29 April 2008

Passing over

This train ride in is the last with powerpoint open on my laptop, the last with me in a flurry to get to my destination on time so that I can teach my piece. Today is the last workshop in a river of workshops and presentations so deep that I thought maybe I’d drown. When today is over—when this is posted and you’re reading it—I will be breathing fully again, and looking toward small joys that are next: a morning playing with my kids, a small trip to the north of the South Island with the Coughlin-Harris family. The mountain of the European trip looms in the near distance, but as soon as this day is over I can begin to dig out from the weary space I’ve been in for the last month.

In the middle of this intensely busy time, when I’ve been too often working from before dawn until nearly midnight, there have been moments of intense pleasure and beauty. Some of them come from living in this house: the sunrise-rainbow over the sea yesterday morning, the hills catching the mist in the rain, the triumph of a bunch of friends working to cut a viewing hole in the pohutakowa tree in front of my house so that we can see the sea whilst sitting at the dining room.

Some of the pleasures are about life in New Zealand. Yesterday, operating on Plan B after Paul hurt his leg so that we couldn’t go for a walk together, my family and the Coughlin-Harris family and Melissa’s family all hopped in cars to explore the foreshore of Wellington. We saw a little fairy penguin swimming in the harbour, watched the surfers wait for the rare but perfect wave on the mostly-still bay, spotted enormous starfish and colourful paua on the rocky shore at the tip of the island. Who ever imagined that there could be this much natural beauty within a stone’s throw of the airport.

And some of the pleasures were about the joys of connection in a space where, just a year ago, I felt very unconnected indeed. This week was Passover, and while I was away at the very beginning of it and then teaching at the beginning of the week, we decided to have a dinner—potluck, because of the depth of my other commitments. We invited the usual suspects and a seriously delightful new couple with two kids (new to us, not new to each other), and everyone said yes. On Friday, the Kenning Global group (in the Southern headquarters of Paekakariki) had its second day of the two-day retreat (nothing is grandiose about this—just Paul and Carolyn and me trying to keep the kids quiet in my lounge). We packed it up a little early to sweep the copious sand out of the house and wash the dishes for dinner.

At 5, people began to show up. By six, the house was filled with children and adults eating food made by me and others, laughing and talking and filling my house with its first real party. I had planned the house for exactly this situation—for families to gather and eat and drink and enjoy one another—and here was the first test. It was one of those moments of déjà vu because this thing that was happening was something I had pictured so many times. In my mind folks had gathered in the kitchen to chop and fill and clean and prepare, had stood and sat round the island to serve and eat and talk, and had gathered at the table and at the island, with both spaces feeling part of the same meal. And there it was, with actual people there, David eating all the corn chips he could stomach, Jim teasing about the garlic in the guacamole, Felicity and Paul finding a way to be both with the group and also out of the stir of noise on the couch in the lounge. The space is lovely—large enough to hold us all and small enough to contain us nicely. The kids could all eat and then head upstairs for a video. The adults could move around the kids and then spread out without them. The sunset could be part of our celebration, filling the windows and turning us all lustrous. The house, as it turns out, can hold quite a lot of beauty and quite a lot of laughter. I hope that it will have ample opportunity to be so filled.

Padding through the house in the dark afterwards, aware that Rob was sleeping in the bomb shelter and Paul was the first guest in the guest room upstairs, I had the sudden realisation that this house was, if not finished really, at least finally whole. And here, coming home in the rain at the end of this utterly busy month, I am wholly satisfied.

20 April 2008

Key notes

And so it is now over, this terribly stressful and high-performing beginning of April. Two SOI workshops in two countries, two major presentations in front of large groups (one at Harvard, one in Auckland), two presentations in front of smaller groups. I have taught 9 out of the 20 days so far this month, travelled on seven of the 20 days (twice for 24 hours each). I am thrilled to have it all behind me. Ah, but it’s been fantastic too, better and better from hindsight. (Below me on this plane from Auckland to Wellington I’m watching what happens when a river lets out into the sea, currents and colour shifting and swirling. This country is so majestically beautiful I can’t believe it!)

