Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Owl by day and by night

There is a family of barred owls that live in the woods behind my house. Contrary to conventional wisdom about owls, I regularly see and hear them during the day. Their whowho-who-whoooo calls are, by now, part of the chatter of the neighborhood. My neighbors are talking I note and I go about my business, smiling when the tone of the calls changes to indicate prey or hunger or territory or sex. I routinely see them during the day, most commonly in the afternoon, sitting on a branch and observing the world or napping. They seem to do a lot of napping. By day they are my chatty, watchful neighbors.

This all changes at night.

Owl by night becomes more than a neighbor, but something of mystery. As dusk deepens, I recognize them more by silence. The soft rustle of a leaf or the sudden stillness of the smaller animals nearby tells me that owl is near. Occasionally something flies right over my head and I only know it's there when I feel the breeze and turn to see the vanishing shape in the darkness. Sometimes I hear their call, which often seems more wistful at night though sometimes it wanders into melodies that make me wonder if owls get tipsy.

Owl by day and by night changes too. So do all of the other creatures around me, including me, you, and everyone else.  Owl by day and owl by night help me remember that none of us have only one nature, one way of being. Our perceptions of each other change based on context. What we reveal changes the same way.
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Monday, June 3, 2019

Powerlessness and action

I've been thinking a lot about powerlessness and action lately, which has led me down some real rabbit holes of research and exploration. For example, when I was looking at images for this post I ran an image search for "powerless." Once I tweaked a few settings to weed out stuff related to tv or religion, I was left with images of people standing with their heads down, looking (at best) really glum. I find this interesting because what I am learning is that, yes, there are many times I am and will be powerless, but how I move through that experience has a great deal to do with my mental health and ability to be resilient, as well as my ability to heal after the fact. Powerlessness sucks, but my response to it makes it more manageable or less.

When Kevin was sick, even though I knew I was ultimately powerless to change the outcome of his cancer, I found ease in doing what I could. I could comfort him, talk with the staff, and share information with everyone who loved him. I'm sure I was overly controlling about many, many things because I felt so powerless, but it was by acting then that I know now, I did the very best I possibly could for his comfort and well-being, even as he was dying. If I didn't have that assurance I doubt if I would be as relatively okay as I am; I have enough to regret, at least I know I did the best I could in the face of powerlessness to change the outcome.

Likewise, when I was in those first, harsh months after his death I gave myself over to grief. I was powerless not to. I couldn't change what had happened but I could make choices about how I responded. I knew the only way out was through, so I let myself mourn fully. I am still mourning him and always will, but I doubt I would have been able to let myself love Charley had I not made the choice to keep loving Kevin, and one way of expressing that was to grieve deeply.

This line of thinking comes out of looking for ways to manage my own frustrations and fears during the Trump administration. I am largely powerlessness to effect what my government is doing, but there are still things I can control and impact through the actions I take. I can decide how I respond. I can give into my fears (which is part of why he was elected, he's very good at feeding fear) and hide (which I sometimes really want to do) or I can take what power I have and use what I've got. I have a voice. I can make donations where I think they might help. I can let myself be seen, even when it's scary or possibly dangerous. I can act in ways that I think are moral, ethical, and right in spite of the many messages that it isn't important.

There will always be things I am powerless over, but I can choose which response I feed and how I act. I could have forced Kevin to try treatments that would have only harmed him in my quest to control his illness. Those wouldn't have saved or prolonged his life. I could have tried to suppress my grief, in which case I'm sure I would still be deep in the heart of it. I could feed fear and not publish this post or give in to those who try to silence me. I could overlook injustices that don't impact me because it's safer, but none of these things are who I want to be. By acting in the face of powerlessness I retain my ability to decide who I am and how I respond.

I might be powerless to create the kind of change I want in a timeline we need, but I can choose to keep trying and to rest while others pick up the ball. Whatever happens, I need to know I tried, I need to know I did what I could, I need to know that I stood in the face of powerlessness and claimed my own soul.

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Support me on Patreon.
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(c)2019 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License
True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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