It has been quite a while since I’ve posted here. My work was on hiatus in the fall due to an extraordinarily heavy course load, but I am back in action and so glad to be sharing the process with you.
As you may recall, I spent the summer interviewing healthcare practitioners who are using alternative economic models in their practices. It has been an incredibly inspiring and eye opening process. I’m working on setting up the last few interviews now, and am beginning the process of mining for gems in the audio recordings of completed interviews. (If only all mining were so sustainable…)
I feel, about these practitioners, like an seven-year-old meeting a firefighter for the first time: awestruck by the towering ladders, the gleaming red fire truck, and the daring fireman’s pole, that feeling of respect, excitement, visions of a future self…shortly followed by the awareness that this person is constantly preparing to risk their life to rush into burning buildings. And unlike the aforementioned child, I plan to actually be a licensed firefighter—er, gift-economy-practicing acupuncturist—within the next two years. Life! So invigorating, isn’t it?
Anyway, if there’s someone you think I absolutely must speak with about this, please help us get connected. While I’ll be winding down this project in the spring, it is clearly more than a year-long endeavor, and certainly a “more the merrier” situation.
As happens with projects, I reached a point at which I began to question my process and to wonder how it might come together. I began journaling daily, to try to get my bearings again, and ended up with a very live thing in my hands. In addition to offering me space for reflection on the nature of exchange, and on Sacred Economics (which I continue to read), I had a bit of an epiphany.
Tasha Harmon, my mentor on this leg of the journey, shared an insight. She noted that in a relationship, if one is always the giver and the recipient is never afforded opportunity to give back, it creates a certain power dynamic. This is very interesting to me, because I had been imagining the gift economy largely from the standpoint of a giver. But in a gift economy, or in any community, it is virtually impossible to give without receiving. (Thank goodness!) It has to be n flow, a cycle, a balance. Of course. Anyway, I was embarrassed to recognize how much I’d allowed myself to identify with some kind of heroic ideal. (Cringe.) Of course I want to be part of an organic, co-nourishing system and not only a handing-out one-way gift process where I offer treatments and hoard self-righteousness. It doesn’t work like that for the folks I’ve interviewed, and, thankfully, it won’t work that way for me.
With this awareness in mind, I have started keeping a daily record of gifts I’ve received and gifts I’ve given. For example: today’s log. Received: a freshly cleaned bathroom and a gorgeous dinner from my sister, trust and respect from a teacher, organic produce, self care. Gifted: a jar of water kefir to a friend, a teeny massage to a classmate, lunch to my sister, doing dishes, and time for self care. (I often take note of reciprocal experiences as both gifted and received, because it’s the truth.) Some days, I am humbled by the imbalance in the lists. I receive so very much. I’m also aware that they are not even close to comprehensive, as I appreciate, but do not tend to log, the gifts of housing, access to nourishing food, a healthy body, the luxury of being a student, safety, etc.
This recording is the aspect of the project that has been the most stirring for me of late. While I am not yet a licensed practitioner and not formally in the gift economy, I can cultivate my awareness of gift. Looking at my life through this lens changes it. It changes my attitude while doing chores; I can refocus on the benefit of the action, which makes it much easier to slow down and enjoy the process. It also helps me realize what I value most, which is usually intentional conversation, or a specific comment from a friend. This lens also gives me the feeling that I am participating in gift NOW and not somehow on hold until I have a license in hand. I have a new sense of agency about it.
Well, I’ve talked your ear off, I’m afraid. If you have any thoughts to share, please feel free to post a comment on the blog. I know that the visibility can feel like a barrier, but I’m hoping that by posting there we can grow the conversation. Consider it a gift to the community, and to me.
I look forward to hearing from you.
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