I do want to bring my commentary on the election to a close but I do not want to stop the dialogue on the valuable lessons we must learn from the experience.  So, let the discussion continue!

I couldn’t help but wind down the topic with a special post that Richard Rohr put on his blog last Friday morning.  You will find it below.

Rebuilding from the Bottom Up: A Reflection following the Election

Friday, November 11, 2016
Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM
Beside the streams of Babylon, we sat and wept, trying to remember Mount Zion. —Psalm 137:1

Every four years a significant portion of the United States is disappointed with the outcome of our national election. Still, this election has felt different. There was a palpable fear and anger leading up to Election Day, and for many it has grown even stronger.

This fear is felt deeply by those who are most vulnerable in our country. As a follower of both Jesus and Francis, my primary moral viewpoint is not based in the wellbeing of those who are on top but first in those who are at the bottom.

For the vulnerable who have now been rendered more vulnerable, I lament and pray and promise to stand with you.

A time of national introspection must begin with self-introspection. Without our own inner searching, any of our quests for solutions and policy fixes will be based in shifting sands.

I suspect that we get the leaders who mirror what we have become as a nation. They are our shadow self for all to see. That is what the Jewish prophets told Israel both before and during their painful and long Exile (596-538 BC).

Yet Exile was the very time when the Jewish people went deep and discovered their prophetic voices—Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others—speaking truth to power, calling for justice. Their experience laid the solid foundation for Jesus’ teaching and solidarity with the poor and the outcast.

Maybe some of us naively thought that we could or should place our loyalty in any political agenda or party. Remember, Yahweh told Israel that they should never put their trust in “princes, horses, or chariots” (Psalms 20:7, 33:16-17), but only in the love of God. We must not imagine that political or programmatic changes—of themselves—will ever bring about the goodness, charity, or transformation that the Gospel offers the world.

Do not be afraid to allow conventional wisdom to fail and disappoint you, which is often the only path to wisdom. Imperial thinking focuses on judging who is worthy and who is unworthy, who is in and who is out. We who know about universal belonging and identity in God have a different form of power: Love (even of enemies) is our habitat, not the kingdoms of this world.

Our message is not primarily political, it is much more pre-political and post-political—with huge socio-political implications. We thus need to rebuild from the bottom up!
This election has solidified in us an urgent commitment to CAC’s work of action and contemplation, which now seems needed more than ever before. Grounding social action in contemplative consciousness is not a luxury for a few, but surely a cultural necessity. Both the Christian religion and American psyche now need deep cleansing and healing, and I do not say that lightly.

Only a contemplative mind can hold our fear, confusion, vulnerability, and anger and guide us toward love. Let’s use this milestone moment to begin again with confidence and true inner freedom and to move out into the world with compassion.
May God grant us both courage and peace!

A Prayer
All vulnerable and merciful God,
We do not know what is ours to do.
We feel scared and alone today.
We are tired of taking sides.
We cannot hold any more fear or anger or rejection.
And yet we know so many of our friends feel unheard and unwanted.
Help us trust that no feeling is final,
And that YOU will have the full and final word.
If You are indeed a Suffering God, may we hold this suffering with You for those who voted for Hillary Clinton, for those who voted for President-elect Donald Trump, and for the many who have felt excluded by our politics in the many ways that we do indeed exclude.
We offer ourselves as best we can to hold this Love outward and open toward all, just as You never cease to do toward us.
We believe You are praying this prayer through us.
Amen.

“Only a contemplative mind can hold our fear, confusion, vulnerability, and anger and guide us toward love. Let’s use this milestone moment to begin again with confidence and true inner freedom and to move out into the world with compassion,” Rohr states above.  This my friends is the key.  See Timi’s comment from yesterday.  We must do all AND; not see either OR.  This is a foreign concept for many of us who experience the world in polar opposites.

You can hold all these emotions–anger, fear, confusion AND compassion, hope and love.  I urge you not to demonize those who voted for the other side–whichever way you voted.  Now is the time for gracious winners and losers and the recognition that our country had an almost even number of people who voted for each candidate.  AND, we had a huge number of eligible voters who didn’t vote at all.  We should examine what each of those statistics tells us.

Most importantly, now is not the time to be complacent.

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Here are the Georgetown email thread remarks, a great Rohr quote, and my thoughts which are a bit dated now, but were “penned” on Thursday after giving myself some time to ponder last week’s election outcome.

In addition, I want to preview coming attractions in this blog.  I’ve been wanting to address a more civil way of being in relationship with one another for some time now.  There seems to be no time like the present to discuss that topic.  So look for that theme in coming weeks.

