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My heart is heavy tonight.  My grace does not extend as far as it needs to.  My patience is thin.  I get tired and emotional and overwhelmed.

There are moments when I cannot believe how incredible my job is, sharing this life with the other members of my house.  And there are moments when I cannot imagine having the strength to make it through another day.

In these moments I wonder how far I could continue.

‎”If you want to walk fast, go alone. If you want to walk far, go together.” – African proverb.

When you share a house with other people, sometimes emotions can run pretty high.   One of the people I live with can get quite emotional very quickly.  It can be hard to deal with sometimes, because as her emotions rise mine tend to rise too.  Lately I’ve been approaching these situations differently, starting with encouraging her to take three slow deep breaths with me.  We take a long inhale, lifting our arms and our ribcage and then breathe out as slow as we can, focusing on the sound of air moving in and out.  The benefit is mutual.  It helps her calm down, gives me time to figure out an activity to redirect her to, and reminds me of what I need to stay grounded and calm in that moment with her.

As my life begins to flow in new ways, it can be hard not to cling to the shore, to old patterns, afraid of being swept away by the current.  I think I need to remind myself to just breathe, to be aware of all that life is bringing me these days, to stay present to the place where I am at, not afraid of what is to come and not dwelling on what has past.  Awake to and grateful for this present moment and the people I am sharing it with.

Yesterday was my first full day back at work after a two week absence from L’arche.  In one sense, coming back was stranger than I had imagined.  Alone in my room at Cornerstone, I felt displaced.  I think it just takes time to settle from one place to another and though I was only gone for two weeks, I have never quite settled into this room.  I’ve been back and forth to my parents’ house so much and was away in October for vacation, so this room has yet to really feel like mine.  I think this week I will put some posters and things on the wall and unpack that last suitcase and start calling this place home.

As for the rest of the house, nothing has changed.  In fact the only difference I noticed was that Laurence had taken down the Halloween decorations and replaced them with the Christmas decorations.  She is already wearing red and green to celebrate.  And it was so good to be told I was missed, and I really missed them too… these folks that I’m living with, assistants and core members, are becoming such good friends.  It was odd to not see them for so long.  To miss them and be missed.  I cherish this feeling.  And I cherish how simple it has been to rejoin the conversations… to sit down beside Brian and beginning colouring, without missing a beat.  To sing off-key with Bev.  To belong here.  It’s a good feeling.

And by far the best thing so far was tonight when Casey and I brought out our guitars and sang Yellow Submarine at full volume with Bev and Charlie, while Brian provided the percussion on his bongos and Laurence sat gleefully watching us all from her rocking chair.  It was a powerful sight and sound to behold.  And I was struck by the appropriateness of the song… living together, in this crazy house, moment to moment, with friends around us in the Hamilton community.   Sky of blue, sea of green.  The best part about singing with Bev and Charlie is that they have no self-consciousness about the quality of their own voices, they just belt it out for the sheer joy of sound and melody, freeing me to just sing without fear of being judged.  When you’re with someone who fully accepts themselves, in gift and weakness, it frees you to do the same.

There are a couple areas of life right now that are just lining up so nicely.  I think I knew from the moment I came to Hamilton it was where I wanted to be.  It’s incredible to really feel like I’m in the right place at the right time after struggling so long to figure out where that was, to now feel like life is flowing, not stagnant, and there is direction, like I can breathe deeply.

I was reminded tonight of a poem I’ve posted before, The Summer Day by Mary Oliver.  After describing the idleness and blessing of observation, the still prayerful watching of insects and blades of grass, she asks her reader “what is it you plan to do with this one wild and precious life?”  My plan is to live it.  Here in this moment, aware of all that I am surrounded by.  Authentically and with passion.

Today is huge.  There are reports that the military ruler of Burma has signed Aung San Suu Kyi’s release order!  She may be released at 5pm tomorrow evening (6am on Saturday morning in Ontario).  This is a complicated process, and will be great cause to celebrate if she is released without restriction on freedom of speech or movement (which is very uncertain).  And cause to remember the other nearly 2,200 prisoners of conscience being held in Burma.

With the ‘democratic’ elections held last weekend, are we beginning to see cracks in the military junta’s foundation? Or has the ‘vote’ strengthened their grip on rule in Burma?  It could be that the military will just release and re-imprison Suu Kyi like they have done countless times in the past.  But I choose to have hope that things are beginning to change.

I really want to believe that this is the beginning of us seeing the Junta’s power start to crumble. I think they wanted the vote to make it seem like their power is legitimate… but this is such a critical moment. Maybe we’ll see another uprising from the people of Burma, like the protests in 2007 or 1988, especially if Suu Kyi isn’t released unconditionally.  And maybe we’ll see enough international attention and pressure to bring about change and a democratically elected leader.  It was four years from when Mandela was released to his election.  Change takes time.  But we might be witnesses to the beginning of something incredible.

Today I will light a candle as a prayer for Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese people, for the 2,200 prisoners of conscience in that country, for the Karen people and other ethnic minorities, for hope and peace.  Please join me by lighting a candle, saying a prayer, imagining freedom and justice for the Burmese people.

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it–always.” – Mohandas K. Gandhi

I’ve included Amnesty International’s email below which has links to take action on Suu Kyi’s behalf.


From: Amnesty International USA

Subject: We’ll know Suu Kyi’s fate within 24 hours.

Dear Ashley,

We’ve been waiting for this day for so long – the release of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi could be set free as early as tomorrow, November 13.

Our anticipation is high, but we’ve also been here many times before.

In fact, Myanmar’s rulers could decide to tack arbitrary conditions on to Suu Kyi’s release that bar her from any and all future political activity. That is, if they decide to release her on this date at all – she could be held until February 2011, depending on when they actually dated the start of her 18-month term of house arrest. No one knows for sure.

Don’t let Myanmar’s rulers change the rules – ensure that Aung San Suu Kyi is freed tomorrow.

Less than a week ago, Myanmar’s military party swept the country’s first elections in more than 20 years amid heavy criticism and allegations of widespread fraud. As a result, thousands are fleeing the region as violence erupts.

The growing tension puts Suu Kyi’s release date even more at risk of falling under the regime’s capricious judgments.

But releasing Aung San Suu Kyi, while still blocking her rights and freedoms, would be a flat-out violation of all laws, rules and basic respect for humanity.

Suu Kyi’s freedom should have never been stolen in the first place.

Tell Myanmar’s rulers that Amnesty International is keeping track and according to our records Aung San Suu Kyi’s unconditional release is long overdue.

But we continue to hope because we’ve seen change happen before in places with appalling human rights records.

It was the tenacity of Amnesty International supporters that helped lead to the release of the two American journalists in North Korea. Our vigilance strongly contributed to the release of Musaad Abu Fagr, a blogger in Egypt. And it was our unwavering hope that helped lead to the release of Ma Khin Khin Leh, another one of Myanmar’s more than 2,200 political prisoners.

We can build this fire again for Aung San Suu Kyi, but we need your support now.  That’s the kind of light we need for Suu Kyi. That’s the kind of light we need for every last prisoner of conscience in Myanmar.

Thank You,

Michael O’Reilly
Senior Campaign Director, Individuals at Risk
Amnesty International USA

P.S. Aung San Suu Kyi and Su Su Nway, another prisoner of conscience in Myanmar, are featured in Amnesty International’s Write for Rights, the largest and most powerful global letter-writing event. You can continue to shine a light for all prisoners of conscience in Myanmar by signing up to Write for Rights.

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