2020 Review: Connection & Community

2020 was certainly a year of surprises, and an opportunity to grow my ability to adjust and adapt.  Amidst it all, I felt well-resourced and incredibly blessed.  Gord’s comment was, “COVID has shown us the character of the rhythms and systems of our family.”

Our rhythms are strong, and our systems are supportive…

2020 was also a year of becoming more conscious of my white privilege, and how the majority of this resourcing and blessing is not any reflection of our efforts or intelligence or worth or anything like that, but rather, the natural effects of living at the top of the food chain in a system built on white, patriarchal, colonialist, capitalist, supremacist values.

Now, what to do about this ongoing reality?  The lifework of dismantling our conditioning, rewriting the story, and not taking too freaking long to do so (cos controlling the rate of change is part of our privilege).

I also understand this year to be a completion of a three-year period (for us all), and have witnessed many threads that have woven through my life since the end of 2017 weaving their way to some kind of completion point (or ‘fresh start’ point).

 

Online Circles

In March, COVID hit for real, and a whole new language emerged: ‘social distancing,’ ‘self-isolation,’ ‘self-quarantine.’

This sat so ill with me that I felt compelled to embody the opposite as best I could (what’s that called, ‘social advancing’?!), offering several Circles of Belonging & Presence.

In an evolution I would never have predicted, what started out as a series of one-off circles turned into a weekly circle for the rest of the year!

This was a defining experience of my 2020, as I hosted these circles even throughout our summer holiday roadrip, connecting with others across the other side of the world while I was in random places like La Pas or Carberry, MB!

It was so rich to witness the themes of people’s lives playing out over time, to wrestle with racism and #blaklivesmatter together, and to find ourselves reflected in the cosmic mirror of Sun, Moon and planets.

We even co-created a blessingway for one participant whose pregnancy unfolded throughout our time together!

I am so grateful to these dear hearts who said yes to journeying together through 2020 in this way, there was so much nourishment in sharing stories and time together.

Sandilands hike

Creating Community

2020 demanded that online connection become part of my offering to the world, and I not only hosted local and online circles, but also built a community platform (not on FB, thank gawd) so that the people who gravitate to this ‘cyclical wonder’ work can connect WITH EACH OTHER!

Perhaps the very best thing I did in 2020 was host two online calls in January for users of the Cyclical Wisdom Journal.  Some of these folk were based in Melbourne and arranged to hook up IRL afterwards.  Of course, then COVID happened and IRL became a thing of the past, so they began meeting weekly via Zoom…

… and HAVEN’T STOPPED SINCE!

I have heard from multiple members of this group what a blessing it has been for them.  Who can measure the self-care, the mental sanity, the solidarity, this space provided during the intensity of Melbourne lockdown?  Absolutely priceless…

Not only that, but when someone in the PYL community was asking about circles in Melbourne, I was able to connect her to these people, and she ended up joining this group.

So while I can’t take any credit, this story stands out as a phenomenal example of grace and serendipity, and is evidence for me of the goodness that can flow when I have the courage to follow my small intuitive impulses – in this case, to offer my first ever group Zoom call(What if no one comes??  What if it’s really awkward??)

My intention in 2021 is to lean in even more to these gut whispers, even when they appear crazy.

Case in point: making crazy pictures!  Promotion as play!

As Mary Oliver says, “You must not ever stop being whimsical.

Priestess Your Life

My PYL work continued to evolve with year, as I offered more astrology readings, kept up my usual bi-weekly newsletters, crafted forty-eight ‘lunar prayers’ and corresponding journal prompts, and birthed the 2021 version of the Cyclical Wisdom Journal (better than ever, IMHO)!

My favourite part of my work is the privilege of hearing people’s stories and affirming the “unseen order” of their current experience.

I’ve spent a lot of time CREATING connection and CREATING content on the computer, but I’m finishing 2020 with the clarity that I also want to keep CREATING with my hands!

So it’s been an utter delight to finish the year following another intuitive impulse, creating the Cyclical Wonder Club, a playful gathering point for those keen to keep reflecting, wondering and creating together.

Living with unapologetic intention, creating art, having fun while doing so, and honouring the hard times as well.  Doing this together… it’s called oxytocin!

I so look forward to seeing where this leads in 2021!

Holidays!

School of Shamanic Womancraft

My work with the School of Shamanic Womancraft continues, both as teacher, workshop facilitator and webwitch.  Really, that final ‘hat’ was the only one I could wear this year – I put out dates for my first workshops here in Manitoba in March, right when COVID arrived, and had to pull the plug on that foray for now.