As always, I appreciate your readership and perspectives.  Some of you choose to share your thoughts when we speak and that’s great.  Some choose to share them here on the blog via comments and that’s great, too.  My goal is to share my journey and my learning which includes all of you and, fortunately for me, your wisdom makes me think and grow.

And now for more perspectives on last week’s election:

The following emails came from the Georgetown thread:
#14
To my esteemed colleges in the Georgetown community,

I live outside of the beltway, outside of the Washington-New York power corridor, and my offer to each of you is to see that much of the country’s rejection of the status quo was a rejection of the vast influence peddling and dealing involving both political parties, that seems to marginalize all of us and our values who live in the heartland.

We are the people who appeared as red on the map last night. All of us have a local perspective and we naturally assume that because we, our neighbors and our friends see the world one way that all must see the world that way. Ask yourself if you even knew anyone who voted for Trump? Or for me did I know anyone who voted for Clinton?

My take from way out, west of beltway, is that those of us in the rest of the country rejected the media, government, industrial power complex that does not represent us.

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#15
My husband said something that struck me last night. He said, “ok, now I can make the space in my life to do something purposeful.”

What he meant was, he was voting Democrat, but besides that he hadn’t done much or put time into furthering the values he holds dear or pushing forward the policies he believes in.

Now, instead of just gliding by on a win, he is in a position where he feels compelled to rise up and bring purpose into his life. He felt empowered by that opportunity.

Our house is very saddened by the election, but I’m joining him in a desire to work harder and be more active in creating the changes we believe in.
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#16
Greetings Peacemakers and Bold Change Agents,

Wow. What a week. As this political election train pulls away from my station, I’m left wondering what now? Oh wait, here comes another mid-term election train. Wait – that’s too soon. I’m not ready. And I close my eyes.

As I sit in this silence and darkness, the clarity about my purpose becomes more clear. As a Coach and Facilitator, I know I am in the right place to help our country move forward. I am also starkly aware that I am somehow one rung removed from the real work of my Clients and participants and that actions speak louder than words. I can’t just sit here. I’ve got to do something.

I open my eyes.

I commit to everyday fighting the society that PET (President Elect – who he shall not be named) espoused to create.

I commit to “standing next” to those who are bullied, isolated and marginalized and hearing their stories and providing space for them to share, learn and grow.

I commit to learning more about the rural communities that are really suffering. For example, recently I read about a story where a small business owner’s healthcare out of pocket ceiling went from $9k to $26k in three years. That would swallow a family financially and if you’re in a rural area with no other job options, what choice do you have but to vote for change? I plan to read the Hillbilly Elegy (NY Times Bestseller) to learning more about the poor white community.

I commit to learning more about systemic racism that I recently read about in Waking Up White which is a tremendous read, by the way. So good that I recommended it to my daughters’ public high school English Team leader. I will continue my learning by reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

I commit to learning more about the Muslim communities and their unique challenges to living and thriving in this country. I will read Love InshAllah on a recommendation from a progressive book club I recently joined.

I commit to opening my heart and mind to new possibilities for all people, all religions, all loves, all families, all people. There is room, in my world, for all to coexist. And I am noticing that the next generation, is far more open to possibility than who voted for the outcome earlier this week. Their world is already a blend of all types – though agree that I live in a diversity bubble in the outskirts of Washington DC.

I commit to becoming more engaged in local politics so the skill sets needed at the national level are honed and grown locally. Like a baseball team’s farm system of growth for politicians. I view politics as an arena for gladiators – and after one is left standing, they have to shift their skills to connection, agreement, empowerment, service to others and the greater good. It is not an arena for all and for those that choose to flourish in that space, they will need my support.

I’m percolating on ideas on how to serve my community to provide a space for healing and moving forward.

I can no longer sit and wait to see what comes and what happens. I can and will make a difference in the communities in which I serve. And when I donate, I plan to support organizations that serve my commitments and also saving my planet because I believe that PET won’t.

WE ARE stronger together and I will do that with or without the PET behind me, next to me or in front of me.

Thanks for making it to the end of this long note.

Wishing you all a peaceful day. Bring goodness into the world and let your light shine bright!

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A few random thoughts from Bev:

I remember a board member who sat on one of the bank boards where I worked back in the 2000’s spoke about the erosion of America’s middle class and how it was only going to get worse. The income disparity has only grown over the years. I have watched this firsthand in my hometown community in PA. I am a product of a middle class upbringing where both parents were high school degreed but not college educated. They both worked outside the home–my father in a factory job at Firestone Tire & Rubber (on the factory floor) and my mother in a department store. They both needed to work to make ends meet and even so, our resources were modest, at best. The neighboring town where my father’s factory job was housed was also home to approximately 5 other major factories. All of them are gone now. Most of them closed in the 1980’s and 1990’s. All those jobs now gone.

