Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sacrificing boredom

In order to live free and happily, you must sacrifice boredom. It is not always an easy sacrifice.

Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull

A few days ago I realised how much my life had changed when one of my Facebook friends remarked that she was bored and did not know what to do. Her comment stopped me in my tracks. It dawned on me that, way back in the mists of time, BC (Before Cohousing), I too had experienced boredom. But, when I reflected on the last year, I could think of only two occasions on which I had been bored.

One was the morning on which I woke up with my seafront condo shrouded in a thick fog, and felt as if I was in a sensory deprivation chamber. However, I shifted the lens through which I viewed the fog, and came to appreciate the magic of it. I shared that experience in my blog post entitled Embracing FOG.

The other occasion was the day on which I wore ear plugs to get a hint of what it was like to be hard of hearing. That felt very trying to me. But I think it's fair to say that, during The Experiment, I came by the sense of boredom honestly, so to speak.

When I saw my Facebook friend's comment, I found myself wondering why, except for two unusual instances, I did not recall having been bored during the last year.

I suspect that boredom is related to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

I do not believe that we feel bored when our physiological needs are threatened. When that happens, we experience panic, pain, or some other heightened form of discomfort. I was in a vehicle accident at the age of seven. Boredom is not the word that springs to mind when I remember my body being assaulted by glass, metal and hard ground as I hurtled through the windshield (in the days before seat belts).

I suspect that I experience boredom when my subtler, higher level needs are thwarted for reasons that feel invalid to me. When I make what might be called a sacrifice for a goal that is important to me, I do not feel as if I am suffering. During my trip to South Africa in June and July, I spent the better part of a day at Cape Town Airport. My original, morning flight to East London was cancelled, and I was re-booked on a later flight. Then that later flight also was cancelled, and I was re-booked on a third flight. If you can believe it, my third flight was cancelled, and I was re-booked on a fourth flight. However, the third flight subsequently was re-instated, and that was the flight on which I flew to East London in the late afternoon.

Spending a day at Cape Town Airport was not something I would have chosen to do if I'd had many other options. However, since I wanted to reach my mother and brothers in East London, I bit the bullet and settled into a chair at Cape Town Airport. I read Bill Bryson's hilarious book called Down Under. From time to time, I took breaks from reading, and watched the people in the airport. People watching was an interesting exercise. I learned a lot about the demographic changes that had taken place in the fourteen years since I'd last been in South Africa. In any event, my desire for connection with my family members in East London made it feel worthwhile to tolerate what otherwise might have been a boring day at Cape Town Airport.

But, at other periods of my life, when an emerging new value has clashed with an old value that has started to feel obsolete, living up to the outdated value has felt boring. An example is laundry. It'll give you a clue to my age when I share with you that there was a time, admittedly decades ago, when it mattered to me that my laundry came out whiter than white. Back then, the effort felt worthwhile. But I gradually realised that I didn't care. Once that transition had taken place, any extra effort expended on laundry felt boring.

When I look back, I feel that boredom has been my Higher Self's way of telling me that there is an agreement that needs to be renegotiated. On the one hand, I have experienced fear, because I have perceived that a change in my behaviour might alienate someone whose good opinion I have needed for security. If my laundry no longer was whiter than white, the people who valued whiter than white laundry might expel me from the whiter than white laundry club. On the other hand, if I have wanted to progress to other values that have come to mean more to me, I have had to risk criticism from the whiter than white laundry club.

Of course I'm using laundry as a somewhat tongue-in-cheek example. Some of the taboos that I have broken on my journey to self-actualisation have been more serious than changes in my laundry practices.

When I turned my back on my old life in Calgary, it felt risky. No, actually, that's not true. It didn't just feel risky. It felt terrifying. I can identify with the Richard Bach quotation. It wasn't easy to sacrifice the boredom that at least seemed to have security attached to it.

But what happened when I took the plunge, bought into Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community, and moved to Nanaimo? I have participated in shaping our community, learned a great deal about real estate development and communication, grown in confidence, made new friends, and accessed beauty through singing, dance, theatre, walking, hiking and photography.

The alignment between the external expression of my life and my inner values is demonstrated, I think, by the fact that boredom now is almost unknown to me.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A year later

The cohousing ride in the Earth Amusement Park has been rather ... ummm ... interesting in the last while.

There are times at which I look around me and bask in the conviviality of the company, the beauty and user-friendliness of our building, and so on.

But there are other moments at which I turn a corner, and I'm assailed with a piece of unwelcome news -- a construction delay or worse.

On a couple of occasions recently, I have felt the strain. But, for the most part, I have been pleasantly surprised by the generally calm approach I've managed to maintain. When I recall the Judy of a couple of years ago, I remember a person who would have been stressed out by developments like these. I believe the serenity that I feel much of the time is evidence of my growth, for which I'm grateful.

A year after buying into a cohousing community -- when the honeymoon definitely is over -- I still love cohousing. I appreciate many aspects of it -- the philosophy that underpins it, my fellow Pacific Gardeners, the sense of community, the land on which we have built our project, the design of our building, and my own apartment.

When I reflect on it, the past year has fulfilled my expectations in some ways but in many ways has been very different from the way I thought it would be. In some respects it has been far more challenging than I was prepared for it to be. Yet, paradoxically, it also has been far richer than I imagined it would be.