This year I helped the School set up an online learning site, in preparation for significant new offerings in 2021.  I volunteered my time to convert the main site to Elementor, largely for my own sanity (means I can do my job much more efficiently and create beauty more easefully!).

Best of all, Arahni and I facilitated two whole-school Zoom calls, for the first time in ten years, which were very well received!  This really is a one-of-a-kind community, and I’m keen to do what I can to keep nourishing our connections over the coming years.

Feels like we’re mobilising for something… to be the change, of course… to be what’s required in these times…

Once again, it’s the building of connection and community that most calls to me, in part because this is my own personal lifework: how to be in sustainable and nourishing relationship with others?  How to create space for our differences, without losing our connection?…

Soul Retrieval

Three years ago, I finished a three-year apprenticeship with the SSW and graduated as a Teacher of the Four Seasons Journey.  Then I promptly moved to Canada and had to surrender all aspects of that identity.

I didn’t even know if I’d find people over here who are interested in this ‘shamanic’ work, by which I mean ‘listening intently, ear to the ground, to Life unfolding in every moment and what it is inviting us into.’

This ‘womancraft’ work, by which I mean alchemising enough of our stories so we can live our wild, true, sensual, embodied nature.  Living “full of ourselves.”  Midwifing ourselves and each other through our rites of passage and our evolving experience.

This lifework of being apprentice to transformation and all it requires of us…

It’s also felt complex bringing this work here in ways that aren’t culturally appropriating.  I’m still in a process of feeling my way, in this regard.  But very slowly, pieces of this part of my identity are being restored, it seems.

A Yule/Solstice ceremony with friends… drum journeys with friends… plans to head out on Wilderness Solo in 2021, supported by my man… and more conversation to be had with those who are keen to drop deep within themselves, held by intention, ceremony, solidarity and the unfailing presence of Mother Earth and all her beings.

TOP READ FOR 2020

Following another serendipitous intuitive impulse, Jasper and I hit the local library the day before it unexpectedly closed in March, and came home with five bags of books to see us through 2.5 months of zero library access.

One of the books I grabbed off a display stand was Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol by Holly Whitaker.

I’d seen QLAW around and wanted to read it, but I didn’t expect it to change my life in the radical way that it did – although, perhaps I should have read the subtitle with more consciousness!

I’d never before seen alcohol framed within the context of patriarchy and racism, and it completely reoriented my relationship to this rather ubiquitous aspect of modern life.

This book absolutely goes down as my top book for 2020, worth the read even if you’re committed to your alcohol-fuelled down-time!  Aside from the incredibly powerful writing and searing honesty, the dismantling of aspects of our alcoholic culture feel life-giving in a Promethean kind of way.

All I can say is READ IT!

ADD_THIS_TEXT

PHYSICAL SHEDDING

On the 9th of March, 2020, midway through reading QLAW, I quit drinking alcohol.  I wasn’t a big drinker to start with, but it was interesting timing that, as the whole world was hitting the bottle shops harder than ever to cope with COVID, here I was, letting that idea go.

Alcohol makes me emotionally wobbly, especially 30-60 mins after drinking.  When I think about times that have been super difficult or triggering in the last few years (or longer), so many of them involved alcohol.

Looking back, I feel that running on a more even keel through this intense year was a total gift, a boon… life resourcing me in a generous and unexpected way.

Good match!

Letting go of alcohol was a subtle but significant shedding.  A releasing of physically toxic shit that I didn’t need.  A freeing-up of mental energy and money that I could devote to more worthy causes.

Why I’m telling this story is because this relatively small decisionI don’t drink much but hey, I’m not going to drink at all now – seems to have had a cascade effect on other aspects of my diet and choices.  Not really a surprise, I guess, but I am bemused at what played out from this point.

Towards the end of May I upped my efforts to avoid meat on the whole, and we stopped buying dairy milk (still have cream in my coffee for now, though).  George Floyd’s horrific murder added to my desire to live a life less based on oppression, including the oppression of animals.

In September, I stopped eating refined sugar, thanks to, not a new idea, but a familiar one arriving at a time when I was ripe: the idea that it could be easier to go off sugar 100%, instead of, say, 95%.  (Thankyou, Benjamin Hardy!)

Going off sugar wasn’t really on my radar, it wasn’t something that felt particularly important, although I get that it’s cocaine’s cousin yadayadayada.  I am not the biggest dessert person, and maxing out on sweets has never been my thing.  Similar to my drinking habits – pretty light on.

(I was a monk in a past life, pretty sure.  In fact, when I first moved out when I was 18 into a crazy house with three guys, my nickname was ‘Monk.’)

