Live Life At The Pace Of A Letter [on KS Friday]

“…what we feel is always larger than our means to express it.” ~ Declan Donnellan

Ruby, like Columbus is winding down. The forwarded-email let me know that she enjoyed my letter but also that she was not getting out of bed. Over the weekend she did not want to eat or drink. Pete is in hospice care.

I’ve not heard from Mike in months. Like Ruby, she is in her 90’s and I often wonder how she is doing. She is made of sturdy stuff and has a curious mind but even those powerful forces are no match for the running sands.

Although we live in the age of email and text, fast communication, these dear ones are solidly old school. A letter. A stamp. A mailbox. News comes at a different pace.

Ruby wrote a letter. It was dated last October and was mailed sometime in April. She typed it because she feared that I would not be able to decipher her handwriting. I typed my reply because I knew for certain that she would not be able to read my scribbles. Although it was lost on my young ears, time is different when you age. Both more meaningful and less. I’m living my way into hearing the simple wisdom of elders.

Tom Mck and I used to sit on his porch and watch the sunset over the fields. One evening he told the story of a letter mailed to his great-grandfather Lak. The pony express took six years to deliver the letter. It had to come all the way across the country. It was from his siblings telling of his mother’s passing. Although six years in the past, the news was fresh to Lak. His grief, therefore, was timeless.

It is always a time of transition but, sometimes, it is simply more apparent than others. This is one of those times. There is a pandemic. There is civil unrest. Moral upheaval in the nation. I feel none of that as acutely or potently as I do Columbus taking a labored breath or Ruby no longer interested in eating. It is the reason we sit on the back deck each night, light the lamps, and, often in silence, we enjoy the evening as it wanes. Living life at the pace of a letter.

It’s not that there is nothing to be said, it’s that no words – no matter how quickly delivered or slow – can properly capture the enormity of this time, this inevitable rolling transition.

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read Kerri’s blog post about THE FLAME

in transition/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

Walk To The Fence [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“When people disliked each other or wanted to damage each other, they often did it through destroying the person’s harvest. This is the world of pisreoga.” ~ John O’Donohue, Anam Cara

Pisreoga is a Celtic term and lives beyond the reach of Google. It is ancient. The desire to do damage to others who are different or disliked is also ancient. Destroy their harvest. Define them as less than human. Erect obstacles to their participation or power. Starve them.

It’s exhausting.

In Rolling Stone, Wade Davis wrote these words in early August: “In a dark season of pestilence, COVID has reduced to tatters the illusion of American exceptionalism. At the height of the crisis, with more than 2,000 dying each day, Americans found themselves members of a failed state, ruled by a dysfunctional and incompetent government largely responsible for death rates that added a tragic coda to America’s claim to supremacy in the world.”

Four months on, now more than 3,000 Americans are dying everyday. Our death rates and infection rates soar while our government proves itself again and again to be dysfunctional and incompetent each and every day. Our citizenry is divided with several million growing fat on a diet of delusion and misinformation. Our insatiable hunger for misinformation – to believe the worst with nary a fact check or thought-stop – is our nation’s Achilles’ Heel. It poisons our harvest. Our gullibility poisons us.

What is going on? The world of pisreoga.

It’s a precarious community in which neighbors, out of vindictiveness, destroy each other’s harvest. No one thrives when no one can be trusted. Poisoning the neighbor’s harvest eventually – and always – blows back. All are poisoned. The harvest of a poisoned community is its unraveling.

That is what is going on. An emperor with no clothes. Red-hatted-screamers riding the Titanic of party loyalty all the way to the bottom; a nation goes with it. Oaths-of-office that mean absolutely nothing. Sowing the seeds of doubt and misinformation as a tactic to retain power. Useful idiots signing on to garbage lawsuits, undermining the very harvest they were sworn to protect, cheering for a bloated naked ego.

Pisreoga. A failed state. To obstruct. To do damage. To destroy the harvest rather than deal with the realities, rather than walk to the neighbor’s fence and say, “We have a problem. Can we talk?”

read Kerri’s blog post about WHAT IS GOING ON?

Click-To-The-Loo [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Language is fluid and ever changing. For instance, twenty years ago the words “hide,” “snooze,” and “unfollow,” had little or nothing to do with social interactions. You might snooze an alarm-clock but never another person. In 2020, in the alternate reality known as social media, people snooze, hide, unfriend, and unfollow people on a daily basis.

Language is powerful. We both define and reveal ourselves by the words we choose. It’s as easy as the click of a button to eliminate people from view. Click. Gone! Magic. The power to insulate. “Unfriend” and “unfollow” ensure that our engagements are only with like-minded people. Is it any wonder that we no longer need to find common ground? It’s a simple equation: you bug me/I snooze you. “Hide,” “snooze,” and “unfollow” are the words of bubble creators. Fortress makers.

