Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Walking We Ask Questions - Sorcha Kenny & Live Collision, ABSOLUT Fringe 2012

Photograph by Emma Hannon
Part I: Sunday, 9th September 2012, Dublin

We meet in the Square, Temple Bar, Sunday morning, early, early enough, actually it's twelve o clock, but that day, it was early for me.
I arrive, coffee in hand and meet my Mother, waiting patiently making new friends. 

We begin with a silent protest, facilitated by artist James O'hAodhaholding blank white placards, we walk together through the streets of Dublin, through this our city, through lane ways and side streets, through walk ways and across roads passing gardai who don't interfere, who don't seem to even notice us.  We walk together silently, holding a non prescribed sign, the space to think what our individual protest might be, should we choose to fill in the blanks, and yet we are together, collectively, a new community on the streets of Dublin on this fresh Sunday morning.

Walking together, thinking as individuals, the space for both.

We continue to the open door of artist Michelle Brown's home, there's tea brewing (coffee too), food on the table and quickly a queue for the toilet!  She opens her home to us, this new community, who are embarking on a seven hour adventure through the city together.  We are talking again, we speak together of the initial phase, the responses we met with, the questions in people's eyes as we passed, the questions articulated that we answered with gesture.

I leave this home with a challenge, and a partner to complete it with.  A set of instructions, dense in detail, turn right at the gate and take ten steps...continuing the journey through the city as a 2 year old child would, swinging around lamp-posts, stopping to look at dog excrement, squashing my face against a bus stop, hugging a stranger, feeling the bumps on the pavement beneath my feet, skipping.  Skipping was my favorite part.  Walking through the city is forever changed for me.

We wait inside the entrance of St. Patrick's Park for the rest of the two year olds to catch up, and we talk of our experience, laugh at ourselves within the challenge, and there's a sense of fun and adventure, and excitement at what is yet to come.  Gathered together in a public space, there's discussion of the physical challenges too, the tired legs, but we walk on, now lead by our host, Sorcha Kenny towards Kilmainham.

Across the road and under the arch, off Patrick Street, an amazing surprise, a choir of voices greet us, and we stand together around the walls and watch and listen, smiling across at each other at this amazingly amazing event, they are singing under the arch, and passers by stop and wait and listen, cyclists dismount and listen with us too.  It's an awesome sound, the voices together in a walk through space, the voices raised in praise of their own God, but we can share in their sincerity, in the intention to worship as they feel.

Photograph from Growing up in the Liberties (Facebook)

We walk on, we walk faster because we're a little behind schedule and there are more artists, more surprises waiting to be encountered, waiting to unfold.  We walk and talk through Dublin 8, the Liberties, we stop in a square of houses, opposite where I went to secondary school, it used to be the Holy Faith, now the Liberties College and hear a poem. In Grey Square we stop at the statue of Jesus Christ and speak in solidarity with Pussy Riot, call and response, collectively raising our voices in support.

We continue, and arrive at the home of another artist, Lian Bell who opens her door and makes pots of tea, black and herbal, biscuits on plates, and another queue for the toilet.  I sit outside on the footpath opposite and watch the group, the choir, on bicycles, have joined us, small groups discuss while sipping tea, and I speak with the Blow magazine photographer who is documenting the day. 

And sitting there, I become aware of the amazingness of total strangers coming together and walking, just walking through this our city, together.  

And on, through Rialto, up the LUAS line, confronting the right to walk in public space, call and response, revolutionary lyrics, laughter, fun, walking veering towards marching.  To Kilmainham Gaol, a little late now to meet our next artist facilitator Megan Kennedy (Junk Ensemble) who guides us down the hill and into the Irish National War Memorial Park at Islandbridge.  She leads us running diagonally from tree to tree stretching out along the path, and its fun and frivolous and we are all doing it together, we the strangers who only met this morning, now engaged in a collective action of joy.

And here I had to leave the walk, reluctantly, and I watch the collective gathered walkers bounce from tree to tree off into the distance.  

A beautiful day, a beautiful experience, thank you Sorcha Kenny.

