Sadness is a feeling

A marathon of an emotion, one not easy to endure. It certainly is not my favourite. I do a great happy, relatively OK fear and anger is my energiser. Sad I try to avoid. I just go flat and want to hide. I have no idea of sad’s purpose, it is unfathomable in its uselessness!

Maybe grey skies do affect me – I thought they were just a nice break from constant blue. A different backdrop as it were. Homesickness, yes I get that. I need to call home or find a touch of home wherever I am at that time. And yes, COVIID-sadness is a thing. It comes in waves. COVID tears spill out. They are laced with hopelessness and despair.

I need to reframe sad. Sad as sweet like Eeyore. Sad as power, like the impact of every minor chord I’ve ever heard. Sad as loss – a fallen leaf, an old skin, a relationship broken away, a death in the family. Sad like watching a healing wound, wondering if its scar will ever heal. Sad that cares and whispers, call a friend, go out, buy food. Sad that is soft. That is a quiet voice and not a raging inferno of noise. Sad that says keep going, there is light at the end of this tunnel. Accept, just be, this is a feeling and not a sentence. This too will pass. Take time, hold on slow, watch for the small things. Feel your beauty, know that you are enough.

Orange is a colour

Not a primary one. A complementary one. Basically orange is red and yellow though it is never that simple. The red, of course, may be a blue red or a yellow red, so the orange takes on different hues as the combinations accumulate. Not understanding it, I never liked orange that much in the past. I preferred yellow – all through my childhood, it was my favourite colour when asked. I had a bright yellow cardigan that I wore often, and I was positioned in my father’s landscape photography, adding a spot of colour against the green brown of western NSW or the blue of the Blue Mountains. ‘I need a spot of colour’, he would say and I obliged, ever ready to shine through the Kodachrome wizardry. I was short and round with red hair and the photos were hardly elegant, but now I appreciate the fact that he thought I should be there – well at least as the obligatory spot of colour.

Orange is a colour for restaurants – it whets the appetite and there are global restaurant chains that make good use of the red and yellow. Over time, I have come to appreciate the gentler oranges and yes, it is true, they match my skin tone. But the deep strident oranges still overwhelm me. They are just so bright and so dense. They take over everything in their vicinity. They are just being themselves without any intention of blending in. This is a quality I certainly appreciate, though not necessarily able to manage myself. Blending in means one gets to watch, listen and strategise. That I love. Orange it seems has no time for that. It appears on the scene and can’t be ignored. No introduction needed, it just is.

Now I appreciate the ballsy ‘just is’ nature of orange. I am orange, deal with it. I have a right to be here, get over it. Orange, you brighten up the room, and the world, you teach me every day.

A difficult year

It’s been a difficult year – a year of love and great loss, grief and many journeys along the way. It is early morning now and I sit among blessings – bird song – a view of healing green – a breath of fresh air. Those last five words drip with meaning. Each night when I return home, there are sunsets to welcome me, they lift and spread my heart. The hills too, hold healing. For now, I do not need to move on. Right now, it is enough to be here.

Rethinking development

Reconceptualising development is an ongoing debate. One that should take place in a relational space – as a conversation between people – unencumbered by concepts and labels. The international development discourse needs to be where answers are never taken as seriously as questions.

My working journey in development over the years has never been about taking on a role. Quite early on, I realised that I should not avoid bringing my whole person to any role or job, to every conversation, to every encounter I experienced. Why? Because to do less would be to create a bureaucratic protection, for myself and the organisation. An artificial protection against the daily struggle of those communities who were offering their hospitality and openness to joint work. To be involved in development is to ‘live, work and learn’ about one’s daily practice, one’s place and impact within the world.

A narrow managerial or transactional relationship within a developing context is not useful. Hiding behind third person statements and theories that objectify the process is not developing a new paradigm but reaffirming the current state.

What is the context within which development and developing takes place? It is the day-to-day lived, embodied experience of people in relationship, in community across the globe. It is not the sum total of the multi-sectoral approach of much current development practice. Deciding that development responses must be ‘joined up’ or ‘place managed’ is more of the same, and not the answer. Who disaggregated the issues in the first place? As it has been said, the ‘map is not the territory’.

Lived experience is integrated. Development thinking that does not model, reflect and agonise over this reality is flawed.  A more transformative approach lies waiting and can be found if one is willing to set aside the urgency – indeed artificiality and at times lack of respect – in the current bureaucratic call to arms.

Development is not necessarily an upward trajectory. It offers a place for sitting alongside, for people to connect and share in the commonality of their struggles, the joys and pains of daily life in vulnerable and complex environments. It provides a space for working that involves deep listening and shared exploration. It is an approach of ‘being-with’ as well as ‘doing’.  It acknowledges what everyone brings to the table. Action takes place within emergent relationship and the mutual sharing of skills and experience. The word development need never be spoken, and impact becomes a shared journey.

Leadership as a verb and not a noun

Too often I see leadership discussed and taught as a noun rather than a verb.

Knowing leadership as only a noun focuses on a model, a set of steps, a framework that forgets to breath and to grow.

Knowing leadership as the present participle ‘leading’ means being in the present – building and layering the ways and means of your style, how you are known and how you are being experienced as a leader in each moment in time.

Leading is the day by day, moment by moment work of reflecting, creating, listening, moving, understanding, speaking, advising, facilitating, adjudicating, concluding, opening.

To see leadership as co-creation is to lead by navigating the dynamics of psychology within place; is to learn in each moment how it is that you express every value, every principle you have ever known.

Leadership as a verb is brave and courageous.