I lose the mom I grew up with to Alzheimer’s every day. This loss began roughly 12 years ago for me and is with me every day. Others who love her live with similar loss—we each lose her in different ways and stages.
You may see her smiling face in photos and think that the woman you knew is with me. You are wrong.
The woman with me today is someone entirely new. She’s new each day now. This woman speaks very little. She doesn’t follow conversation. She no longer sleeps poorly: she sleeps much of the time. She hasn’t known my name, or her own last name, for more than a year now. She calls dad, lovingly, “The guy.”
When Daniel and I walk in, mom usually recognizes Eva the dog first, then looks up, remembering that she loves us. Or, she at least loves us for bringing a dog to play with her. She smilingly pulls the dog and I down the hall to her dresser to show us the new bracelet or socks or sweater that the guy bought her yesterday. “He’s so good,” she often says. The love and strength that it must take to awaken with a stranger in your bed each morning? Yeah, I can’t even fathom that one yet. Its a love beyond all reason. I revere both parents more as a result.
Spoken and written language gone, mom can’t tell her stories in traditional ways, so she gets creative: using props, gestures, silence, telepathy, empathy, almost-right words, and half words. Which is cool. I love her stories now: each one is a collective haiku crafted of magic. Dad’s stories have lengthened, artfully weaving past and present together: a shawl around our shoulders.
Some days, while mom and I are walking down the grocery aisle she says to me “Hey! I really like you.” And I flush, flattered, knowing that she likes me as a stranger. “That must hurt,” people assume and, too often, say. But most days it doesn’t hurt. I am with a woman who likes me for me. Because of who I am in the moment. She likes me without expectations, family ties, history, or baggage of any kind. And maybe sometimes, because I just put lemon cake—a favorite of hers—in the cart. This sweet new woman likes me as a total stranger. I like her too.
Loss has shown me how “I like you” can be more powerful than I love you.
Loss demonstrates that the coolest stuff is always happening around the words. Difficult to see at a distance, while distracted, or worrying. Loss stills me into better noticing.
This year, I notice that staying with loss has immunized me considerably against the promotion of the always-winning, always-first (and ultimately violence-inducing) cultural myth and its associated orange-haired icon that flashes out at me from all the screens. Those who scream that always winning makes us strong and powerful ultimately haven’t got a clue. Been there. So very glad to be done with that.
If you want to feel strength, gently stay with your loss or a least visit on a regular basis. Listen. Hold her hand. Slow down with her. Be her friend. Walk into and through anger with her: into and through hate. Weep. Breathe. Go for a walk. Accept help from nature and cool people. Eat healthy foods. And put an occasional lemon cake in the cart to mend your hearts. That, friends, is what deep winning feels like. It honors loss. Deep winning eases minds and lifts hearts in all directions around it. Deep winning is hearing “Hey, I really like you.” from a total stranger who you—lucky you—already love like family.
There’s an article circulating this week called Why Relationships Should Be ‘HELL Yeah or No.’ It’s targeted at millennials, and about love relationships, but the headline drew us in and got some of my Gen X friends and I talking about work projects and work relationships. To the point I was told to blog about it. So here goes: ideas about finding abundant life between HELL Yeah (I love this work!) and No (I don’t want do this anymore.) at work.
1. Trust HELL Yeahs and Nos about the work itself
Here at mid-life, I’ve noticed that I use a Hell Yeah and No approach for taking on new work projects and for sticking with work projects. Not out of any particular personal wisdom (which I’m hoping comes later in life): simply because when I don’t trust my own HELL Yeahs and Nos — and the HELL Yeahs and Nos of those I’m working with — we end up having way too many Oh HELL NO! moments. On work projects now, I’m all in, I take breaks when I’m not feeling all in, and then I return when I’m all in again. I allow others to do the same. Together we work on encouraging and allowing ourselves to do this and learning not to take it personally when others need to walk away. Helps us stay happy and interested and engaged and productive. Helps us know when it’s time to take a break, time to let go of responsibilities and take on new ones, bring others in to help or take over, and move on completely from work, too. The extreme ends of the spectrum can be helpful for making day-to-day choices about the work itself. This works especially well when everyone feels they have the ability to work while energized and to slow down or stop or leave or move on when they’re not.