I’m not saying that trade agreements are to blame. As consumers we have benefitted by lower costs on consumer goods because jobs have moved overseas. Perhaps we can’t have it both ways. But, this erosion of the middle class was clearly seen in this week’s vote. Think about the midwest; think about the rust belt (PA, Michigan, Wisconsin).

The “Change Platform” has probably won several of the last 30-40 years worth of Presidential elections. Carter when he beat Ford. Reagan when he beat Carter. Clinton when he beat George H.W. Bush. Bush 43 when he beat Gore (kind of). Obama when he beat McCain and now when Trump beats Secretary Clinton. The desperation of this last change started during the primaries when a slate of 15+ Republicans–many indisputably qualified to hold the top job–all lost to a swashbuckling outsider.

So people don’t see their lives get better–perhaps many of them actually lose financial ground–even after 8 years of a Democratic White House (yes, I know we had a Republican congress). Health costs are out of control, school taxes keep increasing, corporate loyalty to employees has eroded, regulations have increased and placed burdens on small businesses and corporations alike, and so on. You get the picture.

There are so many more reasons. Are there racism and sexism issues? Of course. We would be naive to think otherwise. People essentially look at their own lives–have they gotten better or worse and if they’re worse off, the candidate who offers the hope of change—I don’t know. Maybe?

OK…this post is already VERY long. I agree with so much of what’s been said. Compassion. Open minds. Open ears. Fighting for values and causes we believe in. Prayer. Listening to understand first before seeking to be understood.

Peace and blessings to all of you and thank you again for your heartfelt and insightful perspectives.

With much love and gratitude,
Bev


Here are the next group of responses to my email appeal for understanding.  If you want to read the original email, please see yesterday’s post (November 12, 2016).

 

#8

Hi Bev-
I woke up yesterday feeling very depressed about the election results and our country. I honestly don’t know what I find more upsetting…that Donald Trump will be our next President, or that nearly half of the country would vote for such a close-minded, narcissistic bully. I honestly can’t help you to understand, because I do not understand myself. I guess as I have had a little more time to digest the news I realize that there is a lot of discontent and pain in the country, and I don’t think we can lump all Trump voters together as to what prompted their vote. I’m not sure what the way forward is…but I am going to try and do what Hillary suggested yesterday in her gracious concession speech. Keep an open mind about Trump and give him a chance. Although even as I am typing that I feel very, very skeptical. I woke up this morning and said a prayer for Donald Trump. That his heart would be softened and that he would seek wisdom. I felt a little better afterwards. So perhaps the way forward is to remain civil, disagree in a loving way when called to do so, pray for Trump and our country, and continue to live out and work toward the values that we hold dear.
I would be interested in your thoughts. This is a tough one to swallow!
Take care.
Love,
XXX
P.S. It was kind of ironic…I happened to go to my Afterschool program yesterday afternoon where I volunteer. Several of the teacher aides are refugees from Nepal and are muslim. We had a baby shower for the Director of the program…and these wonderful, kind-hearted aides who hardly have two cents to rub together for their families brought in the most amazing food, baked an incredible cake, and bought or hand-crocheted the most lovely and generous gifts. I would love for Donald Trump to meet them and to see what I see…how they are beautiful additions to our country, and we should be glad that they are here!

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#9
I’m reaching for anything uplifting and inspiring. A good read: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-this-disabled-mexican-jewish-woman-isnt-afraid-of-the-trump-administration_us_58239c88e4b0e80b02cead5f

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#10
Hi Bev,
First of all thank you for sending this em, I got a lot of comfort when I saw your em this morning. I was so stunned and disoriented this morning. Like you I have decided to stay away from news for a while to process and heal.
Well my friend it was my first time voting in a national election. I became a US citizen only a year ago! I continue to feel blessed that I got to vote.
As I look forward I am looking at two initial ways to move on from this feeling of what just happened here. First I need to use my meditation practice to focus on an open mind to what lies ahead. In addition, when I am ready to review the autopsy of what happened, I would like to put myself in the shoes of a range of Trump supporters to try to understand what the draw was. I feel that this will help me see their point of view better as well as help me heal and get back to center.
Sending you peace, love and hugs.

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#11
I have struggled to respond because I am still processing. I have not even read the other replies yet. There are so many factors and realities that I find in this outcome that I struggle to get my hands around all of them. But here are a few of my thoughts….