Part IISaturday, 15th September 2012: Project Arts Centre, Dublin 2

Today is about talking about walking, and the relationship to the city.  Sorcha Kenny & Live Collision have invited a series of speakers to present lectures and performance lectures inspired by this project and this quotation by art activist John Jordan:

The greatest medium is the present. As Joseph Beuys said, “Don’t wait to begin, use what you have.” Start where you are at. Hell, you’ve already started. What are the tools and tendencies around you? Inside you, beside you? You could start with your own body. It’s the eco-system you know best, the source of most of your knowledge and dreams. The art of social movements has often begun with collective bodily performances as its first, most abundant resource.

The speakers are: 

Nigel Rolfe (via skype) - Performance Artist and Visiting Professor in Fine Art at the Royal College of Art in London; David Landy - Assistant Professor on the MPhil in Race, Ethnicity and Conflict, Trinity College Dublin; 
Owen O'Doherty - PIVOT Dublin, a Dublin City Council initiative devised and co-ordinated by Dublin City Architects; 
Laurence Davis - Lecturer in Government at University College Cork, Ireland, a Series Editor of the Contemporary Anarchist Studies book series published by Continuum Press, and a founding member of the Anarchist Studies Network, he has written numerous articles and book chapters on anarchist and utopian political thought, democratic and revolutionary theory and practice, and the politics of art, work, and love; and me, presenting the very beginnings of this project HERE & NOW.

It's a fascinating afternoon, talking about protest, about finding ways to make protest engaging, about the lack of protest in Ireland and finding alternative means to do so that would engage the people, later the discussion raises the issue of why we as a nation don't protest more and the problem of who you stand behind, who represents you, or if we can find a way to protest collectively but as individuals, and I am reminded of the silent white placard protest of the Sunday before 
 facilitated by artist James O'hAodha.  I learn about the city, the mapping of this our city across the decades and learn one of my new favorite facts, that the best way to work with the maps and track the development of the city over time was to use the paths created by the people walking, these were the constants, even the underground rivers changed course.  And I am struck forever by the image of Nigel Rolfe lying in the bog at the very centre, the actual centre of Ireland, for a whole day he lay there, beautiful.
I'm honored and delighted to be asked to present the very beginnings of HERE & NOW at this event, it's a simple performance lecture and you can see it here, the beginnings, once again, thank you Sorcha Kenny.

Part II of Walking We Ask Questions will be podcast next week on the website:  

HERE & NOW (beginnings)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Notes on Focus Ireland's "Holding On To A Place You Can Call Home" Conference

26th September 2012: Aviva Stadium, Dublin

([...] = personal notes)


Conference Notes:

10 years since the publication of the government's "National Strategy for the Prevention of Homelessness", 7 years since the Homelessness agency's comprehensive prevention strategy.

2011-2016 Focus Ireland Strategy: Holding On To A Place You Can Call Home - focus on prevention

Minister Jan O'Sullivan: of security and well-being
[reading dilutes the message]
Prevention - issue of focus on this...need to ensure access to homeless services simultaneously
developed budgets, decisions at local level Section 10
Data collection - PASS roll out needs to continue - gathering numbers
Outreach joint Focus + Simon
-mortgage to rent scheme- benefit family - remain in their home - very few have gone over the line with it.
Comprehensive mortgage arrears - restructuring of loans

Government: Budget of  55 million + Health + Social Welfare = Voluntary Services

Joyce Loughnan - CEO Focus Ireland: 
Housing First Programme - review of strategy coming soon.

18% increase January-August 2012: growing demand for our services
Intervening as early as possible with those at risk of becoming homeless

out of home - emergency accommodation aimed at only 6 months, currently people are living in emergency accommodation for over 2 years.
€60 million = emergency accommodation services - nobody sleeps rough- 

Mortgage Arrears - a lot of debate - private rented sector is also an issue not being addressed - cuts to rent supplements  taking an ad out on that before the upcoming budget

