Tag Archives: surrender

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #48

I’m listening to Bono’s memoir Surrender and loving it. I am finding myself thinking about what was going on in my life when he is talking about recording a song, writing a poem, being on tour, becoming a parent, getting married, being in that force of nature and brotherhood that is the band U2. I wasn’t expecting his story to have so much resonance with mine and all the reasons I have loved the band for so long are being revisited.

U2 was often on the turntable, or CD player in the house and car being one of THE bands forming the soundtrack of my child raising years. The poetic and the romantic expressions of universal themes always seem to find me.

The sound and this brotherhood – the Zen master of the guitar The Edge, the sparse intense intimacy of Adam on bass, the relentless demand of Larry on drums and the ache and urging of Bono – I am grateful for the music and the leadership they have shown in and out of the studio. 

The ability for sound to hold meaning and to be held by that meaning over and over again is like a universal prayer. It is the form and function of call and response that refuses to budge, and I am never released. The voice, the vocation, the call, the response and the consequent spiralling, like the nautilus swimming through an ocean, this pilgrim is moving into new waters. 

I learnt recently a nautilus has an extremely rare ability to withstand being brought to the surface from its deep natural habitat without suffering any apparent damage from the experience, able to withstand the incredible changes in pressure. I am drawing inspiration from this ancient mollusc as I come into the new role of Mayor. There has been a change in pressure as I am washed onto another shore, I am hanging onto the nautilus to hold me and remembering the rhythm and the tides, like the music of U2 keeping me afloat in an ocean of sounds and calls demanding a response.

Listening to the book also has me listening to some old U2 tracks like Pride, Desire, Streets with no name, With or Without You, and remembering, with great love, old conversations. Grief is sneaky and Bono’s voice has been its midwife this week amidst all the new learning, new pressures and new opportunities emerging.

There have been some disturbing moments this week with the ongoing 16 days of activism gendered violence and noticing how that violence shows up. Got to watch Brazen Hussies again this week in a community setting and in conversation with strangers. I was very unsettled by how far we have come and how far we still have to come. And the soundtrack of that doco was full of chants and the familiar voice of Helen Reddy. In the course of the week, I watched a bully use all his tools to try and intimidate a young woman, she drew on the wisdom and advice of others and easily found her voice and resisted. I celebrated her. I heard myself into speech about some moments in the election campaign where violence turned up. I am still working on myself to replace thoughts of violence rooted in judgements, to be replaced with thoughts and acts of empathy. I have plenty of opportunities to practice!

These thoughts, private and invisible, are invitations to transformation. My reluctance to embrace these invitations has been visible here and there this week. The lyrics of With or Without You have been swirling around in my head to accompany these thoughts. Bono wrote the lyrics as a tussle with himself, a bit like the idea that we take ourselves wherever we go whether we like it or not, and how we sometimes have to wait for parts of ourselves to catch up with other parts.

And you give, and you give, as you give yourself away is an invisible earworm making another spiral in the nautilus. When I do an exegesis on the line and listen again to the track, I discover the music, emptied of lyrics for almost half of the track, is the response to the call.  The spaces between the notes, the combination of sounds and instruments, the complexity of the mix, making a sonic ocean for the lyrics to land on the shore. Another U2 lesson to take with me into my internal and invisible places of resistance, resilience and surrender.

See the stone set in your eyes
See the thorn twist in your side
I’ll wait for you
Sleight of hand and twist of fate
On a bed of nails, she makes me wait
And I wait without you

With or without you
With or without you

Through the storm, we reach the shore
You give it all but I want more
And I’m waiting for you

With or without you
With or without you, ah, ah
I can’t live
With or without you

And you give yourself away
And you give yourself away
And you give
And you give
And you give yourself away

My hands are tied
My body bruised, she got me with
Nothing to win and
Nothing left to lose

And you give yourself away
And you give yourself away
And you give
And you give
And you give yourself away

With or without you
With or without you, oh
I can’t live
With or without you
Oh, oh
Oh, oh

With or without you
With or without you, oh
I can’t live
With or without you

With or without you

Songwriters: Adam Clayton / Dave Evans / Larry Mullen / Paul David Hewson

With Or Without You lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Promises to tomorrow #47 #trust and #surrender

Trust and surrender was the theme of a networking event I went to this week. Having these two words put together instantly dropped a plumb line into the conversation circles that were part of the afternoon. I didn’t intend to share my recent history with a bunch of strangers, however told a story of how I was invited to trust and surrender when Tim was first diagnosed. For long time readers of my blog you may know this story.

When Tim was first diagnosed with IPF, he was told he had 18months to 2 years to live, he actually lived 9 more years.   At the time we were in shock for a few months. I was wondering what it all meant as I headed into my 50th birthday and for years had longed for my 50s as at decade between children and (hopefully) grandchildren, between not having to invest too much in a career as already had achieved a lot (eg been a Chief of Staff, CEO, completed post graduate studies). Instead I felt I was given a life sentence too. So I took the idea of a LIFE sentence and thought about how we could live, not die. We took the concept of living with a disability and not to adopt a dead-man-walking approach to it all. I also adopted the title of pilgrim for myself and to see everything as part of an intentional journey to be walking on this earth and whatever path I was on there was meaning and message. It served me well. But I didn’t come to it easily. I had the help of a set of dreams and that is what I shared on Friday.

