#reverb 12, #cultivate 12: what matters

Cultivate is about living in the here and now. What matters most to you right now? How are you going to nurture what matters during 2013? (Meredith Shadwell)

Relationships, connections, in some ways, I suppose have always been what matters to me. When I think of my childhood, I think of my brother, our adventures; I think of the various people whose lives I filtered in and out of. I think of places, rooms, kitchens where I learned through stories, where I watched my grandmother console, comfort and celebrate. I think of both loud and quiet spaces where I buried myself in books while action swirled around me and I remember being pulled from myself into games with cousins, and sing alongs. As I get older, the connections I make with others whether long-lasting or fleeting, deep and intense or polite conversations with the strangers, feel even more important. Moving helped me to recognize that the ways I often gravitate toward others isn't about merely socializing for me but rather about connecting, saying, "yes, I have felt that way, too." 

I connect in many ways. I go to workshops, plays, lectures, events on campus. I go to Zumba and sometimes agree to go along with some of the ladies to lunches or events, or I volunteer to help them make 200 cupcakes for a wedding. I talk to colleagues in the hallway, their offices and via email. And as important as these connections are, so is my time alone, which I value. Connections to others and their experiences and stories fuel me and I need time to process what I am learning, to savor that time and be able to connect again at the next event. I know that I have a tendency to retreat to quiet spaces, to spend a weekend watching movies on Netflix and not see another person for days. And when I crave connection, I seek it out. I have come to realize how like my father I am in this sinking in and how difficult it can be to understand the need for introspection or at least to balance that intellectual work with something more social. Because I know how alive really good conversations make me. So, I've tried to say yes to things like going to the movies with people I only know casually and I've attended events alone and met some interesting people along the way. Each conversation I have helps me to connect, to feel a part of the world, to say, "yes, I understand."

Part of my purpose in choosing my word of "open" for 2013 was to be more open to other's, to be a sounding board or a shoulder or a friendly face in a crowd. There are people I met about a year ago who I sensed right away were these completely open and kind people and I want to emulate that spirit. I want to be a better listener, a more generous person with my time and attention, and I want people to feel connected to me the way I do to them. Honoring my need to be alone with the desire to connect will be something I continue to cultivate in 2013. And when I am out among the world, to be open in mind and spirit so that I can pay attention to and honor where others are coming from, I think will be essential to putting my word and intention to work.