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Being Here for the Long Haul

Being Here for the Long Haul

By Sophie Galleymore Bird

In 2008, when I first became involved in Transition, I felt I was becoming part of a wave of optimism and mutual consensus. Yes, there were huge, grave problems to be faced, but together we could do anything. Government in this country was broadly supportive at all levels, and everyone I talked to in my small community in Cornwall met Transition ideas with open hearts and minds. I felt like I had found my purpose on this earth, after decades of wondering what was the point of living in the world. Not of life, but of being part of a society that held few attractions beyond the material.

Six years on and so much feels different. The scale of the problems we face loom larger and political consensus has atomised. A ConDem government preaches time worn solutions we know must fail. Globally it is hard not to feel that we are in apocalyptic times, the images of the traumatised, damaged and dead children of Gaza, Syria and Sudan haunting my mind as I potter about my huge garden, alienated by horseflies, powdery mildew and encroaching laurel. It is difficult to maintain a sense of optimism as the tide ebbs away from us. Terrifying records are broken each month - hottest, wettest, driest - and we are already past the 400ppm mark on CO2. Even here in Totnes, where I now live, it can feel like what we are trying to achieve is impossible, ludicrous. Who do we think we are to challenge the status quo and the combined delusions of Cameron/Osborne/Clegg/Milliband. Or Farage. The beast of Hydra - cut off one head and two more will grow in its place, spouting the same idiocies. Fracking. Growth at all costs. Business as usual.

I live now with people who regard my Transition work with fond bemusement, and have little faith in the ability of (other) people to be other than stupid, venal and downright evil; lately I have found my funds of energy dipping ever lower, my ability to engage challenged by the logistics of day to day life and a sometimes overwhelming sense of futility. And guilt - who am I to take time off when the world is going to shit in a handbasket? How can I justify sitting quietly reading a book or watching the birds outside my window, when there is SO MUCH TO BE DONE?

GeorgeAnd this is the trap, and the reason so many of us burn out and have to take a step back or walk up a Dark Mountain. Yes the times we live in are urgent and the need great, but this is your life. You will never, so far as any of us really know, have another one. If you need time to regroup and redress the imbalances of your life, take it. The only way I know to engage not only with the work I have undertaken, but with my own life and the joy at the heart of it, and me, is to spend time with my breath. Live each moment on its own terms, forget the promises and perils of the future, ignore the achievements or pain of the past, and truly be in the present.

I make it sound easy. It isn’t, it is the hardest task I have ever undertaken, but the rewards are many and glorious. If you don’t know how, find someone who can help you. There is no shame in needing a teacher to rediscover the skills you had as a child. An entire society has been at you since birth, training you in its needs and how to conform to them and be a good child/sibling/parent/employee/partner/boss/shopper/credit risk. Transition can be just as hard on us, unless you have a vocal Inner Transition group where you live, to help balance the needs of doing against being. We are part of the world we grew up in, it is all too easy to replicate the patterns of hegemony even as we try to redraw it, and mistake urgency for a denial of our own basic needs.

I want to be here for the long haul. I want to be here when the tide flows back in. I want to see edifices of greed and corruption tumble, allowing space for the green shoots of something - that can not be defined as we have not yet called it into being - twine their way toward the light. I want to watch my friends’ children, who started me on this journey, feel secure in their future as they enjoy their present. The only way I know to do this is to take each moment as it comes, draw sustenance from the life that blesses me - and you - and find gratitude for each breath as it moves through me.

https://www.transitionnetwork.org/stories/guest-blogger/2014-08/being-he...