Working Together

"We shape our self
to fit this world

and by the world
are shaped again..."

Excerpt from "Working Together" © David Whyte
in The House of Belonging

Many Rivers Press

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Trips the Thing....Word of the Year, Part One

Well it is that time again. Last year in this blog entry I introduced you to Cristine Kane and her concept of a word of the year. My word was presence for 2007 and I remember having in mind it meaning that I was going to try and be more involved in my community since I just bought a house and, you know, I'd begin to be a grownup! This is what I thought presence meant for me. I thought about this word quite a bit actually as I progressed through my year. I even joked that I really meant "presents" shaking an angry fist at a dense and disinterested god-head in the sky.

One of the first things that came up was having to choose what to do out of a big bag of new responsibilities. My first choice to make was, which one of the 1001 things that needed to be done first, would get done to make my new crib livable. We are not even talking about improvements here. It was uninhabitable when I bought it thanks to the prior tenant's passive aggressive frustration over the sale. I guess you could say from the house's perspective I was VERY present! In fact, I don't think this place has ever seen the kind of TLC I provided in the summer. It was built as a duplex with cheap materials and was only intended as transient housing for an investment. There were few days I didn't wake up thinking only of the next thing to do to fix something. So I was "present" as a duty and a responsibility - which is somewhat how I had imagined it would be through the summer. Only I had imagined there would be community "events" that I would attend where I'd be meeting terrific people that I would make my friends and they would inspire me to do all of these creative endeavors and be engaged in my life blah, blah, blah.... This is actually what I expected without giving it much thought...I have the emotional perspicacity of an 11 year old!

What I didn't expect was what a drag it was to be present. Ironically enough, the work that wasn't dealing in the hardware of home repair in the summer concentrated on software - specifically shareware applications and web 2.0 awareness. Now, in MY mind, being on the Internet is not being least it wasn't until I realized that it was where I wanted to be most of the time. What I experienced was my being more happily present on the Internet than in real time. I really didn't experience a lot of deep satisfaction and inspiration from my hard work painting , scraping and sealing. Remodeling a house made me feel weary and pained. I got so sick of the thing that I was working endlessly on that I wanted to throw myself off the top of Baby, my 14 foot ladder, to end it all. Doing the present thing - the duty thing - does not beget more presence in me. Au contraire. So the REAL question became: Which present is it, SISTAH?

I found out plenty about myself and that word over the year and the truth of the matter is I don't want to be present. Not really - not like I envisioned it last year anyway - not like schlepping across a vast and barren cultural wasteland with an albatross called home owner and community member strapped around my neck! Like I said last year, the trips the thing. I found I have a resistance to presence and on my way I picked up on a few tricks I use on myself to make myself miserable and absent in my relationships with people. Those were weeded out (though I'm sure they will make an appearance now and again!) . I had a few things to learn about the definition, obviously...Of course, any sane person would resist presence as I had it defined.

I realized that I have always used my sense of duty or responsibility to keep me present in the world (when I wasn't using sex and marriage to do so). This, of course, begs my consideration of alternatives. In the end I decided that technology actually allows me a form of presence. It helps me be in the here and now. I found out I need a healthy measure of virtual and real. I suspect that due to my age I can tolerate more on-line activity than a younger person who has such a high profile in the world to maintain. I also found out it is okay to not be a pillar of my local community but being a friendly and kind participant is good. I go to a few local things and that's enough. I go on-line and make a few friends, that's enough. I'm older - I've subtle fish to fry...and sometimes this kind of cooking must be done during a siesta.

It helped having an annual word to bounce around during the year and I think it is a good tool to help keep the time-line taut and not whipping around in the wind. I looked down Kristine's list of chosen words this year and yawned....I looked at it again later and yawned again. Nothing jumped out at me. So I decided to resort to trickery.... I will explain the trick next post. If you should choose a word of the year, I hope you will share your word and your experiences.....

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