Author Archives: Lucy Lepchani

About Lucy Lepchani

Life Coach and Creative Mentor. Expressive Arts. Literature. Resilience. Psychosexual Therapy. Poetry. Environment.

Melting Down

RWS_Tarot_09_HermitCOVID-19 is a tragedy unleashed. The best we can achieve from this episode in our lives is to survive it, and learn any small (or great) lessons that might lead us to survive better together in future. Lessons for change. Collective change, as well as personal, transformations.

In common with traditional myths of transformation, and associated death-underworld-rebirth cycles, I can see through the mist of disorientation, that there appears to be three stages too our being in the times of Coronavirus.

The first was the kind of space where all of the monsters come hurling forward, and all at once. Faced with sudden losses prompted by Social Distancing and then Lockdown, speculation and fear sent most of us humans into some kind of emotional flailing. Losing sight of what is familiar, stable and reassuring in the outer world, seriously disorientates inner reality. And who can be prepared for that?

Losing loved ones, colleagues and neighbours, or even ‘people we knew’ pushes us into a dominating cycle of grief: denial (shock), anger, bargaining, depressions and (eventually, one day) acceptance; and this cycle again and again, and sometimes at different magnitudes all at once.

That’s a lot of emotion, unleashed, and all of us collectively at effect from each other. For some, there have been additional struggles: to regain health; and/or to find the shifting ground beneath ones feet, due to lack of cash flow; or simply to manage without essential support, or due to the seeming encroachment of our own four walls and co-habitants: this is immense.

After the shocking realisations at government unpreparedness and slack response, and at increasing numbers of deaths, I couldn’t get my head around the numbers of dead (a mathematical glitch, or some sort of abstract denial?)

At one point, I measured the UK’s daily death rates by other national disasters, simply to understand them: this many Grenfells, each day, every day… this many Hillsboroughs, this week… that’s however-may deaths as 7/7, per day… and so on.

I have stopped doing that now. It wasn’t helping, in the end. But by this measure of off-the-scale, I got the picture. Then came such immense fury, and sorrow. My husband, usually the more even-tempered of the two of us, kept the usual radio blabbering, turned off; silencing the politicians he was too furious to listen to, and death rates too shocking to bear.

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The second stage of this trifold shitshow, is tempered with acceptance.

Not only by me, and him, but it seems for others, too. New routines hatch in captivity: an emergent national appetite for banana bread, for home haircuts, and putting the bins out whilst wearing ballgowns or fancy dress, have become emergent, British activities. Children who hated school, are thriving at home; long-neglected household chores are being completed; gardens are reclaimed. Some of us have time, and reservoirs of gratitude.

Fury, fear and frustration might be just as immense when the next waves come, but small degrees of acceptance shape a new, temporary norm. Handwashing, shopping considerations, new domestic habits; or forgotten ones. By these small things we recover lost parts of ourselves, adapt, reconstitute in the mush of uncertainty, survive; and learn how to survive better.

I became ill: but it was probably tonsillitis, caught from my granddaughter (her doctor diagnosed it) just before lockdown. Wrapped in a blanket for several days, sipping every known herbal remedy to easy a dry cough, it was surely nothing serious. Or was it? How to tell? In the slump of fatigue and recovery, came inertia, the lost hairbrush, and dreadlocks. I always wondered how they would look. After a few weeks and in better health, there came a Zoom intervention by my adult children: you are too old for dreadlocks, Mum. Now go and brush your hair!

For some of us, this phase is like pupation: melting down inside new found, less hurried, chrysalis states, becoming some other aspect of our own selves. Social media is full of evidence of it.

This year has brought a glorious, sunny spring. More of us are noticing the birdsong, renaming the weeds as wildflowers, walking the paths and green spaces around our cities. It isn’t normal, it isn’t stable, it isn’t secure; but it is what we have got, and with resounding gratitude. A glance to those who have. Lost, instead of gained: will this make us a more compassionate society?

Whatever we have, it is temporary. This too, must pass. Controversial policies are already emerging for a ‘transition period’, while others, more concerned for people than for narrow definitions of ‘the economy’, warn of a second peak of tragic, heartaching, deaths.

RWS_Tarot_01_MagicianThe third stage has not yet taken place. Will we emerge anew, or broken?

I believe that when this time has passed, it will be both of these things, and sometimes both together. But I predict that in time, we human beings will rise. Who knows when? Or how? I don’t. But plans and new worlds are beginning to quietly, gently hatch. People are already asking:

How much of this birdsong and fondness for nature, can we keep on having, after this?

How can we ensure that the skies remain as clear?

How can we ensure people don’t lose their homes?

How can we better take care of our health service?

What about access to land, to walk on it and to grow things upon it?

How can we make better places to live, for those in inadequate housing?

How can we ensure more pay parity, for all workers?

What about climate change, biodiversity loss, and the pesticides my own council slosh into the parks?

How can we best honour the dead, and protect the living?

Who can we be, in future?

