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Posts Tagged ‘communication’

My mother had been working in the Sitka Hospital as a nurse. She had a patient come in named Steven James. When he was admitted, he was elderly, and very sad. She spoke with him at the bedside, Uncle why are you so sad? He told her, when I go I have no one to bring me back. No one will carry my name on for me. You see, in our culture there is a certain belief of reincarnation. My mom thought about this for a while. Having recently lost her husband, maybe she was looking for a hole to fill. She asked if she could name her first-born son after him. See, mom and Steven are from the same clan. Of course this made him very happy. He began telling everyone on the recovery floor that he was coming back. He passed away three days later. This was in 1991. I was born in 1993. When I was very young, we took a ferry ride to Haines. I remember being excited, and pointing out all the coves and bays that I thought would make the best fishing spots. We would find out later, through a friend of Steven James, that most of his favorite fishing spots were exactly along that route. It appears that his name was not the only part of him that came back.

A story and a history can change a name. A name for a person or an object is not just a word, a label, but a history. This is what I mean- our culture, our people have a name. You hear it and form an image in your mind about what that word means based on your experiences, what you see in the news, what your friends tell you. But if you never bother to ask the owner of the name, will you ever really know what or who they are?

When people would ask: What superpower would you want to have? I always think about having the ability to see people’s thoughts. Not read minds, I mean literally see the images that form in their heads. Like in a thought bubble floating above them. Imagine asking a theater full of people to think of home. One word- and if given a multiple choice test, everyone would be able to identify the same definition. Yet truly, no one has the same definition of home. Some people picture the houses of their parents at childhood. A man visualizes his family spending time together in the living room. Maybe a girl thinks of her entire hometown- all the streets and people evoke a familiar warm sense she names as home. You see? Words are not just a chain of letters, they don’t just symbolize some objective form of an idea. They do not just have definitions, they have meaning, often specific to the reader, the writer, the speaker, the listener. Do you see? What if you could see my thoughts? When I said my name you could see the history, the meaning, the depth behind the letters? Would that change how you see me?

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(I am sorry to say that in hearing the word co-op, and it’s description, I imagine a lifestyle similar to the kind depicted in a reality tv show- a la MTV.  Bad romances, wild partying, drama abound.  Please tell me you can dissuade me of this stereotype. )

Ugh. So many people think this.  But it’s not so much that they will ask (so thanks for your direct question!), but I can just see the slight repugnance and disapproval in their eyes. I’ll bet it prevents a lot of people from considering shared housing as a lifestyle, when the reality of it can be so much more rewarding.  In fact, when I spend time in other people’s houses, I often daydream about how it would change if it were a co-op.  The household is more efficient: one person doesn’t have to shoulder the cost of everything, so bulk foods, taking turns cooking, utility bills, all get shared- making it easier and cheaper!  The house is more alive: the rooms and shelves are all full, instead of seeing whole rooms go forgotten, unused, neglected because the house is too big for two people or whatever.  It always produces more well-balanced citizens: everyday is a chance to learn a different way of doing things.  Okay, so the picture I paint in my imagination is a little pie-in-the-sky…Of course, conflicts occur.  Sometimes not everyone wants a disco dance party at 2 am.  Sometimes a housemate of two will get irritated at the number of times they’ve eaten vegan casserole that week.  Sometimes a certain housemate will sweep their downstairs neighbor off their feet, in a very short-lived romance (due to the walk of awkwardness to the breakfast table the next morning).  But everyone’s life has challenges, and I think the result of struggle and strife in a communal and intentional setting results in much more considerate and capable citizens.  I really really do.

(How do you handle all the details and responsibilities of a home, shared between so many interests?)

