Sunday, March 25, 2012

Another Day, Another Revolution

Revolution around the planet, that is. Just passed another birthday. I like to think of the passing years as journeys around the Sun. Just completed my 58th circuit and am beginning my 59th. Seems an awful lot, but I won’t mind accumulating a few more. This birthday has me thinking some about the package of repeating cycles that life is, and the patterns and habits and necessities that are behind them.

We’ll have been in this house for nine years soon, and I’ve lived in Toronto for almost nineteen, quite a bit longer than anywhere else. How many meals have I eaten in all these years? How many sunrises and sunsets have I actually watched. How many circuits off to work and back again? How interesting that some things seem old and routine the third or fourth time you do them, while others are never so. And when I think about what surprises me about my circular journeying through life, what stands out is that there is still so very much that eludes my understanding, particularly when it comes to figuring out the ways of my fellow human beings.
I didn’t want any hoopla on this day. I resisted Ponczka’s efforts to organize a party or dinner. I felt – this year anyway – that I’ve have enough of those. The treat I wanted was to have a pass on housework (plenty of that too – why does stuff just keep getting dirty again) and to relax through the weekend.
I watched quite a bit of tv. There were some college hoops on. There was coverage of the NDP leadership race. And I watched Tiger Woods win his first PGA tournament in a couple of years. A friend had convinced me to give the series "The Walking Dead" a try, and I watched the first three episodes on Netflix. Not bad. It was the promise of all the social issues addressed, rather than the zombies, that attracted me. And yes, I can see that the show creates a fertile field for playing out all sorts of social dilemmas and quagmires.
The weekend also held the suspense of wondering whether my union – CUPE 79, representing City Workers – would be going on strike, or alternately, be locked out by the city. I confess to almost total ignorance as to the issues. Where it comes to my job, my concerns of late have much to do with the role I play in my clients’ lives, and how I go about fulfilling that, and the degree to which I fail or succeed in making anything better for them. And, right along with that, is concern about how doing this work does or does not help me fulfill the expectations I have of myself, in terms of how I’d like the script of my life to read, and in terms of the flavors I hope to be lingering when this life ends. Key on both counts are the inevitably dwindling resources of energy and time, and the challenge of using them well.
A great part of the weekend was an informal party that had nothing to do with my b-day. We had our Spring meeting at the boat club to talk about the launch, and getting ready for it. And the gathering that followed turned into quite the jam session. Penti - a reknowned drummer for the likes of Lou Reed and Alice Cooper - had a bunch of his musician friends set up shop and it was amazing. I brought my alto sax along and got to jam with folks who are so much better than me that there’s no basis of comparison. The generosity of musicians never ceases to amaze me. They welcomed my out-of-key squawks with smiles and encouragement, never letting up on their own inspired play. I got to play with another sax man – a tenor – for the first time ever, and learned a couple of things just from hanging around.
The following generalization fails, as all must, and possibly insults, so I apologize, but it strikes me that while visual artists tend to be very interesting folks, and we writers are disproportionately pretty weird, musicians, in my opinion, are by far the most fun. And last night definitely underscored that.
So, on the verge of starting another work week – if there’s no strike – I felt the desire to post some thoughts, disjointed as they may be. It was a good day, a good weekend. Lap 59 begins and I am beyond content.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Declaring Change

Tonight marked the convening of the Streets to Homes Change Workshop. It was a strong and stimulating start!

Myself, a colleague, and four residents of our Bedded Program met in the dining area of SHARC (Streets to Homes / Assessment & Referral Centre) and began to generate the guidelines and a topic list for the Workshop. Its originating intent is to help participants deal with negative changes that have or can overwhelm their lives, and to conceive and successfully pursue positive change.

Our program deals with individuals who are homeless, avoiding the shelter system, and therefore sleeping “rough”, or who are homeless and heavily street involved. One of tonight’s participants is a sixty-three year old man who lost his wife of 38 years three years back, then, shortly thereafter, lost the home they’d shared for decades. Next week he moves into an apartment in an unfamiliar part of town, where he’ll live alone for the first time in his life. In addition to the other follow-up support he’ll receive from our program, he’ll be welcome to return to the Workshop for as long as he’d like. He knows that dealing with loneliness will be his biggest challenge and anticipates returning next week to share with the rest of us his first steps toward building a new community.

Part of the Workshop will involve sharing tools and concepts to facilitate change. Tonight’s offering was about the power of Declaration. We talked about crossing that thin emotional line between contemplating the possibility of change and actually acknowledging a desire and declaring an intent to oneself. We talked about what a frightening shift that can be, how it raises so many spectres: of failure and judgement, and the effort we feel to be beyond our powers. We spoke of facing the unknown, and of the immobilizing power of our fears.

Then, we evoked the flip side of all that negativity: the possibility of gain, satisfaction, pride of accomplishment. The energizing, hopeful face of anticipation, the beautiful possibilities that lie in the unknown. And we looked at failure as the almost inevitable ingredient of any long-term success, and its power to instruct, to correct, to steer us toward our truest desires.

We generated an energy tonight that is like that of all the best groups I’ve ever belonged to. At the end of the session, everyone spoke excitedly about returning next week, inviting others, and moving forward. It is so satisfying to be putting this important piece in place. Tonight was a wonderful beginning.