“To be is to do”—Socrates.
“To do is to be”—Jean-Paul Sartre.
“Do be do be do”—Frank Sinatra.
As I write today, I am looking at and listening to the waters of the Gippsland Lakes, whipped up just a little into waves that don’t so much crash on to the shore as they do crinkle. My view, filtered by lanky trunks of assorted eucalyptus was earlier filled with a flurry of red and blue Crimson Rosellas determinedly and noisily asserting their rights to the seeds I’d thrown out for them.
I have been looking at this view for a week, some days blue and green as you’d expect here in the Antipodean midsummer, some days greyed by clouds and rain or even hazed and shimmering brown in 40 degree heat. All of it hours from home, away from the laptop and office, cut off even from the telephone which struggled to find any kind of signal. So here, the air has remained quiet, as indeed have I.
I thought I was coming to Raymond Island to make it a base for excursions and exploring but for the whole week all I’ve really wanted to do is read, play games, watch nonsense on the TV. To sleep late, and go to bed later, to cook and eat simply, drink gin (which I didn’t ration well enough and finished a day too early), and to do what most would call, nothing. So that, is exactly what I’ve done. Nothing.
It sounds like bliss, and it absolutely has been, but even so, the whole time I have struggled to make peace with the idea of being peaceful, of allowing myself to slow down and ‘be’ instead of constantly ‘doing’. I’ve worried that my host has thought of me as lazy and has felt my presence awkward, which is me projecting my fear onto him, he’s given me no such evidence that this is true, and why should I care what he thinks? What he has said that this happens to everyone who comes here and the testimonials in the visitors book bear this out. The place has a magic that just makes people stop, breathe, and rest.
So, on the eve of my return to the city and the bustle of ‘real life’ here I am meditating as to how I want my year to look as I go home, how I want to take how this week has felt and use it to shape my world in 2021. I do not want to return beset by the constant need to have something tangible to show not just for my work, but for my existence. If 2020 has taught me anything is that it is unsustainable to go through the year with a wave building behind me of things I need to do or will need to have done ‘this year’ because that wave builds only to crash, regardless of whether the circumstances of that crash are a global pandemic or my own frailty.
So, while I don’t make resolutions, I am resolved that in 2021 I shall be kinder to myself, to adjust my expectations that productivity is always visible. In my role of supporting people in their endeavours I will recognise that measuring my effectiveness and productivity may actually also be in the intangible, in a kind word, a supportive smile, or a gentle nudge that helps their direction instead of only in an article published, or a project delivered. In 2021 I no longer want to measure my value in what I’m doing. I want the lesson of this delightful week retreat and reflection to be one of learning the value in my being as well.
Bonus Content: Met a neighbour