When I was first approached about writing a piece informed by Richard’s framework, Order, Disorder, Reorder, I was both excited and perplexed. What had I demonstrated in my time at the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) that would indicate such familiarity with Disorder? Immediately, it became clear to me the intimate nature of this particular pairing, and I was suddenly thrust into an entangled dance with Disorder that has and continues to shape my life.
I was born with a bleeding disorder. More accurately, a form of Hemophilia. Oh, the upset it caused in the local medical community. This disorder inducing instigator — a black girl with a white disease — seemed annoyingly incomprehensible to this community, no matter the evidence to the contrary. In extreme cases, I recall being refused immediate treatment during frantic midnight ER visits. I can still see my mother’s face, hear her voice and feel her fear, as she battled (begged) with the doctor to see me, and then comforting me, telling me to hold on, while driving me to the next ER, hoping for a more favorable outcome. I can also recall just as much fear in the faces of those medical experts who refused to accept my diagnosis, their sense of order dissolving with every presented medical evidence challenging their established beliefs.
Imagining a future for myself was not a luxury I could afford. The exercise of possibility was a futile one, leaving that muscle dormant.
I would not live into adulthood. It wasn’t verbally acknowledged in my home, however, my anticipated fate hovered, and informed the design of my life. Urgency was the driver, and my life moved at warp speed. I was tasked to fit a big life into this little body. Then, quite miraculously, I woke up one day, my body fully grown, and people were standing before me, demanding I share my hopes and dreams. I rarely touched the possibilities of life, rather, I wholly embraced the probability of death. Dare I say, I surrendered to her courtship. The disorientation of this new reality was unparalleled, to the point of paralysis. This incredible gift had been handed to me, and I was unable to open it. All that I knew, believed, prepared for, with a literal snap of a finger, was no more. I was tasked with the glorious mission to pay attention to, care about, and live into this new reality. The dismantlement of all that I knew about myself and the world began. In order to survive, I had to remove my face (mask) and release it to the heavens.
Embracing (Inviting) Disorder
One night, I came across a job post for Managing Director, Production & Outreach, for the CAC. Upon reading its description, I could feel the call to a new adventure, and I had no choice but to accept. The 3rd interview into my vetting process, I realized I had to clear my path to the CAC. I put my condo on the market and within a few weeks my condo was sold. CAC’s offer still pending, I quit my job, packed my home of 19 years, alone, and moved my life from New Jersey to Delaware, my parent’s home. Within a week, my fate was sealed, and I would be joining the CAC, moving, again, over 2000 miles away from my family and friends, most potently, leaving my mother to care for my father with long-standing health issues. The call to adventure was undeniable and a new city, new job, new apartment, new faces, a new way of life, was my path.
I spent Christmas, 2019, in Delaware with my family. Four generations under one roof, a truly rare and fortuitous moment in time. Most precious was the time I shared with my father. Rubbing his cheeks, leading him into contemplative and somatic practices each morning, and simply sitting in silence with one another, memories I will forever treasure. A true teaching in silence and stillness.
Six months into my tenure at the CAC, COVID hit and plans were a foregone notion. Personally, and professionally, most of the world was being thrown, head-first, into unknown waters. Soon after, my father’s health quickly deteriorated, and on Easter Sunday, April 12th, 6 days after my 49th birthday, my father died. He was gone, and I was across the country, alone, quarantined, and unable to be by his side, to grieve in the presence of my family, or be held by a friend. Space which I have always loved and devoured, for the first time, felt constrictive and suffocating.
A month later, George Floyd was murdered, at the hands of police officers, and as history will cement, racial unrest reached an undeniable pitch. The daughter of a recently deceased black police officer, my emotions spanned the diverse global landscape of the moment. It all felt so familiar, and yet the newness I experienced was through the wide collective eyes of a socially conscious CAC, and of a Nation — all staring back at me. It was no longer a peripheral, at-a glance injustice, rather a central heartbeat with reverberations, far, wide, and deep. I recall my father’s stories of his early years as a cop. A time when it was not uncommon to call a black man the N-word and a police officer, pig. He loved being a police officer; he loved being a black man. What did I love? How do I want to presence and impact in this moment in time?
When I joined the CAC, there were the obvious life changes I knew would occur, understanding the inevitable adjustments and discomforts that would naturally follow. The true call to adventure, however, was the direct confrontation with significant external events, coupled with the unique make up of the CAC, a combination that would systematically attempt to crack me wide open. What I read in the job description on that cool dark night, was only part of the story. The real story would unfold through a series of events’ rigorous attempt to breakdown (through) the personal and social conditioning I nestled in and force me to tap into the muscle of possibility beyond what I believed to be my capability.
What does that look like? I don’t know yet, but what I do know is that there is no turning back. I have the rest of my life to discover, and that is truly the greatest gift this time of disorder has given me.
Managing Director, Production & Outreach
Center for Action and Contemplation
Tisha Ford is a dancer who supports the creation of pathways for personal transformation as Managing Director of Production and Outreach at the CAC. She has danced the lead in multiple ballets, led a diversity procurement initiative for the Super Bowl, overseen the Art of Dying Institute, and is a certified yoga instructor and life coach. This article originally appeared in The Mendicant.
The Center for Action and Contemplation, its Core Faculty, and Board of Directors invite you to accompany us on this journey of transformation as we do the challenging work of reclaiming our founder’s vision for action and contemplation in a time of global change and contemplative renewal.
Returning to the Center will be an opportunity to reflect together with our community on our discoveries and growing pains as an institution on the path of praxis and prayer, action and contemplation. You can expect regular updates on our progress in this work as well as institutional history, community stories, staff essays, videos, and even opportunities to contribute. You will find the latest posts on our website as well as social media and in the News from New Mexico, the CAC’s monthly newsletter. We welcome your feedback!