The result makes me believe that the division in our country is even greater than I realized and I have not been paying attention (neither has the media, liberal to moderate Americans, pollsters, etc. but Trump did and maximized on it). Sadly, I believe some of the vote was a hate vote, but hold on to faith that not all who voted for Trump share in that hatred.

The result also makes me believe we are further behind in women’s equality than I thought. And I am disappointed in myself. About nine years ago I shared with my friends that I was certain that America would elect a black man before a woman. I did not say it with sadness (because a wonderful barrier was broken with President Obama’s election), but with steadfast believe from many of my working experiences that men and women continued to hold women to a different standard, were sexist without understanding they were, and many, many barriers existed to women knowing equal rights and equal success in business and politics. I am disappointed that I thought it was different a decade later and did not see that America would not elect a white woman over a white man. But I was certain that the barriers would be hurdled given that the male choice was hateful, lacking civility of any form and had no qualifications for the job. I was wrong.

As for the question What Now…..I believe women must rise stronger and fight harder than ever. Our facilitation skills and nurturing tendencies are needed more than ever. We must use our gifts and help our nation heal and find unity. We must be leaders in reaching across the aisle, holding fast to the believe that we can find common ground – it is simply not that difficult. We are built for this stuff! And we must be prepared to protect those who need protection like a mother lion looking out for her cubs. People of color and religious minorities as well as white people who love these people are scared. No less than three friends of mine who are minorities or have minority children shared this week with me how afraid they are. For those of with privilege, we must use it for the greater good and lend its claim to our neighbors who feel like they have been left in the cold.

While we must be prepared, we must also not despair but draw on our faith to answer this difficult time. We are not alone. I know God is with those who love and so is half of our country who just rejected wanting to live in a hateful, hopeless nation.

May God bless you Bev, all women on your email, the United States of America and ALL of its citizens!!!

Sending you hugs my friend!!!

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#12

Regarding your first question to me…I was in shock and disbelief all the way up to 2:00 am when it was likely a done deal. I shut the tv off and before going to bed, I spent a few private, quiet moments in something like “prayer.” Some of my thoughts were “requests.” For strength, wisdom, and compassion for myself for this time in history. I also requested the same for all of the leaders of our country. I also found myself expressing my gratitude to be living in this time and place.

What surfaced almost immediately last night and this morning was my persistent underlying optimism. The feeling in those moments reminded me of another moment in time when my job and career were directly undermined–IRS was consolidating 7 Regions into 5. We in the Mid-Atlantic Region were a certainty…until at the very last minute, our Region was abolished!! I remember all my co-workers wringing their hands incessantly and being obsessed with worry. I don’t know where it came from but I found myself calm and confident–not stressed at all. I remember saying to myself, what’s the worse that could happen to me with my tenure? My imagination walked through a worse case scenario that would take about 2 years to unfold. I reminded myself that I was a competent, hard-working, likeable employee and that I could weather that possible outcome. And, that in the meantime, I knew I would find something else.

That’s a moment in my life when I fully realized that it is an “abundant” Universe. And that just because one opportunity dissolved, it didn’t mean that no others would become available.

Last night and this morning that same sense of stability came over me. While I detest much what Trump stands for, I do want him, our government, and our country to succeed. Last night I reminded my best friend that this country survived a revolution, a bloody civil war, several world wars, 911, and other big crises…and we got through them all. Having Trump as our president is not as horrific as any of those earlier events in our history. We will work it out. And for me personally and my family, friends, colleagues, community, and other connections, we will make our way even if we don’t know exactly what that way will be like. We will figure it out.

This wave of optimism in the midst of great disappointment did not leave me painless. Hillary’s message this morning was not possible to watch without a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat. I am grateful that she was so dedicated to serving our country in such difficult times and under such personal attack.

My sadness and disappointment are still hanging around and will for a while. But I won’t let it consume me and I feel competent that I, and we, can ride out the storm. I can and will continue to do all I can do to take care of myself and my loved ones and to contribute to the greater good.

Thank you for asking for our reflections. It was useful to think through how I feel and to explore what my small presence is in the larger world. I am confident about not just surviving but about thriving.

That’s my 2-, no, 50-cents worth.

Be well.

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This was a “letter” that one of my girlfriends on the original email sent me that was composed by her daughter. It has a link for a letter to Hillary.

#13

Friends,

I don’t know about you, but the shock and pain from Tuesday night have barely begun to wear off. I keep finding layers of reasons to be sad…and I keep coming back to thinking about how awful I feel for Hillary as a human being–to say nothing of her political work, or what her loss means for our country.

