Right Now in the Face of What Ifs

The Occupy protests are underway in the United States. Daily, I read news coverage of different occupations and their developments. I am inspired by the people who are currently dedicating their lives to raising awareness around issues of income inequality and corruption. A movement of this sort feels sorely overdue. While I sympathize specifically with the Occupy protestors, I am happy whenever real political and larger systems discussions take place. The level of participation and listening that is occurring within these groups is remarkable, and I hope it will provide an example for future communities and forums.

Yet, I am living in Germany while this all transpires.

A friend wrote to me that she visited the Occupy Albany site a few times. She wrote that if I was still in Albany, she knew I would be there. I think she is right. Often, I have ached to be participating in these actions. What if I was still in New York?

For every big decision a person makes, one is faced with a series of what ifs. The Occupy Movement is just another what if for me. While I can suppose that I would be participating, I do not know if that is true. Perhaps my job would have prevented active participation. Perhaps I would have had a bad experience at an encampment and left.

The truth is that this longing does not serve me very well and all I really have is right now. I can become hung up thinking about the what ifs, or I can celebrate that I took a risk and squashed a major what if that would exist if V and I didn’t come here: What if I never moved to Germany?

So, I hold the moment near, see all of the possibilities I do have, and try my best not to squander a thing.

In this particular case, I participate the best I can. I share stories and articles via social networking. I participate in conversations and debates with friends and family in the US, and new friends here in Germany. I consider my actions and choices and how they contribute to the very problems that OWS is highlighting.

This is very good training for the mountain of what ifs I will face over my lifetime. This is a practice in acceptance. This is a showcase of possibility. This is a celebration of now.

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(When In Doubt) Practice, Practice, Practice.

My days are filled with study. Usually, this is for my social work licensing examination, a test that I take early next month when I visit the United States. The license is not particularly helpful or necessary for any jobs that I could secure while here, but the thought of sitting for this exam in two or five or ten years when I return from Europe is even more daunting than preparing for it now. My typical weekday involves a whole lot of reading. I decided to banish the reading of novels, just as I had to do when I was in graduate school to ensure my sharpest reading attention was reserved for textbooks. Before my proclamation, I finished The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (that deserves a post all its own), choosing to lose time in that rather than Direct Social Work Practice and Contemporary Human Behavior Theory. It is not that I do not enjoy these books and the ideas they contain (I actually do like it a whole lot!), but rather that the prospect of the exam weighs on me heavily. I am quite worried about failing, slightly shocked by how often I come across questions where I deliberate between two answers that seem feasible to me. Doesn’t the absence of black-and-white, good-and-bad thinking mark a capable, effective social worker that is able to employ empathy and refrain from judging clients? Is it not the nature of social advocates to question right and wrong and encourage discussion to come up with the best solutions? Perhaps I am stretching a bit here, but this reframing sure makes me feel a bit better. Practice.

We have spent time with a few of V’s colleagues now. We visited someone’s house for dinner during the week and went to the lake to barbecue with a few others on Sunday (although rain required we move to a backyard halfway through the event). Both of these engagements involved such massive amounts of food, that I am continually shocked that I have seen only a handful of obese people in Germany. Additionally, the hospitality of all of our new friends continues to fly in the face of stereotypes of Germans as cold to newcomers. Everyone is quite generous with providing rides and food, helpful and patient as we practice our German pronunciation, and tolerant and even charmed as we ask questions that may be construed as inappropriate or invasive, but that are important as we orient ourselves to life here (Can we have a tour of your apartment? How much does this car cost?). I dream of when I know Deutsch better so that I can interact with far more people and on a better level. When my intensive classes begin at the end of September, I know my attention will go towards that. However, I can already recognize that I have a major hang up about appearing foolish and this inhibits me from engaging. Mistakes are inevitable and the longer I wait to speak, the more I will miss out on, I know. Yet, there is an intelligent mind and emotional mind disconnect. Practice.

A final development is that I assisted on my first wedding shoot. Early into our time here, someone at V’s job asked him to take some photos on their wedding day. It was not a grand ceremony, just the sharing of vows at town hall and a dinner in the evening, so between these events the couple wanted some portraits. Midday Friday, the bride and groom scooped V up from work and me from the hotel and we rode up the hills to a beautiful field. Each time we are lucky enough to ride out of Aalen I am awestruck at the green beauty of this place that I now live. With V’s encouragement, guidance, and vigor for photography, he is reigniting my own love of it. While I was just the backup for the particular day, I was pleased to come up with a few ideas and frame shots behind the camera. I am learning more of the technical aspects now and I hope that my emerging skills will enable me to bring the vision I have to life better. Practice.