RA Newsletter 2023
All the true vows
are secret vows
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break
There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.
Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.
David Whyte, All the True Vows, from The House of Belonging
Dear R&A Community,
As the seasonal barometric shift moves the particles in the air around us more gently and spaciously, it gives us some room to move back within, indoors and inside of ourselves to reflect and re-engage with our fall selves. I am currently in the process of completing a degree in organizational psychology and change at a school called INSEAD in France. My classmates and I have been reading Herminia Ibarra’s book Working Identity that explores the concept of possible selves, or who we might become in the future, and how we move through phases of exploration and experimentation, liminality, iteration and reiteration and finally commitment and deep grounding in these new selves. As I am in a transitional phase of lingering and in-between myself, moving from work I cherish with individuals and families to learning about how to work in organizations and larger systems, I feel the disorientation and liberation of this change process undulating in waves.
At times, I can also feel as I begin to show up differently with my energies and interests that it can be a bit confusing for those around me to understand who I am becoming. This inevitable tension between our natural tendency to evolve and how we are seen and experienced by others in our lives is a sometimes painful and surprising part of change. We are moving into a new future and often others are relating to our past selves. I am sure I have inadvertently pressed a mental pause button on others’ changes in my life as well.
How we change and how we allow others to change, makes me think about two remarkable women who we lost this summer, Tina Turner and Sinéad O’Connor, whose pain and personal traumas seem to have frozen them in our collective consciousness. In thinking about Tina, I go back to the powerful review of her 2021 documentary I, Tina on the podcast Still Processing, where hosts Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris reflected on the re-traumatization she frequently faced every time an interviewer would bring up the horrifying domestic abuse and violence wrought by her ex-husband Ike. I wonder what keeps us in that awful past with her when she so clearly, resiliently healed and moved on? I wonder what makes it difficult for us collectively to privilege the Buddhist self of Tina? the Switzerland-residing, beloved-life-partner-and-wife-of-Erwin-Bach Tina? the my-husband-donated-his-kidney-to-me Tina?
Sinéad’s passing seems to have unleashed a collective reckoning with our own complicity and guilt with punishing her prescient public damnation of the Catholic church’s systematic cover up of priests’ sexual abuse of children. The poet and cultural critic, Hanif Abdurraqib (@nifmuhammad) observed in his Instagram post following her death that in addition to her “brilliance and generosity as a writer”, Sinéad was also “a victim of society’s gleeful, never ending obsession with prolonged punishment. With punishment as spectacle”. He asks us to not to consider some “broad, mindless approach to ‘kindness’”, but rather to ask ourselves “how [our] sufferings can be best tended to so they don’t echo harmfully outward,”. Sinéad continued to voice her pain, her healing, her spiritual transformations, her embrace of the Sunni Islamic faith and her evolution to her Shuhada Sadaqat self through her music and creative expression.
Both women informed my understanding of the different possibilities of my female selves. As a child, Tina’s music and VHS videos of her commanding sold-out stadium crowds played on a loop from the television in my father’s office. Superstar self. In my twenties, Sinéad’s No Man’s Woman looped on my clunky early aught’s iPod player as I walked home from meeting friends in the East Village. Punk-ish feminist self.
Both women allowed for complicated relationships with their motherhood selves, and talked about miscarriages, abortion, estrangement from and connection to their children. Both women tragically each lost a son to suicide, and Tina also survived the death of a second of her four children to cancer. Broken hearted selves. Survivor selves.
Most of our lives do not play out on such a public stage, however our efforts to allow ourselves to change and to embrace the change we and others make in our lives is a very vital and real part of being human. I hope this fall provides new opportunities for you to allow for new possible futures to unfold, to be experimented with and perhaps even redefine the meaning of your past journeys.