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  • Writer's pictureTamara Shantz

Being honest about just how scared we are....

**This piece is an invocation address I gave at the inaugural Woolwich Township Council Meeting on November 28, 2022. I have left it in the format I use when speaking so please ignore the grammatical oversights!!!**

In each era, it seems that a set of particular words or phrases start to dominate our discourse; start to define how we think about our time.

In recent years, I would say that the term polarization has become a key descriptor for what is happening in our culture and in our communities. We talk a lot about how divided we are; how difficult it is to feel like we share something in common.

And I certainly don’t dispute that this is true, that this is a part of our experience. However, I am not at all convinced that this is necessarily bad.

Some of the divisions being revealed are not new, they have been there for a long time, they just haven’t been visible to everyone. As a member of the Queer community, I am aware that as 2SLGBTQ+ people have become more visible, homophobia becomes more visible to those who would not have had to see it before. Systemic racism becomes more visible to those of us who are white, who are settlers, as Indigenous nations fight even more strongly for sovereignty and justice, and Black and racialized communities call out police violence and other forms of racism. And at the same time, the earth is crying for our attention as we continue to devastate the delicate balance that sustains life on this planet.

None of these movements are creating division – they are revealing systems of injustice for what they are, and calling us to a better way.

Even just ONE of these movements is an immense challenge to the status quo. We are being asked to change, grow, be transformed on so many levels, in the midst of just trying to survive amid a pandemic, a housing crisis, and insane inflation. So no wonder we are in a polarizing time. It is a lot to hold. It is a LOT to deal with. But I wonder if describing all of this as polarizing doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. I wonder if we should be talking about our time as not the time of polarization but as a season of deep fear.

Of immense anxiety as all of our systems, ways of knowing, ways of operating, are being disrupted and shaken to their cores.

When we do not acknowledge the powerful presence of fear in ourselves and in our communities, it becomes distorted, it does it own transformation.

And it emerges in various forms of reactivity

It shows up as ungrounded anger, as hate, it turns inward as depression, it shows up as an intolerance for difference, for the unfamiliar. I recognize this in my own being. How much quicker I am to become agitated when I catch even a hint of someone holding a different political opinion than me. How easy it is to become unmoored when even just listening to the news I wonder if our collective fear is at an all time high And it is leaking out all over the place.

We need to start being more honest With our own selves With each other About just how scared we are And that many of us, don’t know the way forward I believe that courageous, authentic leadership will include This honesty…. Making more contact with this deep presence of fear Naming it Getting more fully acquainted with it Getting to know what it feels like in my own body and being And becoming skilled at listening compassionately for it alive in the people we are serving

Courageous and authentic leadership means learning to breathe with this fear Learning to allow the breath to support us So that the fear stays loving contained, grounded, held, And cannot grow and spread And finally, I believe that courageous and authentic leadership will practice befriending our fear Welcoming our fear as a necessary presence As an invitation to dig deep into what matters to us most As someone calling our attention to something we might not notice otherwise When we can be more consciously present with our fear, It no longer needs to shape shift It no longer needs to distort Instead, I believe it transforms into deeper wisdom, more powerful compassion, ever more expansive love, And I believe that if we stay present to our fear, that it will transform into what we most need right now: guidance. It is only through our fear, not bypassing our fear, that the guidance we need will unfold. So as this new council session begins, may it be marked by courageous presence, compassionate listening, and a grounded commitment to the wellbeing of all. Thank you.

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