Reflecting on Our Relationship with Change
Uncertainty and change are here to stay, so let's explore our relationship with these forces
Hey all, welcome to this new year and another journey together around the sun. To be honest, it has been a bit of a struggle to figure out how to get this year started with “Agents of Change.” I don’t feel like the conventional ‘resolutions’ and goals feel right at this moment, nor do I want to kick things off with some type of prescriptive planning or guidance for yet another pandemic year. Uncertainty and change are here to stay, so I’m a bit more interested in exploring our relationship with these forces and giving ourselves some space and kindness to navigate this current moment … and the next moment, and the next.
For this issue of the newsletter, I also wanted to experiment with a new format – a voice note. This is the first time I’ve included a voice note in a post, and I am hoping it helps to bring that extra feeling of human connection to this newsletter that I don’t think we get from just reading text on a screen. The voice note is not an audio version of this writing; it’s kind of a companion to this text. So I invite you to listen, and let me know what you think. You can access the voice note by hitting the play button at the top of this post.
Let’s Breathe Together
I don’t know about you, but as this new year has begun, I just feel the weight of everything pushing down on me. Not just the new wave of this pandemic, but also the weight of all the expectations we feel as we enter a new year. When I feel like this, I try my best to remember to just breathe and connect with how my body feels as I breathe.
Years ago, I heard visionary dance activist Shamell Bell talk about how the word ‘conspire’ actually means ‘to breathe together.’ With a group of museum professionals and nonprofit leaders, she led us through some very simple breathing exercises – and I remember how good it felt to connect with my own breath and to breathe with others. This has resonated with me ever since.
Let’s all just take a moment here, and breathe together. Connect with what it feels like for the air to come into our lungs – and then slowly exhale and feel the air leaving our lungs. Our breathe is life-giving and, yet we tend to just let it happen in the background. What happens if we bring it to the foreground more often, and simply feel the movement and rhythms of our breathing?
Our Relationship with Change
I have been spending time these past few weeks diving into Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower and at the same time listening to Octavia's Parables, a phenomenal podcast hosted by adrienne maree brown and Toshi Reagon. While a dystopian novel about the future might sound like grim reading, especially these days, I assure you it is not. Not only does Butler bring forth a shining vision of hope and change, but brown and Reagon’s podcast places Butler’s writings in a context for those intending to change the world through activism and community organizing work.
The podcast goes through Butler’s novels chapter by chapter, providing insights and key questions that bring additional layers of meaning to the writing (which, by the way, is already jam-packed full of some powerful meaning). I have found this to be the perfect pairing during our uncertain times, allowing me to more fully engage with the complexities and challenges of our present moment and my own role (as an individual and as part of collective efforts) in proactively shaping the future.
Early in the podcast, adrienne maree brown poses the question: “What is your relationship with change?” Are we comfortable with change? Or not? In what ways are we changing the world around us and how are we changing in response (even in the smallest ways)?
With everything changing around us so rapidly and uncontrollably, it can feel quite challenging to then be an advocate and agent for change in any aspect of your work or life. Right? Why on earth would we want more change? This is why I think it can be so important to hold space for our relationship to change, and be kind to ourselves as we navigate our struggles with change.
Let’s Share with Each Other
As part of this process of envisioning change, I invite you to share your responses to one or more of these questions with the “Agents of Change” community:
What is your relationship with change – right now, in this moment?
What are you struggling with the most?
What are you most proud of right now?
Leave a comment here, responding with as few or as many thoughts, questions, and ideas as you’d like to share. Yes, short responses are very welcome – and so are long ones. And I’ll share my gratitude in advance for your honesty and vulnerability (both superpowers we need more of in this world).
Please consider reading each other’s comments and have an exchange via this platform. After all, I don’t see “Agents of Change” as just another passive monologue, but rather a more dynamic dialogue where we can be in conversation and connection with each other. That’s how we learn together, build relationships, and strengthen our collective practice. We can all be agents of change, even in these difficult and challenging moments, and we can do this together!
I’m still in the middle of reading Butler’s Parable of the Sower and listening to the accompanying podcast, so I have no doubt I’ll come back to more wisdom from Butler, brown, and Reagon. But I close this message with the opening words of Chapter 1, which adrienne maree brown has tattooed on her left arm:
"All that you touch You Change. All that you Change Changes you. The only lasting truth Is Change. God Is Change."