One last story from this trip, and then I’ll look ahead to coming home to my lovely new house and my family and my friends and the life and work I’m building here. My lecture at Harvard went very well Monday, but because I am fantastic at turning everything into something to worry about, I found a way to turn that success into an anxiety: namely, that it had gone well because this was a friendly American audience and I understand how to make sense of those and reach them, and thus I was totally screwed about the large New Zealand audience I’d face on Saturday morning. I was stoic in my resolve, though, that this would be an interactive session, even though the kiwis were unlikely, culturally, to want to interact. I designed and redesigned, and finally was ready(ish).

The Minister of Education was going to speak first, and I did not anticipate the kind of pomp and circumstance that would bring. He was announced with a loud Maori call, and we all stood up as he marched down the stairs and into the room, to the song—a waiata—of the group. This was an Official Welcome, and I was delighted to be in my seat and not up on stage yet (they had asked, and I’d declined). And I thought about how horribly uncomfortable I would feel in that Minister’s place, how icky it would be to have all the people standing for me and singing for me. Ugh. He gave his speech and I tried not to work myself into a froth of nerves. And then, in a rush, he was gone, and I was up.

I broke many of the conventions of the previous keynotes: told jokes, wandered around the stage rather than standing behind the podium, asked them questions to which I didn’t know the answers. In the first couple of minutes, when I told them to talk to each other about a question I had asked, a woman in the front row gasped audibly. I laughed at her—with her—and commented about her shock. The crowd laughed good naturedly. We were off.

I taught a very basic one-hour intro to adult development which was not the thing they were expecting to hear at this teachers’ union conference. But they were patient and kind and laughed and volunteered every bit as willingly as Bob Kegan’s students had. Even more, the small group of Maori teachers—who had been the ones to lead the singing around the minister—sometimes called out “Kia ora!” after I had said something they found particularly worthy of comment (I had thought that meant “welcome” but I’ll have to ask someone). Suddenly it was very much like being in an African-American church with the chorus of “amens.” I would smile and carry on.

Finally it was over. Miraculously, I had used the time just right and had come to the end of my content and the end of my allotted time simultaneously. I was so relieved it was over—and pleased with how willing and interactive the audience had been—that I could hardly contain my joy. But then, something happened. The Maori group stood up and began to sing. To me. This was not a pre-planned ceremonial marker, but an impromptu thank you. In lovely harmony, with spontaneous hand-waving and facial expressions, the group sang. The only words I could make out were haere mai which means “welcome” and Aeotearoa, the word for New Zealand. I, who had known that I would die of embarrassment if this group sang to me as they had sung to the Minister, stood on the stage, beaming so fiercely I thought my face would break. They were welcoming ME to New Zealand! They were saying that this too is my place.

Afterward, there was a lovely outpouring of conversation and complements. Rose, came up to be sure I understood the double honour of the waiata: both the fact that they did it and the song that they had picked. “They’ve welcomed you here,” she explained. “Now you’re really one of us.”

And so it’s true that maybe I don’t have easy roots in Cambridge anymore, and maybe I don’t have long roots in NZ, either. But here at the end of a long trip, it all feels ok. I have rolled around the airport floor tickling Aidan, walked up the beach to the pizza shop for dinner, and admired Naomi in her new coat, complemented all the work done on the house in my absence. I feel very welcome indeed. Haere mai, haere mai, Aeotearoa.

18 April 2008

In transit

I am on a dark plane somewhere over the Pacific. This plane, unlike every other plane I’ve flown on in the last 18 months, is not full. I have had this little row of two seats—the last two seats on the plane—to myself to attempt to fight the armrests and stretch a little. I have slept much more than I’d have guessed I’d sleep, and I’m still noticing that it’s 2 am in New Zealand, which might mean it’s a little early to wake up! But here, in the dark silence of my back row, it seems like a wonderful time to reflect upon the bright busy-ness of my trip.