The only thing that made me feel a little better this morning was to write a note “to Hillary” and commit to what I want to do next. I’m under no illusions that she will ever read it, but for a few minutes, it felt really cathartic. If you’re on Medium, I’d encourage you to write your own–maybe we can even start a series of these letters. Or feel free to share or react to this post, if you feel so inclined. At a time like this, I think it’s really important that we all capture why she is so important to us in personal ways before people move on and lose some of their passion.

View story at Medium.com

It’s been a real honor and privilege to campaign alongside so many of you this year–thanks so much for your support.

Lots of love,

 

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A funny thing happened when I reached out to friends for help with this loss.  They shared their grief with me and gave me permission to share it with others.  For those not grieving or with other perspectives, they shared too.  I am grateful.

Below and over the next few posts you will see my original email and then the collection of responses I received from several of you. I also pulled out some responses from a similar thread that was started in the Georgetown Leadership Coaching community. Those will come toward the end of this series. Per one wise woman’s suggestion, I am numbering the email responses below (I did promise confidentiality so I’m not including names). That way if you want to comment on any particular email, you only have to refer to an email number.

I know this is raw for many of us and will continue to be so for some time. Mourning is a process that takes time. One thing that such a divisive campaign can lead to is polarization. A candidate is all right or all wrong. He/she is great for the country or awful for the country. Our strong feelings lead us to opposite poles and any suggestion of compromise or taking good with the bad feels like salt in an open wound.

So for some of you, there are a few responses here that do provide an alternative look at the issue(s). I encourage you to breathe deeply, perhaps get a glass of wine, and try to read with a compassionate and open mind. I love you all and appreciate the thoughtful responses, perspectives and suggestions for the way forward.

I added my two cents and that perspective will come at the very end of the series, after the wonderful Richard Rohr quote that one of you graciously sent to me.
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(Original email)
Hello Ladies,

I have blind copied about 18 women on this email because I truly do want your perspectives on how this election outcome just happened. I think you’ll just have the option to reply to me and so, again, it keeps your identity confidential. If you want me to share your thoughts with the rest of the group, I can certainly do that….but, I am truly looking for perspective on this.

I know some of you, like myself, are registered Republicans. Some of you may have even voted for Donald Trump. I am sincerely not looking to cast blame…I am looking for thoughts, ideas, and understanding. I am not even listening to the news reports any more because they clearly didn’t have a sound understanding of the country’s sentiment and what the Donald Trump candidacy meant to the voters in our country.

I’m also looking for a way to move forward that honors my own values and respects the values of others. In other words, I truly still believe in civility through this process. I think cooler heads are going to need to prevail.

Thank you in advance for your wisdom and thoughts. I value each and every one of you and that’s why I’m asking.

Peace and blessings to you all! God bless the United States of America.
Bev

Here are the different responses I have received thus far:

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#1
Bev

I wish I could help you understand my friend, but today I feel rattled to my core. The last time I felt this stressed about the world was 9-11.
I literally sit here trying to preserve my personal sense of center and lessen my stress and deep feeling of disappointment in people. We can not control or even really know what is ahead of us so I have decided to assume the best and not the worst. What he does will not change who I am or how I plan to treat others. We need to support each other and hold tight for what be a rocky ride. We are America as a collective, America is not one person, so together we can be strong, divided we will struggle.
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#2
Hi Bev,

How are you feeling?

Oh Bev. My children are heartbroken. It is their future we have compromised in fear (of difference) and bitterness (and I truly believe, misogyny). I want to hope that somehow people will rally to support Trump and help him to do the right things in terms of the well-being of humans in our country. For sure we must stick together. I am trying to go high, as Michelle Obama counseled. The supreme court appointments, the energy industry…we all need to pray for Trump to have some sort of perspective and wisdom which he seems to greatly lack. Change is one thing, but this feels kamikaze. I am very uncomfortable at the moment, but I trust we will rebound. I hope the destruction is limited.

I will work to focus on gratitude, integrity, using my voice to protect and heal to the best of my ability. Maybe I shouldn’t be responding so soon but this is how I feel now.
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#3
Well Bev. . . You know that I struggled on how to vote and did so up until I voted and even after. It was one of the few times in my life when I didn’t know what was the right thing to do. I believe the people spoke very loudly that they wanted change (even willing to overlook “all” his faults), didn’t want a “career” politician with status quo continuing and some may have voted for what they thought was the lesser of the two evils. Will we ever truly know?? Major wakeup call for Washington and our overly liberal media.

