We Need Your Best Work

I’ve been working on a project (or three) for a loooong time, of which this page is only a part.

I started off with the vague sense that it was about being “well-rounded” or “accomplished” (both of which are things that a lot of my peeps aspire to)… but it is increasingly obvious to me that it is quite something else, and I’m not sure what to call it.

To bring you up to speed… I read all these books that contain detailed structural analysis… about how hard it is to resist consumerism, about what the standard narratives about work and our value in the world do to our families, about how your place in the world has been largely pre-determined by a bunch of identities that you had no part in choosing, really about the difficulties of escaping conventional constructions of reality… and then they finish off with a chapter about how things could be different, and we should still try (even though they just told us all the reasons that it almost certainly wasn’t going to work.)

Like:
“Here’s global warming. Here is how the money system (and the financialization of everything) necessitates a culture of growth-at-any-cost. Here are all the legal and structural reasons we can’t fix it. um… Try changing your lightbulbs.”

“Here is how the American middle class got hollowed out and all the productivity gains were loaned back to them with interest instead of being passed along as pay increases. Here is how all the necessities of life (food, education, heat, housing) have been basically priced out of reach of even low-tier professional salaries. um… Try not to use your credit card.”

(Both of those are specific books, BTW, not just hypothetical frames.)

Seriously?!?

I mean, I get that you’re trying to offer us some hope and agency at the end of a pretty bleak story, and that probably your editor suggested that you end on a positive note, but that final chapter… whoa. It’s so often at odds with everything that came before.

It often left me with the sense that I, personally, had to figure out how to resist and fix all the things… or that, since it was impossible, all I could really do was keep saying, “Well, this is how this rule should be different…” but without a coherent theory of change.

I’ll be honest: I still don’t have a coherent theory of change. What I have instead is a theory of chaos (technically and mathematically)… which is that we are currently trapped in a local minimum which almost certainly has a very very unpleasant ending, and we don’t know the way out.

This is not an escape room, or a problem contrived by a mind that has a clear solution. It is a confluence of wicked problems, with entangled root causes. This means that we need to try a whole bunch of things, because nobody really knows which of them are going to help… plus they all will have unintended consequences… plus there is no guarantee that a tipping point doesn’t make things worse instead of better…

My conclusion after many many years of wrestling with these issues is that, whatever it is you are being called to try by your deepest self… we kind of need you to try. Even if it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Even if it doesn’t seem to be working. Even if you friends think you’re wrong. (I have reasons, but this is already getting pretty long.)

What I want to do is help you find your way to (and give yourself permission to execute on) your own personal, “what to try next.” I do not know the answer to that question, but I believe that you do (although you might not be telling yourself just yet.)

If any of this sounds intriguing, I suggest that you make sure you’re on the waitlist for the course I’m offering early next year. There will be warmup exercises available for free while I get the main thing built. (I’m still building them, too. But they’re coming.)

I look forward to meeting you!

https://mailchi.mp/36574a993163/accomplished-life-design

Going Nowhere, Slowly

Somebody asked me recently if I was a runner (because I was talking about running, or possibly shoes, or gaits) and I said, “Um. Not compared to actual runners.”

I am slow, and my “runs” max out somewhere below 5K. Also, I take a lot of breaks to walk and catch my breath. Occasionally somebody wants to join me for one of my tiny start-and-stop interval runs, and I always put those caveats around it. Also, “You don’t have to stay with me if it’s too slow.”

But I do run, sort of. And since I’ve been doing it, sort of, for nearly 20 years, I guess it might be time to admit that I do this thing.

I started with one of those “Learn to Run 10K” programs. It was ostensibly 13 weeks long. It took me over a year to get through it. I ran 10K, once, at the end. It took me 88 minutes, it was miserable, and I didn’t run again for… oh… at least a couple of years.

But somehow it has come back over and over again. Every couple of years, I have dug out that 13 week program and started over from scratch. I usually get about 6 weeks in and then hover at that level for a few months until something stops me (winter, extended travel, or becoming passionate about some new hobby that takes up most of my spare time.)

Every time, it’s a little bit easier.


I started when I was 28, and between babies. I had been working and commuting and going to school and not getting enough sleep and eating crap in my car between my too many obligations, and I had put back on all the “baby weight” without any actual baby.

I could see where this was going, and I didn’t like it. I like hiking. In particular, I like being able to look things that you can only see by walking to them, and I was rapidly losing that ability.

So I signed up for an adventure race. (Like ya do.) And then I said to my body, “Alright body… in five months somebody is going to drop us off in the wilderness of Quebec, and we’d better be able to walk back.” Learning to move my body in ways that would get me back alive became a high priority… I started walking and biking multiple hours a day, several days a week, in sleet and snow and dead of night. (I started in February and I was still working full time.)

My teammates (who were all relatively fit and had made more sensible lifestyle choices than me – which is to say, not grad school and working full time at the same time…) said, “Hey, maybe we should do this learn to run program.”