2. The ends of the spectrum aren’t enough for long-term friendships and work relationships
Thankfully, humans are too beautifully complex and interesting to settle for just two choices. There is so much more to learn…
a. Ask “Where am I on the spectrum between Hell Yeah and No right now?” and be willing to move away from a new-to-you No
For me, work projects eventually end, while friendships and working relationships may last a lifetime. Long-term human relationships require an understanding of where I myself am on the spectrum between the HELL Yeah and No at any given time and a courageous willingness to shift, move, and let go. For example, there are many Hell Yeah-at-our-core people in my life who I have walked away from for a year, or a decade, during years that we, or our work, became Nos for each other. But that doesn’t mean they’re out of my life forever. When we listen to new Nos and let go of each other “for now” (well before feelings get hurt beyond repair and definitely before contempt settles in), then often the parting really is “just for now.” Many friends and work colleagues return, eventually. At least here in my indie, work-for-yourself corner of the work world. For those who don’t return, I still get to love the memory of them and pop online to see what they’re up to now and then, share a recipe, or share news about work they might be interested in.
b. Notice if your No is an intuition-screaming-loudly No or a self-doubt No and be willing to move toward the occasional self-doubt No
When it comes to new people, many Nos from the beginning tend to stay Nos, simply because they aren’t given the chance to come farther into my life. That’s ok. Sometimes our No instincts are screaming loudly, and when they’re that loud, they’re spot on. Trust yourself. I’ve left jobs, social groups, and spaces when a screaming loudly Oh HELL NO-for-me showed up. I’ve never regretted those choices.
Sometimes our Nos aren’t about the other person at all: they’re about us, being stretched, and our own fears about our ability to handle something. For example, I eventually became friends with a guy at work who was a No-for-me as a work partner the first time we met. I read his fast decision making and organizational political savvy as “slick and untrustworthy.” Yet we had compatible goals, complementary skill sets, and we decided to stick together. We eventually ended up loving working together because we had opposite strengths that we could suddenly both draw on. We ended up wildly successful as a result. He eventually became an Oh Hell Yeah! friend for life. I carry him in my heart now no matter where we go or what we do: the same is true for the other three friends in that self-organizing work group. For me, reimagining the No is about reimagining ourselves together. This tends to require trust and respect that starts with trust in and respect for yourself. Can I trust and respect this someone who is remarkably different from me? And can I still trust and respect myself in their presence? If so, and if they can say the same about you, then together we can reimagine ourselves, changing our initial Nos into a mutual Oh Hell Yes! I learned a valuable lesson from this friend about work partnerships and about myself. Sometimes we need a No to grow. To round out an amazing small work group. To collectively pull ourselves from good to great. To get to another level of Oh HELL YES! for all of us.
3. Watch for the hidden gifts within Oh HELL No! at work
Everyone I know has had many Oh HELL No! work experiences early in life. Many of them are about us: part of growing up and learning to play/work well with others. Many of them aren’t actually about us as individuals and are instead the natural outcomes of the antiquated work systems and cultural norms we inherited from those who came before us and the beliefs and ideas we unconsciously hold as a result. Our Oh HELL No! work experiences point directly at the real, often hidden, work that we are actually doing: improving our cultures and work systems for ourselves and those who come next. Many people make entire careers out of their Oh HELL No! experiences: tapping the energy within THIS WILL BE DIFFERENT FOR THOSE WHO COME NEXT! to pull forth massive social, professional, and personal change.
For those of us who love to work, and imagine ourselves working across our entire lives, I suspect there is never a complete escape from Oh HELL No! work experiences. There’s just too much work left to do to create work systems, cultures, and selves that more fluidly work well together and more fairly and justly work period. If we’re lucky, we can imagine the world of work into a playground: remaking many of our own No and Oh HELL No! experiences into sparks for innovation and change together. I believe that those of us who can imagine this have a responsibility to do so: not only for ourselves and those who come next but also for all of those today who are crushed, beaten down, or killed by old ideas and outdated systems and patterns of thought. This is my belief. For me. Part of my own Oh HELL YES! I’ve yet to live in a way that allows me to get entirely past Oh HELL No! at work now and then. Maybe next month. Speaking of that…
4. Watch extra close for the gifts within Oh FUCK NO! work experiences
I can say from recent personal experience that as you age — learning more skills, better understanding yourself and peers and environments, gaining more credibility and respect, and having more work colleagues willing to connect you to perfect-for-you others — that it is possible to delude yourself into thinking that you’ve moved past Oh HELL No! work experiences. And I can also say that it’s at this self-satisfied moment that you are perfectly primed and ready to land hard, on your ass, within an Oh FUCK NO! work experience.
