Saturday, 29 March 2008

Floating away

Earlier this month, I wrote about the change that was beginning in Todos Santos, as the transient population started to drift away to the North. At the time, I was writing about something conceptual; an intellectual understanding rather than an experienced feeling.

Now, as we enter the last few days, I have floated to the surface from my engagement with life in Todos Santos, and the experience is quite different. While I am still here in many ways, my mind is also in Comox, where I live for the “summer” months, and Calgary, where I will probably be working part-time, reprising my life as a business strategy consultant.

The experience of having my roots here pulled forcibly from the ground, ready for replanting elsewhere, is certainly dislocating. At one simple level, I see life here in a more detached manner. I am fully aware that the thoughts and issues that preoccupy much of my time here, and the general pace of life in Todos Santos, where taking a few days to paint a gate or to recoat the roof is no big deal, will all become dreamlike as I enter a different location. I’ll still be aware of the way of life here, but it will appear incongruous in my new location, and I will marvel that I could have got so immersed in such an environment.

There is something deeper, though, that nags at me. For “Todos Santos Vic” is quite different from “Comox Vic”, and especially “Calgary Vic”. If we were to meet, we might see some physical resemblance (depending on the quality of haircut I get in the different places!), but we would probably be disturbed at the differences in the way we think and act.

I was hit with this quite forcibly when I sat down to prepare a proposal for some potential work in Calgary. Not that long ago, I would have zipped this off with ease, cutting to the key issues almost unconsciously. This time, it was as if the neural networks involved in this process were silted up. It wasn’t that I had become stupid, nor that I had forgotten all my years of experience. The engine was running, but the wheels didn’t want to move.

It was at that point I realized how much immersion in this place can change you. Todos Santos is a place where no one really cares about your past. Moreover, it sets no expectations of what you should be when you are here (other than being a little offbeat, not quite a “vanilla” person). Other places around here have, to my view, clearer expectations. Cabo expects you to party, or just make lots of money. San Jose is for staid vacationers. In Los Barriles, you had better be a fisherman or a wind surfer, and in the La Paz of at least a few years ago, you would be a yachtie. If you exclude the surfer subculture here (and I can’t swim, so that’s not a good target for me), then I don’t think there’s a definite mould to which you are expected to conform in Todos Santos. Many people take advantage of this freedom to reinvent themselves (and the more adventurous do so not only in respect of their current life, but also in weaving great stories of their splendiferous past). I, unconsciously, allowed myself to nurture my writing, and my ability to be present and to be less frantic.

The experience with preparing a consulting proposal, however, reminded of the truth that any good strategy consultant will tell you (and I was / am one). You can’t focus, successfully, on everything. Concentrating on something means that you have to defocus on something else. The growth that I have experienced in the ease of writing creatively and observing life, comes at the expense of being able to quickly and concisely slice to the core of a business issue and set out entirely logical paths to address the problems.

If it were simply that the skill sets deployed changed, I wouldn’t care much. Yes, the transition between states is painful, but within a short period of time, I will be able to function as effectively in the business world as I did before. What I think is nagging at me is that, perhaps, the changes in functional activities spread to the whole way I look at life and my behaviours, even to the core of who I am. Dealing with business in a fast paced environment such as Calgary, or engaging in lots of outdoor activities (as in Comox) will probably change key parts of me from the current Vic that is immersed in the cerebral, creative aspects of Todos Santos. If I can appear to change so dramatically, just who is the real me?

Of course, Robert Hall, the local Dharma leader, would probably say that the impression of any elements of a “me” is just an illusion to protect the fragile “El Yo” from understanding that it doesn’t have any true existence. It certainly appears to me that I am a more fluid being than I had once thought. Or perhaps adrift on a fluid sea, floating away?


andrea said...

I think living in three different places/exploring three different lifestyles is a great way to be all the people we are inside. I long for that kind of variety. But don't come back to Canada too quickly! We actually had snow (it didn't stick) yesterday and spring is very late this year.

Ian Lidster said...

Sometime when you're in Comox we should get together for a coffee, as soon as you are comfortable with the Comox Vic. I'd also be interested in how you work your part-time down south gig. I envy that and would love to look in similar directions.