“Sure,” thought I. “How bad can it be, compared to walking, which I do lots already?”

That first 30 second interval was So Bad… 30 seconds is not a long time, unless you are running for the first time in 13 years after gaining 40 pounds when you sucked at it even when you were a fairly slim teenager, in which case it is an eternity.

I thought, “Oh, I’m in trouble.”

Over the next few weeks the intervals got up to 12 minutes, and then 15… but somewhere around 8 minutes, every time, I started thinking, “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. I could be reading.”


Somewhere around 8 minutes, every time, to this day, I start thinking, “This is dumb. I could be reading.”

I have to keep reminding myself that it’s a temporary sensation, that I will eventually “hit my stride,” but it’s astonishingly compelling.

I’m toddling along, wondering, “Does everybody else feel this bad? Does it always hurt to breathe this hard? Those people who keep going for hours… do they feel like this for hours? How does anybody do this for hours?”

Every. Single. Time.

It’s as if I’ve never before fallen into the rhythm or gone through the transition where it starts to feel good to move my body.  I’m wrestling with my own mind, telling myself stories about quitting, navigating the stories, trying to remember what is true other than what I’m feeling in this moment.

And still… so slow.

There hasn’t been much else in my life that I have carried on with despite a lack of much improvement. Generally, I either get better at things, or I decide that I’ve learned enough about them and set them aside. This one I just keep plodding away at, like cleaning the house day after day.

I probably won’t ever enter a running race, not even one of the ones they call “Fun.” I don’t want to make people wait at the finish line until I get there, eventually. I don’t want people annoyed at me, because they could have gone on to the beer-drinking part of the day if I hadn’t showed up to slow things down. And I don’t want pity applause.

People drive past me while I’m running, and I wonder whether they are making fun of how slow I am… then I remind myself that, while I might be slow, at least I’m out here.

30 seconds no longer feels like an eternity, even though I’m nearly 20 years older than I was when I started this game. I’m in better shape, and I’m happier, and I can still get to places that I can only see by walking there, which was in fact the point of all of this.

Also, I made it back from the wilderness of Quebec. So, let’s call it a win.

Your (My) True Calling

I had so much success with last year’s projects prompted by Quest 2016, that I’ve decided to do it again. Join us at http://quest2017.com.

Today’s prompt is from Krista Tippett (1). As the host of On Being, she challenges us regularly to consider the mysteries of human existence.

“What is your vocation, your sense of callings as a human being at this point in your life, both in and beyond job and title?”

In 2009, when I started this blog, it was titled, “On The Quest: A Woman in Love with The World” (or something to that effect). But the world is a difficult thing to love. It is messy, and complicated, and prone to violence. People are even harder, especially in groups.

For a long time, I doubted. I wrote sideways, and obliquely, and worried that people would think I was daft, or naive, or merely uninformed. But I still have this deep pull in my heart toward what Charles Eisenstein calls, “The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know Is Possible.”

I was, to be honest, in love with The Universe, in the abstract, more than the world in all its complexity. With cosmology, with physics, with philosophy. I love ideas. I love an elegant turn of phrase, and the challenge of grappling with a new worldview.

you-are-here

Yet I also came to know that people don’t experience the world in the abstract. We experience it subjectively, through bodies and minds that are entangled with the messiness, but trying to make sense of it at the same time. It is beauty and pattern, chaos and connection, tragedy and ecstasy, all at once. Sometimes, everything lines up, and sometimes it all comes crashing down around you.

And meanwhile, you still have to eat.

For the last couple of years, my subtitle has been, “Experiments in Living with Uncertainty.” I’ve adopted many many worldviews over the years, because to truly understand something (even if I ultimately reject it), I felt that I needed to see what the world looked like from inside this perspective.

I’ve been on an exploration of spiritual practices, while, in parallel, trying to figure out the question of Right Livelihood. This is an astonishingly difficult problem, this livelihood (especially in the light of spiritual practices). How do we make something of ourselves, maintain our ability to eat and stay warm, participate in our communities, flourish rather than merely survive, and do so in ways that don’t adversely impact the ability of others to access their own deep paths?

In the midst of this prompt, fearing that this blog post would take the rest of my week, I recorded this video:


I may not know you (yet), but I want your life to be amazing.

I want you to feel fulfilled, and connected, and loved. I want you to look in the mirror and see the beauty of creation. I want the trees in your yard to bear abundant fruit, the air in your community to be clean, and the water in your rivers to sparkle. I hope for your relationships to be replenishing, and your quest for meaning to be just challenging enough.

I want you to be whole.

I want to be whole. I want to live in a world full of people who are whole. I want to live in a Whole World. I want to do everything in my power to bring that about.

 


1. who happens to have the same last name as my paternal grandmother, and the great-grandmother after whom I was partially named, and therefore I wonder whether we are related