This fall, Daniel unexpectedly lost his day job. Just like that, 85% of our income vanished. At the same time, we were also helping my parents (mom with Alzheimer’s disease and dad a tired primary caregiver of 10+ years) pack and move across the country. At the same time we were preparing our Seattle home for sale and awash in a sea of floor repair, countertop replacement, and cleaning/beautifying projects. And I was also trying to get not one, but two, books published. We were stressed, tired, and too busy. And I lost my way again. I took on several new work projects/clients in a hurry: rushing and making decisions out of fear and while exhausted. One of those clients had work processes and systems and cultural norms and expectations that were wildly outside my own comfort zone, and I had no interest in changing myself, or connecting with them, to make things better. But I stayed anyway. Out of fear. And just six days in I totally lost it. Frustrated. Angry. Trapped. After ending my work days sobbing, for three days in a row, Daniel had to tell me to quit. I couldn’t even see it for myself. I ended up hurting myself and Daniel, and to a lesser extent an old friend who offered me the work, and an employment agency, in the process.
My own Oh FUCK NO! work experience was not primarily the result of broken old systems and antiquated cultural norms and expectations. This one was the direct result of me over-booking myself, not standing in/working from my own power, and making decisions out of fear. I know the difference now between a primarily-a-Lori-problem and a primarily-a-system-problem and this one was on Lori. Yes, their system had problems. Massive problems. As do most of our large work systems today. But I showed up to work with zero interest in connecting and becoming part of any small group that could make them better. This was work I should not have been doing. I suspected it ahead of time. I became more certain the moment I started it. I knew it more deeply every day that followed. But I ignored my loudly screaming intuition. And, surprise, surprise, I landed in an Oh FUCK NO! work experience.
Fortunately, I have a wide support system, a great partner, and generous, forgiving work colleagues. I was given the chance to say “I’m sorry. I messed up. I shouldn’t be here. I need to go. Right now.” And I was graciously forgiven my mistakes. By everyone. The employment agency even let me keep a bonus I’d been given for bringing the client to them and for connecting them with others in my field. Nothing pulls forth gratitude — and drives home noticing the deep privileges in your life — like being graciously forgiven for making big, ugly-crying, pain-inducing mistakes….
5. Be open to receiving the you-specific gift/lesson/insight
I have no idea what you took from this essay for yourself. Unless you choose to share, that’s not even my business. For me, this didn’t begin as an essay about the deep privileges of my work life or my skin color. But for me, now, how can it not be? When I get to count on gracious forgiveness, the-benefit-of-the-doubt, and getting to be fully human in my work life — even when it was definitely me who screwed up — while countless others can’t? When I get to quit a job — even when I need the money — because I so clearly should not be doing it? While countless others can’t? That’s total bullshit. We can do better. We must do better.
These are the rights I will fight for, and speak up for, for myself and others: the right to be fully human at work, the right to make mistakes, the right to be graciously forgiven for mistakes and to receive the benefit-of-the-doubt, and finally, the right to give up work and move on to something else when your intuition is screaming at the top of its lungs that you moving elsewhere will be better for everybody. This is a much needed comfort, insight, and reminder here in a month when I’m feeling down about book sales numbers and wondering where my next editing gig will be coming from.
Today, if we’re lucky, even our Oh FUCK NO! work experiences can become gifts that point us toward who we’re becoming and where we’re going next. I’m ready to help move these rights from for-a-lucky-few to by intention for everybody who wants them in their work lives. I don’t have to wonder anymore if I’m ready to go there now. I’m already here. This is already part of my own Oh HELL YES! and I have my own Oh FUCK NO! experience to thank for it.
Last week, a lovely researcher named Toni showed up in our space. She’s doing her doctoral dissertation on coworking, studying the ways people who work in coworking locations conduct their work (how they collaborate with others, what type of work groups they are in, and what types of tools they use). Lovely work, yay Toni! And we hit it off as humans, so she’s coming back to cowork with us this Wednesday. Yay us!
As we talked about more traditional work, and about work in coworking and other collaborative work spaces, I said something out loud that I hadn’t put voice to before.
WORK is cracking itself wide open for us right now.
