What is community?

What is community?

Community is such an old human word—800-ish years old in Latin (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/community) and likely far older than that in other languages and cultures I’d guess. A unified body of individuals, says Merriam Webster. Love that.

Community is a word that has lived through time relatively unscathed. As near as I can tell, community was generally considered a good thing way back when, and it’s generally considered a good thing now. Many words these days are not so lucky, have you noticed this? So many words—too many words—are devolving into harsher, narrower shadows of their former selves as they’re experienced and redefined by individuals who feel disconnected.

But not the word community. No. Community persists: a warm, welcoming, kind, and fully human word. And a truly bad-ass word, in my opinion, because it does persist, like the other bad-ass words: love, friendship, play, laughter, gratitude, and joy.

It feels a bit uppity to attempt to delve deeper and possibly generate a new understanding of the word now. But the way I experience it, community is where all my apparently individual uppity (and so many other fun adjectives I can own and adore these days) comes from. So what the hell? Let’s go. 🙂

Today, for me, community is an unexpectedly diverse and unified body of individuals who help ensure that life is surprising and delightful. This body includes personally trusted others and also kind and trusting/trusted strangers.

Unlike small self-organizing groups (collectives whose members are surprised and delighted by what they become and do together), which have no individual at the center—communities are actually individual-specific. They DO have an individual at the center. You, me, and everyone: we each have our own community. So although there may be significant overlap (“We are both part of the _______ community.”), your community varies from mine, because your community includes 1) the people that you personally know and trust, 2) all the strangers you trust because they are kind to you or because you recognize that they are trusted by others within your community, and 3) all the strangers that trust you. And mine contains mine.

Because personally trusted others and kind and trusted/trusting strangers are different for each individual, the community is different for each individual. Each person’s community is a unique world unto itself: remarkably connected to and interwoven with the others and also unique to beautiful, scrappy, appears-to-be little you.

I wish I could draw. Here’s a shot at what I mean.

Individual Lori (Me)…


Self-organizing group Lori (Me becomes the outer edge)…

Community Lori (Me is the fluid and always changing and moving outer edge.)

At first blush, this may sound like a modern, individualistic, self-centered definition of community. I’ve given this one year of conscious lived experience and thought, though, and I’m starting to become more certain that it’s not. For one thing, with this understanding comes the new understanding (for me anyway) that every individual I meet today is the living, breathing center of their own community. This makes everyone significantly more connected, influential, and powerful than they appear (and often know) in their individual forms. Every individual—no matter what status or title or role or gender or age or place of birth or any of the other ways we’ve divided ourselves up—is the center of their own community. I repeat myself here because this warrants repeating.

I experience this as a necessary evolution in understanding of ourselves as community, because we are living in a time when most of us are so flooded with information as individuals that we have no idea which end is up many days. This can cause us as individuals to over-rely on the published ideas of distant experts and to undervalue those people we’re directly connected to every day and to undervalue our individual selves.

Our planet is not experiencing large-scale crisis because too many people overvalue themselves. Our planet is experiencing crises because too many of us undervalue ourselves and those we’re with every day. It’s when we undervalue and underestimate ourselves and those we’re with that we can end up compromising what we believe and making decisions out of fear. It’s from this undervaluing place that we hurt others and ourselves.

Wow, that felt like a huge statement, and I’m not really a fan of making huge statements. So I’m going to chalk that one up to the influence of my off-the-charts, crazy-amazing community. To you.

The other reason I’m getting comfortable with this new understanding of community is that I’m now experiencing community—much like the states of individual, self-organizing group, and the space between these states—as a fluid state. For many of us, a community is no longer a solid, well-defined, local, physical, I-was-born-into-it-on-the-ground state. And even if we recognize that we were born into one, and even if we happen to still be physically living within that first one, we are still part of many, many others now. Or, as I now experience it, many, many others are now part of us, thanks to our communities.

If community is already being experienced and lived as a fluid state, what exactly does that say about us as humans? For me, this year it has meant learning to become comfortable as the space between: happily moving within and across my individual self, my many self-organizing group selves, and many communities—almost all of which I experience as part of myself. Most days. As part of one whole, diverse, crazy, fun, beautiful, scary-at-moments, but overall kind, welcoming, warm, and loving self.

