Do or Be
The weekend ended as I lay my head down on the pillow; it ends as quickly as I fall asleep. Awakened at 4:36 am by Dagney who chirps and clicks at specters in the side yard like a Pentecost speaking in tongues. The sound emitted from her is nothing feline. She races from each window, usually across my bed, my head, my nightstand and all the buttons of my iHome clock radio. The plastic creaks adding an avant guard component to her performance. I suffer my fool of a cat. I calm her swishing tail and tolerate her insistent head butting demands for affection. Whatever demon inhabited her lithe body leaves and she walks to the foot of the bed and lies down. She falls asleep while I contemplate launching her circular form, Frisbee-like, with my feet.
I fell back to sleep and reawaken to BBC radio.
Officially Monday and the beginning of the work week. People always ask, “What did you do this weekend?” They rarely ask, “How was your weekend?” We are a culture of ‘do-ers’. We do the dishes. We do chores. We have Honey-do lists. We do the Dew. We do IT.
The verb ‘be’ cannot be interchanged with ‘do’. We measure worth by what is done. What a person does with their time and how much is achieved or how stupendously they fail is all a measure of action, doing. ‘Be-ing’ is usually a reference to geography. I text my sons, “whr u b?” Societally, we do not measure or value being.
To ask, “How have you been?” opens up Pandora’s box. Asking this enters Area 51…..peoples’ feelings. If I ask what they did, I get a listed factual accounting of tasks and time frames. We did this, we did that, we went here, we went there. Yes……but what did it all mean? So you did that; did THAT make you feel happy? Will you be satisfied with this?
Is it that we don’t actually care or desire to know about the inner landscape of our friends and colleagues? Is the pace of life unable to accommodate the variability of emotions? Does etiquette dictates that we never put another person on the spot by asking such delicate or vulgar questions? We even rephrase the question, using the more acceptable code, “How are you doing?’ A non-sense inquiry. HOW and DOING are incongruous. The proper form is “What are you doing?” or “How have you been?” But we sneak in the empathy; we give the other person the option to answer truthfully by speaking in code: “How are you doing?”
But am I to be truthful, too? If I wish to welcome my friends and intimates into my world and my heart, it is best to speak plainly and ask directly, “Please tell me how you have been.” The invitation is offered. I want to know. The faux conversation is more common, simply sharing the litany of chores and tasks started or completed over the weekend. Mistakenly share a sentiment, make the faux pas of saying your weekend was too quiet and you can see the inner groan from across the water cooler. So, the conditioned response is to give the mechanized answer: I did some sewing and made some pickles. Excellent is the reply.
I will know a true and authentic friend when I am asked how I have been and I see genuine interest when I answer truthfully. The reciprocal also applies. When I inquire about my friend’s weekend asking how they have been and I hear a heart-felt inclusion to their emotional space and not their grocery list….jackpot.
We lament not having people to ‘do stuff’ with but the truth is not having people to “be with”.