Closing the gates might lock others out but it also locks us in. Either way, click. Gone! A smaller world. Raise the gates for agreement.

Closing the gates is not a function of disagreement. I heard this said the other day, “People say things on Facebook that they’d never say in person.” True. It is corrosive and ugly. There is rarely space for civil disagreement. Ideas are attacked as a first action. Responses are salvos. In other words, no one is snoozed for being kind. Courtesy and consideration rarely result in unfollowing or the ultimate nuke: unfriending. There is no space for civil discourse. We snooze, hide, unfollow because we are assaulted or we assault. Social media is startlingly anti-social.

Many years ago, I had the good fortune to listen to Stephen Hawking give a lecture on the possibility of multiverses, a string of multiple universes. His theory involved bubbles that occasionally bumped together. The bumping opened small windows of communication between the bubbles. The great miracle of two universes brushing together is that they, even for a short time, can communicate. They can share experiences.

Our great miracle is the opposite. We construct bubbles against each other. When our universes bump together, windows are slammed closed. We believe ourselves all powerful when, with the click of a button, we can extract a voice from our “stream.” So powerful is our illusion of the button, we’ve happily become the buttons. No courtesy, no kindness, no listening, no consideration necessary or expected.

Click: assault. Click: be gone.

read Kerri’s blog post about UNFOLLOWING

Get There [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

nonplussed definition copy

It is what I love about language: a single word can have two diametrically opposed meanings. I am nonplussed. Read that as you will.

If anyone tells you that communication between people is easy, they are either lying or trying to sell you something you do not need. Communication is hard. Sometimes it is impossible. Doubt me? Chuck the word ‘socialism’ into the public square and watch the fight. One word, a mass of angry or positive associations. Communication will always leave you nonplussed.

Language – words – are imprecise and malleable. They are never passive, that is, people us their words to get something (get understanding, get an idea across,  get their way…). Language is a tool of intention. Language is a tool of story. The story raging inside your head or outside is intentional. Self-talk and Other-talk – both – are in hot pursuit of something (being right, being seen, being valued…). Achieving the intention or not will inevitably leave you nonplussed.

Nonplussed seems like a good intention to pursue. Either way you go, you get there.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about NONPLUSSED

 

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Harness The Energy [on KS Friday]

boundaries song box copy

Lately, in my new role as co-managing director of a performing arts space, I find myself repeating the same simile/metaphor over and over and over and over… (insert Kerri’s eye roll). This week, my favorite-simile-repetition goes something like this: communication is like a river, it needs proper banks if it is going to flow. Without banks, it spills out all over the place flooding basements and creating havoc.

Needless to say, our job thus far is largely about placing proper banks on this flood plain of communication. Placing proper banks, at first, creates consternation and resistance. No one likes a limit until the limit works in their favor, until the constraint makes life easier.

Boundaries. Limits. Constraints. It is what I adore about the arts: freedom of artistic expression is the result of discipline, technique, and practice. And, the heart-desire of discipline, technique and practice is unfettered play. It is a paradox. It is boundaries placed on a rushing torrent so it can flow. The harnessing of creative energy. Communication is an intentional art and art is communication with an intention.

Kerri’s BOUNDARIES is a bubbling brook, bright with the morning sun, tumbling and playful within its banks. It seems so easy, her flow. But I know the truth. This ease and flow, this call to put your feet in the brook and rest for awhile with the sun on your face, comes from the years and years of hours and hours and hours of practice. Boundaries. A riverbank, a limit that will work in your favor. It is the creative flow through a heart that desires to play and play and play.

 

BOUNDARIES on the album RIGHT NOW is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BOUNDARIES

 

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boundaries/right now ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

Move Your Words

My friend, Mark, made this Wordle of my blog

My friend, Mark, made this Wordle of my blog

I am working with words again today but in another aspect entirely. Now that The Lost Boy has the minimum funding necessary for a production I am working on the play in earnest. Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog cocks his head and wrinkles his brow in wonderment as I talk to myself or dance the words. Sometimes he confuses my work method as an invitation to play and he leaps, catching the cuff of my shirt and pulls me to the ground. “Not now!” I cry out as Dog-Dog stretches my sleeve so that it might fit a giant (a side note: Dog-Dog has altered all of my shirts – he regularly mistakes my work for play. If I do not roll them, my shirt sleeves look as if I am small child wearing an adult extra-large).