What we do. How we do it. Who we work with. Where we work. WHY we work. To what end or no end we work. What titles we shed and accept and create. What we choose to receive for our work. What counts as work. How work becomes integrated into ourselves and our lives and our communities. The relationship of being and doing. The relationship of work and play. The value of work itself. All of it.
Right now all of it is open and ripe for interpretation and for reimagination.
Work is cracked wide open.
There was once a kind, humble, and smart guy who said “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
He didn’t say when.
But to me it feels that now is when or the beginnings of when anyway.
Back in those days meek meant gentle, kind, and humble. To my knowledge, it hadn’t yet picked up the negative “human doormat” connotation some jerk decided to give it along the way. Being meek was about being present, being open. It was about taking the time to notice. Allowing time for others to do the same. About receiving.
And (holy crap, I may have just happened across a point in record time) here’s the thing about work cracking itself wide open.
To see it, to feel it, to notice it, to recognize it, and to do something about it, we must meet it cracked wide open ourselves.
Cracking open happens in too many ways for me to describe, but I’ll mention a few. Maybe it means making a leap of faith away from work that sucks the life out of you. Or allowing your hobby to take over until there is no time left for your day job at all. Or seeing potential in yourself and your community where others see none at all. Or being so drawn to people that you start giving them all your time and energy before you even fully notice it. Or it may be about losing your job. Or losing a person you love. Or waving goodbye to the you you used to be. Or caring so much for someone or something that you literally can’t do anything else but what you’re being pulled to do now for them and for yourself.
Nobody can tell us how to get there. But I can speak about what it feels like.
Some days, being cracked open feels so good it makes you weep for the beauty you experience. It feels like the whole universe is pouring into you, filling a joyfully self-emptied vessel until you have universe running down your face. Some days, being cracked open feels like courageous vulnerability and you notice that the only solid ground that actually exists are the hands that reach out to hold yours as you steady yourselves together. Other days, being cracked open can feel like being a walking open wound, broken, bleeding. But all days—all days—when you are cracked open you are present, you are noticing, you are receiving.
So you know where I’m going with this, right?
We’re bringing back meek baby!
Blessed are the cracked wide open, for we feel new possibility in chaos. We feel order in the apparent “mess” and we give it the space, air, and sunshine it needs to grow and become visible. And we receive it gratefully, humble, never entirely certain where it came from or where it’s going to.
And so here we are. Already present among the meek. Already cracked wide open. If we weren’t we wouldn’t have time for this, for us.
So we can stop worrying that we aren’t doing the exact right thing, reading the right article, meeting the right people, getting the right funding, putting the right thing on the resume, getting the major visibility, being asked to join the right group, or school, or job, or think tank, and everything else we’ve been told we should want. We can just stop. Stop worrying. Stop searching.
We are right here.
We are the gentle and the kind. We are the noticers, the receivers, the players, the goofballs, and the sharers.
We are the cracked wide open, and we are inheriting our earth one backyard barter, one bamboo bicycle, one song, one game night, one box of local vegetables, one story, one doodle, one homemade sock monkey, one photograph, one kind word, one swap, one share, one new best friend on the other side of the world, one cup of tea with neighbors, one game of hopscotch, one gentle response, and one gift at a time.
We are inheriting the earth because this story is the one that is persisting, sustaining itself, and thriving while other stories crumble to dust.
And we are in damn fine company.
Have you noticed?
The word “quirky” has risen to the surface of my conscious world so often lately that clearly the universe wants me to talk about it.
According to the Google gods, it means: Characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits: “quirky charm”.
For me, the word quirky has become an indicator (aka, a Shrinkonian flag) for when I’m with someone of my culture. When I’m with Bas, or Tabitha, or Haulin Colin, or Martina of Swift Industries, or Del Webber, or Bernie, or Natalie, or Lisa, and so many others, I experience my true self, my best me. We’re all quirky—and many are farther down this amazing circular path than I am. I’ve come to think of quirky as the only defining characteristic of my culture.
When I’m at a business conference–even a really cool one like the Kaizen Camp here in Seattle this summer–I am experienced as quirky by many. “You turned your home in the CD into a free community coworking center? Are you crazy?” And the warmer response of people who fully recognize me as one of them: “Oh! That’s so cool!” That I am both crazy and cool was my own take-away from Kaizen Camp.
