Jan 8, 2014

When the sun sets ...

There are no goodbyes for us.  Wherever you are, you will always be in our hearts." ~
Mahatma Ghandi

Jan 3, 2014

Living in Liminal Spaces

For those who lived in a state of transition in 2013, turning the corner to 2014 is a little complicated. Either the fruit from the seeds of change you sowed will be there --  or new phases of transition await.

I should know; spent most of the year there. It was time for change, starting with my diet. In January 2013, I put in motion a plan to change my eating habits and my relationship with food. Yes, I learned, we form attitudes, feelings and attachments to food and what it represents.

So, wth the help of a nutritionist and naturopathic physician, I explored the emotional, cultural and physiological stories behind my cravings.  Long story short, I dramatically cut back on carbohydrates and sugar and adjusted my semi-vegetarian diet to incorporate more whole protein. Shedding a few pounds was a bonus. The real goals though were to retool a routine that no longer served my highest physical, mental and spiritual good, and increase my energy and clarity.

The journey toward restoring balance in my body and metabolism became a metaphor for addressing other areas of my personal and professional lives, most poignantly the relationships, that were out of whack. Positive changes are a many splendored thing.  It's making them that sucks. Sages have developed helpful frameworks and language for understanding the betwixt and between phases of change.

The forefather of analytical psychology,  Carl Jung, who came up with many of his psychological theories while dealing with the ambiguities of his own midlife crisis, called this in-between space liminal. He viewed liminal spaces as thresholds.  Milestone birthdays,  a health crisis,  changes in friendships, marriage, divorce, job loss ... the list of events that usher us to these thresholds is practically endless.

The stories of the search for the symbolic Holy Grail during liminal passages are as varied as people's personalities. Many embark on physical and spiritual pilgrimages to ritualize the passage.  My trip to Ghana, for example, was liminial.  I'd  not too long switched career gears, leaving an established and respected position in journalism for the ambiguous world of communications in the nonprofit sector. 

In the end, it panned out. But in the beginning, a trip to Ghana, where I spent three weeks traveling cross country on a cultural, educational and spiritual pilgrimage,  proved to be the perfect antidote for transition ennui. In Africa, my eyes were opened to the horrors of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in ways they never were before.    

I returned to my responsibilites - at home, in my community and the workplace - rejuvenated with a renewed commitment to promoting human worth, dignity and creativity. The following year, I entered a seminary recognized internationally for its work in fostering interfaith dialogue. 

Studying theology and spirituality, and engaging in dialgoue with theologians from muliti-faith tradtions on issues of  religion, race, gender and class fueled and informed my purpose and passion. 

These milestones might never have been achieved or their value fully appreciated had it not been for the disequilibrium and chaos of my transition. 

Richard Rhor, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerqe, eloquently paints a picture of the shades of gray found in liminal spaces seen through a spirtual lens:
" ...  where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, now to entrust and wait, you will run .... anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing."

One need not be particularly spiritual, or religious for that matter, to make the most of  life on the edges of change. But it sure helps. Connecting and sharing with others is essential.

Other quick tips: Volunteer. Help someone else while you figure out your next leap. Collaborate. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people.  Dance. Write. Paint. Or, just be still. You need your rest.

 Remember, change takes time, but it is always certain and never dull.


Nov 11, 2013

Military Roots Buried at Arlington and Beyond

Pvt. Arthur "Son" Davenport
Paris, France circa 1942
My late father, an Army veteran of the Korean War and WWII served his country proudly and fiercely for 22 years.  To his family’s surprise, before he died at the wizened age of 90,  he reversed impeccably laid  funeral plans to have his body laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

At first we protested. Admittedly, Arlington had a majestic ring we found impressive. But the way we really saw it, not only did he deserve the military honor, but it seemed fitting in the narrative of our family's military heritage.

Besides doing duty there in  his early military career, the remains of two of his uncles going back four and three generations, respectively, were interred at Arlington.

William D.  Anderson, the son of freed slaves, his Uncle Will joined the United States Army  in 1885 and served under Lt.Gen. Arthur MacArthur, the father of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Uncle Will spent most of his 30 years of military duty in the Philippines. According to the family oral tradition, he  married a local woman who refused to come to the United States because of the racial hostilities toward brown and black people. 

The family held a big celebration when his daughter, Amelia,  his only child, came to the states in 1920, but she eventually returned home to her mother’s people. No trace of  mother or daughter remains.
William D. Anderson
U.S. Army 

John “Sarge” Samuels  was a member of the 24th Infantry at Ft. Benning, Ga.,  one of the BuffaloSoldier infantries; whose history of  sacrifice and service is still  being recovered from the ashes of obscurity, and a history tainted in large part by the virulent racism of the period.

Uncle John served in the medical corps during the Korean War and WWII.

When my father sounded the bugle, beseeching his five offspring to join the military in the 1970s  – touting the education benefits and tuition plans – three answered. As a rebel, eschewing all things establishment, I was not one of them.

A sister served in the U.S. Coast Guard. My older brother had been a Marine. And to my father's delight,  his youngest boy, who served in Afghanistan, retired from the Air Force as a Lt. Colonel.  His nephew, who served in Iraq, became an army man, like him, attaining the rank of major. This was the rank he had achieved  when he retired in 1963against the backdrop of the Vietnam War.  

John "Sarge"Samuels
Fast forward to the 21st century and we find my father overruling our assurances that the well-earned military pomp and prestige would not pose complication or inconvenience,  He prevailed.  in all of his final wishes.

In retrospect, I understand in part now what he surely knew then, my mother was having severe mobility problems. He wanted to make things as easy as possible for her when he was gone. That's the way he was wired. 
Capt. Arthur R. Davenport, Sr.
Korea, 1954
His courtesy extended to other carefully considered  family-related matters as well.  That was my father. Practical, pragmatic and protective, he was a good solider and an officer and a gentleman – wearing the uniform of the United States Army or not.