I am a kinesthetic learner and realized years ago that working on a script was easier and more productive if I moved or danced the words as I worked with them. To borrow a phrase from a lost friend, my years at school were “fresh hell” because sitting in a desk was painful, it hampered my learning. If I want to have an insight or gain an understanding of something, the best thing for me to do is take a walk. If I move it, I can break down a script in no time. I can memorize anything if I can physicalize the intentions. For me, language, word use, and sense-making are a physical affair.

It is a physical affair for everyone. Try to speak without breathing (an impossibility); breath is movement. Speech is physical. For a real laugh, try to communicate without gesturing. Limit your movements and you will inhibit your capacity to communicate. For more fun, Google the latest statistic about how much of our communication is really non-verbal (we primarily read body language; listening to what is being said is a distant second). The deep mastery of a storyteller is found, not in the words, but the punctuation of a moment: the turn of the head, the intake of breath, the smallest of gesture, the connection made through the eyes; the fire of imagination is fanned when the storyteller, no matter how subtle, dances the story.

Last night I was reminded again of the power of language – the real kinesthetic of it. B is disturbed by the violence and darkness she sees in the world and asked, “How do we push back on it.” I challenged her verb. When we choose our language we also choose a “metaphor path”. Language choices come with images and images are not passive. They define what we see. They define the available options. They are a root for movement. To push back is a verb of resistance. It is counter force, a choice of aggression. “Why push against what you don’t want?” I asked. “Why not put your energy, effort, and imagination into creating what you actually want?”

To push. To create. Which verb will move you?

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Let It Flow

782. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Skip and I are talking a lot about the motion of ideas and movement of information. Ideas are not fixed. In fact, collapse an idea into form too soon and it dies. Valuation in a market is a dynamic movement. It is not a fixed in time. It is motion driven by a variety of forces. Hanging out with financial folk, I learned that money grows when it moves. Impede the flow, park the money and the growth is stunted.

The same principles apply to relationship. A healthy relationship is distinct in the flow of communication and transparency of feeling. Hide, block, edit, withhold and the relationship suffers. What is the quality of movement in your life?

Many years ago I trained to be a massage therapist and I learned that health in the body’s systems is the result of unimpeded flow: anywhere there is blockage there is disease. Health is movement.

When I began doing organizational work I learned the same lesson: a healthy corporate body is the result of unimpeded flow of communication; where there is blockage there is dis-ease. Power games often take the form of communication disruption. Withholding information is a control game and weakens the organizational body.

When I began working with artists I learned the lesson again: dynamic art in all its forms is the unimpeded flow of expression; where there is blockage there is dis-ease. Kink the garden hose and pressure builds. Block the artery and heart will seize. Stilt the communication and dysfunction and power games erupt.

Inhibit your expression and you become just like the garden hose: pressure builds and the inner life jams.

Vitality in body, mind or spirit is nothing more than unimpeded flow.

Listen To Fuji

771. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Over the next few days I’ll be hanging out with Judy’s cat, Fuji. Fuji is a wise old soul and her needs are simple. She wants attention when she wants it and not a moment before. She is unequivocal when she wants space. She requires food and water and has specific preferences for her food. Fuji is not a goat. Fuji is very clear about what she wants and expects. Fuji has very clear boundaries.

This morning was my first morning alone with Fuji. I’ve never had a cat. I am a dog person. I assumed that I would have trouble understanding Fuji’s needs without a cultural informant but in a relatively short amount of time Fuji taught me the essentials of cat communication. Fuji is a love and appreciates being greeted in the morning. We had a nice pet and then she walked to her bowl and stared at me. Her message was clear so I put food in her bowl. Next she drank a prodigious amount of water and I refreshed her supply. While I filled the water dish Fuji settled into her favorite spot on the back of the couch and yowled at me. I responded immediately and rubbed her ears and beneath her chin until she was sated with attention. Then, she slept.

As a coach I often have conversations with clients about proper boundaries. As I watched Fuji drop into sleep I marveled at how easy our communication had been. There was no hinting, no guessing, no apologizing, no timid offers, no power games, no diminishment, and no justification of need. She told me what she wanted and when she wanted it. I complied when I could. There was no confusion and no miscommunication.

Don Miguel Ruiz writes that the most potent act of self-love is being impeccable to your word: say what you mean and mean what you say. It is self-love because it is not predicated on the needs of others. It is not dissipated by worth issues or control games. Impeccability is predicated on the understanding that your needs are valid and yours to communicate without justification or defense. In this sense, clarity and transparency are expressions of self-love.

Fuji is a great teacher. Note: as I came back this evening Fuji opened an eye and said, “Pet me, please.” I gave her a pet and she fell back into a deep, restful sleep.