Economics/finance is always my go to for voting purposes, but did extend my voting thought process due to a bi-partisan article I recently read, which did not tell you who to vote for (believe it or not), but stated that you should look at the candidates on their policies (overlook who they are), because they will dictate who will be on the supreme court and the direction of our country for the next 20/30 years or more. Gave details on the aging of the Supreme Court, etc. and stated that this was a much bigger issue than a 4 year term president.

My thoughts are, we are a great, strong and resilient country that will survive this presidency. Sort of like family, we may fight amongst ourselves, but an outside party says or does something and we have each other’s backs. I hope, pray and am trying to believe (based on him being a successful businessman) that he will surround himself with competent, knowledgeable people that will help guide him through the next four years. While I may not like The Donald as our president, I love the USA and will support my country and their leadership.

My true thought is: BALL IS IN YOUR COURT DONALD TRUMP

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#4
Hi Bev,

What a thoughtful email. I rallied my little team this morning as they are shocked and frightened. We talked about the power of social media and the anonymity it provides that allow people to say hateful, racists, bigoted statements.

But to your bigger question of how do we move forward, I really feel like it is time for all of us to stand up to hateful speech and to put out our own messages of hope and faith instead of just turning our heads and ignoring it. I also think we all need to communicate more with our politicians so that they do not operate in a bubble but understand more.

Thanks for asking. I look forward to all the answers you receive. I hope you will post them in your blog which I used as an example of positive, powerful speech!

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#5
God help us

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#6
Hey Bev, I am baffled. Pretty much speechless. I’m trying to find the positive but unable right now. How did we get here? My refuge is always prayer. There are just somethings that only God can fix. God help us all!!!

Sorrowfully submitted and your friend,

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#7
Thought I’d send this along to you as we grasp for a way to comprehend and respond (forwarded email from a close family member):

To some family and friends: attached are some examples of grace in politics — the very model of humility and faith operating in public arena. The country is going to need a lot of this, coming from all corners.

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/442008/may-god-bless-president-trump

 

More in the next few days.  Peace be with you.

 

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I love Halloween–I’m not exactly sure what that says about my personality–but I do.  I love the magical/mysterious quality of the holiday.  The dressing up, the kids, the colors of black and gold.  So it’s no surprise one of my favorite seasonal poems goes like this:

 

 

Black And Gold

Everything is black and gold,
Black and gold, to-night:
Yellow pumpkins, yellow moon
Yellow candlelight;

Jet-black cats with golden eyes
Shadows black as ink,
Firelight blinking in the dark
With a yellow blink

Black and gold, black and gold
Nothing in between-
When the world turns black and gold
Then it’s Halloween!

Nancy Byrd Turner

 

Happy Halloween, Everybody!!!  🕷🕸🎃

 


“We are all beginners, we will always be beginners.”  – Thomas Merton

Ah, if we would all attack life with the curiosity and openness of a child.  So much to learn and so little time.

I had the opportunity to hear Jim Kouzes speak this past week.  He’s written various leadership books and has traveled the world researching and speaking.  He encourages leaders to ask their people weekly what new thing they learned or in what way did they grow during the previous week.  What a great way to keep encouraging growth!  Humans are at our best when we are stretched to some degree–not an overwhelming amount (we’re not talking jumping out of airplanes here), but at least out of our immediate comfort zone.

The Grace of Descent allows us to sit with pain for a while and ask questions about our lives.  What’s working well?  What’s not working well?  What thoughts and behaviors are no longer serving us–meaning we’re not getting the kind of results from life, from relationships, from work that we want.

But, how do you do this practically, you ask?  It’s easy to talk about sitting in pain, but what does that mean?  I am interested in others thoughts about this because many of you have described processes you have gone through to work through difficult situations.  In the meantime, here are a couple practices to consider.

