Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2011 Goal #4: Building a Better Community

"Community" has come up several times during the last couple of "goal" postings. I have become more aware of my community as my primary external community--my work colleagues--has dwindled. Without going into melodramatic details, let me say that this community has dwindled through neglect (from leadership downwards), a lack of generosity, downright rudeness, and the 21st century malaise of "too much to do."

The problem here is not about others, but about myself: I have let collegial ties fade, neglected new ties, clipped old ones, and simply not worked to maintain friendships, familial relatonships, and networks.

Step #1 in this goal or intention for 2011: take the time weekly to contact friends, family, and peers via email, socal networks, phone, and plain old handwritten word. This doesn't mean everyone, every week, but certainly making the first move toward regaining or reafffirming ties. And for me, yes, this means a schedule of people to contact on a regular basis by one of the above methods.

I notice that I am so "electronic" and yet emails rarely carry any semblance of the enotional connection between contacts that voice or pen does. My students regularly query me about a brief email: the equivalent of "are you mad?" when I do not say more than "yes" or "no." Two students and I got into a hilarious (and eye-opening) discussion about that, including their suggestion that I include emoticons with every typically brief email. Something to give a temperature of the message, rather than a brief and bleak reply.

Relax: no emoticons for me, except perhaps in the most hilarious manner. But it did confirm for me that emotion and relationships aren't carried by emails, mostly. Only reactions, or facts, or information.

So phone (which I actually dread, mostly) and writing are a better basis for emotional connections.

Step #2: develop new, self-constructed communities. In other words, don't wait for opportunities within the structures I already belong to (My U or My Division, for example) but create new groups. For example, the women within my division could use a "night out" as a group, which may have nothing to do with work at all, but simply being women in a fairly patriarchal structure. Being colleagues with slightly different agendas than our male colleagues. Or a bi-monthly writing group embracing my former students who are in town and others, brought into the group by us. Again, this sounds so ambitious that my goal is to create one "developmental" event per month, starting in February.

Of course, this also appllies to my blog, as I write here and connect (I hope!) with other bloggers and readers.

Step #3: seek out new communities. Already on this, with my yoga class, which looks promising. I also want to consider working outside My U and giving back to the community (!) by participating in something like Habitat for Humanity, starting in March. And maybe... joining a church? I am not much for organized things (I am the product of two people who refuse to join organized groups--my youth was spent avoiding such things and, frankly, never quite fitting into them). While I love the ritual and ceremony of church services (I am in theatre, after all) and the power of the music, and I am a believer, I find the politics and daily practice of being part of organized religion annoying at best and hypocritical at worst. Hmm. No easy answer: just like most of life. But this month, just getting into yoga class is a good idea.

One change in my thinking that happened a couple of years ago was that I started questioning why I was connected to certain long-time friends. Was it habit? A real foundation of experience? Enjoyment of their company? Was the relationship growing or stagnant? In some cases, I found it to be stagnant. In others, the relationship seemed to be buoyed along by my emails, calls, and cards... but was not a shared or growing experience. I found myself examining all my friendships and rethinking the time involved. One friend, for example, who I admire and genuinely like never initiated contact by phone, email, or card; she in fact let me down rather spectacularly on a project we were developing, and never accounted for it. If I did all the work, we connected. If I did nothing, there was no connection. This kind of relationship brought about huge questions regarding my own balance and definition of friendship. It also pointed me toward finding new connections outside "work."

In the end, this is all about balance and bringing balance to my life, which is been dominated by my job for too long. The overall goal I want for this year, for 2011, is to be more engaged, more in control, and more rewarded by my own life... which can only be done by me. So community is, for me, another way of defining who I am becoming and what I want to do with my time (resource) and my future (health).

Step #1: reconnect with friends, family, peers regularly through email, phone, letters, and personal contacts.
Step #2: develop self-defined communities locally or by distance.
Step #3: seek out new communities and connect. This will need about three possibilities, because not every trial group is right.

1 comment:

  1. new follower...here because of a comment I read by you at Une Femme d'un Certain Age on gun control. I like what you have to say in this post and I will be back.


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