Catherine Maher - National Director of Services & Housing Focus Ireland: 
underlying risk groups...preempting a personal crisis..need to ensure that no one is released from State care without the necessary accommodation in place...recognized Homelessness...issue of Poverty...Social Inclusion...
[National]  [International] [Culture Makers] [Feet] [Equipment]
Review of the original 14 actions ten years ago, what happened?
E.g. 1: recommendation to provide step-down units accommodation in the youth detention centers: Trinity House and Oberstown Girls Centre:
Under the jurisdiction of Department of Education in 2006: Opened the Facility, Fitzgerald Report defined the action as "Fully Progressed"
In 2007 the Department of Justice took over responsibility under the Probation Services  closed Oberstown step-down facility
In 2011 transferred responsibility to Department of Children - currently no sign of it opening.
national Aftercare Strategy - report due - Campaign for legal right to aftercare - legal understanding for aftercare  Autumn
Ministers move on, departments amalgamated, issues lost
Youth Homeless Strategy - HSE creation - no place
faster dept. - different view of the role of the parent
what forms of commitment and long-term engagement?
Central strategizing - services on the front line - don't always match up.

Fitzpatrick Report broader view about what Prevention might mean
File:U+2191.svgPrivate Housing    File:U+2193.svgBuilding Social Housing     File:U+2191.svgPeople Seeking Social Housing
very little written about this

By 2010 sleeping rough almost eliminated in Cork & Galway, all time low in Dublin
when bad weather came only dedicated rough sleepers were out in Dublin - but with huge supports

Prof. Dennis Culhane, Penn University: 
U.S Context: Prevention problematic - Who does it? Who pays for it? what drives it? 
U.S. Stimulus Act - government spending package due to the economic downturn, to put money into the public sector: $1.5 Billion: 60 days call out to apply, 60 days to write policy, 60 days to get the $ out on the street.
Diversion - Relocation - Emergency Rental Assistance
V                                               Prevention - highest volume, lowest cost
O                                              Shelter Admission - mid volume, mid cost
L                                              Actual Homelessness - Lowest volume, highest costs

Housing Stabilization System - includes Day Care, Employment Assistance, Shelter, Family Support, MH/SA services
Target Population: 
Most at Risk - Prevention objective, protocols for intervening, not duplicating Social Welfare Services
Imminently Homeless - crisis intervention + tenancy
Homeless - Emergency Shelter - rapid rehousing
Who in the community should we target for Homeless Services?
Prisoners, patients exiting hospital or detoxification (usually 24hours not residential, not readily available), Youth exiting from Foster Care, Domestic Violence victims, formerly homeless - another episode, also those with psychological risk factors
- where are you in the trajectory of potential homelessness? -
- Narrative - where are you in the story now? - 
Case management: $2100 in NYC cash aid in prevention against $21k for a year in a shelter for a family

Dr. Cameron Parsell, University of Queensland: 
2007 Prime Minister changed all. 
Affordable Housing
Population of 22 million, 250-350,000 people will experience homelessness over a year
6.1 billion - creating affordable housing
1.2 billion - homeless prevention

Prevention: Early intervention
Mainstream: Every ones Responsibility - interact with numerous government agencies 'SICOS'
CentreLink: $6.5 million 'First to know'
Residential mortgages

Reasons for Homelessness:
Housing stock is an issue
Child Protection - multiple failures in care of Young People, absconded at 13, 14, 15 yrs
At risk tenancy (Hal Pawson U.K.)
Private rented sector - INSECURITY
Legislation - tenancy data system - landlords blacklist - unregulated, without grounds asked to leave tenancy agreement
Domestic Violence (Sanctuary systems in U.K.) - 55% women, 37% Children give domestic violence as reason
Repeat homelessness = revolving doors 5% overall
'Street to Home Programme' - rough sleepers  automatic rent deductions, main reason to repeat - loosing housing.
'Common Ground' - lack of community, degree of support on the street, creating a community (?), or institutionalized? 

Supply of Social Housing: less than 5% of housing, duration of need rather than life.
Significant structural issue with availability of social housing

[Hal Pawson?] [Movements side/side/jump. Skip] [Shine a Light] [Simon discussion when?] [Journal] 

Dr. Volker Busch-Geertsema, European Observatory on Homelessness & GISS, Bemen, Germany: 
Does Prevention Work? Lessons from European Research - The Case of Germany (and England)
Prevention: 3 Categories
(Broad) Primary - influencing and minimizing, more general structure
(more Specific) Secondary - crisis intervention
(Most specific) Tertiary - preventing homelessness that has already occurred to stop it becoming entrenched or chronic

?Shinn & Baumholl 1998 p1.
? Pawson et all., 2007 p159.

