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Cracks in the Paint...

Paul MacCormack

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As superintendents, we are well acquainted with the personal vulnerability we feel when our workplaces are in need of repair. Whether it's structural decline, damage from a weather event, personnel issues, or simply wear and tear from the passage of time, we usually have two choices when it comes to facing difficulties within our operations. We can pretend they are not really a problem and continue with business as usual, or we can tackle the issues head on with clarity, moving towards a meaningful solution. 

Some of us will choose to bury our heads in the sand pile and refuse to acknowledge there even is a problem. Inaction may feel safer initially but inevitably leads to much bigger problems.

More often greenkeepers are active problem solvers. We step back, evaluate the issue and come up with a productive solution. It’s not always easy and it might not happen overnight, but in the long run it makes our courses better and our lives simpler.

The current pandemic, if it has taught us nothing else, has shown very clearly that there are a lot of vulnerable elements within our society. People already facing barriers such as racial, gender and/or age discrimination, poverty, mental health problems, and such have had these problems further exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.  The dominant culture has failed to ensure that everyone's needs are met in an equitable and sustainable manner. We have had our collective heads in the sand for far too long.

Front-line workers, migrant agricultural labourers, and all the other people who have been falling through the cracks for years now are most suffering the wrath of COVID- 19. As a society we are now faced with the stark moral reality that we cannot just turn a blind eye and continue to ignore these deep-seated issues. Our civilization's operating systems have fundamental problems that must be faced with honesty and clarity so we can move closer to the healing and unity we so desperately seek. Returning to “business as usual” is no longer a viable option.

...people who have been falling through the cracks for years now are most suffering the wrath of COVID- 19.

Almost every meaningful conversation I’ve had in recent months has had a common undercurrent to it, in that many people are finally seeing the cracks in the paint and facing a greater sense of personal vulnerability than they can ever remember. It’s easier to dismiss vulnerability when life is good and on cruise control, but it can be an entirely different animal when you have to face your own personal vulnerability within the broader context of widespread social and environmental upheaval. It can be overwhelming.

Some personal checkpoints which might help:

  • How often do you make regular visits with yourself? 
  • How has this present situation stripped away pretense and left you feeling exposed? 
  • How do you react when you feel vulnerable? 
  • Can you acknowledge the cracks in your own veneer as something which inevitably occurs throughout life?

These fundamental questions have been brought into sharp focus by the pandemic. From this perspective this crisis has prompted us to sit and begin to examine the answers. Facing the difficult truths in our own lives can help us be better able to recognize and solve problems on a societal level as well. This work isn’t easy, but it is extremely important.

Facing the difficult truths in our own lives can help us be better able to recognize and solve problems on a societal level as well. This work isn’t easy, but it is extremely important.

I’ll be honest. Many times, over the past few months I have been left feeling uncomfortably exposed and incredibly vulnerable. I have found myself moving between feeling spacious and solid to feeling completely shaken and unstable. It has been quite difficult, but continuing the practice of bringing clarity and compassion to my state of mind has allowed me to move through the tougher moments and open up again. Work has been incredibly busy, home life has been a struggle at times, and the broader societal suffering has been difficult to witness. It’s a constant balancing act, but having a mindful awareness of how I operate inside has allowed me more space to recalibrate when I most need it.

Our personal and even collective responses to vulnerability and suffering are choices we have while living in an age of incredible uncertainty. We can choose to desperately cling to our old, damaging and worn out cultural and personal habits, or we can open ourselves to temporary discomfort while recognizing the vital importance of change. In opening to change we develop a new relationship to possibility. Within each of us we have the capacity to choose the path that leads to better long term solutions and new opportunities. Making peace with our own vulnerability can knock down barriers and open us to new growth where no such avenue appeared to exist before. 

We can choose to desperately cling to our old, damaging and worn out cultural and personal habits, or we can open ourselves to temporary discomfort while recognizing the vital importance of change.

So, the next time you feel backed into a corner or opened a bit too wide, pause. Pause and allow yourself to really experience what is happening right in the very moment. Allow yourself to connect with that deeper part of yourself which can bear this vulnerability. In kindness to self and other, sit in the knowledge that we are all deeply interconnected and facing the same suffering collectively. You never know where it might lead. 

Thanks so much for reading and take care.

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