 

Who can we be in future?

Don’t ask me. I’ve only just got rid of the cough. But in the churning reflexivity that these times prompt, I can feel new beginnings taking shape inside uncertainty.

 

 

 

What might be learned from a Poet, a Mouse, and a Ploughboy.

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UK postage stamp, celebrating the life of Robert Burns. From 2009 

25th January, 2020

I love that tonight is Burns’ Night; a tradition that draws communities together to honour the Scots poet Robert Burns. It also prompts attention to his poems; almost all of which recognise and celebrate human (and sometimes, animal) resilience, and through the poems’ dignity, indignity or sometimes fateful humour, towards the human condition.

This year I’m drawn to: To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough. Written in November, 1785, from the point of view of the ploughboy, this poem has inspired over centuries. A phrase within the poem – of mice and men – was taken as the title of the classic book by John Steinbeck. It also bestowed common-usage to the phrase – best laid plans – an allegory for those situations in life where, despite all our efforts to create and thrive, fate cuts us back.

At this time while Australia still smoulders, and buries an estimated half a billion animals, To a Mouse… resonates, for this night; and alludes to much in these times. In the UK, too many people have been cut down into homelessness, by a system that lacks the conscience of Burns’ humble, sympathetic plough-boy.

Fieldmouse in the lemon grass – photo by sammydavisdog

Poems are a rich resource for understanding life’s lessons. I sometimes work with people who are taking a chance on becoming writers or artists, poets and musicians. It is a bold, brave venture to risk precious time and potential judgement, failure, or rejection by others, to bring creative work more fully into the world. But the venture to become who each of us have the potential to be, is a risk that is worthwhile.

Sometimes, rewards that we seek for creative and other ventures, are too few; or seem too difficult to achieve. I have seen too many creative people give up, because criticism or other defeat ploughed by, and cut down dreams. Others can’t move beyond a certain point, despite best laid plans, for fear of what might happen. Or there are those who refuse to reflect, analyse, and let go of what no longer serves them and then do things differently.

It is easy to become thwarted by a sense of failure: but failure is an aspect of learning. It teaches us that a path we have taken is not the right path to the goal. Failure is not punishment, does not mean that the learner does not deserve, or is not capable of their goal. Giving up after failure is the result, very often, of having learned in an education system (or home environment, or both) that equates failure with shame and inadequacy, or punishment. Feeling a failure is most often a small gremlin pretending to be a tyrant, jabbing its pain across a whole lifetime. Living with a sense of failure is inevitable, when a person has not learned how to become resilient: that is, to have the ability to pick oneself up, dust off the disappointment and humiliation, and bounce back. And triumph.

If failure is good for nothing else – it is a lesson in realising the need to be more resilient; and to start again, paying greater attention to all parts of the process – including our attitude to failure. This immediate action to do something differently in the face of adversity, can be defined as grit. Grit comes of courage, determination, realisation, and sometimes (but not always) with support from others. By committing to the practice of grit, resilience is learned. Resilience is grit accrued in the bank of self-motivation and self-belief, forever after.

A lack of resilience can also arise from poor health: this might be physical, mental, or spiritual health, or, in a society where resources for recovery and support are more available to the wealthy than the poor: a lack of financial and social health. For those who can, creating a more equal and accessible society is to create a more resilient society. For those of us with the privilege of enough – even if that is sometimes barely enough – exercising this humanitarian duty pays off for everyone. The easiest ways to do this: share. Encourage. Tolerate. Include others. Commit to compassion.

There are all manner of ways to develop grit, and resilience. Some are to do with taking up new practices, others to do with letting go of old patterns of behaviour:

  • Don’t believe in a lack. A key behaviour to undermining oneself is a belief in a lack of opportunities. It might, or might not be true, that there is a lack of opportunities, resources, or time – but to allow this belief is to give it power, and to terminate potential futures before they have even finished being dreamed. Accepting that something is true but refusing to believe it, is entirely possible on our own terms. People frequently believe they are not capable of things, when they actually are: so why not try it the other way around? The point is, refusing to believe in a lack, fosters the mindset of never give up.
  • Time is the servant, not the master. Setting goals too high for what is possible in the given time, makes time our tyrant. To declare it is as a helpful servant, change timeframes to suit.
  • Deadlines can be met, and celebrated. They can also be negotiated, ignored, or missed. Whose deadlines are they, anyway? There is never a shortage of deadlines. Some deadlines can be resurrected at a later date.
  • Give yourself permission to play. Forget other people’s ‘shoulds’. Enjoy achievement on your terms. Creative ideas can be resurrected, re-shaped, recycled, re-imagined, rehashed, cut-up-and-pasted. Grit is sometimes grace in action – the human ability to simply, play. Own it! All of this is yours!
  • Don’t compare. Ever. Comparison is self-sabotage. It is easy to compare ourselves to someone who gets there faster/neater/brighter. Be happy for those doing well. This is another lesson on the path to resilience.
  • Learn to say NO, to those people and things that undermine your values. Own your consent. Consent to your own power. Do what you do, on your terms. Be yourself and don’t compromise. Grit up!
  • Gratitude: be grateful for those whose opinions you respect, and listen to them. Apart from that, ignore critics.
  • Learn new skills. Because you can.
  • Risk failure. Remember that some people will always love/loathe/be ambivalent, about different things. Nobody can please all of the people even some of the time, let alone all of it. Grit up!