I had believed that this trip wouldn’t change me at all, mostly because I was doing things that I have done before and going to places I have been before. What is the change in that? What I have discovered, though, is that I am different after my time in New Zealand, and so those places and relationships and things are different too. One of the differences has been my relationship to Cambridge and to Boston. There are ways that those places feel more like home to me than any place else I’ve ever been. Joan’s apartment—where I have stayed each time I visited Boston for the past six years—is the only address in the US I know by heart anymore. That feels like home for me.

And Cambridge—neighborhoods ugly and beautiful, urban and more suburban, teeming with people from every culture and nationality—has felt like the place where my heart beats most in rhythm. At dinner with a friend, I watched the sunset from his apartment windows and then watched the lightening sizzle through the clouds while we talked about leadership development and personal practice and complexity. These aren’t conversations I get a lot of in places outside of Cambridge, and I felt my toes pull down into the ground and try to take root in this city where I have felt most fully myself in my life.

Ah, but Cambridge has a reputation for being overly-heady and precious. It is the most liberal of the liberal intellegencia, and it irritates people in it’s self-absorption. I have known this reputation a long time, and have disagreed with it. Or at least I used to. In the days that I was in Cambridge, as I found my toes trying to root, I also found myself repelled by that preciousness, that grandness. As I would watch myself in conversations with groups over dinner, or pass through conversations with other people, I felt pushed away as well as welcomed; felt a deep longing to be in the center of it and also a frustration with the very partial view from that center. And there was the discovery: my heart does not beat fully in synch in Cambridge anymore. I am no longer fully of that place. I used to think that of all the places in the world, I belonged most there. Now I am beginning to doubt that there is anyplace in the world I will feel that way about.

This doubting has a kind of delightful freedom in it, and a kind of sadness. I have packed them both in my carry on luggage and stowed it under the seat in front of me. I’m going home first to Auckland, to give a speech for a large group of teachers and then a workshop for a smaller group of administrators. I will be instantly aware that these are not my people either. They will be harder to warm up than groups in the US (the Harvard class was singularly delightful and easy to warm up and the SOI workshop was a kind of intellectual and spiritual lovefest) and they will know instantly that I am from Away. Perhaps we will be together long enough for them to realise that I share some fundamental sensibilities with them; perhaps I will carry that knowledge and they will not. I will seem very much not at home.

But then, when I get off the plane in Wellington on Sunday afternoon and see my family at the gate, there is no doubt I will feel myself at home. When I walk into my new house and roll on the floor with my dog and see my dear friends here, my heart will beat in time with my life here. And when I walk on the beach with family and friends, and come back to my lovely new kitchen, it’s hard to imagine that my toes won’t reach down, rooted in this place, which is also not fully me.

While I was waiting for the airplane in Boston, Mom called to tell me that The Fax had come. I thought I might begin this trip with the news that I had finally made the last step in the tenure track; instead, I ended it that way. Now I have a thing I used to long for as a child who moved each year to a new city; a solid and stable base: “an appointment without term.” I can teach at George Mason for the rest of my life. How does this play unfold next? I don’t know, the ink is still so wet on these pages that it’s smudging in unexpected ways.

12 April 2008

Traveling through times

Dad and I had a seriously unexpected adventure in New York City. We had gone in with nothing much planned and not much time to do it—a decent combination. There are billions of things to do in NYC and we kind of wanted to do them all, or, failing that, not to do any of them. One of the things I mentioned as we were kicking around ideas for the day was a visit past the new New York Times building which I had seen in stages as it was being built. I thought it might be interesting to see the building, and I thought, from something I had read at the construction site a couple of years ago, that there might be a gallery of cool photographs taken over the course of the project. For some reason, when we got out of Penn Station with not even 3 hours to play around, we took one look at the grey and chilly day and headed for the NYT.

It is a lovely building. We found it and went in and took pictures in the typical tourist way. And as we were being tourists, real live employees, just going about their work day, walked in and out of the gates. I realized that I am somewhat star-struck about those who work there, and I wondered which of these men and women in slacks and shirtsleeves had written words that I had read, or would write—maybe this afternoon—words that would be circulated around the world and end up in the New Zealand Herald’s Sunday World news section. As I admired these strangers, Dad mentioned that he had read in his alumni magazine recently that his first love was an editor at the Times. “See if she’s really here, Dad!” I said.

