Tag Archives: hope

Trusting my intuition

I have a hard time trusting my intuition. It’s something I’ve been exploring deliberately this year. I’ve also found myself in situations where there are no other sources of information, and intuition is all I’ve had to go on. At this point I’ve come to the conclusion that I can afford to trust what I intuit.

One of the single biggest problems for me in all of this is that I suffer from anxiety. I have a powerful imagination and can come up with many ways in which a situation could go wrong. There are reasons, rooted in my history, that make it hard for me to imagine good outcomes. It is hard to trust my intuition when my anxiety is screaming ‘you’re doomed’ and my imagination is playing out all the worst case scenarios. It’s not easy to tell what is just anxiety screaming, and what might be something else.

Being an anxious person, I tend to assume that any hopeful feeling is just wishful thinking on my part. I have been in the habit of writing off any good or uplifting feelings on the basis that they must be irrational. This hasn’t been helpful.

The answer has been to make time and really sit with whatever I’m feeling. To pay attention to what fits in my habitual thoughts and what doesn’t. If I interrogate those impulses I can often tell what is just anxiety as usual happening for me. Alongside that I’m making a conscious effort not to dismiss out of hand any possibility that doesn’t lead to crushing failure, disappointment and distress. Sometimes things do work out well, and I have evidence of this. I no longer live in a situation where there is someone intent on crushing me, and I no longer need to assume the worst for my own safety.

My intuition has room for the best in other people. It has room in it for hope, and good outcomes. My intuition is much more open to trust than the rest of me. It’s a small voice, long ignored, but this year it has held up where conventional sources of insight have failed. My intuition has kept me going where otherwise I might have broken down entirely. I do not have to accept a life without hope and possibility. I can consider that better outcomes are possible. I can afford to trust existence and the universe to be neutral towards me, not actively hostile. I can trust myself, and I can stop feeling that my more hopeful impulses are naïve, self indulgent or ridiculous.


Pessimism and the Brain Weasels

“Give up,” says the brain weasel. “You’re just torturing yourself with false hope. Really everything is shit and it will hurt less if you admit that and stop fighting it.”

Last week I was thinking about how difficult I find it to imagine good outcomes. This morning, I caught this brain weasel in action, and had a good look at it. I’d been working with the idea that not being able to imagine good outcomes might be an out of date coping mechanism. It isn’t. It’s a way I’ve been taught to think to keep me placid and cooperative.

If hope is torturing yourself and nothing can ever possibly be better, why would you leave? Why would you put up a fight, or try to change anything? Why would you expect people to do better?

Giving up hope is not a protective measure, it’s a form of self-abandonment. It is surrender to all that is wrong, and a way of making sure I never even try to fix things or make them better. It is a deep and soul-killing sinkhole into which I might throw myself.

Would it hurt less if I gave up hope? Would it really? Would it hurt less to think the worst of other people, to imagine that things go wrong because I’m not good enough, or deserve it, or because I am unloveable? Is it really the best choice to abandon all other possible explanations in favour of a story that casts everyone in the worst possible light? Take it apart to see how it works, and this approach doesn’t work at all. It takes the fight out of me, when I need to hold my ground. It takes away my scope for anger at times when I need it most. It also undermines other relationships and reduces my scope to be both imaginative and compassionate. But then, historically, undermining other relationships was a good way of keeping me in a bad place.

I would rather live in hope. I would rather think the best of people and have some space to think well of myself. I would rather hang on to the idea of myriad explanations that have nothing to do with how shit I am, in situations where things go wrong. I would rather imagine there is a way forward, a way out. I do not want to be at the mercy of this particularly nasty little brain weasel.

The trouble with brain weasels is that they present as truth, as obvious facts. This one was given to me, I see that now. It was squeezed into my brain to keep me timid and well behaved and biddable and to stop me imagining that I could have nice things. It tells me that surrendering to pain will hurt less than fighting, and that there is no point fighting, and that hope is my enemy. Time to serve an eviction notice on this creature and not allow it any more residential space in my mind. I need to populate my mind with voices that suit me better. A Hope Otter might be a good move.


Druid roles – voicing the voiceless

What does it mean to practice Druidry during the climate emergency? What should we be doing? What is the role of a Druid right now?