I find there is a lot of truth in my kids' expression, "It's all good."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Another community

This has been a year in which I have jumped back and forth amongst the different worlds that I have inhabited during my lifetime. Another leap took place this past weekend, when I caught the ferry to Vancouver to participate in the a reunion of seven women who had attended the same Johannesburg high school and who now live across North America.

The reunion was a remarkable event. Except for Pauline, who had lived in Vancouver during the period that I'd lived in Calgary, I had lost touch with these women for nearly forty years! Yet, when we saw each other again, after recently reconnecting on Facebook, the decades just melted away.

I noticed some common threads during this reunion as well as the meetings I had with former classmates during my June / July 2009 trip to South Africa.

We were raised in a time and place in which our parents sealed over the cracks and did not share with us children what was really going on. In our milieu, the parent who actively encouraged his/her daughter to think of a career was rare. The general trends of the era were exacerbated by the fact that we attended a school run by Catholic nuns. The insulation from a fast changing world was all the greater amongst those of us who, like me, attended the school as boarders rather than day scholars.

Yet all of us have developed into resilient women who have met adversity head on. Most of us have worked very hard to grapple with our demons and to become more conscious. Many of us have done therapy. A persistent theme is that our relationships with our children are more authentic than the relationships our parents had with us.

Regardless of the fact that we were launched into the world as "good Catholics," only four out of 25 of us still are married to our first husbands. We felt this demonstrated that our husbands and we had high standards and would not settle for marriages that were less than meaningful.

Those of us who have left Southern Africa have the additional commonality of the emigrant experience.

Although our political and religious views varied considerably, I detected a sense of goodwill amongst us. We had a "live and let live" attitude. There also was a groundswell of support towards women who were facing challenges. Towards the end of the weekend, one woman spoke for all of us when she said she had experienced a safe space in which she had felt free to share.

I am grateful for the many communities to which I simultaneously belong. In their different ways, they support me in creating a life that feels rich, purposeful, loving and fun.

Here is one of those communities -- the seven women from the Parktown Convent class of 1969 who now live in North America:

We are, from left to right, Colleen (Vancouver), Jane (Atlanta), Anne (St Louis), Felicity (Seattle), Vanessa (Los Angeles), Pauline (Vancouver) and Judy (Nanaimo).

The photo was taken at Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, where I was about to catch the ferry back to Vancouver Island, and just before the others also returned to their respective homes.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Chase River Cathedral

It's Sunday, so naturally I went to church today. Here are some photos I took while I was there.

This is the view one sees as one walks down the riverbank from Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community towards the meadow that runs parallel to the Chase River.

This was the spot in which Aboriginal elders built an Inipi (sweatlodge) on Earth Day 2000, and held a ceremony to bless this land.

This is Chad and Susana's tree. That's what I call it because two of our members, Chad Henderson and Susana Michaelis, were married at its base. They chose this unusual tree, with three trunks, as a symbol for their marriage. The left trunk represented one of them, the right trunk represented the other of them, and the central trunk represented their relationship. Our nextdoor neighbour, Ian Gartshore, who has been a good friend to our project, performed Chad and Susana's wedding ceremony.

This is the path that leads through the forest floor from the Pacific Gardens portion of the riverbank towards Ian's portion.

It was this view -- this specific view -- that sold me on Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community when I came to Nanaimo on a reconnaissance trip in August 2008.

I thought that I wanted to join a cohousing community so that I could learn how to create peace in my life. My hope was that, if I could "do" peace myself, it would have a helpful ripple effect on the rest of the world. A year on, I feel that I am indeed on the path of which I dreamed back then. There also are numerous other benefits -- a supportive social network, friendships, sustainability, a smaller environmental footprint, just plain fun, and on and on.

But, if I'm to be honest, I have to admit that, at the instant that I made the decision to buy in, none of that mattered. It was a moment of pure selfishness. I saw the moss-covered tree leaning out across the stream, my heart leapt, and that was it.

I think of it as my tree. I since have discovered that several of my friends consider it to be their tree too. In fact, it has been quite amusing to sit by the stream with one or more people, each of whom thinks it's his or her tree. But that's okay. Sharing my tree with others does nothing to detract from my enjoyment of it. If anything, soaking in the view with someone else who appreciates it only amplifies my pleasure.

At the risk of boring you, here is my tree from a slightly different angle.

Well, I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek when I mentioned church and then proceeded to share photos of the Chase River. But only a bit. In reality, I feel restored every time I go down to the stream. It's something I do pretty regularly. I don't hang around waiting for Sunday.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Patio Potluck

This afternoon we had a potluck lunch in the Common House of Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community. As you can see from the photos, our Common House still is under construction. Consider these the before pictures. In a couple of months, I'll show you the after versions.

The above photo looks westwards from the communal dining room, across the patio, to the future garden beyond.

Looking across the communal dining room towards the patio.

Looking northwards from the patio.

This is a public holiday long weekend in British Columbia. Several of our members as well as friends of our community were out of town, so our patio potluck was an enjoyable but small gathering. I'm not one to talk, as I recently was away for eight weeks, but I would have loved to have had my missing friends with me in what is about to become my home. With that said, I know we'll be hosting many, many more of these kinds of events in future. We still have lots of fun ahead of us.