We are so much more than we can know we are or be as individuals. Community wraps us in the surprise and delight we need to laugh, play, relax, and know this for ourselves and to come to know more of our whole, true, beautiful selves. This hasn’t changed since the word community was first spoken, because this doesn’t need to change.

I think that’s why community as a word and as an experience persists and why it will persist despite our precarious piles of individual fears.
Because we each carry community with us like a found, treasured, smooth stone in our pocket: a burden so light and easy to hold that most days it’s actually carrying and helping us as individuals, not the other way around.

There is no down side to community.

It’s who we are. It’s why we last. Even when we as individuals, as organizations, and as societies sometimes forget that. Like the found, smooth, and treasured stones in my jacket pockets that show up to surprise and delight me again and again.

My stones have names: Daniel, Cassie, Erik, Chris, Kristine, Emil, Jen, Jim, Linda, Grady, Joe, Ansel, Bella, Bas, Ali, Tim, Kathy, Sherrard, Kristen, Diane, Alice, Ronald, Doug, Gail, Jacqueline, Don, Peter, Patrick, Jana, Chelsea, Fisher, Lisa, Kyle, Emily, David, Eddie, Meg, and Rumi. Some have begun to rename themselves as they better recognize themselves: Batman, Story Wrangler, PinkNinya Yammer-blastLil, Bernie Frabjous, d’Artagnan Evergreen Barbosa, Elans Melees Joy. Crazy bunch of pirates. God love’em.

Surprise and delight. That’s how we roll. That’s community.

What is community?

What is community?

I’ve been giving these questions my attention for 6 months now:

  • What is community?
  • How do we create community?
  • How do I know community when I see it? Especially
    when I’m with people who think, look, and act nothing like me/my groups?

I didn’t go looking for these questions. They found me somehow. Still not entirely certain why I’m so determined to have these conversations although I do know why I love them. These are questions that it’s impossible to be an individual expert at. Woo hoo! My favorite kind!

Here’s what you’ve taught me so far.

Community is:

  • Showing up for someone and freely, gladly giving of yourself. Doesn’t appear to matter whether that person lives in your home (thank you, Daniel Gregory), hours away (thank you, Cathy Gregory), or on the other side of the planet (thank you, Ali Anani).
  • Sharing your struggles, not just your joys, freeing others to do the same (thank you, Cathy Fromme, Bernie DeKoven, Lori Schilling, and Erik Bennion)
  • Trying new things together that you wouldn’t have tried on your own (thank you, Doug Nathan and Bas de Baar)
  • Listening a long time—until you can feel the other person’s perspective within you (thank you, Neil Baker)
  • Moving together in the world, embracing and celebrating differences and commonalities (thank you, Jamal Rahman, Ted Falcon, and Don Mackenzie)
  • A sense of abundance, welcome, and possibility (thank you, friends, neighbors, ancestors, and kind strangers)
  • Certainty within uncertainty. I’m still not certain what will happen (or how or when or why things happen) most days. Yet I’ve learned to be certain about the people who show up to create community. I can trust you when my trust in my individual self fails me. That’s all the certainty I need.
  • Receiving and creating:
    • Love for who you are (thank you, mom, dad, Jen, and extended family)
    • What the universe offers with gratitude and love, most days (thank you, Diane Moore and Lenelle Moise)
    • Spontaneous acts of kindness. Too many to name these days, but off the top of my head, thank you for:
      • Hugging Grady, Joe, Ansel, and Bella daily, Chris Abbas
      • Texting me when cool stuff is happening, Tim Pritchard
      • Our new garden path, Annie Dunne and Steve VanDyke
      • An unexpected birthday gift, Bob Petruska
      • An unexpected holiday card, Kare Anderson
      • Kind words and advice, lovely stranger at the grocery store yesterday

How do we create community?

To me it appears that we don’t create community as individuals. We receive community as individuals and create  community as community. Does that sound weird? Trying again…

In my experience, time spent within self-organizing groups opened my heart, and made it possible for me to wake up and start my days with a sense of community, and eventually come to recognize it within myself and others, instead of feeling empty, not good enough, and searching to find community like I used to. So I suppose my advice would be this: spend more time with the people who open your heart and doing the things that open your heart. Allow yourself to become what you love, do what you suspect you are here to do, and lean strongly on your self-organizing groups—they can handle it. As an individual today, each time a community member shows up, I feel lucky, honored, and blessed to have that person in my life. But I don’t think I create community. We create community together.