Quirky–both crazy and cool–is ok with me. Better than ok, actually. Through our Different Office work, I’ve come to think of Bas, Simone, Daniel, and me–plus all the storytellers we find–as the ambassadors of quirky. We are a gentle introduction to the real, wild, weird world that so many folks in the corporate world fear but that is really far more rich and beautiful and amazing and messy-delicious than you can imagine until you get here.
Our strongest ancestors took derisive words applied to them and made them their own. They owned their words. Today, the quirky are doing the same.
Quirky is an even better adjective than authentic because it is simultaneously more mature and more immature. And it can be both, bitches, because it’s quirky.
I certainly feel it as a higher compliment than authentic and mean it as such when I apply it to others of my culture. We, the quirky.
Because I’ve always been, or strived to be, authentic. But in Lori Land, you can be authentic yet still be in the dark about who you really are as a human being or what you really want or what you’d really love to be doing this very moment. That is, you can be authentic to/within what’s expected of you by cultural or gender or family or religious or other norms. And you can feel content and happy within that pre-assigned authenticity—at least for a while, because that is part of you too.
But it’s not the all of you.
To receive the adjective quirky playfully, with joy, ah! That’s really something.
It seems to mean that my own voice within me is being heard clearly by me. That my own fears and “I shoulds” are being put into proper perspective. It seems to mean that I’m starting to see my “flaws” as things I really love about myself and others (viva la long-winded bloggers!) or as the special bits that others simply don’t have to the same extent I do.
Receiving the adjective quirky playfully means that I love the aspects of myself that I formerly thought were things best hidden away, weird, not good enough. And more, that I’m letting others see these parts of me, inspiring them to be more themselves too.
Being quirky also seems to demonstrate that we’re being authentic to our true selves on such a regular basis that loved ones notice the change and experience it themselves. Loved ones can be the hardest to convince sometimes–because they loved and often see the previous you, not the now you. I warned Daniel recently that I strongly suspected I might be sending a whole ship-load of quirky his way this year, beyond anything he’s previously seen from me. He expertly demonstrated the very definition of loved one for me. He gently reminded me that I’ve always been quirky, that he can handle any amount of quirky I throw his way (as demonstrated repeatedly by what he’s already done), and that, in fact, my new levels of quirky remind him of the many reasons why he loved me to begin with. That my quirky brings out his quirky, most days. A win win. Nothing my individual self should fear. So I stopped with the fearing.
One of the best parts about the quirky culture is that things that used to make me furious have lost much of their power over me. Not just the things about myself that used to make me furious–like my desire to make homemade soup and paint rocks and can vegetables and put a cozy blanket on the sofa come fall instead of changing the world in bigger, better ways. But also the things that used to make me furious at others–like the restaurant chain Hooters, for example, the mention of which used to launch me into a 10-minute lecture to anyone trapped nearby about who should and should NOT be allowed to call themselves “a family restaurant.”
Most moments now, I no longer think it’s my business to judge or change my quirky companions on this spinning ball of beautiful blue-green floating through starry black space. This quirky self loves quirky wherever she encounters it most days, and creates and co-creates it too. If some people want to wear orange silk shorts and tight shirts to express their quirkiness, more power to them. Really really.
How lucky we are to be here now. Our home, quirky, home.
This month, slow web culture found Bas and Simone and Daniel and I. I think of it as like the slow food movement, only more webby.
Slow web culture found us as we gathered stories for Different Office and recognized ourselves as craftspeople by listening to the stories of other craftspeople and taking great care with every word, and image, and person in the process.
It found us as I watched my husband produce photos that perfectly capture the joy and spirit of the people we interview who love their work and the work spaces they’ve created. It found us as we noticed that by pulling our crafts together that all our work is becoming exponentially better. And our lives too.
It found us as Bas and Simone sent me a rockin’ funny Foo Fighters video very late last Friday night (for them) when I was so frustrated and exhausted (from trying to help reunite four baby squirrels in our attic with their frantic mom outside, while Daniel was out of town) that I thought I would burst into tears at any moment.
And it directly found me (thanks Bas) when he sent me this message: “I just came accross this term: the slow web. I think that’s what we do 🙂 http://blog.jackcheng.com/post/25160553986/the-slow-web“.
