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  • Jonny Stax

A House Divided

Updated: Apr 25

Written from our Iowa farmhouse April 24, 2020 on Day 41 of The Great Hunkerdown


I can’t believe it’s been over 40 days since we gathered our goods and hunkered down to wait out this storm. That’s a long time! And we have much longer to go. I wonder how we will fare as a people and how we will shift our individual and collective ways of being. As I wrote about last week, I hope we can seize this opportunity for a Great Reset. In this, we can articulate our visions for how we want to be, choose practices that align with those visions, and share our progress toward reaching them.


After publishing last week’s blog, I went into a state of depression. Well, to be honest with myself and you, I rested then continued to rest then berated myself for resting then spiraled into a state of depression. I am only now emerging and not sure if I will even publish this blog. Then again, when I set out to find my voice through daily writing and weekly publishing, I said that I wanted to write for those of us who can’t get over it and are. Those of us who have experienced and continue to experience traumas that justifiably shut us down. Yet, we continue to rise and move forward, claiming our calling and living it out despite the barriers that we face - both internal and external.


See, I decided to take Monday off. I had a productive week, sorted four file boxes of past lives on Saturday while attending a virtual professional development workshop for artists, and debuted my ukulele for worship on Sunday. I thought a day off sounded perfect. I took the day to re-read one of my favorite texts and probably the inspiration for developing a traveling potion show: Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. This extended into Tuesday. Wednesday, I pushed myself to get up and spent the morning taking care of business. Once I hit a difficult task, I shut down. I couldn't do it. I started crying. This time I reached out to my husband and let him hold me.


Thursday, I found myself unable to rise and started to beat myself up, speaking to myself in the mirror: "What a weak person you are! Rise up and get to work. Think of all those parents who don't have the choice. Or those frontline workers who are putting themselves at risk. You don't think they want to stay in bed? What are you doing to make the world a better place by indulging yourself?! Get up and do something, you lazy, good-for-nothing fool." Add to that last week's blog being all about looking oneself in the mirror and all the messages of hypocrisy I was able to pull up in that self-berating time. None of this was helpful, truthful, or tender.


This struggle between rest and productivity is exactly what I was writing about two weeks ago, and I had the opportunity to practice this balance. Well, instead of balance, it became a battle. I was on the losing side, because I couldn’t allow both parties to coexist. I couldn’t allow myself to hold both productivity and restoration within my psyche. I believe this inability to hold two seemingly opposing positions is one of the great problems that plague us in this society today. We don’t allow two things that seem in conflict to coexist. This was one of the greatest liberating realizations I received in my healing journey - that I can be both happy and sad about the same thing in the same moment. I can both loathe and love the same thing in the same moment.


Take for example this quarantine. I love the quiet and space it is affording me. I detest the trauma, pain, and fear this is imposing on people. Take my father’s passing as another example. I am angry that he died. I am grateful that I got to be his death doula, companioning him out of this life. If we only allow one of these truths to exist at a time, we deny the other. This creates discord within us that will not allow us to stay whole. In this morning’s ritual, Howard Thurman in Jesus and the Disinherited reminded me of Jesus' words that Lincoln called forth: “A house...divided against itself...cannot stand.”


Our first step is to allow seemingly conflicting dualities to coexist within ourselves. Find peace with this and seek balance. Know when to lean onto one side of the spectrum and when to lean toward the other side - the fulcrum of the scale between these two truths will change. Just as a surfer shifts their weight depending on the changes in the wave’s pattern so must we find balance in our ever-changing internal dynamics and external environmental factors. This is resilience. This is maturity. This is the power stance - not one that is inflexible and statuesque but one with a strong core, wide stance and awareness of what is happening within oneself, upon one’s platform, and in the surrounding surf.


Maybe if we can allow these dualities to coexist, seeing them as ends of a spectrum that we all face, we can begin to undo the intractable divides that separate us in society. That is how we can use the process of moving from the inside-out to reset our society in glorious ways.


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Candy Cotton

Jonny Stax Presents Inc.

Chicago, IL • West Branch, IA

773.895.1531 • jonnystax.com • jstax@jonnystax.com

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