We all have foggy days. Days where who we are feels murky, what we’re doing is muddled, and what we truly want is hidden from us. Emotional mud puddles.
And sometimes the fog lasts months, or years, not days.
I’m just emerging from a 5-month Collective Self fog myself. As a writer, I’m learning, there’s no hiding my fog from others. It seeps down into and around my life, which is my work, and seems to dampen and dim everything.
For months I’ve been trying to get myself out of the fog I’ve been in. Almost everything I tried failed.
The last two things I did, though, worked amazingly well. They are: step 1) announcing out loud “I’m stuck! I’m a total mess! I need help!” to a handful of friends and family I trust and asking out loud for their ideas and help and then actually listening to them, and step 2) reading my own blog, reflecting, and then writing, writing, writing until the fog cleared.
Step 2 is what my writer and blogger friends suggested that I do. So bloody obvious I wanted to kick myself. Four months trying to figure things out on my own, and it never occurred to me to read my own work.
So actually these two steps were more like steps 67 and 68 in my flail-alone-and-continue-to-fail for months process. If you’re a writer, I strongly recommend them as steps 1 and 2. Flailing alone for 66 steps is overrated.
So I spent the past week skimming all three years of the Collective Self blog posts. Good God I’m long winded. Still, among the posts, I found old friends: a few so dear that I gave them a proper read from beginning to end. And as I did so, to my surprise, a story emerged from the fog…
Bloom: The Search for Those Living the Larger Story
There is a story in which humans are scurrying, self-centered villains, some arrogant and unconquerable, others passive and helpless, and all on an inevitable slide down toward societal and planetary destruction. The Doom story. You’ve heard it. It lives inside us in our own fear. And for good measure, it’s also on most TV channels, and broadcasted 24×7 from most major news outlets, and preached by “leaders” selling doomsday insurance and cheap plastic personal flotation devices and umbrellas for when the real $#&! hits the fan. It is a story of scarcity, experienced and told from a distance.
Then there’s the story I personally experience walking around my own neighborhood most days: one of community, playfulness, helpfulness, reimagining our lives together, growing food, hugging a friend, painting walls and sidewalks and rocks and faces for the sheer magic of it, making do with what we have, sleeping on trampolines to watch shooting stars, creating our own personal Sabbath days, sharing meals, working together with friends around the kitchen table and across oceans. The Bloom story. It is a story of abundance, shared by friends. It doesn’t get as much TV air play, but it’s transmitted through smiles and belly laughs and hugs and goose bumps and tears of wonder and empathy.
The question many ask these days is which of these stories is the larger story? Which the larger truth and which the smaller one? Which story is more long-lasting and which will come and go, or eventually pass, a chapter in a larger tale?
These aren’t my questions.
I am a story wrangler. I find and gather community stories that will last.
And because I happen to do so with dear friends on the other side of the world, I also happen to be gathering cross-community/culture/planetary stories that will last.
Here’s a secret that I hold. If The Doom Story was truly the larger story, I wouldn’t exist at all. I wouldn’t be needed. Yet here I am, living proof that Bloom is the larger story. I don’t need to find proof of this. I AM proof of this. This is why politicians and pundits doling out candy fear-sicles don’t faze me. They aren’t the big story. We are. And I know it.
So my questions are “Where are those living the Bloom story?” and “Who are they?” and “What are they doing?” and “What are they like?” and “What stories are they telling?”
My quest: find them.
My task: ask the questions, document the stories, be inspired, live, play, and share the stories with people who need them most, which includes the people who tell them themselves. And always—always—includes me. In case you hadn’t heard, we do this here now: www.differentoffice.com and www.differentworkbook.com.
To find Bloom stories, I follow my own energy, pay attention to what I myself most love to be and do, live my own story, and then I listen closely and watch carefully for that same energy and love elsewhere. By doing so, I become my own divining rod. Which is good, because the last thing I want to do is to try explaining to some IRS agent why a Bloom Story Divining Rod is a legitimate business expense.
Different Office, Different Work, and other sites and books and things we come up with are my task.
Collective Self, however, is about my quest itself. It is my own story.
And so far, in all its long-winded, geeky glory, it goes like this…
Chapter 1 – What is our nature as self-organizing work groups?
Our hero visits happy, successful work groups to learn how to work well with others. All blog posts July 2009 – November 2010, and periodically thereafter. Lighthouse post: July 29, 2009: Definition of self-organizing work group
Chapter 2 – What is our nature as self-organizing groups?
On her journey, our hero is surprised to learn that some amazing groups never end—those centered on love, friendship, fellowship, humor, passion, and/or joy. From them, she learns how to become part of and help sustain amazing groups that don’t end. All blog posts November 2010 – July 2011, and periodically thereafter. Lighthouse post: January 7, 2011: What is a self-organizing group?
Chapter 3: What is our nature as community?
A rag-tag collection of free-range chickens shows up and helps our hero begin to figure out what community is, how community sustains people, and how to sustain herself as community. All blog posts August 2011 – May 2012, and periodically thereafter. Lighthouse posts: January 9, 2012: What is community? and May 15, 2012: What is community?
Chapter 4: What is our nature as collaborative space?
New community members show up and ponder the nature of space, collaborative space, and our own nature as space and space holders. Our hero becomes collaborative space by unlocking her front door. Periodic blog posts since February 2012 through today. Lighthouse posts: February 24, 2012: 10 steps to offering free coworking in your home and July 19, 2012: What is a friendship incubator?
Chapter 5: What is my nature as an individual?