Community surrounds and supports us as individuals and creates itself. Become community to create community.

How do I know community when I see it? Especially when I’m with people who think, act, or look nothing like me and my groups?

In every moment I allow myself and support others in feeling this way, we’re in community:

Friend, our closeness is this: anywhere you
put your foot, feel me in the firmness under you
.” – Rumi

When I move in the world on my own, fear is an issue for me and those around me. When we feel the firmness of community—our ground—under our feet, we can move and speak through our fears and move with them and past them as needed. In most moments now, I’m conscious of the question: “Are we sharing our fears, moving through them together, and at times, moving past them?” Each moment the answer becomes yes, it becomes a snap to recognize community. Oh yeah, there we are! It always seems to be an individual fear hiding community from me like a blindfold before my eyes.

You’ve taught me that community actually isn’t something I can lose or that I need to search for. We are community. And when I forget this, you remind me. Lucky me!

Are we still learning? Questions from my community

Are we still learning? Questions from my community

It’s October 2018. Status update from earth. We’re tired. We’re working hard. Many of us are in pain: hurting, scared, and angry on a regular basis now. I could say most of us but I can only see and speak on behalf of my own community on that. Here, most of us are chronically exhausted by the weight of the human world and trying to figure out what to do about that before it kills us.

Here it can be easy to fall into the trap of believing that we humans aren’t learning anymore. Or that we’re regressing somehow. Not just them (whoever your them is), but us too. US! Honestly, I think both of those positions are bullshit. Especially when they show up within me. Not that I’m the kind of person that calls “Bullshit!” loudly or in public. Oh wait, I am now. Look at that.

What I see from here is that many of us are asking our wee selves to learn at an un-human pace now, and we’re expecting other wee selves and our own wee selves to never make mistakes while learning at an un-human pace. This position is untenable. It will break your body, your mind, your spirit—and quickly if you try to do this alone. Here we often try to hold the weight of the rapidly changing human world on too-small shoulders. This makes the individual brain feel like a chaotic ball of goo and exhaustion some days. And working with this goo and exhaustion, many of my people, including me, have sort of forgotten how to hold the weight of the world as a community, as a culture, as a region. And we’ve sort of forgotten that making mistakes is part of how we learn. Not just us, but them too. Whoever your them is. And we’ve sort of forgotten how to partner with other earthlings, like trees, flowers, deer, birds, rivers, and many of our human neighbors too.

Have you noticed? Even here, exhausted and with a goo brain, I bet you have.

What are you doing about this now? I’m curious. Until I hear back from you, FYI, here’s what I’m doing. I’ve begun to completely surround myself with people who never forgot: the women who live in the woods and share and speak with native plants, the women who hold hands with women around the world to pray for orcas here in the Salish sea, the mystics who say everything is needed, the artists who turn pain into beauty, young children, those who never fully let go of feeling indigenous to earth (at great cost), the trees here, the animals, and the sea. And my Facebook friends and family. And, for good measure, I spend a day a week now with people from all walks of life who are 90+ years old. Even my people get wise after age 90 and when forced by memory loss and physical ailments to lean on the whole world again. 😉 But I digress…

My point is, we are still learning. The following piece documents me learning. If you fear my wonderings or my thoughts or my pain in this piece, don’t worry. They’ve likely changed by now. You have nothing to fear from me no matter who you are—not if you’re a learner, which I believe everyone is…

So here’s me. Learning.

This is what I’m noodling on today: fierce kindness, consequences, who pays the highest price? and where in the world are we right now?

Yes, I’m a woman. I think about a lot of stuff at the same time. While writing this I’m also doing laundry and making a mental grocery list and I just ran to pick up lunch for Daniel’s workshop guests. So I think you can handle this juggling of four things. I’ll repeat them here so I have signposts to return to when I wander too far off my own path…

  1. Fierce kindness.
  2. Consequences.
  3. Who pays the highest price?
  4. Where in the world are we now?

These words are floating within me like stars in a dark sky now.

They’re wider than thoughts.

More curious than beliefs.

Far more interesting to me than truths or political sides.