Slackening of the housing market in many cities important factor in reducing homelessness in Germany
Reduction despite increase of poverty and unemployment for a long period
Positive outcomes possible even within downturn
1985 - 62.4 thousand - one day count
2001 - 10.1 thousand - one day count + 6.31 utilized services within 2 months = 16.41 thousand total

Context: no right to housing in Germany, but DUTY of municipalities to provide temporary accommodation: Duty - Open City Hall when people are sleeping rough with no accommodation available
Private rental share = Germany 2nd highest, highest is Switzerland [!]
Time limited - small number
Social assistance legislation: "Should" not "May" but also not "Must" - arrears rent social & private
Single men and single women with children most a t risk
Rent Arrears 86.3%
Separation 7.5%
Other needs:
Over indebtedness 34.2%
Addiction 11.3%
Mental Health 8.6%
Special social 18.2% 

Men more addiction, women more mental health - difference not so big though
Recurrence 2/3
Rent arrears: imminent homelessness, similar in a number of countries
Improvements in prevention more visiting, floating support, follow-up
Other main reason is relationship breakdown

Prof. Tony Fahey, University College Dublin: 
Social Housing sector 10-15% of population. outsider to homelessness. 
Prevention: When do we know its working? 
2006 65% Australia, 2011 4000 homeless on count night in Dublin, 74 rough sleepers in Dublin.
What is a realistic target for prevention to reach? - defining a measure by which you could tell whether its working.
The Prevention Continuum (as used in Public Health realm)
General Social & Economic Progress (immunization reduces risk, raising living standards etc.) main aim to promote good outcomes, not prevent bad ones. (e.g. slum clearance in Dublin, infant mortality decrease, to peruse a general good rather than prevent a specific evil), Universal Prevention: society wide, intervention, mass program me, compulsory e.g. immunization, fluoridation of the water: low unit costs - costs justified by outcome.
Targeted Prevention: Intervention identifying those at risk and intervening quickly. 
Early Interventions: prevent initial stages of bad outcomes from becoming worse.  Merges into treatment, quick treatment.

Irish Case first & last stages
Good housing system in particular good social housing, not just preventing homelessness but other things child protection, school completions.  Intervene to promote the well being of marginalized citizens - crime prevention services- each service working in a blinkered way - our particular bad social outcome instead a comprehensive social engagement.

Q & A Session:
USA shelter model towards social housing
Australia - CentreLink
Ireland - Domestic Violence a huge issue - removing the perpetrator rather than the victim and children
Germany - social assistance legislation for rent arrears
Ireland - €2500 per month per homeless family over an average of 2 years
Counting/statistics issue: ? Numbers of people sharing with friends and family?
Do they include boarding houses in Australia? - comparing numbers is problematic = measured differently 
U.S.A 5% social housing only, 6% of homeless come from apartment ownership
Australia - financial imperatives & numbers, central to the discussion is values, what society we want to live in, to what extent is equity & equality valued? More important value and society we want to live in, what is important?
Homelessness is a manifestation of what's going wrong in society
Social housing - no one likes it!
Vaulkner - regulation of the private rental sector is hugely important
Sustainability of the outcome = prevention
Failure of State Policy
Duration of time spent in homelessness is a real issue
Incentivization - government shift to a more rationalized system
almost 100,000 people on the social housing list
Housing first findings: worst thing about being homeless is being in emergency accommodation

Rachael Wallace-Lane: Head of Prevention Services, Cyrenians Edinburgh

Preventing Homelessness: Saving Money & Misery
Prevention seems to mean different things to different people - mine is education
Edinburgh - Cyrenians - Entrepreneurial charity - empower people
social cases of poverty and exclusion: valuing people at its core from 1968 on
People helping themselves focus.  Big Picture strategic view
3 key themes structure our working:
Social Enterprise: Long term meaningful outcomes, 9 hours per week food collection delivered then across 90 services; small community farm worked by Young People, cooking at home classes eat well on a budget, workplace opportunities, 2 therapeutic communities
People & Change: Young People live and work together. cities and farm, Drugs & alcohol 100 per year, holistic approach, homeless or insecure accommodation, Young People about to leave school.
Prevention: Upscale/step in before crisis, across organization referrals, built to prevent people loosing their homes, repeat/revolving door - over 300 rent deposit guarantee scheme, Conflict Resolution Service 14 - 24 years.