“I don’t even know her last name,” he answered.

I, who have some experience helping people (ok, mostly Naomi) do things they don’t want to do, suggested that he could just try the last name he knew for her. Shockingly, that tactic worked (who knew it worked better for your parents than your children?). He talked to the guard, and came over in about 20 seconds, too fast, I figured, to have gotten real information.

“I have her extension number,” he said in disbelief (I had figured wrong). “Now what do I do?”

“You dial it, Dad,” I told him.

“What if she answers?”

I laughed, “You tell her who you are!”

He looked anxious, but again, unlike Naomi, just picked up the phone and dialed. Instantly he began to talk—so fast I wasn’t sure whether he was leaving a message or not. “Hello Jody, this is Jim Garvey from 100 years ago and believe it or not, I’m in the lobby downstairs from you.” [a pause] “Ok, then, you’re sure?” [another quick pause] “Ok.” And then he put down the phone and turned to the guard. “She says it’s on the 3rd floor,” he told the security guard, who was already making out Visitor badges for us. Dad looked at me wide eyed, and we walked through the entry gates like we belonged there.

The elevator door opened onto a corridor empty except for the pretty woman standing to meet us. She and Dad smiled at each other and hugged, and I stood wondering what to do with the woman who was my father’s first serious girlfriend (Dear Miss Manners…). Shake her hand? Plus she was an editor at the finest newspaper in the world. Perhaps a kind of a curtsy would be best? But no, she’s incredibly warm, and I was hugging her before I had gotten all the way through the mix of options in my head. Dad was clearly running through all of the possibilities in his head, too. What does one say to a woman you haven’t seen in 40 years. “How have things been?” seems a little casual; “Tell me everything that’s happened since we last met,” seems a little insincere.

She was completely cool about it, as though ex-boyfriends show up all the time to say hello. She showed us her desk and gave us a tour of the new building. She talked about the move from the old building and the culture change, she wondered what Dad did and where I was from. And there was something supremely surreal about it, this polite gentle woman with this gracious tall man walking through the most famous newsroom in the world. They knew nothing about one another and had to go slowly, as though they were total strangers, as they pieced together stories about where they were now and where they had been for the last four decades. We sat down in the new café at the top of the building and drank coffee as they dealt out small pieces of their lives to one another. Tell me about all your siblings? How many children do you have? How long did you live in Holland? How did you come to work at the Times?

And then it was time to go and catch our train. We stood at the elevator, and we were back again to those pesky etiquette questions. What do you say to someone you haven’t seen for 40 years after you’ve suddenly reconnected and now are leaving? Hope to see you again soon? Let’s stay in better touch? Hope the next 40 are really good for you too? So we stood awkwardly in the corridor, trying to get as much of the story out as we could, and then we said goodbye.

On the sidewalk afterwards, we were both a little dazed. Each of us was replaying time and imagining different lives we could have led. What would it have been like if they had stayed together? Who would I be? And what if they had never met? Or if they had dated for another two years before breaking up (I was born in those two years). And we were transported back to a time in life which is behind us both—a time when you first decide who to make your life with, to have children with. The time when you decide, is this love The Love? I married my college love; Dad didn’t speak to his for 40 years. The weight of years and of choices piled behind us is inescapable even on my 37 year-old shoulders; it must be heavier still on Dad’s.

We walked back to Penn Station in companionable silence, each of us running through the tiny lines of choices that lead to big rivers of difference in our lives. We had had conversations over the course of the last two days about the things we fret about and about why those things are often so unworthy of our energy because they come to nothing in the end. Seeing Jody was a reminder that sometimes it works in the other direction, too. Sometimes choices have an unexpected heft. Dad hugged me goodbye before his train, and I watched him get caught up in the crush of people heading for New Jersey Transit on track 13. And now I’m on a train, too, headed north, back to a place I used to live and love, a university that changed my life, and friends whom I thought I might grow old with. My life speeds up like the leafless trees blurring outside my window. I would never go back and unpick the threads of my life, and I don’t think Dad would either. As he told Jody with a gentle joy, “Life has been very good to me,” and so it has. But the narrative of our lives is not clear as we live it forwards, and I saw today that it’s not clear as we look back on it and try to explain it, either. Words and memories layer together and blur, and all we really have is this moment, cold hands on a keyboard, glossy lake mirroring winter-bare trees.

