26 June 2022

The power of the assembly

Last year, and the year before last, I remember driving to test against  COVID-19.  A drive through motorways and alleyways.  Booked appointments, showing codes, receiving testing kits, performing the test and giving it back. Waiting anxiously for the results, all of them negative at the time.  

Admiring the sheer infrastructure created for testing.  In no time, public venues, mostly car parks, were invaded with trucks and marquees.   Volunteers swarmed.  And here we were, circulating in queues, faces down, sometimes chatty, some other times silent.  Vaccination for me went smoothly.  First time, second time, booster time.  This last one at a church, where the normal assembly was replaced.

The power of assembly.  Our power as communities to come together in times of need.  Or in times of festivity.  A school fayre, a footie tournament, these last two I have just experienced.  At some point in time, if there is any time to bear when the assembly calls us and we are there, things feel quiet.  They feel solemn, they feel slow.  We get there, we take part, we then leave.  

Perhaps we need to cultivate this power bit more.  Now that we are together again, it is time to remember what keeps us together, what binds us together.  A couple of minutes or a couple of hours.  Some sense of communion in between.  A ritual enacted perhaps.  Remembering, evoking, connecting.   

18 June 2022

Before I forget the last two years

 My workplace is moving on as you may have gathered from previous posts.  At a meeting this week I did not recognise half of the people attending.  Most of them joined in the last two years.  And if felt strange in many ways.

As if I was now one of the oldest people who have been away for two years.  Years of rushing to prepare online material in the midst of hot summer and with a view of a pool in the garden, tempting me to jump in and stay and forget about lock downs.

Years of teaching with a mask, almost choking in my first session, not sure how far I could be from the audience and aiming to put a smile.  Quantitative methods teaching with a mask, a challenge, also because it was the first time being in the big auditorium as a lecturer.  And as time went by, I felt more confident.  Letting colleagues carry on.  

Years of being at home and delivering sessions where it felt I was on a radio program.  Not seeing people's faces and assuming they were there.  Struggling to get a response and when it came, feeling elated if not scared.  People were there.  

Years of juggling, children at home and with home work, one of the least pleasant experiences.  How could we replicate their classroom, their teaching methods, whilst attending to other things?  Perhaps I did not have what Mary Catherine Bateson calls peripheral vision, this communicative capacity to jointly improvise and adapt to situations that has at its core the idea that we are fluid selves.  Perhaps as a result I was not self-compassionate enough to lower standards, or if I did, I felt frustration.  

Years of asking if I was or am in the right career.  Reading Sir Ken Robinson's finding your element helped me realise I am good at connecting people with learning opportunities, and having as well as developing original ideas in my teaching as well as in my writing.  

I can, but not fully enjoy writing journal articles, unless I can see how they reflect what I am: someone that likes to promote coexistence even if it often affects me negatively.  Someone that enjoys being alone as well as in the company of just a few.  

And someone that still fears disappointing others.  But I am better at managing this.  The last two years taught me that I can be absent and the world is not going to crumble.  

So before I forget: There is no need to be too worried about what comes next.  Let us keep the worries in check.  And people are there, even if we do not see them.  

11 June 2022

It feels like a new job

 Great writing retreat with colleagues.  Two days of solid writing.  Day walks, chats, decaf tea, sleep and getting lost when jogging.  

Emotionally pleased with myself, also drained.  I wrote in two days what would normally take me a few weeks.  Nature and routine together helped.  My creativity was there since the beginning I think.  Preparing notes, writing them.  It emerged bit more strongly with new stories to tell on the last few minutes of the last session.  Arriving at home I kept writing notes until my brain just shot down and I had a good night's sleep. Thank you creativity for visiting !

Talking to colleagues during the retreat, I realised this feels like a new job despite being at the same university and somehow feeling part of the furniture.  New members of staff, soon to have new line managers and paradoxically we are to return to teach the 'old ways'.  We keep thinking we have not changed either individually or collectively.  The only things that seem to remain standing are those old and well maintained buildings.

Perhaps life sometimes is about staying where you are while other things revolve around.  We sit and wait, we stand up, we walk, we return, and then get visited by creativity.  And when we do so, we somehow have changed.  

Impermanence as the Buddhists would say. 

Inevitably there were times to check email and get frustrated or annoyed.  The world out there kept moving and not in the directions I expected.  That perhaps is also part of retreats.  Back at home now it feels as if it was ok to have gone and come back.  Life is what it is.   What I wrote is just a tiny bit of what life writes in us all, day by day. 

Thank you for a great retreat.