  • Suspend action.  The natural tendency when we’re in pain is to do something to “medicate” it.  We are not a culture of expressing and accepting feelings.  So when we feel something as acutely as shame, betrayal, failure, extreme frustration, rejection and so forth our natural tendency is to do something to numb the feeling.  This typically involves something to keep the feeling at bay; many times it is some form of activity. It also can involve denying we’re feeling it and/or berating ourselves for feeling it.  Avoid the temptation to ignore it and to overwork yourself to avoid feeling.  Allow yourself some good cries.  Allow the shame to wash over you.  Allow the rejection to stab at your heart.  We are humans and were designed to feel.  That’s what separates us from robots.  If you meditate, this would be a great time to continue your practice.  If you don’t, now might be a good time to look into some form of meditation practice (prayer, walking meditation, breathing meditation, etc.)
  • Pain is a great teacher.  When I feel intense pain, I really want to try to learn from it because I sure as heck don’t want to go through it again if I can learn something that helps me avoid whatever led to the pain.  Asking questions of yourself is a good practice to consider.  The only advice I would give is don’t rush to answer those questions yourself immediately.  Again, patience is your best friend during this time.  Good friends can also be a source of answers during this time period.
  • Remember:  thinking –> feelings –> actions –> results.  If you want different results, start with your thoughts.  People have asked me since the last post what I meant by saying “my parents held on to things that were not serving them well as they headed toward death.”  What I meant is they weren’t willing to change their thinking about some people and some issues toward the end of their life.  It led them to a lot of frustration and heart ache.  I truly believe “letting go” is one of the keys to living a happy and grace-filled life.  Letting go of grudges; letting go of thoughts and feelings that lead to destructive actions (like prejudices and anger); letting go of “the way things used to be.”  So using the path of descent to question and adjust your thinking is a great use of your time and energy and can help you capitalize on the pain you’re experiencing to advance your development toward a life filled with grace.

Okay.  I’ve been on my soapbox long enough on the path of descent.  It is a brilliant opportunity to learn, grow, give ourselves and others grace.  I hope your journeys are helpful and hopeful!!  Love you all!!

 

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A new SWOG to our little community sent me this wonderful photo with a text the other day.

As I read it, I turned to mush.

As I blubbered something– likely incoherent– in thanks to her for such a wonderful message, she made the suggestion that I turn all of you to mush, too!

So here goes.

Often we don’t realize the positive impact we make in the world.  So per a wonderful SWOG’s suggestion, let me pass on this reminder of just how special you are and what a wonderful difference you make.

Shine on, dear SWOGs & SMOGs!  Love you all!

 

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So some of you have been the recipients of cards that I’ve purchased from this card company called Cardthartic.  I first stumbled on their cards in Montana and then discovered I could order an array of different cards for different occasions from their online site.  Every order you receive comes with a cute thank you card and usually a free magnet from the owner who signs her name:  “Your Fairy Cardmother.”  (OK, I’m sure it’s not the owner who sends it, but they make you feel like she did!)

What a clever woman and company!

She also sends out periodic emails.  So, just yesterday I received one that had this card on the top of it:

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And her email went on to say the following:

We know it will take way more than one well-meaning greeting card to unite this nation but, cardies, it’s a start!

In an email yesterday morning, my friend Susan Lyon expressed exactly what I was feeling. “My heart is sad post-debate,” she wrote. “I woke feeling tired of the ugly descent to behavioral lows I am seeing on our national stage.  I hope this finds you writing your big heart out, creating new cards with diligence, delight, determination and a desire to lift up our weary souls.”

Susan’s positive ending reminded me of how Sunday’s final debate question was such a breath of fresh air in that tension-filled room. Town Hall participant Karl Becker had asked the candidates, “Regardless of the current rhetoric, can you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?”

FYI, when she saw this USA card featured last week, cardie and inspiring patriot Amy Murray ordered 40 and, at checkout in the Order Comments box, graciously added, “I traditionally send friends and family a card to remind them to vote. This year’s campaign has been so toxic that I was struggling with what to send.  Of course, Cardthartic has just the right message.  Bravo!  And be sure to vote!”

I myself had mailed the USA card to my 92-year-young friend and neighbor Hannlis last week and received a call minutes after the mailman had successfully waded through her Hillary yard signs.  “Just calling to say I feel the same way about you!” she enthused.  “Thank you, thank you for the card.”  And I know who will receive my next two: Conservatives who have never held my liberalism against me! 🙂 Jack Kraft and Randy Moore may lean as far right as I do left, but our fondness for each other has only grown over the years. I would go so far as to say — were it not for these two — Cardthartic would not be today. Both successful business owners and investors, they helped back Cardthartic, and have continued to have my back for two decades.

I’ll never forget what fiscally conservative Jack wrote on the memo line of his investment check: “Spend it wisely and well.” And more protective than I could ever learn to be, it was Randy who early on proposed and then personally secured a line of credit for Cardthartic. “Let’s give you and your staff this sense of security for a rainy day.” While they both could have played on my “I’m so not a numbers person” insecurities, instead they would say, “But this company is nothing without your creativity!”  Well aware of our differences, these gracious men not only helped this woman business owner feel that I have a respected place at the table, they’ve made a point of proudly reminding me that it’s my being at the table that has put food on many others’.