[Aviva - street to school program me, children who are homeless, to fulfill their potential]
[Function of standing up in front of people publicly]
[blog report for schools]

Prevention focus
Rent arrears, health affecting your housing, Problems with landlords, mortgage debt
Cyrenians Edinburgh mortgage service, City of Edinburgh Council
-mainstream service aimed at people without homelessness episodes for the past 4 years
- 4 to 6 months short term service
whole person approach not just the problem presenting
Cyrenians Way of working (Gerard Egan)
Key workers specialist knowledge
life skills on offer - accredited courses by City & Guilds - money management, cooking
Volunteer befriending, plug into local community, leisure activities
Thriving not just Surviving.
Scottish Government: 3 areas of prevention, all similar
smart in doing more for relatively less
loose focus on our mission by chasing the funding
4-6 month intervention = £2000 Shelter England £800
99% prevented from attending? - debate around goalkeeping - not preventing but preventing people from presenting as homeless, local authority varies.

Afternoon Panel Discussion:

International perspective
Targeted prevention measures, arrears/keeping home
Dr. Paula Mayock, Children's Research Centre, TCD
Systemic Prevention measures - critically important, general welfare, gender equality
Youth Homelessness and women
-continuous repeat homelessness - detrimental effects dotards chronic and long term
Emergency accommodation 
child welfare to adult homeless services - significant
Young People - drug problems, a question of housing the drug user
Young People - Incarceration, not to mark the beginning but to continue the cycle
(While in prison the Rent Supplement continues for 13 weeks)
Domestic Violence, gender perspectives on homelessness: 1/3 women
women went back to abusive partner in order to 'escape'  emergency homeless accommodation services. 
Refuges not used due to drug problem
Orla Barry - Mental Health Reform:
Discharge from hospital into emergency homeless accommodation not okay!
dual diagnosis - addiction and mental health problems, issue not seen.
Children, avoiding the Social Worker and not keeping appointments, acute emotional problems
linking up mental health & homeless services, integrate services
what people say: "I want to be listened to, relationship, alternative to medication" 
Socially engaged human model
Involuntarily admitted to services
Stigma changing - Headstrong for Young People
Michele Clarke - Dept. of Children & Youth Affairs (New department)
School Completions
Youth Homeless Strategy - Young People under 18 years without their parents
child welfare, child protection, family services did these services improve and diminish the need to the Youth Homeless Strategy?
Issue of definitions, data - very hard to count children staying with friends
No Young People sleeping rough
91% children in care with family placements
2010 157 had more than 3 placements out of 6500 in care
1/3 of children went home
keeping engaged until 18 years: 3/4 residential services
500 vulnerable, mental health, disabilities, neglect & abuse, dropped out of education
- how can we help and support? Services up to 21 years or 23 years if in education
HSE budget aftercare: Policy is demand lead 
Australia: caravans in back yard: 
Young Person quote: "I would just like to hang out with someone who isn't paid to be with me"
Peter Minnock - Kildare County Council & Mid East Homeless Forum:
Traveller Community needs - B & B emergency accommodation, 32 in one month
Domestic Violence - sexual violence
"The Known Unknown" 
Child Protection training - obliged under Children First all people  working with children
Aidan Culhane - Special Advisor to Minister Jan O'Sullivan, Dept. of Environment:
Housing lead strategy - complexity is the issue

[Performing lives] [actions] [Aviva Stadium]

Friday, August 31, 2012

Some of the things I've been thinking about lately

One of the main things I've been thinking about lately is a quote from Jean-Paul Sartre:

"Become aware of the significance of your situation"
 - Jean-Paul Sartre

It's complicated, my situation.  It's not as straight forward as it could be spun, or spun is the wrong word, but the significance of my situation regarding my home, actually my house now, in terms of the wider social situation in Ireland at the moment, could be viewed as straightforward. 

I can't afford to live there, I can't afford to sell it, I'd still owe about €100,000, at least.  

