Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb”
Mr. President, Dr. Biden, Madam Vice President, Mr. Emhoff, Americans and the world:
When day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry, a sea we must wade. We’ve braved the belly of the beast. We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace. In the norms and notions of what just is isn’t always justice.
And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow, we do it. Somehow, we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished. We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.
And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect. We are striving to forge our union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so, we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none and harmony for all. Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true. That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped; that even as we tired, we tried; that we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid. If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made. That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb if only we dare it. Because being American is more than a pride we inherit; it’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a forest that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us. This is the era of just redemption. We feared it at its inception. We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour, but within it, we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So, while once we asked: “How could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?” Now we assert, “How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?”
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised, but whole; benevolent, but bold; fierce and free. We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation, because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation. Our blunders become their burdens. But one thing is certain, if we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy, and change our children’s birthright.
So, let us leave behind a country better than one we were left. With every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one. We will rise from the gold-limned hills of the West. We will rise from the wind-swept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution. We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states. We will rise from the sun-baked South. We will rebuild, reconcile and recover in every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country our people diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.
During these unsettling times, it’s easy to get knocked “off-center.”
Last month, I asked you to reflect and take stock of your life. This month, I want to help you get back in balance by looking at where you spend your time now and where you want to spend it in the future.
There are many life-balance wheels, such as the one above created by Brendan Baker of Australia. Most include these components:
- work (paid or volunteer)
- family and relationships
- leisure and physical activities
- personal pursuits – creativity and education
- spiritual pursuits
- healthy habits – preparing healthy meals and keeping fit
- physical environment and home maintenance
Do you agree that it is important to have these elements in your life?
What would you add to the list or delete?
Look at the list above and check the areas of life that are most important to you.
- Place a number from 1-10 next to each item to indicate how satisfied you are with that area of life (10=very satisfied, 1=dissatisfied).
- How would you like to balance these areas? How would you like to allocate your time? Put a percentage next to each area.
You can regain some of the balance your life has lost. Draw a circle and divide up the pie slices. One slice for each activity in your life. Slices for activities that take more time will be proportionally larger. Sleep may take up a quarter of the pie.
Divide up the pie to show how your time is spent now.
Now draw a new circle with pie slices that reflect an ideal life balance. What activities have you added to the pie? What could you give up or reduce to attain this balance?
Sometimes it’s helpful to work with a coach on this activity and on the steps to take next. Let me know if I can be of assistance.
If you live in California, I recommend reading The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California by Mark Arax.
But be ready to be disheartened as we are reminded that many people still think like the Gold Rush miners. Their focus was on profit, with no regard for the future, especially when it came to equitably managing the limited resource of water.
The Gold Rush
In Gold Rush times, the successful miners relied on industrial-scale hydraulics to tear away mountainsides; the result was some precious metal, along with vast destruction of downstream farms.
The Central Valley
Today, with uncertain rainfall, the farmers and ranchers in the Central Valley drill deeper and deeper for water resulting in subsidence that constitutes “the most dramatic alteration of the earth’s surface in human history,” according to Arax. The ground is sinking dramatically. Farmers in the Central Valley who lack the resources to compete for the underground water are living in “a dust bowl” where crops won’t grow; their homes are full of dust.
Obi Kaufmann has an Answer
With this in mind, I went to hear Obi Kaufmann, the author of the new book The State of Water: Understanding California’s Most Precious Resource.
I was ready to be depressed. Instead Obi Kaufman provided some next steps, including ways to change our thinking. He said that as we prepare for a post-carbon economy, we need to be grounded and connected. He told us, “Go outside. Take off your shoes. Feel the grass in your toes. Drink water. Breathe deep. Eat well. Do this every day.” He wants us to end our “existential alienation from nature.”
This was music to my ears. My passions are hiking and painting outside. I like taking children on nature walks arranged by Wildcare. I also teach children about gardening and natural habitats in programs developed by the Marin Master Gardeners. And I love to tell others about programs and resources that protect our environment.
All is Not Lost
I hope Obi Kaufmann https://coyoteandthunder.com/ is right – that getting grounded and connected will help us all. I know it will make me feel better. When I feel better, I do see that all is not lost.
I surprised myself today by submitting an application to a local art show for closet artists. Since leaving my corporate job in 2014, I’ve had time to take watercolor classes and a pastel class. It’s so much fun!
Then, my girlfriend invited me to do paint pouring (also called fluid art) on her deck. The finished painting kind of looks like images from a 1960’s light show. You don’t know what to expect as the paint flows onto the canvas. You do have control over the colors and some control over how the paint flows as you tip the canvas at various angles while trying to get the canvas fully covered with paint.
I love experimenting. I’m learning tricks that I can apply in a different media. Best of all, at this stage in my life, I don’t have any judgment about how it comes out. If I like the result, I can put it on my refrigerator; if not, it goes in a pile in the garage.
Benefits of Art
Meanwhile, the benefits are tremendous. Here are some listed at the Creatubbles.com site - https://stateoftheart.creatubbles.com/2017/02/08/10-important-skills-learn-art-education/
I want to add stress-reduction to this list. When I’m focused on my art, all my cares disappear. Try it. Get started by taking a class. Let me know how your art is coming along. I hope you enjoy some of my art work on this site.