My Burn’s Night celebration will be quiet, at home with loved ones, and a toast to this poem. Others will celebrate in communities, and some not at all. However it is that you celebrate or do not – I hope that you can spare a few moments to read To A Mouse…

To a Mouse, On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough,
November, 1785. – Robert Burns

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murdering pattle!

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion
An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
daimen-icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ requet;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
Its silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s win’s ensuing,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary Winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee bit heap o’ leaves and stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turned out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still thou are blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I cannot see,
guess an’ fear!

 

English translation of the above:

Little, cunning, cowering, timorous beast,
Oh, what a panic is in your breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With bickering prattle!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering paddle!

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes you startle
At me, your poor, earth-born companion
And fellow mortal!

I doubt not, sometimes, that you may steal;
What then? Poor beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.

Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse green foliage!
And bleak December’s winds ensuing,
Both bitter and piercing!

You saw the fields laid bare and empty,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! The cruel plough passed
Out through your cell.

That small heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter’s sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.

But Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

 

 

 

 

 

Urgent and Emergent Imagination

Everything that humanly exists, first came into being through imagination. An idea is a first light, a seed, and the gestation of it through to fruition is shaped by all manner of creative processes: by consideration, reflection, investigation, evaluation, and more imagination layered through.

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Shiva – by Brenda Rogers

Imagination is a source and resource which enables the understanding of disparate systems to come together and play in the mind, and to find their mutual facets of harmony and discord. It is the active agent for exploration and experimentation to take place in the manifest world. Imagination leads to creativity which encourages human potential; potent to integrate with every other aspect of life.

Imagination integrates facts and experiences into sense-making, shapes sense into a more perspicacious force. It underlies the purposeful narratives in all of our lives: dreams, symbols, myths and imagery.

Imagination gave us clues for every survival, and for all the ways in which we thrive. Human beings and societies need, therefore, to be built on values that uphold imagination as a core faculty for our survival. Our species depends on it.

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Shadow selves

We live in a complex world shaped by the sophisticated ideas and constructs of others, and it is already proven that the neglected imagination leads to manifest dysfunction: for a start, all those bright ideas with an unimagined down-side have led to disasters as well as to triumphs, and unaddressed, to our current global crises.

And for the individual: without making time for exercising  imagination, we become passive within the world and thereby put ourselves (and collectively, our species) at risk. Like muscles that do not exercise, it is/we are less able to respond when called upon – as if the unimagined life has little voice through the cacophony of worlds that have been imposed upon it. 

It is as crucial to engage and express through imagination as it is to exercise or nourish our bodies. Without imagination we have only a heritage of routines and functional objects, and a world that breeds poor mental health: neglect of imagination contributes to feeling joyless, of ‘being stuck’ in life, procrastinating in our relationships or work, or every which way of being in the world.

Excess procrastination is what imagination sounds like when it silently cries for help.

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Imagination is encouraged through play: whether that is child-like recreation or other explorative engagement with materials and resources, with embodied engagement including and combining the senses, and for no ends other than to learn by our own discovery. Even the simplest  imaginative pursuits – storytelling, drawing, walking in the woods or on a seashore, doodling, gardening – enable us to relax, to expand, and to re-connect with a core sense of rapture, of belonging-in-the-moment, and of transpersonal experiences such as experiencing one-ness with spirit and/or cosmos.

Imagination, then, is a connection with our true and resilient wildness, with the deepest parts of our nature in awe at Life.

Imagination makes leaps, gives us wings, evokes other-worldliness, connects and reconnects. It is our story.

experimental birds

Experimental birds – by Lucy Lepchani

Serendipity is key. While some technologies give us much entertainment, or save us from drudgery, they can also reduce the exercise and expression of our unique imaginations.

For example: all of the screens!  

And what others put onto them, and how we shape ourselves in order to fit these defined worlds and their norms. Imagination must be given its own stage in the Minds’ Eye; be free to catch new tunes and ideas as they pass through in rushing streams of conscious thought, or pick them out of the language of symbols that we imagine into being.

Our awesome human capacity to imagine ways to adapt in adversity are no different to solving a puzzle, or composing a tune, or building a shelter. Imagination is the choreography behind every dance of life.

We must give more time and value to it, each and every one of us: and urgently so.

the above is an extract from ‘A Guide to Thriving in These Dark Times: Values, Resilience, and Grit in The Age of Monsters’ (working title) by Lucy Lepchani, to be published by Crafty Little Press in 2019.