So that's part of the significance of my situation right now, in the wider social context of contemporary Ireland. 

It's part of it, but it's not all of it.  At a glance, that's all true.  And it is true.  But it's not that simple, although with the downsizing complete, it's getting simpler every day.  
I bought my house in 2000, the millennium year, and I bought through fear.  That's the primary reason I bought the house.  Fear.  It seems bizarre now, given the downsizing and only holding onto a rucksack of stuff, how could I have felt I needed to own a house full of things in order to be secure, how can that be the truth?  But it was, it was the truth, then.  I was afraid.  I was afraid of The Life and I was afraid of having no where to go, no where to go where I'd feel safe and secure.  

But this whole process is more about what I value, what I hold important, what is meaningful to me, how I choose to live The Life, the one life I have and how I need to be in the world right now.  I went to college when I was 26, I left a 'permanent pensionble' job in the health services to go and study Theatre and Sociology, to go and do what I always wanted to do, and had always been doing on a part time basis.  I took a risk and I left and I have never regretted it.  It was the beginning of me consciously becoming who I am.  It was an amazing experience in learning who I am and what I do and what I may become.  
So the reality of the whole house thing for me is a trade off, it's letting go of a false promise, letting go of an idea of needing something to be secure in the world, needing walls, needing a safe place..."I was aiming for a different life" I was aiming for that life because I was not aware that I had other options, I was not conscious of the infinite (almost) possibilities of how to live this life.  I was afraid.  I was scared of total freedom.  I am happier now than I have ever been before, doing what I love, what I was meant to do, learning and developing my practice and my understanding.  The fact of this is for me that I can't have a house to live in and live the life I want to live at the same time.  And it's not a sacrifice, its a gift.  To become who I am.  To choose to downsize my life and do what I love to do rather than gamble on needing something when I'm 80 that is prohibiting me living my life right now, in the here and now.  For some reason I felt guilty for a while about this.  I felt like it was unfair that I had this mortgage that I can't afford to pay any more because I choose to go to college and do what I want to do.  I felt guilty about reneging on that commitment to the world.  It's weird writing that but that's how I felt.  Like I didn't deserve to be happy, joyous and free.  Which is ridiculous, because I believe that everybody has the right to be happy.  Each of the Downsize notes ends with 

"Wishing you Love and Abundance and Joy"

and that's what I wish for everyone, so why not me too?  Why the guilt?  It's ingrained, it's in the blood of the Irish I think, the fixation with the land, surviving, striving, fighting to hold on to things, fighting to get things back, anger, fear of loosing, injustice, fear of letting go, fear of being free, forgetting that we already are.  We are free.  We have always been free in our soul, listening to the soul of the world, listening to the soul of the country right now is tough, we're suffering, we're facing things we haven't looked at head on, we're remembering who we are, and we're adjusting, the practicalities are tough, for a huge number of people, we've lost things, we've lost faith, but I have a sense that it was misplaced faith, a giving over of our power to a Church that fucked us over from the beginning, that kept us small and burdened and working for some one else all the time.  And I think we have a different sort of faith that we've always held inside us, our old pagan ways of understanding The Natural, understanding The Universe.  

I felt like I hadn't the right to change my life, I felt like I was obliged to keep going as I was, pushing through.
That's not the truth.  I have got a choice.  
I have a right to choose how to live my life.  
We all do.  And I think we're remembering that now.
I think we're remembering that.
And I am very grateful for that.

"...there is always a choice, no matter how small, there is always a choice..."
- Jean-Paul Sartre

I've been thinking about change, obviously, this is a huge change for me, and it's pretty radical in the context of my life so far.  This is probably the biggest physical shift in how I live The Life that I've ever chosen and experienced.  And it has ramifications and ripples not just in my life but in the lives of those around me, particularly those closest to me.  I've had some very interesting chats with people about this process, inevitably this process reflects and resonates in the lives of other people, it's a natural thing to compare or view things from one's own perspective, so in the downsizing people I've talked to inevitably think about their own possessions, and what they couldn't bare to part with, and also what they've accumulated and what actually could go.  
For me, the gifting saved me!  If that hadn't have come into being I'm not sure how I would have done this, or even if I'd have been able to.  The gifting made it all easier, and the gifting took on a life of it's own too.  It became a ritual of it's own, and a whole other process, with each gift a little note of the downsizing needed to be written to explain the process and then, it became important to gift to a lot of people, and each note had to be written, becoming not only significant for the gifting but to say things about why they were getting this particular gift and also saying things that I needed to say, expressing my feelings in writing to friends and family, letting them know they are important to me and a lot of thanks too, for being there for me, for sharing in The Life so far, and that clarified what's important to me in The Life, The Love!  Always The Love, love is the answer to all the questions!  So it's been emotional! 'It's been real' as they say in America! And it's been a beautiful process for me overall, because of the gifting.