(pictures today obvious except for Dad walking on the property of Teddy Roosevelt's house during a magical day yesterday)

11 April 2008

Re-vising America

Another day, another train. Zooming through grey countryside which turns to semi industrial mess which turns back to countryside, although the countryside is losing with every mile On a New Jersey commuter train to New York city where I’ll meet Dad in Penn station by the Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Ahh, two things I love deeply: Dad and Krispy Kremes!

I have stuffed my too heavy bags in the skinny baggage place on the train, and will struggle to get them out again. My arms and back are sore from dragging them from place to place yesterday. Only nine more days to drag them. The conductor comes on with her flat American accent and warns us that this train will become extremely crowded. She says those words with an emphasis that fills my heart with dread. Now it’s empty and I can save a seat for the seriously unlikely event that Dad will catch this train too. At Newark, I’ll give up the window seat, but I’ll retain this perch on the aisle where I can see the rogue who tries to de-wedge my two bags and steal the books and chocolate I’ve already purchased.

Today I did the MBTI for a group at Princeton. They were lovely and I felt the delight at the work I get to do. They pay me to be in a room with interesting people who are trying to be better together. Who could be luckier than me?

I am experiencing the US so differently this time. This is my third time back since I moved here nearly a year and a half ago, and the first in 9 months. And I am seeing it in a new way, with eyes I haven’t used before. It is easy to complain about the US, to complain about the loud Americans. My flight from California to the east coast was classic: the flight attendants treated the customers badly, the customers treated the flight attendants badly, the woman next to me talked endlessly on her cell phone, without pausing for breath, until we pushed away from the jetway. I told Michael that it was a caricature of life in the US and he pointed out that there was no caricature—this WAS life in the US. True enough.

Now, one train ride over, I am siting on the chilly floor outside Krispy Kreme stand in Penn station, the last sweetness of a chocolate iced doughnut lingering on my tongue. Dad’s plane was delayed, he said when he rang from the airport, so he’ll be late here. And so I have the odd, floor’s-eye view of America you get from this train station. What a strange and beautiful and horrible country.

A homeless man shuffles in slippers inches from my face, laughing uproariously at something in his head, stinking of booze and urine as he pushes his walker right by me. A young Asian woman taps him on the shoulder to offer him money. He laughs again and wheel-shuffles on. Business men in suits come by, talking importantly on their cell phones, their roller-bags rumbling on the ground behind them. Women in high heels tap tap by, effortlessly moving four inches off the ground with $1000 laptop bags thrown casually over their shoulders. That woman is carrying a cup of Starbucks coffee in one hand and a smallish tree in the other. This African American red-capped porter walks by with a Latino blind man and a White blind woman with her guide dog. The dog looks alert and friendly, and he and I are nearly nose to nose as they walk by. Some people sprint through the station, bags and coats streaming behind them, and I catch a tiny glimpse of the plotline of their lives. In a movie, their making or missing this train would have key significance. How about in their actual lives? The strolling strangers glance at me curiously, as I sit in my work clothes with my bags in front of the Krispy Kreme. They can’t place me with the homeless people or with the business people. I understand their plight, though, as I had the woman next to me on the floor marked as homeless until her friend came over, dragging her suitcase and bringing her dinner. Watch your assumptions in New York City.

