Tag Archives: Michelle Obama

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #50

It’s that time of year again, when the carols eek their way out of radio stations, in lifts and shopping centres. This time of the year is so mixed for me now. Tim would have been 65 yesterday (17th December) and all week I have felt haunted by him. A couple I had never met telling me about their encounters with him and his profound impact on their lives that they married twenty plus years ago, another person letting me know he was the one who set them on a journey of learning which had put them into a career they now love, opening a book with handwritten notes of his in the margins. It all feels very close and very far away all at the same time. I had a flashback this week as well, having not had one for a couple of years, a very unsettling way to have trauma reappear, so uninvited and unwelcome.

I listened to a David Whyte talk and he spent a lot of time on breathing and touched on death, he even used the word interstitial – a key word from Tim’s diagnosis. So, haunted, is how I feel writing this. There is anguish and torment in how I find myself this day. I am also really happy noticing myself smiling and laughing more than I have for a very long time. New beginnings and new challenges are like puzzles to unravel and unlock. Some of these beginnings are wrapped up in people, others in systems and still more in the place where people and systems play together.

This is a time of mixed emotions. I am more open to hearing his name than I have been, and I didn’t fall apart with any of the encounters this week. Although I was a little wobbly after one of them. I have been able to draw on Surrender from Bono and have just started Michelle Obama’s latest book The Light We Carry. She is an almighty communicator and formidable guide. I am deeply grateful for these two sojourners. I also listened to David Whyte’s latest lecture – who unbelievably – spent quite a bit talking about breathing. (For those who are new to this blog, you may not know my husband died 5 years ago from a lung disease which had his lungs not expelling all the carbon dioxide on each breath increasing toxicity. His prognosis was originally 18 months, and he went onto live almost ten years after diagnosis, which was its own kind of miracle.) I am taking all this instruction as a sign of ending and beginnings vying for space in my head and heart, a kind of arm wrestle is going on as they do their own in and exhalations.

Taking a breath and taking time over this exchange, between ourselves and the planet, is universal and inclusive. My own breathing has been quite disrupted of late with COVID and now a lingering cough that must be treated twice daily so I don’t find myself in territory that might bring on more asthma. Without breath in the body the body is still moving, blood flowing, hair growing. With breath in the body, we are visibly alive to others, and it is the sign of life we all look for in a sleeping baby or a person resting into their last moments. I am finding myself taking a lot of deep breaths as the residue of the virus is hanging around. I think this may also be part of the trigger about feeling haunted.

I’m ready for some rest. The election is over, my onboarding is in full swing, I’ve had my first Council meeting in the mayor’s seat, I have begun making a contribution to decisions for the future, getting to know staff and elected members is underway, and I am feeling my way through conversations and connections with systems relevance.

We all carry both our light, fears, memories and pockets of darkness, and I find this blog a way to make those experiences find their way from invisibility to visibility. The lesson for me this week is the ghosts in your head are the ones that need to be exorcised and fly about in times when they can tell you are taking a big step forward. They want one last hurrah just to make sure you are up for it, knowing they won’t be taking up much real estate in your life as it grows and expands beyond them.

The line from Whyte’s Sweet Darkness rings true, and sometimes it takes just one line of poetry inhaled, to get fresh oxygen into the lungs.

“Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.

In Ireland, a sacred pool after a walk through the hazel wood, David Whyte’s shadow hovering and lingering. This photo reminds me we are all in conversation with the elements. July 2013

Dancing with Speeches #46 March on Washington

In late August 1963, Martin Luther King led the march on Washington for jobs and freedom and delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. His words rang in the ears of a generation: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!”  This is a dream that is yet to be fulfilled and now we find ourselves on the brink of another march bringing another generation to a nation’s capital.  Here is a speech that might be heard in January 2017 to introduce a very special contributor.

Thank you for coming today to Washington.  We are living the dream – the dream of Martin Luther King; the dream of women and men, boys and girls throughout history who have stood together shoulder to shoulder, the dream of Maya Angelou to rise up, the dream of women like Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton to lead our nation, the dreams of all the little girls who have been hugged by their grandmothers and told they can do anything.  These are our dreams and we will not let them go  away for anyone and we will keep working on making them come true.

Thank you to the wonderful Indigo Girls for leading us in song – what a great choice – This Land is Your Land.  Yes it is this is our land and there is no more turning back.  Thank you Mavis Staples for rousing us with We shall overcome and to the amazing southern belles – Beyonce, Dixie Chicks and Dolly Parton – for singing Higher and Higher – because you know how it is …. when they go low … we go high.  There is no movement without music and it is a joy to see so many young musicians and singers taking up the mantle and leading the way for their sisters and brothers.

What are your dreams? I am dreaming for justice, for freedom, for emancipation from fear. I am dreaming for equity.  There is nothing else we can dream for – without equity there is no growth in our economy, no social stability and at worst no hope. We are trading in hope and we are in credit!  We are trading in justice and we are in credit!  We are trading in courage and we are in credit!

We are bound together.  We prosper together.  We grow together – and we liberate each other.  We turn to each other in our moments of grief, in our moments of disappointment and we turn to each other in our moments of success – and success we will have – we will overcome and that day is coming, not just some day, but today and tomorrow and the next day.

With grace, grit and gratitude we will rise.

With courage and humility and tenacity we will rise.

And now join with me to welcome our next next speaker – Michelle Obama.

This Land Is Your Land
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

15039720_10101535643495317_8632359972475762615_o

Dancing with Speeches #31 Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama spoke at the Democratic Convention this week about her girls growing into intelligent women over their years in the White House, a place built by slaves. It was also one of the best speeches I have ever heard and so this week’s dance is a thank you back to Michelle.  Maya Angelou’s poems Still I Rise and Phenomenal Woman just won’t leave me as I think of Michelle Obama and bow down saying thank you. 

Thank you for staying the course, for raising your girls into women. For showing us what love looks like in public office, for being decent, graceful, elegant, strong, kind. For holding hands, and for being able to laugh together, for lifting up and rising, rising, rising.

Thank you for not letting us see all the ordinary things and yet glimpsing the moments of the ordinary just enough to know 1600 Pennsylvania Ave was a home above the shop. Thank you for protecting your kids and showing day after day that #blacklivesmatter in education and health as well as on the streets.   Thanks for showing other parents the way and sharing your motto : when they go low, we go high. This is a motto of the campaign ahead for your friend Hillary and indeed all your fellow Americans who will be voting in the context of pain, hate speech and fear. As a Mum you were and continue to be your girl’s first role model.

Every Mum can look to you as a role model – showing your girls how to be a partner, a confidante, a smart person to keep your mate humble, a woman in every way, a broker for what’s strong not what’s wrong and most of all a voter. To think your eldest will be voting in her first election this November for a woman president, starting her voting pattern knowing that is possible.

Thanks Michelle for being a great woman and a great Mum, a great partner and friend for shaping our lives and conversations, for making us laugh and cry for rising, rising, rising. You are a woman of strength and we are all going to miss you in the White House and can’t wait to see you doing more in the global movements for equity, especially for women and girls education. Thank you for being  a phenomenal woman and raising two more.

michelle-obama-dnc-speech-video-democratic-convention

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Save