Hehe, Jack once stayed in my place while I was away, and I returned to find my television had been tuned to Fox News. I sent him a teasing text that read, “Really?! I didn’t even know my TV got Fox.” and immediately came his quick-witted reply, “Sorry. Before I left, I tried switching it back to CNN, but your set cried out, ‘No! No! Please let me remain fair and balanced!’”

So if I’m Dem to the core and yet could not love and admire these Republicans more, how have we bridged our philosophical divide?  Regardless of our rhetoric (and there have been times! 🙂 we’ve never lost sight of all the good in one another, and how it’s our combined differences that make us a better whole.  I hope you are fortunate enough to have your own Jack and Randy, and that you’ll use this undebatable opportunity to acknowledge them and any other compatriots you choose.  Thank you for considering!

 

~ jodee stevens
founder & creative director

 

Oh, by the way, she also put a direct link in the email to be able to acquire two free American flag cards like you see at the top of the page.  Yes, I did send for mine…but I just want everyone to know that the sentiment applies to all of you regardless of whether you get the physical card in the mail or not.  If you love this one, you should see the others.  Here’s their website (and no, I don’t get any royalties from sales–darn!):  www.cardthartic.com

Now for my soapbox:  Celebrate each other and our differences.  Be respectful and kind.  Don’t give up your passionate views, AND don’t hate others whose views are equally passionate in the other direction.  It’s a “grace-filled” way to be.  God Bless the United States of America.


We often think of a “new beginning” at the start of some declared change.  You are beginning a new job; moving to a new home; starting a new relationship; retiring from a long career.  Certainly, those are indeed commencements, signifying a transition of some sort.  A fresh professional start, a new house to decorate, a new love to explore, and a much deserved professional shift.

Other “new beginnings” sneak up on us–sometimes when we’re not looking for them or when we least expect it.  We feel a restlessness, a rumbling somewhere deep inside us–almost like the tremors of an earthquake.  There is somewhat of a deep fault line in our soul and our tectonic plates start shifting.  Perhaps we desire a new way of living and/or we feel a dissatisfaction with our current circumstances.  We know something needs to change although often we’re not exactly sure what or how.

For those of you feeling that rumbling somewhere inside–that restlessness of dissatisfaction with status quo or excitement of seeking a new way–this John O’Donohue poem is for you:

 

For A New Beginning

In out-of-the way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

***

For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

***

It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.

***

Then delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.

***

Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life’s desire.

***

Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

John O’Donohue

 

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I learned about the Grace of Kintsugi from a classmate of mine at Georgetown.  At the very end of our last class as Cohort 47 of the Leadership Coaching program, we had the opportunity to “exchange” gifts–both physical ones and spiritual gifts of affirmation and encouragement.  This one beautiful SWOG classmate stood in front of the room and told us about the philosophy of Kintsugi.  I won’t do justice to how she shared her story nor to her explanation of how this delicate art is such a metaphor for all of our lives.  Moved to tears is an understatement and words can’t capture the emotional mountains she moved.  I’ll simply explain a bit about Kintsugi and allow you to reflect what it means to you.

 

From Wikipedia:

 

Kintsugi (きんつぎ, “golden joinery”), also known as Kintsukuroi (きんつくろい, “golden repair”),[1] is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique.[2][3][4] As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

As a philosophy, kintsugi can be seen to have similarities to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, an embracing of the flawed or imperfect.[9] Japanese aesthetics values marks of wear by the use of an object. This can be seen as a rationale for keeping an object around even after it has broken and as a justification of kintsugi itself, highlighting the cracks and repairs as simply an event in the life of an object rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage.[10]

Kintsugi can relate to the Japanese philosophy of “no mind” (無心mushin?), which encompasses the concepts of non-attachment, acceptance of change and fate as aspects of human life.[11]

Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated… a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin….Mushin is often literally translated as “no mind,” but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. …The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identification with, [things] outside oneself.
— Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics

 

Think about that for a moment.  Think about being valued for wear and tear and imperfection.  Wow.  I wonder how much of our therapy dollars, our broken relationships, our devalued older generations, our cover-ups and defensiveness come from the intense drive for perfection.  Think of smiling at our scars– both the physical and emotional ones –because they’ve made us a more interesting piece of art.

Let’s start a new movement!  Be proud of those scars and imperfections!  And value those imperfections in others as a true work of art.  As a SWOG far wiser than me once said, “We all make quilts throughout our life…some are just a color or two with nicely coordinating fabric.   Yours is a patchwork of many colors, block sizes, and fabrics.  AND, it’s nice to look at, too.”

Kintsugi on dear SWOG’s!!

 

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