So we play together, these words and I, here. Right now. Join us!

  1. Fierce Kindness

Oh, fierce kindness. I’ve learned fierce kindness from all my closest, truest, and bravest friends here in my 40s. Definitely from friends of color—African American women, Asian American women, First Nations women, and elder women the world over. Oh, and parents. A lot of fierce kindness within parents the world over, though many seem too tired to see how amazing they are. And now and then, we’ve learned about fierce kindness together, my brave husband and I, too. Thanks honey. The two pileated woodpeckers out my window right now seem to know a thing or two about fierce kindness as well. They’re looking at me and nodding along at the moment. Thank you, all…

There’s a lot of fear in my country right now. Bubbling, boiling-over anger and fear and rage.

In the community that raised me back in the 1970s and 80s in South Dakota, my people valued kindness above all else. No matter your beliefs. No matter your politics. No matter your time on earth. Our kind hearts, our kind actions, our kind words—they will save us all, my people said.

Were my people right? I wonder because here we are. We’re two years into the Trump administration and witnessing a president celebrate and endorse violence against so many people, daily, and openly, proudly mocking and hurting so many people here and around the world, that it feels like hell here on a daily basis now. We’re two years into apparent daily proof that blind rage, blame, anger, racism, misogyny, gaslighting, narcissism, blatant lying, and cruel, vicious fear-mongering run amok wins my people’s hearts. It most certainly seems to win elections in the U.S. Who are we? My people, who are we? Are we this? Are we him?

We’re two years into watching the men in charge at the highest levels of government make fun of people with disabilities, mock military parents who’ve lost their children in service, and mimic and laugh at women daily, including those brave enough to talk about sexual assault in the public sphere. Men attempting to legislate out of existence whole groups of people, the latest group being the transgender community, and trying to legislate away climate change by banning certain words being spoken. Yeah, your puny papers are going to stop mother earth. Good luck with that! Men who smile and fluidly blame and shift focus onto others as tiny children are torn from their parents at our borders and quietly “adopted” into families here—by their orders. Men who actually giggle with glee and pat each other on the back as they imagine a US with no public lands, fewer public parks, no Medicare, no Social Security, no safety nets for the sick, the injured, the wounded, the very young, the very old—nobody. Promoting private prisons that profit the more people are locked up. At the same time as they try to quietly decimate clean air standards, roll back clean water standards, ignore scientists who’ve devoted lifetimes to understanding these things, which can only make us all even sicker. As we face no access to healthcare. Or as they try to cripple the public education system. Or… I could go on here. I won’t. You get it.

Who are we? Who are we, my people?

In the face of all of this, do we cling to our fear and isolate ourselves like our worst ancestors did or do we cling to our kindness and step toward our neighbors and their truths?

My people cling to kindness.

Here in the flotsam and jetsam wreckage of our shattered illusions and our shattered country, even now, my humans cling to kindness the way survivors cling to floating bits of wood after a shipwreck.

The word that rankled me recently in the face of what’s happening right now was civility.

“Civility first!” some of my people cry. Into the faces of people who feel like they are drowning.

Sigh. Now is not the time to shut ourselves up. Now is the time to free ourselves!

Every time I hear those words “civility first,” raw and vivid images pop into my head. An image of families and children being loaded into trains and shipped to concentration camps. In Germany. And here in the US. Here in Washington state where I live. And images of entire nations of people—First Nations people—being marched off the lands they love(d). Not that many generations ago. Not that many days ago. What were my people doing as all that happened? Smiling? Waving? Holding “civility first” signs up to people being treated like cattle, people losing everything they care about, and/or facing brutal extermination? Or looking away? Or, my mind pops to images of African Americans all over this country, still, being killed by the police regularly (the best-armed representatives of our remarkably racist system that teaches all of us to fear dark skin whether we’re conscious of that fact or not). So many Americans have been killed for doing “terrible” things like walking, chewing gum, playing, or driving while black.

Will kindness save us here? Now?

Will kindness save our neighbors?

Will it save the children down in concentration camp tents at our borders today?

Save the women all over this country sitting across tables from scared men who are being reminded daily that there are few consequences for sexual assault and almost no consequences for coming after women’s health and well-being?

