Sunday, January 2, 2011

Wringing in the New

Yesterday was 1/1/11. It's hard to look at that and not think of fresh starts. (I guess you could look at that and think of stuttering, but that hardly seems the stuff of inspiration.)

Of course, toward the end of the year we'll get a chance to experience rampant 1s again, on this year's anniversary of Veteran's Day: 11/11/11. However, it seems more auspicious to reflect on beginnings now, when ringing in a new year, tearing the cellophane off a spanking new calendar, and celebrating the incrementally longer days since the Earth made its ponderous turn past winter solstice. November seems more suited for exhalation than exaltation, so let's not wait.

Like many others, for most of my life I've periodically pondered the Question, "What do I want to do when I grow up?" Even as the years have steadily mounded up and I'd already established a satisfying career as a community builder, there has always remained a residual wanderlust, to consider the roads not taken. As full as my life has been (and I'm not complaining) it's been pleasurable to pause now and then to look out the window and ask, "What if… " following in my mind's eye those blue highways leading away from my marked path in enticing directions.

By degrees, I've come to accept that I will probably never be a cabinetmaker,
a US Senator, or a contestant on Iron Chef. I may never see the geysers of Iceland, Ayers Rock in Australia, or the Inca engineering miracle of Machu Picchu. I don 't know if I'll ever get to canoe the Thelon River in the Northwest Territories again. Gradually, I've come to accept that I'm probably as grown up as I'll ever be. At 61 years old, The Question has morphed into: "What do I want to do with the rest of my life?"

I want to write more
For a long time I was hung up on the conundrum: When have I learned enough (and become articulate enough) that I have something to write about? Or perhaps more to the point, when have I digested enough of life that my collective attempts to share my observations are a worthy addition to the blogosphere? How can I tell when my contributions are worth their weight in electrons?

While I'm still unsure of the answer, the die is now cast and I'm willing to take my chances as a writer. Three years into my career as a blogger, I am no longer afraid I'll run out of things to write about, and am pleasantly surprised to discover that something interesting to reflect upon happens as a nearly daily occurrence. (Why didn't I notice this amazing fact earlier!) Now, even as I'm striving to enhance my ability to be current in the moment, there's also a small part of my consciousness that's regularly devoted to observing the moment (in contrast with experiencing it), tracking potential topics to write about. These days I talk less and reflect more, and I like this shift.

I want to teach more
As a social change agent, I regularly ask myself, "In what ways can I most effectively contribute to creating a better world?" After years of steadily developing a career as a group process consultant, it occurred to me that I'd reach a lot more people if I could teach others to do what I do. Thus, eight years ago I began an experiment to see if I could teach the kind of dynamic facilitation that I could practice. I needed to know if my approach was a circus act (watch the amazing man extract golden nuggets from the apparent dross and snarl of anarchistic chaos!) or something that could reliably be passed along to others. That is, was I a freak or an inspiration?

After completing four rounds of my two-year facilitation training, I now know that my skills can be learned (I really didn't want to be a freak anyway) and teaching group process has become my greatest passion as a consultant. While I still need to keep my hand in as a practitioner (it's both my greatest recruitment tool for attracting students and keeps me on my toes), I want to teach as much as possible. I feel incredibly blessed to have so much to offer while I still have the energy and constitution to deliver it.

I want to hand off my work well
Over the years I've accumulated a lot of responsibilities. Now, while I'm still high functioning, I need to be more deliberate about planning for my replacement. In addition to finding candidates with the appropriate qualifications (the right mix of skill, availability, and motivation), I need to manifest the income stream sufficient to compensate people at rates more reasonable than the pittance I can operate on as a member of an income-sharing community with no debt.

I've already largely succeeded in getting myself out of being essential to operations at my home community, Sandhill Farm. Now I have to accomplish the same thing as the main administrator for Fellowship for Intentional Community. In the process field, my students will continue my work, adapting it as appropriate. Or, if my body of work ultimately proves to be less potent than that of others, then it will fade away and that's as it should be.

Mind you, this is not about stopping working, or even easing my foot off the gas; it's about not being essential, which is really just an ego trap.

I want to travel more
I'm already on the road 60% of the time, yet the vast majority of that travel is work related. This past summer I took two weeks off with Ma'ikwe to enjoy Drummond Island in the northwest corner of Lake Huron, with a cook's tour of upper and lower Michigan thrown in for good measure. It was a wonderful time and I'd like to travel for pleasure more—preferably with my wife. While this will probably have to await the manifestation of greater financial abundance, it's always a good idea to state the intention.

I want to love more
Who do you know who truly loves as if they've never been hurt? As fearless as I try to be as a professional facilitator and community builder, I'm more cautious in intimacy, where I identify more easily as damaged goods.

One the most precious aspects of my partnership with Ma'ikwe is her constancy in inviting me to intimacy without pretending that my feet are made of anything other than clay. The miracle of her love is that she sees me as stubborn and arrogant as well as tender and compassionate… and loves me anyway. While I don't understand such love, I'm in awe of it and am inexorably drawn toward it. I want to spend a goodly portion of the next few decades gamboling in the meadows of our love, exploring, laughing, and breathing deeply.

Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal
I identify with this bumper sticker, which neatly encapsulates my view on reality. I'm not saving the champaign until all the bubbles go flat, and I'm not banking on there being another time around. I intend to wring as much out of this life as I can.

Today, I think, is a terrific day to begin.

1 comment:

Lotus Allen said...

Bravo, Laird! I resonate with all of your intentions, and thank you for the inspiration. Happy New Year! ~Lotus