But I feel like stopping my alcohol consumption facilitated a subtler level of attunement to my body.  A sensitivity began to grow, or deepened within me.  The desire to go off sugar arose in this space, as a subtle idea, rather than any kind of ‘have to.’

There’s a momentum, I guess, in become a clearer vessel: ever the work of the shaman and midwife.

(Just to be clear, I still eat honey and maple syrup, etc, so I’m not being keto or hardcore, just avoiding regular, refined sugar in my own cooking, or in purchased products.  And I did bake a batch of gingerbread biscuits at Christmas that I found SO ridiculously hard to resist, so I decided to eat those, and when they were done, I was back to no refined sugar.  I’m not wanting to set myself up with anything that feels unsustainably rigid, but I do want to rest in the power of 100%.)

Two months later, in November, I was noticing the effects my standard two daily coffees were having on my body (again, in this context of running a ‘cleaner’ system) and dropped down to one. Which, of all these changes, is really saying something cos I freaking love coffee!

Fundamentally, I’m not sure where all this is heading!  It’s just felt like such an interesting ride, being able to effortlessly do these things that at other times of my life would have been incredibly hard.  And why in this year, when there was already enough difficult stuff happening, and coping strategies were well and truly in order?!

I am lighter, literally and energetically.  I am a lighter self, moving into 2021.  There’s less density within me, and the change is subtle but tangible.  Makes me feel joyful and anticipatory!

I hope to fine-tune this body awareness further in 2021, listening out for the next invitation to change and adapt.  I feel like I’m being prepared, for menopause, at the very least.  Grateful for that.

And, making these incremental changes over time is a movement away from the western diet status quo, and that feels like a step towards true health.  But like I said, I don’t know where this is going… it’s the middle of the story, rather than the end!

In other physical news, COVID invited me into way more walking than I’ve done for a while, in part to balance out the screen time that seemed to expand over the course of the year.  I was inspired by the melancholy midnight wanderings of Freida Klein and the soul-searching pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

And I very much enjoyed being part of an Ultimate Frisbee team again this year, coming runners-up in the final, and being a sub for another team, getting in as much summer play as I could!  We looked pretty much like this:

 

BIG BIRTHDAYS

I turned 40 this year, and celebrated by taking my family out for sumptuous Japanese – we were rolling in tempura and sashimi!  Other than that, it’s hardly registered… still not sure what these 40s feel like…

Also, Jasper turned 13 and self-initiated by dyeing his hair blue the night before!  Absolutely love this mer-man!

I am so so proud of, and grateful for, Jasper’s gentle heart, and I am committed to advocating for the space for men and boys to be the emotionally connected and softly strong folk we need in the world…

Speaking of strong, heart-full men, Gord’s grandpa died this December, the last of four grandparents.  He was a beautiful, curious, wise and generous soul.  Sending him love on his journey.

Oct 2017

HOMESCHOOLING

Back to those three-year threads… three years ago, we put the two boys into school for the first time in Menzies Creek, on the outskirts of Melbourne.  The tail end of Grade 3 for Jet and Grade 6 for Jas.  Homeschooling no longer felt like the best choice, my heart wasn’t in it.  It was the end of an era.  (Piper had already taken herself off to school almost two years earlier.)

Life has a funny way of cycling around, though.  This year, when kids were being sent back to school with mandatory masks, after several months of learning at home, we felt invited back into a consideration of homeschooling.

Jas attended one day, and came home knowing that wearing a mask every day wasn’t for him, so here we are, homeschooling once again!

It’s been a very positive decision for our family, as well as a significant shift.  I always relish the step away from the constraints of the status quo, but with that comes the responsibility to do the research, explore curriculum, acquire resources, facilitate opportunities, etc.

Asana has been my friend, a place to curate a list of daily learning ‘to-dos’ for the boys.  And Gord and I have been more shared in this endeavour than ever before.  I deeply appreciated the feeling of being a team, and having our bi-weekly ‘hearth-tending’ meetings to both keep on top of the family admin, but also digest the emotional content of being five souls living in close proximity, was a gift.

Making salsa

Household Living

We’ve always been a family that’s big on ‘sharing the load.’  I remember registering surprise when Gord suggested that Piper could start washing the dishes, back when she was about 7.  And what do you know, Jasper (4 years old), ever the enthusiast in general, and mega-fan of his big sister in particular, took up rinsing the dishes without a hitch!

And we’ve just been sharing the work load more and more since then! 😂 😂 😂

This year, the household ‘machine’ has expanded in very satisfying ways!  Each kid now cooks dinner once a week (Jet with a bit of help), and also rotates week by week between baking a loaf of sourdough, or some kind of treat, or making oat milk.