Turning inward (helped by friends), our hero learns about herself as an individual, battles her own demons, and begins to understand how to tap her own strengths. Revealed in every blog post despite my best efforts to hide it. Personal favorites: August 29, 2011: Learning about myself through the doorway of self-organizing groups and June 11, 2012: On being off balance and how it totally sucks and totally rocks and August 30, 2012: If money is a red herring on the way to freedom, how else can we keep score about how free we are? And this post.
Chapter 6: What is our nature at play and as storytellers?
New wonky, quirky, funkasillilicious characters emerge and begin to play and create together: play gurus, fun mavens, gameshifters, story gatherers, story home builders, and story tellers. Our hero begins to remember what it means to play and who she really is. Holy crap, I’m a writer. Good Lord, people, why didn’t one of you tell me?! Periodic blog posts since March 2012. Lighthouse post: March 6, 2012: The beginning of certainty: a chicken’s tale
Chapter 7: What is our nature as culture?
A rag-tag crew hops onto a little raft together and begins an adventure to find humans who deeply love their work and the space they’ve created around themselves to work in. They find themselves joyously and geekily gathering signs, flags, stories, images, and words to describe the as-of-yet unnamed culture they are finding themselves part of. “What exactly is this culture we’re part of?” we wonder. P.S. The jury is still out, but my latest thought is that it might be called Bloom culture. Periodic blog posts since September 2012. Lighthouse posts: September 15, 2012: 15+ signs that we’re part of slow web culture and September 18, 2012: Blessed are the quirky, they have already inherited the earth.
And I can see possible future chapters now too. For example, what is our nature as writers/bloggers? Story wranglers? Friends?
Holy shit. Wow.
So that’s my story?!
um, the things I love about this…holy moly! And stop saying long winded! You’re relaxed, confident and wending at a pace that allows us delighting readers to arrive with you, to feel the palpable delights of your wondrous journey. The pacing lets me feel the wheels engaging, to feel things moving. You write with such movingness…I loved being so fully moved by this.
Nat, you’re the best. Hope you saw yourself the dozen or so times you were in this.
Viva la long-winded writers! Damn proud of my long-windedness. although, now that you mention it, wending has a nice ring to it. Viva la wending writers!!!
Well Bas, it only took you a year, but you got me doodling. Now I can’t stop. Anytime I have a free moment, I pull out the iPad and draw stuff. I adore how not good at it I am. Love, love, love being a novice, a learner, a newbie, and doodling allows me to show that in a way that writing often can’t.
I love so much about this post. The look back to learn and celebrate. The realization that clouds do part and that while you are still in the mud at least it is cool mud. That you are long winded :). And that in the end we are all on a journey that is sometimes on an easy path, sometimes a hard one but it is our path. Bloom or doom are the choices we make and sometimes it is best to just stop breath deep and smell the flowers of our successes. Great post and looking forward to those next chapters.
Thanks honey. I think this time it was stop, breathe deep, and realize that you’re going to be stuck until you find the flowers, and the path, in the really deep mud. and also realize that its kind of a bonehead move to do so alone when you are surrounded by friends doing the same thing.
So good to come across your blog today as you find your story Lori. Reminds me how much I enjoy hearing/readimg them. What a gift of thanks giving and giving. Thanks!
Thanks Doug! Thankful for you. Happy Thanksgiving!
self-organizing stories make for among my favorite types of Literature these days, including when they are about individual self-re-organizing.
Love the Bloom meme – Bloom and Vvroom for Humanity ahead.
As to your take on the Doom vs Bloom storylines: a cherished quote to
Amplify my agreement with you:
THE FUTURE IS HERE . . . it’s just not WIDELY DISTRIBUTED YET !!
Thanks, wayfarer doug. It’s very nice to meet you. Vvroom for humanity. Love it!
Thank you, Lori, for sharing such an honest part of yourself. It’s moving and motivating. Tnanks for sharing a complete glimpse into your path. The difference between success and obscurity is a thin line, and it’s rarely obvious in the moment whether the best choice is to pivot, persevere or punt. Thanks for sharing part of your journey.
I’ve often said that when we teach folks about the successes of our icons, we should mention the path, not just the destination. We know that Edison once said something to the effect of “Failed? I didn’t fail. I now know 250 (or 3,00, or some number lost to urban legend) things that don’t work!!!”. That’s a great story given that the next one really *did* work, and went on to make him a celebrity and rich man. But what do we know of what it took to try everything — I mean everything — bubble gum, his breakfast cereal, etc — before he stumbled on bamboo, then tungston. If he did a “pivot” instead of a “persevere”, how would we judge him, or perceive him. How did his contemporaries perceive him? And his own self-perception? That’s the hard part of the story, and it’s not all “beer and skittles”, not even in hind-sight. Not if we’re honest about it.
And… how many folks have also heard of the *other* 250 things that did **NOT** work as he spent much time and money trying to separate iron from iron ore with electromagnets? It failed! Oops… I mean it *succeeded* (yeah, that’s the ticket) in finding 250 things that didn’t work, and that, to this day, have yet to produce anything that’s worked. Fortunately for him, he was able to punt on the ore separation and pivot into other mining technologies, (where his perseverence did not get him the exposure he had hoped for as he said “I’m going to do something now so different and so much bigger than anything I’ve ever done before people will forget that my name ever was connected with anything electrical.”) At least he spoke a good story about all the money he use to transform all that rock into sand — “it’s all gone, but we had a hell of a good time spending it.”
Trivia — Ironia, NJ (so named for its healthy red ground water, and the site of NJ’s first iron mine) is about 45 minutes from (the Menlo Park section of) Edison NJ, where he had his “Northern Lab”. His “Winter retreat” lab was in Ft Meyers, FL.
References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_edison and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edison_Ore-Milling_Company
Thanks Michael. As a story wrangler and as a qualitative researcher, I love all “just an aside” moments. Often the best stuff in the “aside.” 🙂