Will kindness save our neighbors who are jailed, or killed, for nothing more than sitting in a Starbucks or being locked out of their own homes with brown or black skin?

Save the children hiding in classrooms from another shooter holding a semi-automatic weapon?


Hello rage.

One of the things my people failed to teach me when I was young is that I am well served by you, too. Hello rage. Rage, you’ve helped me learn that there are more types of kindness than I was taught about as a child. I bow to the best of the good intentions of my ancestors by never completely abandoning kindness. AND, I move with, and occasionally past, their failures, by learning from those who long ago had to move beyond the simplest kind of kindness just to survive.

I’ve learned about fierce kindness. What is fierce kindness?

When I think about fierce kindness, I first think about parents of kids playing outside. Parents, recall the words that escape your lips as you watch a very small child—yours or anybody’s—racing innocently, blindly, and head-first toward a road that’s busy with car traffic or toward a train track with a train rapidly coming your way. What did you say and do first?


This, screeched at such a high and frightening pitch that neighbors three counties over heard you.

Remember that whole-body understanding of what’s about to happen and that whole-being caring about the immediate well-being of another? That noise pulled up from within you?

That’s fierce kindness.

THAT’s a kindness for these dark times.

That’s what is making and holding protest signs and hats and marching in the streets and demanding better for humanity as a whole. That’s happening around the world these days. And that’s what’s voting in mass in November.

Fierce kindness.

Fierce kindness is part of us, too, and it’s nothing to fear.

So, friends, I ask you to understand where I’m coming from the next time you chant “Civility first!” at me and others marching in the streets now.

I want you to remember that I watch daily as families’ healthcare options across my country dwindle to almost none at all. Watch people plan to dismantle Medicare and Social Security—our money that we’ve paid into our entire careers, knowing they would be safety nets for us when we need them. I watch as my friends risk their lives (not just hurt feelings) for walking down the street just for being who they are. I watch those babies and children without their parents held in those tents at our borders, and I refuse to look away. If I can see that my country is being led by willfully blind children dressed in business suits and they’re heading straight into oncoming traffic? What else would you have me do? So I ask your forgiveness in this moment. You’ll need to excuse us if we scream.

There are people in the world who have to look away. And I get that. Not that many years ago Alzheimer’s disease was so drowning our family that I didn’t have one extra moment for other people’s pain.

But I’m not one of those people anymore. I don’t have to look away most days.

Because I hold fierce kindness within me always and I lean on the fierce kindness of many, many others. The world cannot shake this kindness out of me. It is me. I am fierce. And I am kind. Often, I’m both.

My kindness may show up loudly now, and some days even angrily, and in different ways than you and I both are used to kindness showing up, but my fierce kindness and I show up where we’re most needed now, and she and I are here to stay.

I still make mistakes, because I am still learning. I still allow fear to creep in and my mind to worry and this still causes me to leap to crazy conclusions some days. Some days the pain within me causes me to lash out at the world. Every damn time I think I’ve evolved past this, I receive a new lesson in how easy it is for me to lash out and hurt a friend when I allow myself to get too low and worried as an individual. Humbling, those days are. Needed, those days are. Reminders that I’m not evolving past being human but I am evolving into being more fully human and more fully present and at home on earth. That reminds me, I need to send an “I’m so sorry I was a total ass to you last month.” card to my neighbor, Kim. And speaking of being fully human, I’d like to talk about…

  1. Consequences

Adulthood has little to do with age.

Adulthood has little to do with age. Now there’s something I wish I’d been taught in school.

To be an adult is to fully recognize that there are results—there are consequences—for each action we take in the world and even for the feelings and thoughts that we and our communities have. To notice and care about the impact we have on the world we love.

To be an elder, I suspect, is to fully realize that the consequences of all beings on earth (not just humans) ripple out into the world, and perhaps backward to ancestors and forward to future generations in time. Most of us live with a myriad of consequences with each breath and step we take in the world, because we are connected to literally everything here and our bodies are sensitive enough to know that even if we were never taught this by our families and cultures. Did I say most of us referring to all humans? The nerve of me. Yes, I did here. Because unlike the people my country elected recently, most people I know are good to their word. Most people I’ve met who claim to be adults actually are adults most days. They do their jobs and raise their children and they seek to learn and they do what they can to improve their communities. Most deeply care about their impact on the people and on the land and the animals and even the plants here. I’m so glad I can see that.