Housecleaning happens on Fridays or Saturdays – everyone has their bit of house to vacuum, their bathroom to clean, etc.

I remember visiting my grandmother once, who lived far away in North Queensland, and her reading us one of her favourite books.  (As a primary school librarian, she had a few!)  Fair’s Fair, it was called, by Leon Garfield, I believe.  I like to think I come by this love of shared work honestly.

And honestly, it feels like an important part of rewriting the gender story in my life and that of my children.

And we gender-bend in the other direction(s) too!  I think Piper changed most of the winter tyres this year!

HOLIDAY

We had another EXCELLENT family roadtrip this year (minus Piper, unfortunately, who was absolutely #nailingit at being a competent and cheerful employee at not one but two jobs, as well as saving up her hard-earned cash for future global travel!  I never had ten grand when I was 16!  Though Gord did, so she comes by that honestly, I guess…  It has been a pleasure watching Piper thrive as a baker and pet store retail assistant this year!  Oh yes, and getting her DRIVERS LICENSE!!!).

Last year we followed the Mississippi down into the States as far at St Louis.  This year we had planned to head out west to British Columbia, but when the provincial borders closed, we made plans to explore more of Manitoba instead.  This was an incredible opportunity, I’ll be forever grateful, cos it whet my appetite for more MB!

Manitoba has 92 provincial parks, and in 2020 alone, we made it to almost 20% of them!  And all of them were naturally diverse and engaging.

Amazing white pebble beaches, crystal clear water, virtually private beaches, discovering Manitoba had leeches (who knew?!), mossy Avalonian “caves” made of Silurian dolomite, mesmerising waterfalls, hosts of mosquitos at times!  Fantastic memories…

My absolute highlight was sitting for hours on the Canadian Shield, soaking up the sun, drawing and writing to a friend, with a view of rocks, trees and water!

Flin Flon is an amazing town, built in the rocks.  Honestly, imagine having a boulder for a backyard, and you’ve pretty much got Flin Flon!  Greasy burger joint went down real well!  Hoping to get back up there sometime…

I also loved the stillness of Watchorn Provincial Park, on the edge of Lake Manitoba.  Keen to head back there this summer…

In general over the summer, we did more family hikes than ever before.  We bought a four-seasons tent and Gord and I did our first ever overnight hike.  I walked part of the Mantario for the first time, while Gord ran it fifty million times, it seemed!

Another highlight was exploring Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Park for Gord’s birthday.  All that fall foliage, the industrial relics, the sunshine and the water water water… so much beauty.  Definitely heading back there next year later in the day, when the light is right!

We also invested in cross-country skis this winter, and are exploring that whole world!  Hitting the local golf course, which has groomed trails for the season, as well as provincial park closest to us, which also has trails.

And I’m about to buy myself a pair of ice-skates cos my thrift store ones seem to have been appropriated by the kids at some point.  Resourcing ourselves to be in this cold climate!

Jasper waterskiing

What was hard?

All that sounds pretty good, eh, perhaps even cloyingly so!  In amongst this river of grace and privilege flowing strong in my life, there moments of excruciating discomfort too, don’t get me wrong…

I struggled with:

  • Hosting Jet’s birthday party on my own (Gord and Piper were in Australia at the time).  Once or twice I thought it was all going to go to shit, cos his periodic disappointment can be so amplified in social situations.  (Doesn’t remind me AT ALL of my 8 year old birthday party when I lost pass the parcel and took it hard.  Or all the times much more recently when my relationships bewilder and disappoint me!!).
  • Watching many of Jasper’s friends have party after party involving guns and mock-shooting each other.  Pained my heart.  Felt like self-initiating in the absence of anything else on offer.  Fuck that shit, actually.  That’s not the world I want to create, and walking the line between living my values, and not projecting my outrage onto others, and letting my boy be the kid he is and just have fun with his friends, took a lot of emotional energy.
  • Modelling spending hours and hours on my computer to my kids, this is not my ideal.
  • Being SO FUCKING SCARED to call the Women’s Enterprise Centre, and still being at a total loss as to how to name my work in that foreign ‘business plan’ language.  That’s a good challenge, but I was amazed at just how deep that fear runs within me, and it points to how dislocated and disenfranchised I have been, especially as a woman, from those financial and business realms (probably for lifetimes).
  • Watching blatant racism play out in Melbourne, in high-rise estates where I spent many Sunday evenings as a child, in church in one of the downstairs rooms.  Especially so hot on the heels of the foment and dialogue around #blaklivesmatter that dominated the middle of 2020.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by (self-)expectations around keeping in touch with my Mum – how to be true to myself in that, how to unpack the genderised aspects of this relational complexity, and how to just get over myself at times as well.
  • Running into my edges in collaborating with others and dialoguing our differences.  The decks didn’t get as clear as I’d like them to be, and I’m bemused by that, cos it’s not for lack of trying.  My takeaway is that trust takes a long time to grow, sometimes.  And I’m mostly okay with that.  Time is a powerful thing, and I am committed.
  • Running regularly into my strongest addiction: my withdraw-and-retreat response whenever I hit conflict with others.  Still working on dissolving this one.

