The Bitterness Dance

I do it, we all do it! Dancing around the bodies of people or situations who have hurt us, so full of pain. Swinging a kick, a punch or a well worded tirade of truth, masked in ugliness, in the direction of the hurt and or the one who cause the hurt.

Bitterness is, I think, one of many normal human reactions to hurt, violation of trust etc. A fruit of unreleased anger or fear; sometimes well warranted in the direction of the one who caused harm and almost never beneficial to me, to my soul, to our souls together. Each kick, rehashing and attempt to make sense of those senseless hurts especially, draws us down, down, down into the pit.

The pit of bitterness, like a grave with the sides kicked out, is a rut. A place we do not want to dwell but cannot seem to escape.

I think the only way I know how to escape is to do two things. One is forgive and move on even if there is no reconcillation (not easy at all but Freedom does come) and the second is tell the truth to the person who hurt me and just get it out. I am not going to give bitterness space rent free in my head or my heart in 2013.

So I might say to my friend, my colleague or my family member…You hurt me. I will forgive you or try really hard…just give me a little time. What you did was not okay with me. I do not need you to say I am sorry though that would be nice, maybe even ideal. I forgive you for me. Because my being bitter does not hurt you, probably it just gives you a reason to write me off as crazy, immature, an unforgiving compassionless zealot. And yes, it’s true you might be right but mostly I am acting out of a hurt that makes it hard to confront, hard to tell the truth, hard to forgive and I am wrapped up so tight that I can not see my way out. (“You” in this paragraph refers the hypothetical person–not “you” the reader 🙂

But “screw” hard. (oh, that sounds bad) What I mean is hello, hard, nice to meet you, I am going to own you. I want to and I need to be free. This bitterness is not who I am or want to become. So hard means nothing. Lots of things are hard but we do them anyway because they save us or offer something to some one else that is profoundly important (your personal senario here–where do you willing go to hard places for yourself or for others because you know the benefit outweighs the cost).

So I offer my bitterness and ask forgiveness for it. And I am not going to back down on forgiving or telling the truth…it’s a double whammy of hard painful stuff and just being a whole and healthy human being, darn it.

The bitterness dance sucks and I am no wallflower, I do not need it’s attention and I do not need to give it the time of day.

Good bye Bitterness. See you again never!

The Art of it


A friend was describing her sister’s love relationship with math.  As she described it, I was like math for this woman is Art, an organic creative process. Addictive and delightful creative expression!

This conversation was reminder of how I see my life aka my job.  It is always a creation in process.  Sari Bari for me has always been a creative process.  It is a business and I run a business as an artist (no smart remarks).  What that means for me is that every spreadsheet can be David and every new system or process is for me an organic creative endeavor. I love it.  I love it because for me it is art, an artistic expression.  I love sitting in the middle of 1000 sari’s mixing and matching, dreaming of what they could be become.  I love designing products a just little bit more than creating a spreadsheet but I am pretty darn excited about a spreadsheet that makes freedom a little more tangible and hope a little easier to execute.

For me it is all Art. It is all looking at a gigantic peace of stone and seeing within it something impossibly beautiful. It is staring at that stone for a year, just looking for the right place to begin. And then doing it again and again with a new piece of stone, as each new phase of life of Sari Bari begins.  And this is never ever done alone.  Each stone, masterpiece, has been shaped progressively, uniquely and creatively by the women and the staff who have also invested their lives and their creative beings into the life and community of Sari Bari.  Each part of every impossibly beautiful masterpiece bears the markers of the various artists who have made their impression upon it. Truly an impossibly beautiful thing.

Is your work Art?  Do you call yourself an Artist (YOU ARE)? What inspires your creative soul?

A little tiny list of some moments in 2012

Tried to live everyday as one who is loved.

Called things by their right name.

Re-engaged life in Kolkata after sabbatical fully.

Lost my dear beloved friend Rina.

Celebrated 6 years of life at Sari Bari.

Celebrated 11 years with WMF.

Saw the David in Florence (a moment among moments).

Saw the San Damiano Cross in Assisi. (another moment of among moments)

Met Hillary Clinton.

Even more important got to tell the Sari Bari Story to Hillary Clinton and she got to meet Tinki.

Thailand with Melissa. The beginning of a good thing.

Lost My Baba.

