Saturday, April 08, 2006

Worth getting up on a Saturday...

Since I came back from Spring Break (a week ago Monday), I've been feeling like each of my limbs is caught in its own separate riptide. I'm having real trouble focusing. I have a million things to figure out and do, and it feels like very little time to do them in. Sometimes I just can't move. Sometimes my head's above water--and I'm choking. Sometimes I can do the things I need to do.

I'm housesitting in Walnut Creek this weekend, and drove in to school this morning for the ally training that four of my friends put together. I wasn't sure what I'd learn; I'm capable of and willing to stand up for and with other people. I'm very, very glad I went.

Early in the workshop, we heard the story of the paralytic who was lowered through a roof to be healed by Jesus (Mark 2:1-5). We split into two groups: an inner and an outer circle. Partners faced each other and each answered a question. Then the outside circle shifted three people over, and we had new partnerships. Three times we answered questions: who in the story did we identify with and why, when did we not have an ally and need one, and when did we have an ally when we needed one? We didn't dialogue; we just listened, and told our own stories. Then we got back into the big circle and called out the feelings we had heard and experienced. We noticed how the mood of our group changed when we shifted from discussing feelings of abandonment to feelings of relief, validation, and freedom. I noticed in myself how, when I am listened to and supported, I am reconnected with the truest parts of myself, with other people, and with life.

Later, we discussed two models of interaction from a tiny little $100 book, Overcoming Organizational Defenses: Facilitating Organizational Learning, by Chris Argyris. Model I can be described as "making nice" in order to persuade. Here, you shy away from confrontations to appear non-threatening, but when you're challenged, you win by not backing down. It's kind of an intentional passive-aggression, except that you can feel good while you're doing it, because you want to make other people feel good. Model II encompasses much more self-reflective behavior, as well as honesty with the other. Your currency here is valid information and varied perspectives. You speak from your own position, and listen when others do the same. You're not chasing social victory, but mutually acknowledged truth. You operate not from a place of fear, but from respect for yourself and those you're conversing with.

I thought about this for the rest of the morning, through a role-play we did and our closing discussion. I thought about who I am as an ally and as someone who needs allies of her own. I finally realized something: I am not very practiced at remembering my own power. I forget that my words--anyone's words--carry weight simply because I speak them. Thinking of it now, it feels like inner tai chi: finding my balance, testing my limits, using my voice. I can stand up as I am, and I can thoughtfully speak in truth. I don't have to be emotionally reactive. I can know that I am a valid and immeasurably worthy creation of God, and I can live from that place of sureness and strength.

This is our birthright. You can do it too. Speak from your center, in confidence that you will be heard.

1 comment:

Mimi said...

Sounds like a wonderful retreat. My prayers with you during Holy Week.