** Audio is available at the end of the post **
Last week I was teaching in Nevada (USA) at Art Quilt Tahoe; housed in a no-nonsense Presbyterian Church camp on the shores of Lake Tahoe - a gorgeous alpine lake almost 7,000 feet above sea level.
The workshops are intense. Long days of exploration. An opportunity to abandon routine, make new friends and spend hours selfishly focussed inward. It’s not often artists (or others) are encouraged to forget the rest of the world and think only of themselves. Particularly hard for women of a certain age to embrace that plan. But every year, those who attend shut out the world rather happily for the few days they are together.
Of course last Wednesday morning was different. No matter which side of the election you were on, life shifted during the night.
I didn’t know who among my students chose Clinton or Trump. In any group of 22 people, you can be sure there were probably folks on both sides. Emotions were running high in the classroom. There were tears. Quiet, inscrutable faces. A community already bonding - and fearful of anyone saying anything that might be perceived as inconsiderate, gloating or wrong.
Have you been in that sort of situation yourself? The energy is palpable. It’s hard to know how to settle down. At that moment, It’s not fair to side with winners OR losers. Remember this verse from the Tao the Ching:
Enter a battle gravely,
with sorrow and with great compassion,
as if attending a funeral.
I loved each student, as much as I love anyone I know. I didn’t want them to feel grief or pain. But we can’t protect each other. We can only acknowledge the grief. And the fear. Even those whose candidate won surely needed to honor the pain being felt by other classmates.
How could we return to common ground?
It was, and always is, through the power of our creative selves.
“Look,” I pointed out. “You can allow this situation to steal the energy you saved to bring here, or you can resolve to work anyway. We can’t change what happens when we get home, or what happens on January 20, but we can realign our inner selves today. In this moment, in this space, the best thing you can possibly do is continue to work on your projects with hope and enthusiasm. Because that palpable energy surges out into the world and affects everyone. And yes, it begins with you.”
So we began to work. Hands busy stitching. Hands busy planning. Hands busy with irons and sewing machines. A whirring, encouraging stream of focus that blasted into the lunch hour and flowed steadily over the course of the afternoon.
You may not have been at Art Quilt Tahoe last week, and you may not think of yourself as an artist. But I’m telling you - each of has a creative gift. We only need to believe we do, and then access that energy. If you are feeling low about the state of the country and the response to the election’s outcome - no matter which side you voted for - now is the time to embrace the potential of your creative self. Because human creative energy is ALWAYS what moves mountains, finds workarounds and envisions new ways of behavior and accomplishment. Look down at those hands of yours, (literally or figuratively) and take stock. What can you do that would be smart or compassionate or helpful? Lots of people are already making lists, and we should, too. This is not the time to live small. Or smaller. Or to think you don’t really matter. Everyone matters. So what are we going to do about it? Small but consistent steps and a resolve not to give up? That's what matters to me.