There was a couple of freak outs too, not major ones, but like mild panic attacks where my hands shook telling my friend earlier this week all in one go what I was doing!!! And moments of walking around my house repeatedly from room to room just looking at it, and moving stuff around, piles and bags and bringing things from one place to another and carrying bags into charity shops and getting confused about objects and who was to get them and confusing myself with stuff everywhere!

I forensically went through my life.  My life so far.  Going back to the beginning, looking through everything and assessing its value to me, and whether it was historical or current, and then deciding what to do with it.  It's been fairly intense really, now that I write about it! But also, quite joyful and beautiful.  

I have no regret.  I have a sensation that this is absolutely the right thing for me, though I can't prove it and I don't know what will happen next.  I'm Trusting The Universe again, fully and completely.  I'd lost that sensation for a while there, I was getting confused and afraid and caught up in too many questions and imaginings and basically an existential crisis, again! But today I have that sensation back.  The Universe always provides, always.  That's my experience, and I'm very grateful for it.  

Everyday I walk into The Unknown towards The Universe

This is a fact, and it's a fact that's easier to live with if I'm aware of it, if I'm conscious of the limited control I have over The Life and what happens.  If I live with that awareness that all things are temporary and I can't control everything then it's easier to be, to be here and now, in the moment.  This is all I have.  And it's enough.

I came across a hand written page of this link below, 'The Personal Legend' that I had written during the preparations for In My Bed last year.  It really helped me, it helped me to understand that I had to move forward into myself, I had to become who I am without fear and without guilt, and without shame.  It helped me to understand the process of letting go and becoming.  Becoming is one of my favorite concepts, becoming and potential, therein lies all the hope I need.  It's helpful.  I found it helpful anyway.

“Freedom is what we do with what is done to us.” 

- Jean-Paul Sartre

And I've been thinking about freedom and what that means, and what are the consequences of becoming totally free, if that's possible, the idea that one can become totally free in The Life fascinates me but it's huge too, it's vast, it's as simple and as complicated as my perception of living.  One of the more head melting moments of the Project Downsize was when I became aware in a really conscious way that I could do anything I wanted.  I had almost infinite choice, I could do this, I could get rid of everything, I could change my circumstances, I could shift my way of living, I could actually change, in a significant way.  I've been changing incrementally for a very long time, always in a way, and I've consciously worked on certain things and changed specific things at different times over the years, but to know in a new way that I could, in fact I am free, to choose The Life I want to live, freaked me out for a while. I got scared, I got terrified at moments.  I got caught up in complexities and possibilities and a plethora of potential.  

"The essential consequence of our earlier remarks is that man being condemned to be free carries the weight of the whole world on his shoulders; he is responsible for the world and for himself as a way of being."  
-Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness

It was scary to realize that I could change whatever I wanted, that I could do and go and be whatever I wanted.  That I am responsible for the circumstances of my own life, that I am responsible.  I am not subject to any one else, obviously I am living in community with all the other people on the planet, and I have a responsibility to them as part of that community, but in terms of how I choose to be, how I want and need to live my life, I am free to do and be as I want.  The vastness of the possibilities overwhelmed me for a while, and I was sick too and lying in bed I mulled over many many things, many aspects of my life so far and the choices I'd made and the ramifications of those choices, decisions I made relatively blind, or out of fear.  Decisions that still resonate in my life today.  The most substantial one on a practical level is buying the house. 

Twelve years ago, September 2000, I moved in.  Twelve years.  A complete cycle.  
It's a good time to change.
Here & Now.
Beginning again x