Between Christmas and New Year 9 years ago, I had four dreams. Each dream had me in a devastating catastrophe. One a tsunami, another a bushfire, another a flood, and another an earthquake – in each one I was still alive and ended up on a shore. In each one I also traversed some hair-raising landscapes and sometimes I was alone, sometimes with strangers and sometimes with family or friends. The dreams were all vivid and often loud, but when I got the shore each time the dream ended and I awoke, I was exhausted, grateful and calm. After the fourth dream, I thought what is going on? What is my sub-conscious trying to tell me. I realised that they were all natural disasters, nothing I could do about them, they happened whether I liked it or not, and I was able to survive them all. They gave me the frame to be in what was ahead. I was able to trust and surrender, because in each dream, I went with the flow of the disaster, I was carried along with it, but I didn’t succumb to it and I had all I needed with me to get to the end in one piece. And this is how I have now arrived indeed on a new shore and a new horizon, still intact, but not the same because of the journey to get here.

Trust and surrender is a mixture of confidence in yourself and the universe, in a willingness to be open and vulnerable, to be carried, assured, confident. Trust comes from the word strong, and surrender is more about succumbing, letting go, deliverance. I was delivered safely to the shore by being in the disaster, repelling any temptation to fight or flee, as the force of nature was bigger than anything I could resist.

My promise to tomorrow is to remember being in the whatever it is – in itself is an act of trust and surrender – whether you know you will arrive safely to being able to rise in the morning to see the dawn or a new horizon is unknown. Trusting yourself to have all you need to surrender is a promise for all the tomorrows.

I took the photo of the Cliffs of Moher as I hung over the ledge as instructed by John O’Donohue in his poem, For Freedom, to let all that is holding you fall into the ocean from the craggiest of rocks, is to accept the invitation to trust and receive the gift of surrender.

For Freedom

As a bird soars high
In the free holding of the wind,
Clear of the certainty of the ground,
Opening the imagination of wind.
Into the grace of emptiness,
May your life awaken
To the call of its freedom.

As the ocean absolves itself
Of the expectations of land,
Approaching only
In the form of waves
That fill and please and fall
With such gradual elegance
As to make of the limit
A sonorous threshold
Whose music echoes back along
The give and strain of memory,
Thus may your heart know the patience,
That can draw infinity from limitation.

As the embrace of the earth
Welcomes all who call death,
Taking deep into itself
The tight solitude of a seed,
Allowing it time
To shed the grip of former form
And give way to a deeper generosity
That will one day send it forth,
A tree into springtime,
May all that holds you
Fall from its hungry ledge
Into the fecund surge of your heart. – John O’Donohue


Cliffs of Moher

Promises to tomorrow #37 #Surrender

The word surrender has it’s roots in Latin – to give back. Surrender is not giving up it is giving back. Giving back power. Running the white flag up the flag pole the sign to the other side that you are no longer in the battle, is a way to bring the battle to an end. It is a concession this way is no longer working and what little agency you may have left you will not use your energy to fight. Instead you will say enough and be still, and wait for the other to make its next move, perhaps they will come to the table, perhaps they will keep marching through. These moments are marked by a signature on a treaty, the fallen before and often after the surrender.

A surrender is never done lightly and takes courage. Amidst cries of humiliation, curses for not lasting longer, regret for not being better prepared; there is calm the decision made and whatever lies ahead the recognition you are now on the threshold and used the last of your actions to no longer consort with the other – you are out of the dance.

Would anyone watching Shark Tank, think when one of the sharks says “I’m out” that they have surrendered? I doubt it – we all watch and see that as a sign of confidence in their own ability of knowing what is right for them at this time, often lacking in compassion for what is being brought to them – it isn’t surrender though.

I am privy to surrender each day making its way through a body struggling with breath, the mind and body tussling for authority. The mind takes out the early battles while the body wins the war. More of my love is living outside of his body each day, finding the oldest meaning for surrender – giving back.

My promise to tomorrow is to continue to take lessons in surrender and to ask myself what and perhaps how am I giving back when lay down my weary tune? There is an openness to the mystery of what lies ahead when you surrender, it may come reluctantly and with great angst.

The threshold from acceptance to change arrives with surrender … and isn’t really a single moment, it is multiple moments. The flag doesn’t arrive already unfurled. It has been packed, needs to be found and made ready before it is presented. Letting go breath by breath, thought by thought, bite size giving back. Surrender as an everyday discipline, prepares us for the one time it will define us.

“We live between the act of awakening and the act of surrender. Each morning we awaken to the light and the invitation to a new day in the world of time; each night we surrender to the dark to be taken to play in the world of dreams where time is no more. At birth we were awakened and emerged to become visible in the world. At death we will surrender again to the dark to become invisible. Awakening and surrender: they frame each day and each life; between them the journey where anything can happen, the beauty and the frailty.” – John O’Donohue – Beauty the Invisible Embrace