Three simple letters. Humble endings to words that we barely notice, but oh they are saving my sanity right now. Because I am overwhelmed. Too many are the high emotions, desires, fears, commitments, stakes in the ground, convictions, exhaustions of the swirl that is America right now. To name only two that are storming my soul with their immediacy: how to prevent another Parkland (and Sandy Hook and Columbine and Virginia Tech and Santa Monica and Red Lake and…..), and the deportation purgatory extended just this week for Dreamers (aka Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, recipients). A rollercoaster is an apt image for the energy surges and valleys of my attempts to first understand and then sort out what I am able to tangibly do in either case. Knee-jerks are tempting but tiring, if not crippling. But it all seems so urgent. Lives are literally at stake. The impulse to DO SOMETHING to turn these Titanics quickly can get overwhelming.
Enter the 3 humble letters: ing. They turn Go into Going, Decide into Deciding, Stop into Stopping, Love into Loving, Change into Changing. From static to dynamic, frozen into fluid. Instead of punctuated action, they imbue a merciful continuity of movement. They are flowing river vs still lake. They are a comma rather than a period or exclamation point. They tell me that I don’t have to completely save the world TODAY. Maybe not by tomorrow either. They encourage me to recognize that change is a layered persistent step-wise sometimes slow winding process. -Ing beckons me to move into the messy middle and hold the tensions. It helps me take smaller steps but more of them.
-Ing suggests I can believe that Mother Teresa’s oft-quoted truth “There are no great things, only small things with great love” is not only wise but practical.
An impressive amount of power these 3 letters hold, and now I see them lots of places. I notice them in the titles of the books I am studying of late as I learn to become a peacemaker and spiritual trail guide for leaders who also want to be peacemakers. Braving the Wilderness is an incisive, profoundly instructive read from the revelatory researcher-author Brene Brown. She illuminates the essential difference between fitting in and belonging: the former actually leads to conflict and loneliness, whereas the latter is the starting point for security and reconciliation. Her book is solid ground in these unsettled times. I can’t recommend it highly enough. (Have I mentioned the shrine to Brene in my library?) Mending the Divides is a practical accessible guide for anyone who wants to reach into their own neighborhoods to build healing community. Its model of See-Immerse-Contend-Restore grows new and necessary muscles for doable ongoing local change. Momma T would approve. 🙂 Trauma Healing is a mere 80 pages but concisely outlines the trauma cycle from a psychological and behavioral perspective, with steps for breaking the cycle and moving forward. It is sending me good directions for further learning. All three books’ authors are mentoring me towards a sustainable long-haul perspective; their message of “-ing” is breathing relief to my white-knuckled grab for overnight cures.
And the colored pencils? Every bit as vital to my learning as these authors’ wise words. Art is the core and the cure. Art is therapeutic, is healing as it rejoins what trauma has severed. It is a personal direct experience of connection and creating. While there are certainly experiences of others to learn from in navigating peacebuilding, it is far from formulaic. Artists who will dare greatly can lead the way through the uncharted ground of our national crises. I want to be such an artist. I want to join the many other artists like my book authors and the lesser known grass-roots volunteers who are making a new nonviolent path by walking it. These are the true leaders! Some of them are also those recognized as leaders via title or position, but anyone who will brave the wilderness of stepping up to produce change against the status quo is in fact a leader. These are the ones I want to companion, to bring soul-care, so that they can stay in that powerful loving space of working for the common good. So that they experience “-ing” endurance through the marathon of birthing a new normal where school children are safe in their classrooms and immigrant children can stay in the only country that is home.
The next time I have feel an aghast OMG, I will remind myself to breathe. And “-ing”.
And watch Sesame Street videos like this one! Remember to laugh while saving the world, peeps. 😀