It is officially springtime! Looking for proof? Simply browse any official literature related to the attempts of humans to categorize and clump cyclical, reliable, and self-similar environmental phenomena. I think you'll find plenty of date-corresponding data. But make sure to avoid visually browsing the landscape, aurally browsing the birdscape, taste browsing the foodscape, smell browsing the nosescape, or temperature browsing the airscape sans 'winter' coat--these may lead to more confusion than clarity.
And speaking of weather-related confusion, I've been wondering about the years before the climate change debate came onto the scene. To what analogous idea did people attach their opinions, their fears, their identities? To what grand force did we look as a source of inspiration, cause of desperation, spark for altercation? Lately I have found the name dropping of climate change to be sneaking into the less-noticed nooks and crannies of daily life. What started as ideo-ecological debate in the grand public theater has surreptitiously found its way into our brain-pants pockets, becoming a go-to resource of understanding, which we find hard to imagine was so recently not easily grabbed. (For analogy, see: Phone; cellular: The Making of Plans With Your Friends, Pre-2000 v. Post-2000.)
Now, I don't know about you, but I think I know about you, and I strongly suspect you are like me, in that we communicate with other people primarily because we need and enjoy connection. Which I find quite confusing, considering how often I find myself and others communicating mainly in ideas and judgements, either agreeing when our ideas are the same, or trying to persuade when our judgements differ. Generally, I have come to the conclusion that persuasion is a dead-end strategy. How often have you convinced someone to completely change their mind about something (like climate change) when it is obviously attached to great feelings and needs? In my experience, it can't be done. That's because while thoughts may be negotiable, needs are not, and different people attach their needs to different circumstances. Person "A" may meet their need for peace and safety through their knowledge and direct experience of the seasons. You will not convince this person that the threat of losing that connection in a climate change scenario is not scary. Likewise, Person "B" may meet their need for independence by using any number of gas-powered implements to provide for themselves. You will not convince this person that the threat of losing their ability to provide for themselves as they know how is not scary. This is not to say that people can't come to some middle ground--the point is that if we start from a place of persuading, without first connecting with what's really going on, we will find that we get nowhere fast.
Admittedly, so far in this blog entry, I have been simply sharing ideas. So, as an experiment, I'm going to write two paragraphs, each one describing my transition of life during this past winter. In the first, I'll write about my thoughts/ judgements of the transition. In the second, I'll share my feelings and needs in the transition. See how you connect with one compared to the other:
Thoughts/ Judgements About My Transition:
What a year! The house is finally closed-in, and we insulated just in time before the cold. If you haven't had the experience of building your own house, you should. It's really challenging, but also very rewarding. If I had the fortitude, I would plow on through the interior finish work now, but I don't think I'm capable. You know, after three years of focusing on this project, it really bugs me when I hear other people say they 'built their house' too, when in fact they had it built for them. I want to make a distinction here--paying others to do the work is not the same as doing it yourself. Credit where credit is due! And I can't believe how few people tackle this type of pursuit from the ground up. If you are willing to live without lots of optional creature comforts, you can slowly make your way to a home that is comfortable, and incredibly personal. As it stands, I'm going to try some other projects now, maybe working on a construction crew, or try another line of work. We'll see what happens.
Feelings/ Needs in My Transition:
What a year! The house is finally closed-in, and we insulated just in time before the cold. By the end there, I was really losing interest in the work, but I wouldn't let myself stop--I just wanted to feel peaceful knowing that the house was weather-protected. That was quite a struggle though--I was doing the exact same work as in the beginning, but instead of feeling engaged and enthusiastic, I was feeling tired and frustrated, confused at the shift of experience. After more reflection, I realized that I was working more and more by myself at the end, feeling quite lonely, no longer connecting with Meggie or anyone else in the building tasks themselves. Knowing how many couples have split up during the process of building a house (as in the saying, "Build a house, lose a spouse"), I knew the unhappiness of the situation was not emotionally sustainable for me or for us. That clarity was somewhat relieving, and allowed me to shelve the idea of moving right onto building a barn. (Same strategy, same result.) The one other thing I couldn't get past was this insight--I was losing my sense of purpose, or contributing to a greater good, contributing to the lives of others. I've been feeling a lot of sadness and disappointment when getting in touch with the purpose that has been recently lacking in my life. However, from facing these emotions and unmet needs through Nonviolent Communication and Buddhist meditation, I am now starting to piece together a new strategy which doesn't negate any of my past work, but instead leads me toward new avenues of connection and contribution, and opens up beautiful possibilities to integrate the entirety over time. I feel motivated and excited (and nervous and anxious!) now as I apply to jobs and schools in therapy and emotional work, start an NVC group in Brattleboro, and generally open myself up to all possibilities. I am dynamic like all of you--we have the ability to choose a new direction at any given moment when we realize our current path is no longer meeting all of our needs. Hermit Thrush Homestead is dynamic as well, and I suspect will provide me with even more opportunities to combine my creative fulfillment of the house, with my connecting fulfillment of a home. We'll see what happens.
There you have it. As per usual, sharing feeling and needs takes more time and real estate than thoughts and judgements, but I think the quality of the conveyance more than makes up for any perceived long-windedness. Besides, who cares how long it takes if it's fulfilling all the while? Isn't that what life is all about?
Now I sit here and work on being present and at peace with the cold still gripping this hillside. I dream of a tiny little bit of warming here in Vermont--just enough to convince all the birds it's time to return, all the green things it is time to reach out--time for me to have a spring in my step, rather than a slip, or a slosh. And if when this spring finally does arrive I hear someone sharing how the speed of seasonal transition, or intensity of heat, or lateness of green is caused by climate change, I will do my best to hear what feelings and needs this person is trying to share with me, so we can connect, now, and move forward, together.
Recording moments from our journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. (All pre-2015 entries are Patrick's words on work and life at the homestead).