Slow web culture defies simple definition, like we do. Fiesty buggers. I don’t really feel a need to define it. It’s just who we are. Yet I’m interested in how we got here. So I looked back at our exchanges across the spring and summer, and I found these signs that we were already part of the slow web culture, and we just didn’t know it yet. Please add the words “most days” to the end of each of these points. We’re still learning, always learning. Wouldn’t want to imply otherwise. Our signs:
- Life and work and play have become one fluid thing. Since Bas and I met, our work together has been a joy, and we’re becoming increasingly playful (not to mention quirky) through it, which makes our lives better, which makes our work better, which makes us more playful, which makes our marriages better, and so it goes…
- “Thank you for confirming my genius, which was previously only confirmed by 3 cats and 1 dog.”
- “Wow. Great mail. You write very well! You should write something. Stories perhaps :)”
- My sense of time has shifted–when I think about time now, I think in seasons, decades, or generations. There isn’t the same sense of rush as before. No feeling of not getting enough done on any given day. No guilt for taking a workday off. Here, Bas and I are discussing how big our upcoming collaboration, Different Office, will be. “Before I go to bed … what if it took 4+ years? It is a BIG goal. And we can do all the places we want to do even if you want to do a 1000 from your block. :)”
- Strategic planning gives way to spending as much time as possible with people we love, doing work we love, for communities and a planet we love. As we talked about the future of Different Office… “And I think if we get this ball rolling, cheap travel and getting some money on the side will be increasingly feasible. But that’s a multi year, long term bonus 🙂 Down the road stuff 🙂 Remember, the journey is the thing, not necessarily the goal itself :)”
- We are all in together. “I will commit to as big a number of stories up front as you will commit to: 50 or 100 or 200 or 500. Bring it. Big commitments among close friends don’t scare me. 🙂 Maybe we could make travel cheaper by telling people that sleeping in the work space is an important part of our story creation process. 😉 heh heh”
- We regularly, naturally talk about what matters to us, who we are, and what we want. Just the regular act of sharing this seems to be 99% of all the “planning” we need. And the conversation never ends because these things continue to evolve. The fact that I talk with Bas about this so much isn’t just helping our work, it’s helping my marriage, my friendships, my family, and my whole Seattle community.
- We receive and give emotional and seasonal weather reports. “I truly hope you have an incredible memorable and lovely time together with your family. I just had dinner by the sea. Lovely weather today.”
- We slow down or completely stop working when we have no energy, and we work faster when we are full of energy. For example, I had a rough June–unexpected chronic pain from oral surgery, worries about my extended family, and unusual gun violence in my neighborhood and city. I found myself uncharacteristically depressed. Not the “I’m a bit sad” kind but the “I can’t get off the couch for weeks on end” kind, which I’ve never experienced before. Bas and I decided to start our next project in late July. I did almost no work in June, taking time to grieve and heal, and worked less than half time in July.
- Getting closer to the people you’re with = cake. Everything else = icing on the cake. I love to work and get things done! And I didn’t fully grasp that relationships are at the dead center of my work until Bas and I released our first book. A week later I told Bas that he and I becoming friends across the past year was what mattered most to me. And that Daniel and I becoming friends with him and Simone was what mattered most to me about the coming year. This surprised me as I said it and was so deeply true it brought tears to my eyes. Now anything else that happens with our work–the first book, the new web site, future ebooks, our separate blogs, coworking space creating, consulting, speaking, paper-airplane making, whatever we do–it’s all just icing on the cake. Today, all our work feels like icing on the cake.
- Being our whole, geeky, messy, quirky, amazing selves is ok and strongly encouraged. I love context and tend to ramble in my storytelling on the Collective Self site. Bas is a quirky minimalist on the Shinkonia site. Stubbornly being ourselves online led us to each other. These differences–not just our similarities–make us a really good match to work together. By embracing both these selves, we’ve landed on what works for the Different Office site: a context-rich (me) + minimalist (Bas) + photography-rich (Daniel and Simone) work space. It’s the same self + another self for all of us. And it’s all good. We are becoming more ourselves with each other, and better selves. And more quirky. I’m beginning to strongly suspect that we’ll all hit eccentric before we turn 45. 🙂
- We have real community. Since I began working for myself, I’ve wanted doing my work to be as dead easy as, say, loving our Grady dog or watching my favorite SciFi show. To sustain work, and to grow it, I feel, I need it to be easy as often as possible so that when it’s tough I have ample energy to keep going. To make this happen, we need real community. Real community is about creating energy together and being so grateful to the people you’re with that you’re internally compelled to give spontaneous gifts of self. It’s the people who know and love the good and the bad of you. Know what you need as or even before you need it. It’s the people who bring soup over when Daniel’s sick, help me with my website when I can’t figure something out, send me funny videos when I’m about to cry, or paint garden marker rocks with me as a form of group therapy and relaxation. Ten million followers or “likes” does not a community make. Soup and a funny video–delivered right when you needed them most–does. I have an easy way to recognize my community today. In person, I feel inspired to give them home-canned goods. Online, I feel inspired to give them ample time, energy, and ideas. Gladly, gratefully, and all for free.
