Dancing With the Whole

Storm Over Biloxi

Even as I focus on play, rest and kindness, other things vie for my attention. Some are just pesky flies I can bat away and forget about. But other things sit on the edges of my awareness in the midst of a silly string extravaganza because they’re a part of who I am. My deepest sorrows are there and they need their time too. If I try to dismiss them my play and rest turn into escapism, my kindnesses to myself and others turn into distractions and excuses. So sometimes I need to sit awhile with the memories of my daughter. And there’s the time and attention I need to give to what’s happening to our planet. It’s easy to go to far the other way. To let the sorrow and grief I feel for what we’ve lost become the center of my days, to get caught up in the enormity of our problems and find myself angry and exhausted. I’m always dancing in the continuum between the two.

Because I call the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and New Orléans home, the devastation Katrina left behind, and now the horrors of the BP oil spill, have intensified my feelings of sorrow and helplessness. Both rooted in human negligence and lack of foresight. My heart aches. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by it all.

But tonight I don’t feel overwhelmed. I feel thoughtful. I’m aware of how important it is for me to take care with the words I use, or with my tendency to label and separate the parts of a whole situation.

I agree with the editors of Orion Magazine when they say: “It’s easy to call … the oil spill an ‘environmental disaster,’ the loss of jobs an ‘economic disaster’ and the eleven men who died when the rig exploded ‘a human tragedy.’ In truth, these are not different things, they are parts of a single reality our culture has created for itself.’

Yes. A single reality. None of the problems we face in our day-to-day lives or in our global life are isolated. Our mindsets and perspectives color all our decisions. The actions that come out of those decisions affect everything – our solutions need to be holistic. Safer rigs don’t address the problem of needing oil rigs at all. Economic stimulus that doesn’t address the harm to the environment and to the life (including humans) that depends on it is beyond irresponsible. Working to clean up the oil spill without learning the lessons this disaster brings – unconscionable. Yet that’s been the pattern repeated over and over again.

The horror in the Gulf is a microcosm of the situation the whole planet faces. Science has long since moved on from the days of single cause = single effect. It realizes the interconnectivity of every part of this planet, from the human to the soil beneath our feet. There is nothing we do that doesn’t have an effect on the whole. That’s a tremendous responsibility to embrace. It can feel uncomfortable and difficult to own. But it is reality. We are responsible for being thoughtful about our life here. I am responsible.

I’m responsible for the language I use to express my thoughts and feelings about it all.  An essay by Stephanie McMillan is entitled “Artists: Raise Your Weapons.” She writes about how artists can bring about change through “cultural weapons of resistance.” I agree artists of all types can bring about change, but the idea of art as a weapon makes me cringe. Makes my chest feel tight with a mixture of anger and fear. It makes me think of being in a constant emotional upheaval of aggressive thoughts and actions. I can’t. I won’t.

Sure, there’s lots to be angry about. I’m not talking about annihilating my anger – that’s just another “war” that leaves me wounded. Anger serves as a red flag that there’s something to pay attention to, that there’s something happening that shouldn’t be. And then it’s time to decide not only how to act, but from what place within myself to act from.

I can make changes in my own life. I can give my time, talent and treasure to support solutions, movements, research. I can be assertive and strong when I need to be. I can do all of that and stand rooted in love, hope, and peace. I know those words have been sentimentalized to the point that many of us roll our eyes when we hear them. Nonetheless, they are real, they are powerful and I choose them over fighting a war against anything or anyone. I have my moments when anger gets the best of me and I act from a place of resentment and fear. I don’t like the aftermath. Those moments are getting further and further apart as I learn to be mindful about my choices.

And then I don’t forget that there’s time for play and rest, for kindness and dreaming and for all those things that make my heart sing. They are a necessary part of the whole.  If everything we do affects the whole, spreading kindness and laughter is an essential and radical act!

Lorna Koestner said it well in her letter to Orion Magazine: “by rediscovering ourselves, our own souls, we are likely to produce radically different results in our lives on this planet.”

So while I’m making room for all the aspects of my life, I want to step back long enough to see the patterns I’m weaving. See where I need to do some mending, admire the gorgeous rows of daisy chains and unravel the parts that are out of harmony to reweave something that supports the whole.

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8 Responses to Dancing With the Whole

  1. Judy says:

    Thoughtful and thought-provoking post. Thanks.

  2. Moyra says:

    love peace and hope do not make me roll my eyes. you are so thoughtful. it is hard to know what to do in the face of such awfulness. but I agree that anger, even righteous anger….. its good to have other ways of responding. love peace and hope to you, dear lady.

  3. sarah s. says:

    Kimberly: I am in the class at Mondo Beyondo with you and wanted to share my happy experience about being in the gulf coast area recently. Out of sadness and the craziness of all of these things one must try and find the happy stories as well. First, I taught a 2 week design course to 5th-8th graders. Part of the course we discussed what happened in the gulf and with Hurricane Katrina. They had to think in terms of design for humanity and came up with some incredible responses to that. Human beings and especially children are very intuitive and made me proud with their thoughts. If you are interested in seeing them I would be happy to forward them to you.
    Second, my niece just got married in Rosemary Beach, Florida. It was such a happy occasion as we waited for the oil spill to arrive there. I took some photos that I have posted on my blog of this incredible place of beauty. It is forever etched in my mind and will forever be as will New Orleans and the rest of the gulf I have visited.
    My prayers are with you and my hopes as well. Beautiful piece you wrote. Have a great day.

    • K says:

      Thank you so so much for your comment – I need to hear of things like this. I would love to see the things the kids came up with. yes, please forward them to me.
      Sorry it took so long to respond. My daughter and soninlaw are here from the Gulf Coast visiting and we have been having so much fun together – they needed a break from the heartbreak.
      Thank you for your kind words. I’ve been exploring your website and blog and will be by often once things settle down here. Hope your day is full of goodness.

  4. Mariella says:

    What a great post, Kimberley…I love the picture as well and thanks for the comment you left on my blog…I think I accidentally cancelled it, sorry…

  5. Renee says:

    Thank you for this heartfelt and beautiful post, Kimberley. Like you say, we always have choices – truly empowering and humbling at the same time. Our choices allow us to make our own realities, but they also come with tremendous responsibilities. We do need to look at the whole – without the yin, there is no yang; and I always feel that in order to truly appreciate the moments of light, we need to also know what darkness is. Love and light to you.

    • K says:

      thanks for your beautiful response. I so admire the work you’ve done with Transitions – hoping to get some interest going here. But it’s hard in the So. Cal. O.C. (Southern California Orange County) – there’s still a prevalent mindset here in which calling someone and environmentalist is an insult. 😦 But, I know that if I put the word out there are bound to be others that are like minded!

  6. shinyyoga says:

    amaaaazing photo : ) great blog x

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