I can’t decide whether it’s this country that’s different or whether I’m different here. Here I smile at strangers, and their faces light in a return smile. I helped an old African-American woman carry her many fast food items from pick-up counter to cashier, and she beamed at me. I chatted with the fellow making my sandwich and gave directions to someone who wasn’t sure about the commuter rail. I’m discovering that these crowds of people make angry clashes more possible, but they also make friendly encounters more possible. Michael and I used to have a game that we played—we’d catch someone’s eye with a broad smile and warm hello and see whether we could get them to smile back. It’s not a game we play in NZ where the people are less likely to be outrageously ugly to each other—and also less likely to be particularly friendly with strangers. I don’t think I do this in New Zealand, don’t think I carry things for strangers or offer directions. Is that me, culturally turtled, knowing that my accent marks me as a foreigner and potential tourist and shy about that?

Or is it that this place is simply more open, more out there with emotions and ideas and words everywhere? Perhaps the US draws out from me some of my more open qualities too, and New Zealand draws more of my quietness to the surface. As I worked with the lovely people from Princeton--a group so mixed in age and race and culture--and I think Yes, there is an American dream. It's tarnished, and it is NOT an equal opportunity dream maker, but it is an amazing goal to reach for in any case. It turns out I do love this country and what it stands for--just as I can't stand this country sometimes, or what it loves. I am a jumbled, conflicted mess, here on the floor of Penn Station, and that mess is reflected in the coils of people swirling around me. There are ways that I do not belong here in this over-crowded, overly-powerful country. And there are clearly ways that I am now home.

09 April 2008

Climbing to next

Here in DC on the Metro for my first and last time during this little blip of a trip to DC. I am filled with longing for all the things I didn’t get to do this week—didn’t get to see my friends or students or colleagues, didn’t see any family other than my mother and my brother, didn’t get to go to any museums, didn’t get to even spend much time with Mom or Will, really. A tiny moment in time, now over.

And so I am on this totally familiar subway in an unfamiliar way. I have snuck in and am sneaking out. I have spent less than 48 hours here. I have already bought too many books and too much chocolate and am struggling under the weight of the bags. And this on a trip when I brought no presents to offload once I got here (who can carry presents too?). I am weary and my arms hurt from dragging the bags. And this is just the beginning of the trip!

What of it? I did classic being-with-my-mom things, went to my favorite second-hand store (new jeans) and looked for winter coats on sale for the kids (one, for N). I had lunch at Mama Ayesha’s, a restaurant I have been going to since I was 10, the first and last restaurant I ate in when I moved to and from DC. In the ugly grey weather, we drove around the monuments so that I could see the cherry blossoms (but we didn’t get out because Mom is so allergic to the spring). I saw tulips and flowering trees and hills of daffodils. Given where spring is in DC, I’m guessing there will be very few flowers as I head north.

My last day in Wellington was purpose-built to draw me back (as though I wouldn’t be drawn back anyway!). Michael and I dropped the kids at Sunday school and wandered down to the waterfront. We marveled at the starfish we could count on the rocks that line the shoreline in this clean little city. We watched the people queue up on the dock for fish fresh from the boats—snapper and octopus and kenna (=sea urchin). [Now passing by the Woodley Park stop where I used to live. Twice. All bittersweet.] We bought harvest-fresh fruit from the farmer’s market—peaches and apples and plentiful cheap capsicum (=bell pepper). Then, as the sky clouded over, we got the kids and wandered to the library, lunch, and finally to that most anticipated of treats: the indoor rock-climbing wall. On this wall the kids could put on harnesses, clip themselves to a belaying rope (to which their parents were attached), and struggle their way up high rock walls. I stood, pulling in the rope as Aidan climbed (and letting it out as he belayed down), admiring their efforts up and down the wall. I watched them reach as far as they could, reach, give up, try again. Aidan would get half-way up, get scared, give up, come down, and then celebrate how far he got up (without a shred of disappointment in himself for not making it all the way). “Do you want to go up again?” I’d ask, trying to support as entirely as possible his fantastic attitude. He’d look at me like I was crazy. “Of COURSE I want to go up again!” he’d tell me. “Didn’t you see how well I did last time?”

[Here on the train, the women behind me are talking about the food allergies of their children and wondering what to do about the limited food choices during Passover. Somehow this feels very very American.]

