Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Accruing Social Capital

I don't think I'm alone in holding the contradictory desires to stay home and to go out. I often want to retreat from the world while simultaneously wanting to get out in the world. My friend Denise speaks of stimulus-seekers and stimulus-avoiders as two personality types, and I find that a useful general categorization, but I think that each type can hold traits that categorize the other.

In my case the easy-for-the-moment thing is nearly always to stay home with myself, but the fulfilling- in-the-long-term thing is to interact with others. Actually, interacting with others is the fulfilling thing period, but I can sometimes forget that when it involves huge overwhelming tasks like walking out my front door and getting in my car. Can't I just open up a beer and watch the Food Network or something?

What I have found myself doing, to an absurd extent at certain periods of my life, is arranging things so that I have no choice in this matter. I commit myself to organizational responsibilities (or things that I believe are responsibilities, even though it's often clear that others don't agree with this assessment as regards themselves) that prevent me even from considering whether to stay home, things that force me to be out doing things with others. This has not been a conscious attempt to do "what's good for me" -- although on occasion the motivation has definitely been to do what I perceive as being good for the larger community, which isn't quite the same thing although it has the same effect.

Of late I've been wanting to hole up more than usual, to wallow in the waves of melancholy that seem to be lapping around me. There are several reasons for this feeling that I can point to. The larger political discourse is upsetting me tremendously at the moment, and that's something over which I feel tiny and helpless (it is partly this feeling of helplessness that is encouraging the melancholy). There is also the fact that the Morris team is on break and I'm still on leave from band. There's a few other things, as well, one of which was a sense of feeling unproductive at work, but that ended with a bang and an avalanche on Monday for which I'm just delighted.

I know that when this isolating melancholy hits that staying home alone amplifies the feeling. When I am out with others, participating in things (playing music, dancing, singing, even socializing at private homes), I gain better perspective and think about more than just myself and my mood. In that area, though, going out to bars can be risky, as it can encourage the self-involved sadness as easily as it can banish it, depending on who is there on a particular night. But I know enough to go home when this happens instead of drinking more (as I've seen others do).

Last weekend I was faced with a series of stay-home/go-out choices. In each case I went out, despite the current strong reluctance I'm speaking of, and this was good. I attended two open-house gatherings where I thought I wouldn't know many people, but in both cases the invitation was a reach-out friendly gesture and I thought it important to respond; this does, in the long run, increase the chances of establishing friendships. I dropped by for half of Shape-Note singing, even though this meant squeezing it between two other events because as our annual Convention approaches it's important that we check in with each other (and I do feel an obligation to attend when I can -- if I want there to be regular shape-note singing I should be a regular shape-note singer, that's how I view it). I went to the two-stepping Saturday dance at the VFW hall and also to Lee's for a bit on Sunday (where I wound up watching the Red Sox game more than dancing, as it turns out); occasionally these events feel just wonderful, but you never know when that will be and it is regular attendance that allows the occasional sublime experience. As regards that last thought, this is also why I dropped by the Eagle twice, although both times there were few people I knew and I grew bored fairly quickly (although I had a great time the previous three visits there, so my recent batting average is still good).

On Monday I went to the Freedom Band picnic, even though I'm still on leave and even though I was late getting home from work and, again, very much wanted to stay home. But I got to witness a wonderfully silly kickball game (brass and percussion vs. woodwinds), and to meet the new conductor. You could rightly call that networking, but I prefer to call it accruing social capital.

My point here is that it was a pretty full weekend, even though I spent a large part of it struggling to get out of the apartment. I have to remind myself that for me in particular it is always better to be of the world than out of it. You'd thank I'd have learned that lesson for good decades ago.
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