The relearning of 2017

At the end of each calendar, I try to reflect on what the year has taught me, how I have integrated new experiences and new knowledge of myself and the world. For many reasons, this was hard to do at the end of 2016. And yet my soul still yearns to make sense of a year filled with disappointment and triumph, revelations and losses.

As I sat in the new year this week and attempted to set some intentions, I realized that the tumult of 2016 may truly be about disruption. A new course is being set globally. For many of us in the U.S., the American “idea” is being altered everyday in our governing institutions, media, and culture.

Much of my work in aid and philanthropy up to now has been about learning and unlearning – unlearning that logframes are the only way to talk about accountability, that I as a young person from the Global North somehow had vital expertise to offer to people in the Global South about how to fight poverty, that as a woman self care is somehow selfish.

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This past year I have been learning and unlearning with rooted and effective movements. Not coincidentally, indigenous, women, queer, and youth leaders of color are at the helm – people deeply in touch with their humanity, their ancestry, and what is required for survival through the ages of not just bodies literal and figurative, but for survival of souls. There is so, so much that I – as an educated, web-surfing, privileged, city dwelling, great great great grandchild of German immigrant farmers – have lost. “Progress,” it seems, has been defined by too few of us for too few of us.

Our work in 2016 has reminded me not only about what our sector must unlearn, but what we must have the courage to begin to relearn in 2017:

  • how to parent our sacred young selves.
  • to position ourselves as continually held in the loving, watchful embrace of Mother Nature.
  • to nourish community and return it to the center of our lives.
  • how to be comrades, ever willing to make each others’ stories our own.
  • the spiritual practice and discipline needed to overcome evil.
  • to see the tides of history within the ebb and flow that they are.
  • to remember our smallness and our mightiness, if only we lock arms.
  • to paint setbacks and obstacles as merely delays to the inevitable.
  • how our ancestors live in us, shape us, and can guide us.
  • how to restore and honor the feminine half in ourselves, in relationships and families, in our art, our education, and our policies and institutions.
  • how to be radical, unapologetic lovers, who prioritize relationships over tasks.
  • to live without taking, stripping, extracting, raping, depleting.
  • to make new, lasting agreements with the nourishers – the mothers, the farmers.
  • to share truths and goods easily, to remain unsatisfied when what we have is not shared.
  • to not run from pain and rage and never let it consume our connection to each other.
  • to stand still, sit, lie, be – nowhere but here, now.
  • to release the sadness and shame of our inadequacy, to accept not being able to “solve” or “fix” anything on our own.
  • to let our feet be calloused.
  • to sing and chant and feel the beat more often, for all reasons.
  • to create homes where people can be safe, whole, and beloved in their own Divine image.
  • to resist a learned craving for authority.
  • to smash individualism, to not let anyone feel alone.
  • to put faith in the unseen, to invest in, restore, and replenish the everlasting.
  • to destroy the semblance of security, to ready ourselves to lose what keeps us fearful.
  • to reckon with a fuller picture of histories.
  • to hang onto what is authentic, true, connected, powerful.
  • the restorative power of art.
  • to be amazed by the enormity of the potential of our humanity.
  • to risk heartbreak and hoping again.
  • tenderness and love…again and again and again…

We must relearn what my colleague Shanelle Matthews reflected so simply and powerfully at the top of 2017,

We are fragile and steady, all in one.

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