Soon the calendar will shift for another roll through dates, through seasons and all the moments we have no way of knowing from here. Each of us lives in our own contagion of this following that. The unavoidable change that is living itself can sometimes feel unnerving — or at least the anticipation of it, the impossibility I already mentioned of knowing completely any change before it happens.
I’ve been writing this blog since January of 2009 when I first took off driving the highways of this country to listen to everyday Americans speak about change. It was the first 100 days of the first Obama administration and both the word and the idea were elevated in national attention. Over those 100 days I listened to people from across the wide span of diversity — an array that finally defines life itself and that most certainly defines the ongoing experiment that is America (here’s the link to the re-released podcast series).
The experiment has not ceased. Change has persisted, too. One thing that has endured is that we still can’t know with any precision what will come next.
Here in my life, there have been rivers of change, just like in yours. I’ve changed career (ouch), aged (again), learned a new landscape (half of my time is in Montana these days), and most astounding here in the big middle of a lifetime, I’m about to change marital status having sustained the enormous miracle of meeting my soon-to-be husband, Gary Ferguson.
Over the past five years, I’ve made a practice of keeping the focus of this blog on change as I observe and can describe it. Throughout I’ve kept the acute awareness that mine is only one of many ways to see the world. In support of listening and the discussion, I’ve also left out most of the change here most locally — that is, what I’m living with and through. It’s a choice I’ll continue making — mostly — because issues and opportunities can be cluttered — can be fogged up with too many links with “oh, that reminds me of this story about my life.”
Nonetheless, today I wanted you to know a bit more about me and change. Here on the cusp of 2014 I’m feeling thankful once again for the early interaction I had in those 100 days of 2009 with Mr. Nick Minnis (voice 08, 100 Voices – Americans Talk about Change). It was in our conversation that Mr. Minnis taught me that my credibility as a listener rests on a crucial variable — my willingness to show up to the dialogue, to speak in exchange, at least a bit, of my own experiences and ideas.
Back in January of 2009, Mr. Minnis was taking a day off. He was reading the paper and drinking coffee in a Starbucks on East Burnside in Portland. I hadn’t attempted the initiation of a conversation about change with a stranger. Mr. Minnis was the perfect person to guide me across that threshold.
Nick Minnis is a laborer and spoke of work. He spoke of his astonishment as a Black man with the election of Obama. He also spoke of racism — the deep iceburg of harm, shame, fear and tenacity hulking beneath the surface of public decorum. He spoke of the experience of the people indigenous to these lands, of the experience of the people enslaved and forced to labor on these lands. He did not speak in anger, but rather describing matters of American fact — of change.
Toward the end of our time, Mr. Minnis asked me, “So, what do you think of change?” I remember stuttering a bit, fumbling with a few words belying my idea that this whole conversation wasn’t really about me, but about the American people. I was simply a conduit and hoping to do that well.
It was then that Mr. Minnis kindly corrected me. He looked at the tiny flip camera recording our voices and his image. He pointed to its surface — the replication of the logo for this blog site and project. He read the word, “EX:Change” and went on to say the syllables separately, “ex and change.” The ex he said is about crossing — about interacting, and the change is about what we’re all in. “That includes you, doesn’t it?”
Yes. It does. In more ways than I can possibly recount.
The change I’ve known as a result of recognizing, welcoming and enacting this concept into form as the EX:Change project has affected everything for me. And the community of people is rich and vast that I’ve come to know by listening and, thanks to Mr. Minnis, speaking to of my own experience.
I am certain that change would have happened with or without the EX:Change project, but now I have a special friendship with the word and the spectral reality it represents. Of course, the spectrum may never be fully know. It may only be sampled — uniquely by each and every one of us — in the experiences that make up what we live and come to know.
Now, here on the cusp of a next year, I stand perhaps a bit more comfortable with the awe I’ve known for what seems forever. I stand with more gratitude than is possible ever to express, recognizing this limitation as the sure sign of beginning to pay attention to the cascade of miracles that compose a life. I stand with profound respect for the integrity and courage that reside in every being whether readily displayed or not. And I stand in a measure of confidence that arises from experience and rigorous investigation aimed at determining if these first three things hold any validity beyond my hopeful imaginings and desires.
The EX:Change project, and every step through fear, bliss and tedium since have provided exacting tests and irrefutable data. I know I’m not making these things up, not just wishing they were so. Awe, gratitude and life in the company of people of integrity and courage aren’t just great ideas. I have observed consistently that they are what endures.
My invitation to you: Please do not believe me. Little can be so unless you check it out for yourself.
With that, and for 2014 I wish us all awe, gratitude and good company in the changes that are sure to come.