- Community revealing/building is part of our weekly work flow. We don’t do marketing. We share what we’re excited about as we’re excited about it. Showing people who we are and what we’re doing together is a natural part of who we are and how we work together. Found this gem in one email exchange: “Marketing plan = non existing 🙂 We’ll be fine. 🙂 People who need it will find it. On to the next project. :)” We’re so thrilled about the people we’re working with and the stories we’re gathering that we take the time every week (on occaision, every day, when we’re really excited about something) to share our excitement with our communities, which are like extended family (the good kind, not the crazy uncle kind).
- Work critiques are spot-on and gentle, silly, and/or joyful. The only critiques of my work that I hear come from people I respect (those I work for, work with, and love–or from myself), and they are delivered to my ears gently, often via playful teasing. “Uhm yes. All sounds fantastic and awesome. Just don’t forget to shoot pictures from the actual storytellers this time hehehehehehe.” I do the same for those I’m connected to. I’m not saying everybody needs this. I’m saying that I need this, and that I get it, which wasn’t true for me until I joined the slow world.
- Worry doesn’t worry us much any more. Fear is good if a bear is about to attack you. Yet in my world, individual worry doesn’t serve me, my friends/work mates, communities, or our planet nearly as well as collective work/play does. So I stay focused on our collective work/play, and consciously notice and then let worry go most days. When I don’t, Daniel, Bas, Simone, housemates, and other coworkers here step in to help me let it go. Often without me asking, because I still suck at asking for help. So I’ve come to see individual worry as a gift–a doorway to slowing down and getting closer. We also regularly, happily take the time tell each other what we’re doing and preempt potential worry points. Found this gem from an exchange in July: “Oh. I might get carried away with this site stuff. I’ll find my balance 🙂 no worries…” I work with superheroes.
- What we once saw as different threads of our lives and work, we now often experience as a woven together whole. Both Bas and I see our collective work, and our separate work, as one big giant quilt of connectedness. He’d choose a more superhero-esqe and masculine word than quilt, perhaps, but the experience is the same: “I was thinking … it’s amazing how things can come together all of a sudden.”
- Wonder and awe are a regular part of our experience. One of my favorite work tasks today is the “menial” task of listening to our Different Office interview audio recordings and transcribing them into written words. I type out the words and I also type out all the things in between: the giggles, the belly laughs, the speechless surprise, the unexpected connections and learning, the moments of shared self recognition, and the finishing of each other’s sentences. Humans have the ability to get so close, so quickly, that they can finish each other’s sentences having spent less than one hour together. Wow, just wow. It gives me goosebumps every time it happens. And today, it happens all the time.
So those are some of the signs I found in our experience. There were many more. I stopped at 15 because I’m hungry and need to go make lunch and then sit in the still-warm fall sunshine and figure out what I’m going to can for winter this weekend.
As we slowed down, ample room showed up in our lives for all these things, including wonder and awe and goosebumps. Based on our experience, these things weren’t in our direct control. But slowing down was. And letting go of things that didn’t really matter to us anyway was, and always is. I can’t make wonder and awe happen in my life or in my work or in my storytelling. But we can give them room to show up. The more room we give them, the more they show up.
For me, slow web culture is about noticing something amazing that I love, giving myself as fully to it as I can, and letting go of everything else–all with the hands-on help of close friends and community. It’s about falling in love with who we are as humans and about falling in love with what we do: the crafts our hearts can inspire, minds can devise, and hands form. And it’s also about helping ensure that when our great, great grandchildren hear the words “rat race” that it won’t occur to them–not even for a single moment–that they, as humans, could enter one.
What we do for ourselves, we do for them. That’s slow web culture. Our culture now, too.