One of the roles we can take on is to give a voice to the voiceless. All the non-human life of this world, and all the people who do not speak the languages of dominant western cultures need hearing. The land needs a voice. Future generations need a voice. Someone must speak for the oceans and rivers, for the droughts and the fires, the storms and the instability. We can do this.

It’s not just about raising awareness. We need to inspire people with feelings of care and compassion alongside helping them feel they can make a change. Climate chaos is frightening and overwhelming, and balancing the honesty of this horror against the necessity for hope is a delicate thing. I tend to feel Druid work is inherently about balance and standing between things that need bridging. One foot on a goat and the other foot on a well, we can find and share stories that both illustrate the threat and the means to overcome it.

One of the key things here is not to be doing it at the last minute and in desperation. To start speaking for the land when the developer has made a bid for planning permission, is to start rather late in the day. Better late than never, but even better to start before the crisis hits. Speak for your trees, speak of their worth and beauty before anyone shows up to cut them down. The more we speak up for what is good and inspire those around us to love what is wild and natural, the more people there are ready to defend the land.

It’s important to speak from a place of love and valuing and not simply from a place of fear. Again it helps to start before there’s a threat. Fending off threats is emotionally exhausting. This is why, for example, when I’m doing my voluntary bit for The Woodland Trust I spend more time on tree love than I do on specific campaigns to protect trees. Without the love of trees, there won’t be the energy to protect them. Meanwhile, it is the love of trees that will sustain anyone working to keep them safe.

We exist in a culture that undervalues anything it can’t exploit for profit. We need new stories. We need stories that fill us with empathy and place us back in the natural world, and stories that help us see all living beings as just as valid as humans, and ecosystems as precious sources of life that need our care and respect. We can do this work with songs and stories, with poems, pictures, photos and more. It’s often easier to engage people with softer things, and more hopeful things. There is too much horror already, and such a great need for hope.


Druidry and the Future – cover notes

Here’s the cover for a small book I’m self-publishing. The reason I’ve gone it alone for this one is that there’s a good 9 months of lead time doing anything at Moon Books, and I felt this needed to move now. I’ll be sorting out ebook versions in the next few weeks.

The cover came about in no small part because Tom Brown (my co-conspirator in most things) has been thinking a lot about hope punk recently. Hope punk was coined as a literary term to offer some kind of alternative to grimdark. However, the notion of hope punk really lends itself to visual expression. What would a restorative, regenerative, generous sort of future look like? If we can dream it, we have a much better chance of making it happen.

We tend to associate Paganism with rural settings, although most of us live in more urban areas. So, here’s Druidry in an urban context. It’s an explicit visual statement that Druidry does not belong ‘away’ in some wild and remote place, but belongs where people are. Look closely at the city and you’ll see the roof gardens, the trees, the plant pots, and also the birds in flight. Nothing says hope to me like the image of a sky full of birds.

This is a project all about hope. I don’t see any point doing anything else. Misery and hand wringing changes nothing. I’m most interested in the kinds of changes I can make personally, and by directly engaging with other people.


Pausing to reflect

It’s my birthday today. I find birthdays are a good time to pause and take stock of things. Quite a lot has changed for me over the last year – I’ve become more involved with Transition Stroud, which has brought a whole host of new people into my life. I’ve had a lot of upheaval around work, which has given me a better sense of my limits and possibilities. I’ve coloured an entire Hopeless Maine graphic novel. I’ve written and performed a lot of poetry, and I’ve started dabbling in storytelling.

Birthdays inevitably have me reflecting on how this day has played out in other years. Some have been memorably good. Some were deeply unhappy. It’s a day that highlights what’s best in a person’s relationships but that will also flag up insufficiency in a way that’s hard to miss. This is a good year in terms of people.

On the whole, I like how my life is going at the moment. My ambitions are on the small side and I’ve become much more focused on the details of daily life than on big schemes. The things I most want are fairly feasible. The changes I want to make moving forward aren’t very dramatic, but might improve my day to day standard of living a bit. I’m getting better at deciding when to say no, so as to protect my time and energy. I do a lot of saying yes, and I remain willing to offer help, support, volunteer work, and the such – I’m just being a bit more picky about who gets what of that. I’m working out how to step back as well as how to step forward.