More books

In 2020, I read 45 books – 17 non-fiction, 28 fiction – and started 12 more.

As well as Quit Like a Woman, these books expanded my perspective in helpful ways:

At the Root of this Longing: Reconciling a Spiritual Hunger and a Feminist Thirst by Carol L. Flinders

I owe yet more thanks to Holly Whitaker for putting me onto this book (it’s quoted in Quit Like a Woman).  I’d never heard it said like this before – a spiritual hunger and a feminist thirst – but as soon as I read that, I recognised this energy that has been propelling me through my whole life, ever since I was 15 and started questioning the faith I’d inherited.  So grateful for this naming, and for kindred travelers on this soulful road.

“Knowledge of the sacred feminine is a latency; a set of possibilities; a few seeds tied up in a pocket handkerchief and carried across the mountains; a banked fire.  What is remarkable is how deeply the seed-memory can be buried, and how indirectly sustained, without ever losing its potency.”

Me & White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad

This book opened my eyes to my unearned privilege and the systemic racism and white supremacy that underpins my place in the world; unexpectedly, it also awoke me to the tone-policing that has been part of my experience of marriage.

Now undertaking the ‘lifework’ of dismantling the white supremacist story with, and being antiracist.

Dark Emu: Aboriginal Australia and the birth of agriculture by Bruce Pascoe

This worldview-shifting book portrays indigenous Australians as the incredible agriculturalists and farmers that they were = rewriting history.  I never learned any of this in school, a travesty.

Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find–and Keep—Love by Amir Levine

I always thought I was on the avoidant end of things, but actually I have a more anxious attachment, with an ancient and wide variety of avoidant protest behavior!  Together, Gord and I have lived a relational cliché of an anxious-avoidant partnership, where we exacerbate each other’s insecurities.

But things are shifting, as we become more aware of ourselves over time, and our shared journey, with all its up and downs, continues to be a frontier of positive growth and inspiration.

I am so super grateful for this marriage, this partnership, and all it has taught me.  Especially this year.  So grateful.

Aaaannnnnddd… I’m finishing the year with a bang, halfway through Glennon Doyle’s Untamed, finding her four ‘keys’ absolutely incendiary.  Yes I will continue to live my “singular shooting star of a life” and embodying this truth with as much courage as best I can:

“Our next life will always cost us this one.  If we are truly alive, we are constantly losing who we just were, what we just built, what we just believed, what we just knew to be true… If I am living bravely, my entire life will become a million deaths and rebirths.”

 

Connection

This year I decided to track my relational efforts, cos as you know, tracking is a sure-fire way of raising your consciousness around something.  At the end of the day, love and connection seem to be the things that matter most in life, yet loving and connecting also periodically feel complicated for me…

Hence tracking… leaning into this space, building up a picture of what is

At this end of the year, I can see I made 45+ phonecalls, almost all back home (add on calls to locals), sent 53 birthday cards and letters, (2019 sent 9), gave 32 gifts, not including to immediate family, hosted guests 10 times, COVID-allowing, and went for 26 walks with folk.

The birthday cards were working pretty well until October – sorry to all my Oct/Nov/Dec friends!!!!

Obviously there’s lots more room to grow here, but I’m chuffed to have a kind of ‘social baseline,’ something to improve on for next year, as I learn how to be a better friend and reach out to new kindred hearts!

Playing around with identity

2020 has also been an ongoing work of attempting to articulate my work, my passions, what I’m here to do, who my Future Self could be.  For example:

I’m having a love affair with the change that happens over time.

I believe in “the unseen order of things.”  (Thankyou, Glennon, for this definition!)

I aspire to be: freedom-singer, beauty-grower, herb farmer, nourishment-educator, creative muse, playful wife, adventurous mother, inspirational teacher, powerful encourager, outrageous cheer-leader, loving letter-writer, earthy witch, prolific creator, happy misfit, generous host, true healer, outstanding listener, self-muse, devoted priestess

How about you? 

How have you transformed this year?  How are you Becoming?  What ‘adjective+noun’ word smashes make your heart sing??  I’d love to know!

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email