I've been selected for the art show starting in mid-September through October 2019 at the Tiburon, CA town hall. If you're in the neighborhood, come take a look.
Years ago, I wrote a book called, Road to Fulfillment, about men and women who made meaningful mid-life changes. After the age of 50 they fulfilled their dreams.
I was reminded of the book when I read a June 9, 2019 article in The Washington Post called, “Changing Channels: Millions of women wait years to fulfill their dreams – or to figure out what their dreams are.”
It’s Your Time
The article states that after 50, many women do what they once considered selfish – they achieve ambitions that make them feel productive and satisfied, professional milestones that are difficult to pursue while taking care of a family and paying their bills. Please note that I believe many men feel the same about this time of life. In fact, both men and women ask me to help them answer the questions: “What’s next? What has meaning now?
This makes sense. After 50 we take stock of our lives and want to make the most of the remaining years. After 50 we know our strengths and want to use them in a way that makes a significant difference.
In the article, Patricia Forehand, a retired educator turned comedian says, “After I retired, I took the teacher mask off and really cut loose…. I feel like I can be myself again.”
It Takes Time to become Good
The singer Bettye LaVette, hit it big after the age of 60. She says, “It’s much better to find success later in life. It takes a very long time to become good. Iris Gomez, a lawyer turned novelist agrees. “My work has gotten richer as I’ve matured.” She adds, “People say you can have it all as a woman, just not at the same time. There’s truth to that.” Another woman, Suzanne Wilson, became a doctor 25 years after being accepted to medical school. And she believes that her experiences raising a family will make her a better doctor than she would have been earlier.
Life’s Travails Make Us Better
In my book, Road to Fulfillment, a male writer turned therapist, describes the pain and suffering he needed to endure in order to become the wise therapist he is today. A realtor turned minister feels the same.
Others in the book describe how their values changed over time. I often hear people over 50 say that now that their children are grown, fulfillment comes from living simply and making social contributions through work with non-profits and volunteering. Others said you shouldn’t wait until the time when you have enough money. Start where you are today. Begin to live your dream now. Reading their stories in Road to Fulfillment will inspire you.
What’s next for you?
Lately friends have been asking me about my philosophy. They want to know if I have a dogma, or if I’m guided by a self-help guru. The answer is I’m a pragmatist. Over the years, through trial and error, I’ve found a path that works for me. It includes having a balanced life, getting unstuck, pursuing fun leisure activities, keeping healthy, fulfilling my life purpose, sticking to my personal guiding principles, and achieving goals.
In my workshops and coaching, I share this “path” with others. And that feels great. So, as Thanksgiving approaches, I want to talk about how grateful I am to have this opportunity to teach and be a coach. It truly is fulfilling to help people who are feeling uncertain about what next steps to take, and then see them leave at peace, knowing how they want life to look and what they need to do to achieve it.
This work, plus so much more, makes me feel that my life is balanced and full. I am thankful for good health which allows me to enjoy hiking, skiing, cycling, sailing, dance, and yoga. I’m thankful for the amazing friends I’ve made while pursuing these activities. I’m grateful that as a Marin Master Gardener, I can volunteer for the Dig It, Grow It, Eat It program that teaches children about gardening and nutritious foods. I’m thankful that I’m able to travel; this year I went to the East Coast and Canada, while next year I’ll visit New Zealand. And I’m grateful for my small family.
I want to wish you a fulfilling Thanksgiving Holiday. If you have time, write down some of the things you are grateful for. Did you know that a 2012 study found that grateful people have fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people? Spend 10 minutes jotting down a few grateful thoughts before bed, and you may sleep better.
A year after the devastation of the Sonoma County, California fires, friends who have lost their homes and most of their material possessions spoke to me about gratitude – gratitude for the outpouring of gifts and support from both friends and strangers.
It doesn’t erase the pain of the loss, but one friend shared that small events will long be remembered, such as gong to community garage “sales” where you are told to take anything that fits or is useful…maybe a new pair of earrings or a sweater or even a bicycle – for free.
I recently spoke with a Sonoma artist at a local art festival. He lost most of his paintings when his studio burned in the fire. I looked at photos of his lost paintings and then felt exhilarated by his fresh, new paintings. He has worked through the trauma and come out the other side with stunning, gorgeous images.
My friend Annie calls this “getting pruned.” She says it’s like cutting back a rose bush and being rewarded with even more stunning rose blossoms.
This metaphor reminded me that in the 1980’s I lost my home in a mudslide in Sausalito, California. I’m grateful I got out alive and was able to rescue some possessions. I realize now that the loss and trauma was a turning point for me. It forced me to re-evaluate my life and eventually led to a better romantic partnership, and work in coaching and training that was more aligned with my values.
In fact, one couple I know announced their engagement shortly after she lost her home in one of the fires. Maybe they would have announced it at that time anyway, but experience tells me that after facing the possibility of losing your life, some decisions become very clear.
Another friend told me that when the fire destroyed her home, she decided to move closer to San Francisco where most of the family works. The shorter commute has resulted in greater family togetherness, which she loves.
I certainly don’t want to minimize the pain and trauma of major loses; however, as we remember the fires, it’s good to recognize that sometimes life calls for us to reinvent ourselves…and that can be a good thing.