Counting the cost

In Manchester this week I had an opportunity to reflect on my work and other aspects of life with a rather special group of people brought together by some remarkable people with a desire to support and facilitate our work. We were asked to think back to the goals and aims we had talked about at our first meeting in October, and where we were in relation to them now. I was struck by how differently I viewed all ideas and dreams I had in those pre-bomb times, including the direction of the Winnable Game. Sitting in the sun on the terrace at Dukes 92 it seemed that I was now at the bottom of a great cavern, or pit, looking up at those ideas. This is my perspective now, and I have to smile at those I had in that previous place and time, which seem so unknowing and un-tested.

Conversations like this can open up in such fruitful ways – Mike picked up on the image I used and talked about a book called Theory U, by Otto Scharmer which seeks to identify the “source dimension” from which transformation can come and we can experience the future as if it were “wanting to be born”. This experience he defines as “presencing”, which Scharmer says involves “connection to the Source of Inspiration, and Will” and going to the place of silence to allow inner knowing to emerge.

Talking to my friend Sue over dinner on Thursday evening, I thought about not only where I have travelled the last five or so months since Mark’s death, but began to follow a thread through the time before I met him, thinking about the things I learnt during those times that I was able to carry into our relationship, as well as what he helped establish in my life, what I learnt about love and being loved, and how that changed me.

I also thought about the person I was becoming, the ways that the experience of loss and devastation was changing me, and about what possibilities might open up now. Later on, I turned again to a book I have read consistently over the last few months by Elizabeth Harper Neeld that identifies seven choices we need to make after experiencing loss. The chapter I read discussed reconstructing our lives and focus, the need for which Harper Neeld identifies after measuring her life up against the words of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who wrote in Gift From The Sea:

But I want first of all – in fact, as an end to these other desires – to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact – to borrow from the languages of the saints – to live “in grace” as much of the time as possible. I am not using this term in a strictly theological sense. By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony.

While I could identify with the frustration that this passage roused in Harper Neeld, her agitation that her “daily life still had no central core, no true purpose” following the death of her husband, I felt increasingly disappointed as the subsequent pages focused again on decorating the home and finding a new job, or hobby. I react, I think, because somehow I think I have to reach for something bigger, something that is worthy of all the suffering and pain, a future that honours all that was so precious of my life with Mark.

It seems strange, yet appropriate, to be thinking about the future in Lancaster’s Music Room – the place I came to just the day before Mark died, telling him afterwards that a trip to a cafe always made me feel that a day had not been wasted, the place where I came on my first short venture out alone when my body still felt taut with shock. It’s now more than five months since he died, and I still get a terrible, life-sapping jolt when I realise afresh that Mark isn’t here, given how very alive and present he was. But I remain grateful for the richness of love that we experienced and how that is strengthening me as I grieve him and begin to think about the future.

But how do we engage with the future? Visualisation, speaking it into being, all those seem to be tools in the future-creator’s tool box, but what possibilities for the future are on offer? I am not inspired by the ones presented in the books I’ve read. I’m certain that this focus I yearn for will have to connect somehow to a collective future, something that I can work towards with others, but I find myself stumped when it comes to identifying what that future might be and what I can do towards establishing it.

I’ve become aware that I often drift through time, idly reading, thinking about maybe doing something, but not getting round to it. Does this limbo created by my reluctance to take definite action, relate in any way to the “endless Eternal Now” described by Mark Fisher, where we no longer seem able to imagine a future that might be different from the present? Passing time, filling it without thought or intention, contrasts strongly with the level of engagement and proactivity required to actually go out and walk, or to dream of a future and set about working out how help make it happen. Living in the permanent now might for some of us might be a response to fear, a way of avoiding pain or the cost to us of rising to the challenge and responding to the future with energy and hope.

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