It can be hard to imagine (although it’s easier these days) that there are still people who go through their whole lives—who get to age 25, and then age 40, and then age 75+—without learning that there are consequences for their actions. People who are so disconnected from their neighbors, and their families, and the earth that they can’t even hear, let alone deal with, the pain felt by others. They literally can’t feel the pain they inflict on others. That’s why our country feels like a horror movie. It’s these people getting most of the air time. Trees and animals know better than to tune into the horror show around the clock. We’re learning that now, too.

Here in the US right now, it feels like most of those remaining wildly disconnected people are very wealthy white men and their fan boys who have decided to listen mostly only to other white men who completely agree with them. I’d include white women here too, God knows we’ve played our quiet parts well enough across the generations—and maybe we still belong here, too—but I’m part of a community of white women around the globe, and I’ve spent the past 15 years witnessing a vast and growing number of white women in countries around the world flat out stop doing what so many white men are still trying to do, and at great cost to themselves. That is, we’ve stopped trying to get back to a nostalgic past that was less painful for some of us but more painful for everyone and everything else on earth–as if going backward would fix things. As if going backward as a whole is even possible for humanity. Nope, most white women are DONE with that shit. Women are too busy and far too practical to keep trying, generation after generation, what clearly doesn’t work for anyone anymore. Goodbye colonization and white supremacy and domination and concrete wall building. And good, damn, riddance.

We mess this up, of course. Wow, do we mess this up. We are bound to, because we’re still learning.

Unfortunately, my kindness-centered people recently managed to elect a whole damn lot of wildly disconnected wealthy white men into public office. And the face-twisting, vein-popping, foot-stomping rage that they feel as they face the real consequences of their actions, some for the first time, so late in life—while still blaming others the whole damn way—is just flat-out bizarre to watch. And sad. And scary. How could men in power—men in their 30s, their 50s, and even their 70s—men holding all the old cards of power for two years now, throw so many toddler-like temper-tantrums? Every day now, we see another new temper tantrum…

How dare these women insist that sexual assault be taken seriously as a barrier to the highest public offices?!

How dare these people at our borders demand any human rights or insist on seeing their children again?!

How dare these African Americans or Muslim Americans or members of the LGBTQ community or [fill in the blank] demand to feel safe as they walk down the streets, and at work, and in public places?! Demand the same rights as we’ve always had and take for granted?!

Who do these people think they are to demand that all people have access to clean water and breathe-able air and access to healthcare like so much of the rest of the human world has long since figured how to do?!

How dare scientists devoting generations to studying the climate, or public health, or the animal kingdom, be upset that we refuse to listen to them?!

How dare students and parents and teachers demand that our schools, teachers, and libraries be well funded and not be violent, bullet-ridden war zones?!

How dare these gray-haired old people carry protest signs and march and insist that we stop bombing other countries and selling weapons around the world as if that doesn’t destroy our own future?!

How dare First Nations people demand not to be belittled, exoticized, and caricatured anymore?! Demand that treaties be honored?! Demand that water and land and animals be respected and protected like the givers of life and co-creators of this world that they truly are?!

Consequences, gentlemen. Consequences. Welcome to adulthood. We can face the people we hurt and talk to them and listen and learn and grow together, or we can find ourselves behaving like frightened, confused toddlers on the global stage. Toddlers driving steamrollers to flatten anyone who gets in their way. When you’re done stomping your feet and throwing temper tantrums and fearing wave after wave after wave of humans who want better for humanity and simply have a different opinion from you, please come, step forward, and join us. Right here, on the ground.

The world has changed. It has changed in a way some people have failed to notice. You see, here on earth now, noticing the far-reaching consequences of our actions is no longer a step anyone gets to skip and still claim to be an adult. Not the uber-rich. Not white people. Not men. Not government officials. Not CEOs. And not even those so desperate to become them, or to control things, that they’ll accept any cost—even deeply damaging costs to their own families and communities. Which, shoot, feels like a lot of us to me.

I say this as a 48-year-old white woman who was willing to stomp her feet and walk away from mere difference of opinion just 3 years ago. I know of what I speak not because I blame you, but because I am willing to really look at what I’ve been, what I’ve done, and what I am now. Just a few short years ago that was me—stomping my feet, throwing blame around like it was party confetti, and walking away from those who simply didn’t think the way I think.

