Friday, July 05, 2013

Thoughts Before Moving

The house is packed and the moment of final departure has just about arrived.  It feels good.

During the trip to Shoshoni Dad referred to the trip several times as a vacation, which seemed wrong to me.  As we talked about this and that it slowly became clearer to me that this summer's travels is much less about seeing interesting things as it is about creating some space for the general reboot.  It's not just a reboot of career or place, but much deeper.  This gets at the idea of trying to find a way to live a simpler and more reflective life.  I am acutely aware of the need to create a new context in order to make different choices; an idea that I first found in Brooks' book, The Social Animal.  He argues that the choices we make in our daily lives are driven by our history and the contexts created by those histories.  In order to truly change how we live, we have to change our context.

And so a big chunk of my purpose in having the space to do some traveling over the next fourty-five days is to shift the context and reboot some behaviors in the interest of living a more reflective life.  I had just a taste of that during the trip to Shoshoni in the way that I thought about the people I encountered.

It seems to me that most of my relationships have been built around the functional tasks in which I engage.  If I am in a show, my social circle is the show, when at work, the social circle is at work, but largely those relationships are left at the level appropriate to the task at hand.  I have never been particularly skilled at sustaining or developing any of these relationships.  I don't accumulate friends as much as I accumulate former acquaintances.  It's not a very satisfying way to live.  Ironically, I think this happens largely because I project the impression that I am not interested in other people.

And it is the source of that projection that is of interest to me right now.  Fifty years into this life I am finally beginning to understand that I live with some social anxiety and introversion which has led me to generally assume that other folks see me as an annoyance.  I do not believe in my heart of hearts that others have an interest in social relationships.  As a protective strategy, then, I automatically limit my social commitment to the functional boundaries of the immediate task.  It's an ugly cycle, really, since this behavior holds the people around me at arms length.

To be socially fulfilled, I keep myself really, really busy.  ;-)  Lots of tasks means lots of friends.

So, task one for the summer.  Make time to meet people and develop some comfort with extending myself socially even when there is no functional need to do so!  During the traveling time this means that I'm going to make connections with people at campgrounds, restaurants, libraries, coffee shops...all the places I plan to hang out in.  It also means that I am going to be assertive about connecting with former acquaintances along the way.  Rather than assume that I would be intruding if I reach out to someone in a city through which I will travel, I will assume that they would be delighted to see me.  It shouldn't be hard, but it is.  And then this Fall, at Mankato, I need to do the same thing.  Somehow I need to find a way to find some peace with making myself more vulnerable socially.

This whole thing is rather related to something else that was in Brooks' book, which is the way that people ask for things.  Some folks are completely comfortable asking for whatever it is they need or want without regard for the likelihood that it will be given.  They just ask.  Others (this includes me) really only ask for things if they think the answer will be, "yes".  The problem with this is that our ability to evaluate whether the answer will be yes is extraordinarily low, and also it means that there is anxiety carried as to the possibility that the answer might unexpectedly be, "no".  So, I am also working on just asking for what I want and being okay when the answer is, "no".

Last thought of the morning...I was off the grid from Sunday noon until Wednesday morning this past week.  This was super weird for me as I am very connected to the world through my various devices.  The thing that is the most striking about this is that, having lived in both the less connected 70s and the now connected 2010s, I am super pleased at how much more information we have available now.  It's hard to overstate how useful it is.  Whatever you might say about how good it is to be out in nature and alone so one can reflect in a more peaceful setting, it sure is nice to pull up a map on the iPad whenever you want it!

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