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Embracing Awkward

We are creatures of comfort. I find comfort in structure and find change challenging. But even those who love change and like to mix things up feel comfortable in that space and less comfortable when things just stay the same day in and day out. The thing is, life doesn't always play to our desire for comfort. And that desire for comfort can actually hinder us getting the most from life.

I'm talking about all those awkward spaces where your boundaries are stretched. Those spaces where you do your best growing, but that you wouldn't necessarily choose. Those moments in life as intense as when Blair Ashdowne (from episode 9) found himself over his head financially with his business set to tank and knowing he needed help - personally and professionally, or as simple as getting called out on your own podcast for not knowing your stuff (episode 10 with Te Karere Whitiao Scarborough) LOL. But in every awkward situation there is a choice. Do we run back to comfort, or do we stay in the moment, holding the awkward space to see what might happen there? Over the past couple of months I've found myself in a challenging space. An awkward space. Coming out of lockdown I found out that I was to be made redundant from my full time pastoral role. Yet it was a number of weeks before the final picture of what was happening became clear. Would I have a part time role? Would I have no role? What input would I have into the process? And in the meantime, I was to keep on working. Now redundancy is always awkward. But it would have been much more comfortable for me if the decisions were being made by some faceless corporate entity and I could have just moved on and been angry. But making the decisions in this situation were people I am close to. People who I've shared holidays with - their whānau and mine. Close friends. People I trust. And the church I'm being made redundant from is also our community containing many of our friends and some of our kids' close friends. I mean, it was just next level awkward. Now I'm by no means an example of perfection when it comes to responding to awkward. I've done my fair share of running away from conflict or uncomfortable spaces (when your anxiety is driven by not being in control you become an expert at running away!). But in this situation I have chosen not to run from it, but to embrace this awkward space to see what will come of it (thanks in part to medication that is working to allow me to feel without being overwhelmed). So I sat around the table with those responsible for making the decisions - my friends - and we talked. And we cried. And I let them know exactly how I'm feeling. What I'm angry about. And they stayed. And they delivered difficult to hear decisions. And I stayed. We stayed committed to one another despite how challenging and awkward that has been. And it has been extremely awkward. And yes, I needed time to myself to catch my breath and process. And yes, there were mistakes made by all parties in trying to navigate this awkward space. But as we near the end of my employment (in two weeks time), I know I will be leaving with relationships that mean a lot to me still intact. Maybe even stronger than they were before. Because we held space for one another even when it was awkward. Even when it hurt to do so. This doesn't mean I have no anger or hurt at what's happened. But that these friends sat with me in my pain and grief, and will continue to do so, and I did my best to listen to the heart behind the decisions, choosing to disagree openly, but lovingly. So as I leave there is pain. There is hurt. But there is no bitterness lingering. Bitterness that could keep me locked in past hurts, damaging future friendships and opportunities. What this process has reinforced to me is that when conflicting parties are both prepared to step into awkward spaces, reconciliation is possible. But as soon as one or other of those involved retreats from the awkward space back to what is comfortable, reconciliation falls flat. That's why I love what Te Karere had to say in the last episode about the reconciliation journey of Pākehā and Māori being a messy space. A challenging space. An awkward space. And it is in that awkwardness that change can happen. It is in that awkwardness that healing can begin. And, speaking to my own people, we Pākehā have been afraid of the awkward spaces for far too long. It's time to lean in. For as long as we stay locked into that which makes us comfortable, we will struggle to find those spaces that help us grow and bring beauty and aroha to the world. But if we can choose to lean into the awkward, we might just find something beautiful awaits. Thinking back through all of the great conversations on the podcast so far, it is amazing how often it is in the embrace of awkward spaces that we truly see people flourish, helping to bring a bit of heaven Down to Earth.


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