Naomi is a different kid. She’s more anxious about not making it all the way up, feels inadequate and bad with herself when it happens, searches for a way to rationalize it and make it ok. And, let’s face it, she pushes herself harder, tackles the hardest walls, races to beat her time again and again. It is a very mixed blessing, ambition.

And these two children are now half way around the world, and I'm the child, sleeping in a single bed in my mother's apartment, following after her and being the kid in the family again. I am a lot displaced and a little jetlagged. And so time and distance are morphing around. Gravity is losing its pull. There are starfish in a city, children climbing walls, adults becoming children. No wonder I'm dizzy with it all.

Tonight and tomorrow, I have a lovely little gig to help pay for the rock climbing wall and the lovely house I left behind. Tomorrow night I'll meet up with Dad and be in New York city. Let the displacement continue!

Pics today are obvious except the last one--a photo at the airport to register our distress at my departure.

06 April 2008

Coming a long way...

Here, as I pack for the US and hop on a plane, are some pictures of what I'm leaving behind.

The first is the sun setting over the South Island--taken from our front door. The second set are before and after pictures (the chaise under the window is from the room to the right of the lounge when you look out the front window at the sea). Zowie.

This house has come a long way, and now I'm going a long way away from it. But I'll be back...

04 April 2008

tired but happy

It was a lovely early autumn day in Wellington, but it’s pouring here on the coast, murky sky touching the sea and turning everything to grey. This is not a metaphor.

My quiet is because my week was so intense, and because every day there has been so much to do that I can hardly contain it all. This week I held the first of three Subject-Object Interview workshops that I’ll teach over the next eight weeks. These workshops are to help people begin their journey toward thinking about and using the SOI, the interview that measures adult development using Bob Kegan’s theory. It’s a hard thing to do, and so filled with richness that I can hardly talk about it without sounding like a total geek. And the SOI workshop is an intense experience, much like an SOI itself.

Of course, though, I usually teach these in the US. The one I teach in two weeks will be in my regular home base of Cambridge Mass and with my regular teaching partner Jim. The workshop I finished yesterday was in Wellington, and I planned for it and did all the intro prep thinking I’d do it on my own. In the end, though, the workshop got larger than I expected, and I asked the only other person I know of in the whole country if he’d like to help facilitate. Thankfully Keith said yes, and we were off.

There’s always this question about whether ideas and techniques will translate across cultures and countries. The group was eclectic—some of my friends and work colleagues, some people I have been wanting to work with but haven’t much, some people I never saw before. The outcome felt very familiar, though, a circle of intensely smart people paying seriously close attention to the deep thinking of others. It was a space—as it has been in other groups, in other countries—where we can talk about the growth and development of love, about how majestic human sense making really is, about the implications of our ability (and lack of ability) to see shades of gray.

I went home each day filled with joy and questions and emptied of energy. It was a fair enough trade-off.

And now I’ll do it again, in a country on the other side of the world. I’m facing this trip to the US with trepidation and exhaustion. I don’t want to leave my new house, my family, my dear friends. And the trip has gotten all out of hand because of some strange scheduling issues, which leaves me in DC too short a time to actually see friends and colleagues there. The serious benefit of that scheduling glitch is that Dad will fly up to New York and we’ll spend two days together there—an unexpected joy. And then the flurry of speaking in Bob’s class, of teaching the next SOI workshop, and of catching a plane back to NZ to give my first keynote address in Auckland.

Now watch this: I am dreading this trip to the US because of all the wonderful things I’m leaving behind here. I am loving this New Zealand life. But if I focus on the particulars of the trip, what I see is a time filled with possibility, doing work I love with people I love, seeing both parents and some of my dad’s family. And so it’s a mix. Leaving the things I love here, my partner and kids, the folks who are newly excited about the SOI and dying to talk about it, the dear friends I have (especially Carolyn and Jim, who only have a limited amount of time in NZ anyway) and the work I’m loving. And I’m going to things I love there—good work, fantastic friends, family I miss. Ahh, there’s always a mix, isn’t there? Human sensemaking is a beautiful thing.