time…to give and take

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“Time is our most precious treasure because it is limited. We can produce more wealth, but we cannot produce more time. When we give someone our time, we actually give a portion of our life that we will never take back. Our time is our life…..”
– Alexander the Great

This month, I have spent my time practicing the act of feeling more and thinking less. I have been observing others, absorbing and embracing their viewpoints, feelings, comfort levels, communication, and engagement patterns.

During this time I have learned to float on the surface of my own reality, becoming translucent and almost invisible while sinking into the skin of another. It has been a lot more difficult than I anticipated. Taming my own voice, questions and ambitions takes concentration. Its felt like a new form of meditation.  (One in which you can’t close your eyes in a dark room keeping out external distractions) It like learning how to meditate with others.  But isn’t that what being in relationships is all about?

To focus my efforts in this process, my wild cards Aliza and Lee asked me to specifically hone in on a singular trait from the individuals I have been engaging with. Is there one thing that is standing out about these people? Is there one thing that they have that I would like to embrace myself? What a difficult task to sift through and choose only one trait from the complicated and intricate personalities that I have had the pleasure of perceiving through this experiment.

The people who I have spent time with (whether they have been the few friends from Maryland that I’m living with or the new islanders I’m meeting for the first time) have been such gifts. The have taught me new ways of breathing, living, eating, moving etc.  Instead of choosing individual traits from each person that I would love to embody, I chose a shared trait that almost everyone I have interacted with has possessed. Generosity.

Generosity is defined as the habit of giving without expecting anything in return. It can involve offering time, assets or talents to another in need. Everyone I have spent time with here has possessed this trait in some form.  Each individual holds this great desire to give and share their knowledge and expertise. Whether it is about island history and culture or music, cooking, and gardening. In my time listening, watching, and observing my fellow island mates – I have been given stories, treasures, creative inspiration, intellect, laughter, food, and physical adventure. Each person has shared openly and I am finding that people are most happy when they are offered the place and space to do so.

It’s as if the act of sharing itself is the most important act that can be performed in our lifetimes. We utilize it as a way of passing on a how we understand or experience the world and in turn, sharing helps validate our own existence, learning process, success, or struggle.

Aliza and Lee in their wildcard post asked me to consider how I would adopt my chosen trait into my own personality. How could I adopt generosity? How could I put myself forth and give? Could I or share or teach my own experience? Looking back at my chapter writer’s initial requests, I realized that Max also asked of me to consider what I could do to for the people I am engaging with. He asked me to give back. In an effort to honor both requests, I spent this past week thinking directly about this task. How could I become more generous? I have struggled with this for years.

What are the skills and knowledge that I can share in return? Do I have something I can give, swap or trade for all the hospitality and generosity I receive?  I have never been good at buying gifts for people. I never felt like a purchased object fit my affection or intention in wanting to share or give to another. I always resorted to making objects, cards or experiences for people instead. In my professional life I have spent my time creating spaces for others to share their music, art, words, stories, and ideas by organizing workshops, teaching creative expression and convening dialogue events. The more I think about it, it really seems to be the best way that I am able to give back. Why not continue to create those spaces and places but on a more personal level?

I’ve decided to focus on doing this with others and it is quite simple really. I find that I can at all times give my good intentions and time to another person if I choose to. This is easily overlooked when entering a new relationship or coming to a new place. We often look at the new experience and ask “What can be gained?” from this place or person, not “What can we learn or give?”.

Can we spend more time learning from and giving to others, while at the same time realizing that receiving what they have to offer is an essential part of a shared connection?

Everyone desires, wants, and needs, different things that we can never fulfill or give entirely. The one thing that is always desired though is that space and time to share themselves. This can be given by anyone at anytime effortlessly.  Even if I do not agree or fully understand, I can make an effort to try to. I can set the intention of allowing another to teach me and then learn how to receive what the other is wanting me to see, feel, or experience.

Offering another the time to be themselves and share what it is that they want to give helps to validate their experience.  It creates a space in which they are accepted fully with support and without judgment. Isn’t that the ultimate form of generosity? I thank Max, Aliza, and Lee for helping me to recognize and strive for that this month.

2/25/14

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

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