Part of me got to be a middle-school pre-teen right on up into middle age. Part of me still is, actually. Likely always will be. She’s got a good heart, pre-teen me. Prone to over-dramatize a bit and wallow in her angst longer than feels proper, which I kind of like about her now. I just don’t let teenage-me run the show most days. Not the days when she’s naïve enough to allow her own fear to control her and use it to run away from her neighbors or to think that running down her neighbors makes anyone happier in the long run.

You are my neighbor. And I am yours. This is reality. Welcome to adulthood, Lori. So. What are we going to do about this together?

In the past few years, I’ve made, maintained, and deepened friendships with seven Trump supporters: three old men (around 90 years old), one middle aged man and one middle aged woman, and two very active, senior (mid 60s) women. All are white. Five are middle class and two call themselves blue collar. I had no idea about the fears, horrors, and isolation that they face. No idea about the graphic horror-show world that Fox News feeds people daily. People raised to trust the news. Raised to trust their own fears. Raised to be patriotic and to support the president: no matter what. Expected by people like me to evolve at break-neck speed and without any context or back stories or empathy. I try to bring some of my world into theirs. I try to see some of their world in my own. I’m still a good neighbor, because that’s who I am. I bring people food and look after their pets while they’re sick or away, for example. I just don’t shy away from fierce kindness or from consequences anymore. I speak and listen, fiercely as I have to. (Although I’m opting for just regular old kindness with the lonely old man dying of prostate cancer. With him, just plain old simple kindness feels like enough. He may be too old to change, as my dad likes to say. How fortunate I am that I’m not.)

  1. Who Pays the Highest Price?

Adult-me has been thinking about these words a lot lately, too.

Adult-me thinks that those who pay the highest price for speaking up should NOT be the ones who have to speak up first, often, and alone. Adult-me thinks that we should speak up together, and on behalf of one another, as often as we possibly can. Not over one another. Not taking up more space than everyone else in the room does. Often “speaking up” is just a simple, well-placed sentence or two—one that makes others feel less alone and feel seen, respected, and in some cases, maybe helping neighbors feel safe enough to speak their truths in this place, too. For example, sentences like “Why are you directing your comments to me? I am the student here. See the four black people sitting on the panel at the front of the room? They are the experts on the subject here. Why not ask them?” or “How about we listen fully to what she has been through and actually hear what she has to say before we dismiss her and tell her how dead wrong she must be despite her experience?”

I’ve actually been thinking about this one for about 18 years. Because I’m white, and middle class, I didn’t have to think about this until I was ~30. Had I been willing and able to avoid looking at other people’s truths, in this body, I probably could have avoided thinking about this well into my 50s, at least. But that’s not the way this body works. She’s connected to everything. So I know that many people of color in my country, so many people who I love, had to start thinking about this kind of thing around age 5 or 6. Can you imagine having to grapple with this at just 5 years old?!! Lord, I could barely tie my shoes and was too shy to even move, let alone speak, in large groups back then. I’ve also learned that many people who grow up in extreme poverty, regardless of color, are forced to think about this far earlier than I had to, too. So many people don’t have the choice to look away. So, if you want to talk to an expert on this subject, that isn’t me. I’m still learning. And literally every word I say here is just that. This is just me. Learning…

So, here’s what I’m thinking about fierce kindness + consequences + who should step forward and say something right now to the adults who believe they are adults but who are shocked and angry that there are consequences for their actions, causing them to resemble tantrum-throwing children on the global stage…

If YOU are not the person who will pay the highest price for speaking up, then YOU should speak up now. In person, on line, and at the ballot box. Anywhere your voice will be heard. This simple act is fully living your kindness as an adult. Demanding better for your neighbors and their families, not just yourself and your family and your own interests IS kindness here in adulthood. Listening to your real neighbors, about their real lived experiences and truths—not just to yourself and those in the world who agree with you—this is what being an adult is all about today. Stretching the boundaries of our selves to include more and more people and places, more of life herself, as our neighbors, is the work of this time, I think.