The state of the world worries me immensely. I reflect a lot on what can be surmised about people living at the ends of empires and civilizations. I think about my radical ancestry – the many people who fought, and sometimes died to try and advance the causes of equality and fairness, many of whom never saw that get results in their own lifetimes. I keep reminding myself of all this because it is important perspective. Life is not like a movie, and I may not get a coherent narrative arc. The important thing is to do what I can and to stay hopeful and active, and to help as many other people do that as possible. Giving up is one sure fire way of being defeated, and while there is life, there is some sort of hope, however frail that may seem some days.

Birthdays are a reminder of how finite our lives are. None of us will live forever. If we keep on with the unsustainable choices, many of us will shorten our own lives, and the lives of others. Life, and time are the most precious things we have and the question of how to spend that well is one to keep asking.


Recover health, hope and happiness with the help of trees

This blog is inspired by the principles of the Tree Charter – find out more about it and how to get involved, here – https://treecharter.uk/

There’s no doubt about it that time with trees improves our mental health. They offer a great deal of good to our bodies as well – cleaning air, cooling urban environments and rural ones alike, holding moisture in the soil. Having trees makes for good human habitat. They protect us from excess sun and thus from skin cancer.

Re-greening a landscape is a reliable way of giving people hope. A dead, dry landscape doesn’t support life and offers humans nothing – except the drama of exposed soil. A green landscape can feed and shelter us, give us respite from the weather and blesses us with beauty. In most parts of the world, planting trees is the way to overcome environmental degradation. We have to plant trees and protect the trees we’ve got, and find ways of living on the land that doesn’t strip life back to the soil.

Humans don’t thrive in sterile environments – be that an urban sprawl, or a landscape we’ve ravaged. We are kinder to each other when we live alongside trees. We thrive in gentler, leafier landscapes. Agriculture works better in landscapes that aren’t denuded of trees and shrubs – the soil stays put in heavy rains and insects are present for pollination. If we only thought of trees in terms of how much use they provide to humans, we should be planting trees everywhere we can, with great enthusiasm.

Of course when we plant trees, we benefit more than ourselves. We benefit every creature for whom trees are a habitat. We can restore ecosystems and bring back diversity of life. If there’s any pockets left of an eco system, we can give it a fighting chance by expanding the trees and connecting up the surviving landscapes.

Tree planting gives us the best hope of reducing the impact of climate change, and surviving the changes it will make.


Resisting despair

Every day when I get online there is some new awfulness. An email or two in my inbox I have to delete without looking at because I know from the subject matter that I can’t take it. Some appalling and cruel political decision revealed on Twitter. Something in the news to weep over. There are new ones every day, and it is exhausting and demoralising, and what are we to do?

It would be easy to give up all hope, to decide that humans are awful and we cannot be saved from that. It would be easy to decide that trying to care for the planet is too hard, too painful. It would be easy to decide to ignore every new source of heartbreak and stop trying to do anything. To accept that all is futile. To give up. To let feelings of despair and cynicism in.

Of course, nothing is won by people who give up. No good change is brought about by people not caring. Perhaps the single most important fight any one of us faces right now is the fight not to succumb to despair.

I think that’s an important point to recognise right now. Your heart is a battleground, a microcosm in which all the big fights of the world are going on right now. If you give in, then all that is worst about humanity gets to move into your heart as well, and even if you don’t actively support it, in your silence and inaction, you’ll tacitly support it. If you can win this one in your own heart, if you can stay caring and compassionate, and stay hopeful, you can be part of the solution.

If we can keep our own hearts open, we can help the people around us to do the same. For as long as there are people prepared to keep caring and trying, there is hope. That’s all hope is – someone who hasn’t given up yet. We can hold each other up, and remind each other of what we’re fighting for rather than focusing always on what we’re up against. We can share good things – love, friendship, kindness laughter, gentleness. We can be the good in each other’s lives in so many small and every day ways. We can keep each other going. We can do this.