Believed that the “impossible was possible”

Participated in making “beer” for the first time.

Negotiated the purchase of the first property for Sari Bari.

Moved.  A little more sustainable with a view.

Went to the opening of the first Starbucks in India. 

Got to spend Thanksgiving with dear friends Jared and Julie and Minde and Kevin along with my favorite Kolkata bideshi’s.

Survived and lived into “fertile Chaos” from July to December 2012.

Designed some cool new products for Sari Bari.

Facilitated the 2nd Annual Sari Bari Quilt Auction

Got a little better at negotiating social media.

Spent more time living as a whole and healthy human being.

Lost 22 pounds.

Attended a wedding and two funerals.

Celebrated the 7th Sari Bari Christmas Party.

Got to be with my family for Christmas

Wrote down a very limited view of a tremendously full year!

How Community Shapes A LIFE

I have lived in community both broad and small for the last 12 years and it has shaped, molded, torn apart, humbled, refreshed and restored almost every single part of my heart.  I heard it said once, friends are the family we choose for ourselves, which is so very true and community, I think, is the very intimate extended family that God chooses for us. I cannot express how many times I have thought it would be easier if everyone I have lived in community with was also a friend but the truth is they do all become friends and most of the time something much deeper.  The truth is I don’t love community it’s super hard, I love the people (also super hard), who for better or worse, are committed to loving one another. Bonheoffer said,

Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

To be in love with the people, the human beings, is what makes community it’s most beautiful.  The ideal of community life is just that, an ideal.  Nothing about community is ideal and the longer you are apart the more you realize it’s complexity and it’s offering of suffering along with the beautiful gifts that only come because of the pain.  And I think maybe you cannot have the gifts with out the pain.

To survive a conflict, the eat together, the mourn the losses both personal and corporate, to hold each other as you cry, the let is all exist in one jumbled mess of “fertile chaos” is the gift of community.  And the gift only comes if you can welcome others without judgment and expectations of something that most human beings are incapable of offering perfectly, love.  We love poorly, I love poorly and even love, loved poorly, goes a long long way with the bridge of the Holy one who calls us to love, to live as loved, beloved partners in a kingdom come and coming.

The people I have share life with here in Kolkata have an intimate knowledge of me and I an intimate knowledge of them.  We know the twists and turns of everyday encountered together with a common purpose and commitment holding us together.  We know love, love, loved well and love, loved poorly and it is always more than enough.

At the end of a season of stretching through the twists and turns of community life, I find myself thankful and full of gratitude for this fertile chaos of life lived together.  No matter what we have faced, we have faced it together in love.  And it has been enough.

Especially thankful today for my community in Kolkata, Melissa, Brooke, Beth, the women of Sari Bari, for Radha and Shela, Upendra and Gita and for the beloved in Asia, in Kathmandu, Chennai and Thailand who let love shine brightly as an invitation to ever so much more!

This ugly heart

In all these years, after all this time, my experience of Kolkata continues to form, shape me and reveal that there is still work to be done. This place often holds up a very big mirror to my brokenness and the potential for ugliness. I have often thought, If I did not live here I would have been able to live in blissful unawareness of gifts that come with where I was born or the priviledges that come with my birthplace and even the color of my skin. I would not have to know the extent that entitlement lurks in my heart, as does selfishness and hardness. I would not have know the state of a heart that resents being badgered by someone who begs for their bread and be the one who picks and chooses the recipients of mere pennies for occasional donation. I would not have to know that though I do good sometimes, there is always these lingering unredeemed spaces that punch me in the gut when I most tired, most empty and most ready to hold on tightly to what I view as mine.

I can go much longer without these revelations these days…. Lessons learned over and over, finally sinking in some and yet they do still come and I lose it. I become my own worst enemy and the enemy of love in conquering the many broken paradigms of this place.

Praying for the grace to start again, to let love and compassion overcome entitlement and pride. To let my emptiness be a space for God’s goodness to arise, that I may know clearly once again from where my help comes.

Go Lower, Stay Grounded

Grounded. We often do grounding exercises at Sari Bari Leadership School once a month. We breathe deep palms flat on the ground, legs extended, holding our bodies up and yet being pulled down to the earth. People who have victimized or traumatized often have a hard time staying grounded. The exercise brings us out of our thoughts and into the real space of the present moment. We stop floating alone in our pain and find safety as we hold the earth together, breathing, listening to our breath letting go of the past in exchange for the present moment.

