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We can do it!The Under-engagement Phenomenon

I live in a region of the country that isn’t quick to engage. As a matter of fact, my engagement efforts usually result in those smiles – you know the ones – that mean the pepper spray is just one more enthusiastic comment away. Don’t get me wrong – my homies here aren’t jumping to engage me via pepper spray, either.
Yes, it’s the Midwest. But more than that, it’s the Heartland Midwest. Deep in. And here, the people are pleasant. They smile a lot. They make small talk in exactly the right circumstances. When something irrefutably awkward happens. At the library. During a book reading. When the (non-native) reader says, “Please, talk among yourselves!”
Today, I went for a ski in the state park in town before some sub-sub-sub-zero temps plus seriously assy winds are supposed to set in. When my husband and I arrived we saw a group just packing up. They were very smiley. I said to my hubs as we hit the trail, “Why didn’t we talk to them?” You see, the ski crowd ain’t too big here, it would make sense to know ‘em. And when we ski in, like, the Minneapolis area, there’s always banter with other skiers. My husband’s response: raised eyebrow. (That’s a Wisconsin thing, don’t even ask, she said with a Billy Idol Version 19.83 Lip Sneer, don’t ask, she’s from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.) Another skier arrived as we were leaving, and I said, “Gotta get it in while we can, huh?” Smile.
I have, though, been engaged by some very refreshing Deep-in Heartland Midwesterners. And my yoga studio seems to be a downright haven for engagers. To these I say: Amen and om.
To those engaging in under-engagement, all across the nation, I say to thee: People, you do not need privacy when you are out in public. That’s what home is for. Except when people are “dropping in,” which is another movement I plan on starting, so hide while you can, bitches.

The Perverted Engagement Phenomenon

There’s also a little something I’ll call perverted engagement. (Disclaimer #2: Under no circumstances should you say “perverted” to a pleasant Iowan.) It’s the “Let’s get a rise outta people” tactic that mainstream media uses. Where under-engagement leaves me feeling ostracized, perverted engagement leaves me feeling testosteracized. I get all self-righteous. As if everyone else is self-wrongeous. And bam. I’m still all alone. Like this morning when I saw a local news outlet’s provoking gun-control post on facebook about that bar in Virginia that doesn’t want guns in it even though guns are perfectly legal dammit. It ended with this: “What do you think? Should a private business be allowed to pick and choose what laws they want to obey?”
Maybe, maybe we can engage about something else. Come on, intelligent life, can’t we?

The Positive Engagement Movement

Why engage? Without it, what do we have? Zombiemerica. Angrymerica. A sense of disconnect. A loss of the huge potential awaiting us through spontaneous connection. We miss out on things. Inspiring, fascinating, stimulating things, like me.
You don’t have time for it? Fun fact about others in the world: we have lives, too. We come equipped with a Spontaneous Engagement Duration meter. A SED. As in, “Shit, I SED too much.” You use yours, I’ll use mine. (Disclaimer #3: No, I will never apologize for my awesome cray-cray acronyms. I might apologize for saying “cray-cray” two years after it was cool.)
Positive engagement – we can do it! It’s anything that allies us. That brings us together and has us remembering that connection has greater value when it extends beyond valuing taking care of our own – only. The cure for our cultural malady of disconnect is pretty simple – practice connection. It’s a practice, dammit. Practice it. Everywhere. Engage with me. Hey, it’s not Virginia – I promise I’m not packing.

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