole experience has been very instructive to keep showing up and being myself, and when the moment comes, to be ready, to say yes to the invitation in the most fulsome way I can. The mystery and generosity of the invitation started in deep invisibility. So many opportunities have a long gestation and their invisibility is part of the perplexing nature of both missing out on opportunities that seem obvious, as well as the ones that come packaged as surprises.
The new overnight sensation is usually someone who has been toiling away artistically for decades. We don’t all have decades to wait for that moment to arrive, and it is can heartbreaking at worst, and annoying at best, but waiting is a feature of invisibility. You can sometimes be invisible in the waiting, blending into the scenery, hiding yourself in plain view or just fading in to the landscape.
It takes effort to be invisible and perhaps even more effort than what it takes to be visible. Finding the moments to make the most of your visibility may go a long way to serve your aspirations and be noticed and invited. You never know who is watching and the invisible job interview (or other opportunity) you might be seeking may well be just around the corner, or have already happened and invisible to you. So whether I get the chance to be selected or not for the tour or the writing gig, I know it may not have much to do with me, and that something else may already have started calling me and will be emerging from the dark.
The invitation to a new day, the world’s best example of a new opportunity, goes something like this:
Put on the mind of morning
To feel the rush of light
Spread slowly inside
The color and stillness
Of a found word.
– John O’Donohue – extract from For Light, in Bless the Space between Us.
This is the last blog post for 2021. In true Dickensian style, it is a year that has seen the best of times and the worst of times. I so appreciate the best of moments and the opportunity to meet the worst of with witnesses and a scaffold of care sometimes completely invisible to me, and often elusive, due to my own amnesia. For many another COVID Christmas seals the deal on naming 2021 as a tough year. Most of my immediate family I connected with via zoom, although I did get to see some of them, we applied socially distanced behaviour and I got another negative PCR result. With some members of the family in a vulnerable health zone, I am a regular to the testing station, as hospital visits and new borns are on the horizon.
The best of moments hold a set of characteristics of warmth, good humour, often at a table, nearly always in the company of women, and where my arrival to the scene is incidental and I am in receipt of the harvest of much that has gone before to enable to even be in the moment. The worst of’s have nearly always been punctuated by pain, retrospective memories or some kind of unpredictable natural phenomena that no one was expecting. They have often been solitary and hidden from the gaze of others and had to find their way out through the intense work of metaphorical massage or exorcising like thought management. Moments that have taken me to heights have been able to be mined for their wealth when I have been impoverished or felt bereft. I seem to have an insatiable appetite for the rich tapestry of goodness to draw on. This wealth, is an abundance of goodness to luxuriously bathe in, as I continue to learn how to receive.
I have been working on my practice, of the discipline of receiving, and testing out little exercises to develop my receiving muscle. This season of gift giving and being thankful for all we have received, provides an opening to develop the practice. Receive has an etymology from Latin, which means to take back, back to the original place. So I have been thinking when I receive something it is a reflection of what is seen, caught in the act of being visible, being called forth and grasped with recognition, being offered to me as a reflection in the mirror. This goes beyond everyday gratitude and is perhaps a pathway to a deeper understanding and experience of being witnessed.
I am deeply grateful to all those who have witnessed me this year. This humble act of solidarity, without judgement and with the generosity of a layer of protection, has helped me over and over again this year. To those who have been in this role for me this past year, my sincere thanks. I know there are many moments you would be able to testify to me sensing my way through, falling towards an insight, burying an anxiety, driving a change, being astonished, feeling enchanted.
In court there a few different types of witnesses, the expert witness, the eye witness, the character witness and the fact witness. I notice that all four types of witnesses have showed up for me this year, and I have also sought them out depending on what I need to be seen or heard. I so appreciate the eye witnesses who have been with me for many decades and where we have such a common language and frame I need only hint at a few words and be seen, heard and understood with no further explanation. I rely on the fact witnesses to keep me leaning in and being realistic, helping me discern the truth, reality and to detect the fake news. The character witnesses reassure me of what they know, have seen and recognise what I have done and remind me of what I am capable of. The expert witness is the one who can offer up a new piece of research, understanding or replace old data with new while not taking away what is there but making sure what is available is more current and solid.
As I leave 2021, knowing the pilgrim path of placing one foot in front of the other, I bow with deep appreciation, to those who have been witnesses to me. I am overwhelmed with the acts of kindness that enable me to practice how to receive.
Thank you to those of you have travelled with me and read this blog across the year. Next year will be the 10th year of writing a weekly blog and I am looking to receive your witness with the same kindness. I would love you to share my posts with others if you find content resonates with you. In 2022 my theme is going to be invisible and visible.
“Work in the invisible world at least as hard as you do in the visible.”
The feeling of being carried and my hand being held continues, cries and sobs are heard. And let’s be clear there is a difference between crying and sobbing. A cry is an acute response, while a sob is chronic – an ache that seems to go on and on.
In this year of self-compassion there is a lot more crying and sobbing than I have done for a long time … and it is not all grief. It is also release, the pressure valve being discharged and letting off steam turned to tears. It is also coming to terms with reality, a veil being lifted to see what was hidden and facing facts. Reality isn’t all its cracked up to be (and I am convinced the way we remember is one of nature’s ways of showing compassion towards us, only revealing what we can handle one bit at a time). Memory does play tricks on us and I am having lots of flashbacks to times gone by and reconstructing what was going on with a new lens, or sometimes with no lens at all, just seeing facts. It is possible to have more than one memory, more than one reality, we all live on multi-planes as we go about our lives on this planet.
As a child I loved (and I still love) science fiction and I used to imagine that we were living in a multi-verse – things happening in different dimensions at the same time all around us – even though we couldn’t see them such is the creative power of time and molecules. This is a common experience. In my multi-verse, time was the same in each place, but it was different configurations of people, places and creatures. Time being the foundation holding all the verses together even though they were parallel universes – a bit like Dr Who in the Tardis having a Groundhog day in many worlds. I haven’t thought about this idea for a very long time, maybe half a century, but it has returned to me in this Year of Self Compassion, offering me a way of seeing and understanding what is going on in my life with the familiarity of the world clock (my constant companion when I was working internationally for five years). It was perhaps my first exposure to the idea of liminal space and time.
Going under each lintel and over each threshold to new places, new beginnings you cannot cross on your own, you are carried. The tears open the door, which needs to be open to before you can go through. The ancestors, the angels, guardians, witnesses, escorts – all carrying me. Such a powerful realisation of being held and that old familiar experience of moving on and holding still.
Having had a couple of falls recently and feeling very unsteady on my feet and being ungrounded may well have been the invitation to be held and to be carried. To being lifted over a threshold to come to a new place, to not let my feet touch the ground. This is in contrast to the horrific origins of women being carried over the threshold of the new home on their wedding day. (This tradition dates back to Roman times where soldiers abducted and raped the women and carried them off against their will as reflected in the mythological Rape of the Sabine Women.) In my version of being carried over a threshold at this time, I am not touching the ground, it will be there for me more solid when I am ready to cross it and go out into the world having been in a new place. This is a constant renewal as you are never the same going in as coming out. But this post it is about being carried and recognising and naming the experience, honouring and acknowledging the invisible help.
The safety net offered by those closest to us who turn up over and over again invited and uninvited intuitively knowing when the moment is to step in and hold up with no fuss, no show and no comment is how I know I am being carried and held. Being held, banishes loneliness and being carried, reduces the chances of stumbling and falling.
I am overwhelmed by the visible and invisible acts happening in real time to get me over thresholds. In the new places, where the ground is less likely to go from under me, I can face the facts of parallel universes and move on while holding still.