Hope

Evil can only be said to have truly won when there’s no one left who cares enough to resist it. Which is one of the reasons I don’t really believe in ideas of ultimate evil, just as I don’t believe in any kind of ultimate ‘good’ either. But, it is certainly true that humans can manifest evil through cruelty, and the acceptance of cruelty.

Faced with deliberate cruelty and oppression, hope is always the most important answer, and the key to resistance. We have to hold on to the hope that this can be overcome, and that enough of us aren’t up for it. We have to maintain our belief in other human beings, sometimes in defiance of all evidence to the contrary. We have to believe that collectively, we can and will do better.

Holding that belief protects us from paralysis. It stops us being totally overwhelmed even when things seem truly overwhelming.

Hope doesn’t have to flourish naturally. It is a path we can choose to walk, a way of being we can choose to adopt no matter what we’re up against. To hope is to refuse to submit to fear, to refuse despair, and apathy and inaction. Hope keeps us trying in whatever small ways we can, to make things better.

And if all else fails, what you do is keep the small flame of your hope alive, until you can find opportunities. We can keep hope alive for each other. We can talk about it, express it, imagine what it would look like, plan and tell stories. We can remind each other of times when hope was justified. We can keep saying ‘we can do better than this’. We are better than this. We aren’t beaten yet.

No matter what happens.

We can do better than this.

We can make things better than this.

It is worth keeping trying.

Never give up. Never surrender.


Hope and Matlock the Hare

This autumn I undertook to re-read the Matlock the Hare trilogy – I proof-read the third volume earlier in the year, and that’s not the optimal reader experience. Plus, I wanted to read the series as a whole from a position of understanding what it’s really about.

Book 1 of the Matlock series introduces Matlock the Hare, on his quest to solve a riddle to become officially more magical. As a magical hare, he’s got three such tests to do, and the reader can be forgiven for thinking this sounds like wizard school for hares. But it isn’t. As Matlock sets out in book 2 on trial number 2, it’s increasingly obvious that the glorious magical world he inhabits is beset by problems. When you get to book 3 it becomes evident that the story you were reading is not really the plot at all, which is all I am going to say on the subject.

Re-reading the trilogy, it struck me how clever the whole thing is – the apparent main plot line distracts you from a whole other story that’s being woven right under your nose, and becomes visible only towards the end of the third book. The re-reading process is full of new surprises and delights as you start to see how the real story was there all along, hiding in plain sight.

What struck me most on the second time through was the mix of political satire, and hope. Making dark comedy out of modern politics is in many ways a natural reaction, but usually there’s a quality of despair to it. To poke the heaving mess that is modern politics while remaining warm-hearted, and able to encourage people to hope for the best, is an incredible achievement. We need more of this sort of thing.

On the second read, the third volume had me in tears. Not over the overtly sad bits, or the twizzly bits, but over a long passage about the importance of hope and how to live well. Life at the moment can feel like a desert where hope is just a dead thing whose bones you can see. But, in the Magical Dales, hope is alive and well, and waiting to be found.

Commercialmass is looming as I write this blog. If you need to gift someone with something good, do consider getting this set – it’s beautiful stuff, with gorgeous illustrations, giggles/chickles (did I mention a language to learn?) the routine puncturing of officious pomposity, crumlush creatures, and hope. Lots of hope. It is a series you can read repeatedly, and that stands up to close inspection, without tidying itself up too neatly – I always feel a bit cheated by that. The books leave you with plenty to wonder about, while also providing a very satisfying sort of read.

More here about Phil and Jacqui Lovesey’s Matlock the Hare  – http://www.matlockthehare.com/


Midsummer Prayers

Midsummer elderflower heady

In bloom, in honeyed mead

Wood silk goblet passed

Friendship hand to hand

Fingers brushing affirmations

Red sky in the river

Moon vast in the trees,

Thyme on the barrow.

Time.

 

Falling in love all over again

With the bee orchids,

Sky lark songs,

Poetry to the heavens,

Shimmering river magic.

All is enchantment here,

Aching, tender and wild.

Prayers for wisdom

Answered in twilight

By the effusive glow

Of a cheerful insect

Irrepressible life.

 

A gleaming bottom beacon

Hope in unlikely places.

Lights to follow,

Faerie-like and unruly

Through the long grass.

Going to Elfland,

Or going home,

Or both.