We have a four hour long meeting every Sunday night.  It sounds intense (and it can get that way!) but generally, we eat dinner, we vote through any number of things, someone facilitates.  It’s like any board of directors; everyone has a different role in the house, we take turns doing chores, we take meeting notes and have an agenda.  That stuff usually goes pretty quickly.  It’s the New Proposals section that eats up the whole evening.  I find it fun and fascinating. Shayna proposes we host a GLBTQ movie night.  She’s a little shy and nervous because she never presents much to the group.  Most people nod, until she names the date and time and gets a few loud protests: Not the weekend before midterms!  How many people did you say you wanted to invite?  100?! And she quickly loses her shyness and her cheeks get flushed and she defends herself fiercely.  These are the moments people become leaders, become advocates, become nay-sayers, draw lines in the sand, get defensive, get offensive, find personal truths or find ways to tell lies for what they believe in.  It’s an amazing thing to watch people develop passion and beliefs.  It’s why I work in politics- because I see politics and government in everyday life.  We (human beings) are constantly forming groups, defining ourselves and others through exclusion and inclusion, asking for leaders to make decisions for us, making trades and rules and rewards and punishments and credos and mission statements.  Whether consciously or not, humanity will always magnetically move towards and with one another, and whether the result of that particular interaction is thriving or decay, we will work at working together tirelessly.  Every politician, economist, historian has a different idea of the best way for us to live together on this little planet.  To me, the point is not the methods or approach.  The point is, we are not like tigers in the jungle who live singularly and alone.  We are not even like bees who live in huge, organized colonies with one collaborative purpose.  We are this funny little species; we like to ask questions and share the answers with each other; we’d rather work together, for better or for worse; we form preferences for mates and friends based on inexplicable reasons; our whole history as a species is an inquisitive step towards each other, and a refusal to completely run away no matter what we see.  It’s illogical and beautiful.

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I only have an hour, is that okay? I serve on two non-profit boards, am acting as a financial consultant to a handful of people, am in the process of bidding on a few properties, have had the largest client base of my career, and am diving in to a new hobby of website design so I’m sorry if I seem rushed to find time to even eat a sandwich.

A lot of people would see my schedule and shudder.  Do you want to take a look?  Okay, here’s my Google calendar –ahooh! looks like I just got that email response I’ve been waiting for- okay sorry, so here’s the calendar…  Now see, I can flip through the next few weeks and there’s nothi-wait- here’s a two hour break on the 13th maybe I can call Jen back and tell her I could meet up then, great.  I love my iPhone, see how easy all that was? Just a tiny flick of the fingers and email, phone calls, planners, camera, music, weather, shopping, I mean whatever is right there immediately, it’s probably why I’ve been so successful and busy lately because it just streamlines everything, so that’s definitely the answer to your question: I use my free time to fill up my free time with other stuff.  I love being busy, I love making contacts and networking and communicating with people.  We live in such a unique time in human history- never before has an individual been able to instantly talk with someone across the globe connect with complete strangers on a shared experience via the web sell and buy goods internationally without ever physically exchanging currency musicians and artists and writers can share their creations with millions of people governments and businesses can update policies fluidly.  I could go on, but the idea still blows my mind: we are part of this ever-flowing and constantly adapting and interchanging current of ideas and energy.

So you clearly have enthusiasm for networking and the advance of digital development.  But there has to be something you enjoy outside of work. 

Of course.  I guess my response sounds a little overkill. Yes, there are lots of things I enjoy outside of work like  I always feel great after a forty-five minute run at the gym I like to travel to big cities -I actually live a little ways outside of town, the house my partner and I bought was just too beautiful to pass up and besides, it’s not too long of a drive to downtown- but I always get a thrill from the speed and anonymity of sky scrapers and buses and concrete one of my favorite parts of the day is when I get up (really early) and brew a cup of dark, fragrant, arid coffee and  I sit beside the glass wall of the kitchen and read the NY times on my phone as the mug steams up a soft-sided, egg-shaped section of the window.  Often I see a neighbor woman who gets up early too.  She either likes to sit in one spot in her kitchen all day (I can’t imagine!) or has some physical disability and can’t stand and I only guess this because sometimes I come home from lunch and still see her sitting there.  Speaking of sitting, I’ve got to get up and go Thanks so much for your time and your questions I look forward to continuing this chat did I mention I really support your public radio station?  I believe I donated this year let me check hmmm yes here it is great  keep it up good bye!

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