Holiday Message 2017
“A sailor without a destination cannot hope for a favorable wind.”
Leon Tec, MD, In Defense of Animals
To all I carry in my heart, both near and far,
I awakened from a dream in the early predawn this morning. In the dream, I was attending the funeral of an infant not my own. I left the church to sob outside. I was grief stricken. When I went back inside, I couldn’t find the pew I’d left in which my friends were sitting. I’d lost my place and I hoped someone would notice my seeking and come and find me. It was then I awoke.
Dreams are not literal. They are full of symbols and are maps to the inner workings of our fears, longings and questions. I’ve spent the morning reflecting on this dream of mine and it makes sense to me.
Infants in dreams often represent vulnerability, ideals and/or hopes for the future. Clearly, as are many others, I am grieving and feeling vulnerable. I feel a great loss. I’ve always tried, single-mindedly to dodge or circumvent obstacles, reinvent myself when all doors seemed closed and press on. The present social tidal wave of power used and abused confronts me. I find myself flooded with countless recollections spanning decades of navigating through the stormy seas of verbally, energetically and physically expressed condescension, mockery, obstruction, power abusive manipulation, intimidation and dismissal, both personal and institutional.
I do not judge what others choose to do with their needs regarding healing. Personally, I don’t feel the need to name names. I’m not sure I’d even remember them all. I do, however, need to name feelings and honor my experiences. Honor how much of my journey as a woman seeking a place at the table has been uphill. How much of my own pain I at times ignored and minimized in the name of continuing the climb.
My “most meaningful book” recommendation for this year is Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness. In it, Brené speaks powerfully as she observes that, “The greatest casualty of trauma is vulnerability.” I agree. She defines cultural privilege as a sense of entitlement that is unmerited. She challenges each of us to examine the lens (of privilege or lack thereof) through which we look at the world and to reflect on the irreplaceable value of cultivating empathy. To risk vulnerability in order to do so.
Brené defines power as “the ability to affect change”. She then goes on to differentiate “power over” vs. “power with”. She had me at “power with”. Power that is not driven by nor does it engender shame, defensiveness or blame. She invites us to cultivate “a hypothesis of generosity”. To see potential good in dire circumstance and seemingly oblivious souls. This is not to circumvent accountability, but to protect ourselves from bitterness and despair. To always consider the possibility of redemption for self and others.
I agree with Brené as she writes, “If we own our own story, we get to write the ending.” In my dream, after I grieve, I return and seek my friends and pray they are seeking me. There it is. The goal for which I strive. The destination to which I chart my course.
I pray that we can be loving in our strength and strong in our love, Jeanne