Being in the moment, letting it blossom and/or decay as things fall apart, that is always the hard part. And even harder is discovering in the moment where God might be at work. To notice or even think that noticing matters what is happening in the moment is an intention that I have set for myself recently. The recent season of aptly named fertile chaos has me wanting to “see” as it unfolds, to be grounded in the moment not hiding in what my thoughts, fears or discolored perceptions might be telling me. To live out the moment whether it is painful or not, fully present recognizing all the moving parts. Attempting this “grounded moments” way of life means that I can leave behind the past and forget my fears about what could happen in the future. And honestly for me “what might or could happen” is where I really go wrong in my head…my feet leave the solid ground and anxiety sets in, leaving me exhausted and on edge. So being intentional about being “grounded” in the moment has actually become a way toward freedom in my life. Beginning to let go of my “worst case scenario” tendency has allowed me to move in the fertile chaos not completely unharmed. But better than in the past. I press in, instead of floating away and missing all the beginnings that are happening in the fertile spaces this chaos has created, I witness some of them. And I ask God, with expectation, where are you at work in this moment? Show me, remind me that I am not alone here, that we are not alone here.

I have seen women step into more meaningful leadership without being asked, I have seen what could have been a fight, a nasty one, become a moment for embrace and the open sharing of disappointments. I have seen laughter and welcomed joy on some of the hardest days of the last month simply by pausing to be in the moment. I have taken space and rest when I needed it because just a little faster than usual I noticed myself getting ready to fall apart. Patience came just a little easier and so did smiling. So where was God at work? In all the moments I acknowledged and the moments I did not. Some work in and or through us began.

Thankful for this moment, sitting on an airplane on the way to see dear friends in Mumbai and the mental space to be present here and now. Still carrying the warmth from my embraces at Sari Bari, from women I love deeply who lead me in so many ways and with whom I walk the freedom road. Grounded together in these many moments that we share.

The Hum of Hope

The melody of hope has been humming in my ears over the last month. Often honestly, it not very sonorous.  It usually begins it’s loudest buzzing in the midst of greatest crisis.  An this month, has been full of crisis, broken and healing relationships, loss and restoration. The hum of hope keeps me going, making me turn my head to see why it is annoying me with it’s persistent buzzing, pressing me to hold on.

One of the most hopeful discoveries of the month was hearing over and over in so many spaces and so many way’s…God see’s.  And the reality is that I live and love my friends in a place that I don’t often want to see, the reality that I love and serve a God who see’s is changing my days.  I have always been a fan of Emmanuel, God with us.  But often in the last few years that has not felt so real to me anymore.  Because, God being with me/us, means, at least to me, that I am supposed to see God at work now, in the moment, feel something beyond myself, present, real, present. But mostly, I have felt absence and can only make sense of where God might have been looking back months and years later.  But to think of Hagar and her prayer/conversation with God, her desperate feeling of abandonment, in the midst of being lost and outcast, she prays “you are the God who see’s.”

And that “seeing” has been enough this month when I have no answers and my problem solving skills are meaningless.  The “seeing” is what helps me hear the hum of hope teasing my weary soul with it’s blasted off tune notes.

The beauty of the five senses, sometimes they don’t all work at the same time, sometimes they work together and sometimes, just one is enough.  Knowing that all this is “seen”by God.   The good, the great, the deeply painful and the extremely ugly parts, all seen, nothing hidden, seen, somehow holds me up.

At the end of a month like this, I don’t feel anything.  I am too tired, too compassion fatigued to breath, let alone have a feeling that makes any sense at all.  But the “Seeing” the “being seen” has sustained, helped me hold to hope, hold to belief, that the God who “see’s” will move, will act, with “be” with in the “seeing.” 

My hope is in the God who see’s.  Who reveals his back to us, who wrestles and leaves us with a limp, who can not always be felt.

What God saw this month, much of it might break God’s heart, it breaks mine and yet some it probably had tears of joy flowing down a glorious face, as 12 women celebrated three years of freedom at Sari Bari and the 2nd Sari Bari unit celebrated three years since opening and making space for more than 40 women within it’s doors, I think these things made God laugh and dance an unruly gig!

The God who see’s, see’s it all.

Thankful to be seen.