SPECTRUMS

Throughout February, we’re getting people from all over Northern Ireland to contribute personal pieces in the run up to the election on March 2nd. 28 days in February for 28 different voices.

There are still the last few spots left to fill so get in touch!


Norma Stewart

I have been thinking a lot about the idea of a spectrum in recent months.

For me, a woman in her 50s (as well as a mother, partner, friend, traveller, daughter, tree-lover, and one-time Donny Osmond fan), I have come to hold the belief that my ‘condition’ as I grow older is that I am not limited to a specific set of values and that my own personal spectrum can vary without steps across a continuum.

This is especially true in my personal and professional life as a psychotherapist, as I hold multiple ideas and possibilities as I encounter those around me. As a woman of faith I also hold the belief that there are many ways to know your God – as Kahlil Gibran, Lebanese-American artist, poet and writer said:

Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have found the soul walking upon my  path.”

I talk of faith because I am attending Spectrum: LGBT+ Christian Fellowship Church for the first time tonight, in order to give my support to a church in its infancy as a woman in a heterosexual marriage who is a Christian.

Until recently living in Northern Ireland with all that has meant for me generally, I have chosen not to publicly name or declare my thoughts and views on themes such gender, sexuality, politics, class or creed. Like many of my generation, being born in the 60s and growing up in Northern Ireland in the 70s and 80s, to speak out or be different could have serious consequences. Instead, there was the likelihood that you voiced your thoughts and ideas privately, perhaps safely amongst family and friends and those of ‘like mind’. This, of course, could limit many opportunities for difference, diversity and growth. It was understandable for many of us that a habit of silence prevailed well into our adult lives.

With Trump, Brexit, and now the fall of Stormont (as apocalyptic as that sounds), one descriptor in my personal spectrum that has settled on me and stirred in me living through recent months is that of an Activist. I have been marching for Women, and I feel the need to clarify that I don’t march on The Twelfth. I am attending vigils to show my support and welcome to those who have been given and are seeking their refugee status in this world. I’m also being ‘active’ by paying more attention to the intentions of the political parties and their policies in the lead up to this election. I will not necessarily be voting true to my previous form in the past. This activist descriptor has me considering whether I should now join a political party myself and become more involved, rather than only vote at election time. A fit for me would be to join both the Alliance and the Green Party (though I fear I would end up looking like this).

Voting in the upcoming election will see me looking very closely at the ‘small print’ of the political parties. It certainly isn’t enough for me to look just at those big bold letters, DUP, SF, SDLP and the rest and cast off those familiar to me just because that is what I’ve always done. I will also consider adding more than three candidates on my electoral vote for a change.

Coming back to the notion of my faith and activism, Philip Yancey’s, recent book, Vanishing Grace, talks of pilgrims, artists and activists:

“Pilgrims are those who understand that life is much the journey as it is the destination; fellow travellers rather professional guides; folk who are comfortable with dialogue and open to the new. Artists, are those who try to speak authentically to the human condition through words, image, melody and movement; those who enable us to make meaning for ourselves. And, finally, Activists are those who express their faith in the most persuasive way of all; by their deeds.”

With writing this article one deed is done, and this platform of #28daysNI has enabled me to make meaning for myself in the lead up to the Assembly Elections and as I pilgrim beyond.


Norma Stewart lives, works and plays in Belfast and at every opportunity elsewhere too.

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