And this doesn’t stop at the individual level, although in my country it often starts there because so many of us were conditioned to think of ourselves as individuals first… If your FAMILY/COMMUNITY/ORGANIZATION/SOCIAL GROUP/CITY/REGION isn’t the group that will pay the highest price for speaking up, then YOU should speak up. All of you. Every single time you can.

Three examples:

  • If you’ve built a family/community/organization/social club/city/region that is deeply trusted by most or all of those you serve—one that is open and honest about things, including mistakes, and willing to learn and grow openly with your neighbors—then YOU have power that other groups of humans don’t. Speak up. Speak up to honor how lucky you are. Speak up knowing that you will make mistakes together, because you are learning together. There are so many families and organizations and groups that don’t have the power to speak their truths together and to host open conversations that include neighbors. Tap into your privileges, whatever they are, and use them for the common good.
  • If you are white, and you hear another white person make disparaging remarks about people of color or making plans that will hurt people of color, yes, speaking up will be uncomfortable. Yes, it will be. But you’re unlikely to be killed for your words. People of color receive death threats, derisive laughter, and actual physical violence and are sometimes killed just for speaking their mind on this subject. Just for their words. They are passed over for housing and for jobs for no other reason than the color of their skin or the sound of their names. I read just yesterday about an African American woman in Vermont who was voted into office and then had to give up her post because of the constant threats to her and her family—actual emotional damage, break ins to their home while they were home, death threats, and so on—by white supremacists in her community. She quit in part because her husband was also having serious medical problems, and she didn’t want the abuse by white supremacists to exacerbate the medical trouble. Who are we, my people? When I watch what women of color face every day in my country, I am outraged. And inspired. And I am filled with courage I had no idea I had. Because I feel my connection to her, I am filled with her courage too, not just my own. And DAMN does she have courage. I mean, DAMN.
  • If you are a man, and you hear another man make disparaging remarks about women or preferring men over women when making hiring choices or regularly talking over women or not allowing women to have opinions or outright bragging about abuse, assault, or worse… yes, speaking up will be uncomfortable. Yes, it will be. But you’re unlikely to be killed or raped or fired for your words. Far too many women receive death threats, rape threats, and derisive laughter, lose their livelihoods, and are subjected to physical violence, rape, and death for speaking up on these subjects. Step outside your comfort zone for your neighbors—aka, 50% of the world’s population. Allow yourself to feel your deep connections to us. You will be filled with our interconnectedness with the world and our courage and strength too, not just your own. And DAMN do women have a lot of courage, strength, and interconnectedness with the world. Even the trees have our backs now.
  1. Where in the world are we right now?

Well, that wandered away from me a bit.

And that was me, just playing with words. That was adult-me and teenage-me wondering, wandering, creating ideas, letting go of ideas, and learning. It’s not pretty or perfect or concise, and some people will make assumptions about me because they think I mean them harm with some of these words, intentions, and imperfections that showed up here in this one moment.

But this is just me learning. I mean no harm. Some of you won’t believe me no matter what I say. Here in my 40s, my own family made me strong enough to live with that. I will disappoint some of you no matter what I say, and I can live with that. I can thrive with that. We all can. Thank you family.

Now, this is elder me. Slowing down. Breathing deeply. Walking outside for a bit. Filling with gratitude. And taking the time to make sense of the chaos…

It often doesn’t feel like it yet, today, but the world herself is helping move us as a whole in the direction humanity needs to move. My people tend to over-focus on the human world, which is where most anxiety, depression, confusion, and injustice lives. But there’s a whole living, breathing planet of co-creators right here ready to connect when we are. In fact, one day soon, there will come a day when we humans will do these four things fluidly and naturally with and for each other:

  1. We will recognize fierce kindness when we see it, know it when we feel it, and we will be thankful for it as the true gift it is in the moments that we receive it, not just months or years later, or on our deathbeds, in hindsight. Fierce kindness doesn’t feel warm and fuzzy, like regular kindness, and it also doesn’t feel abusive, like intentional cruelty, either. It is a revealing of how we truly feel, in one particular moment in time. A deeper trusting in ourselves and others. That’s all it is. The flickers are now nodding along in agreement just outside my window. There will come a time when we humans will practice receiving and giving fierce kindness so much that we’ll learn to trust our own bodies to know the difference between fierce kindness, which is often deeply needed, and cruelty and abuse, which aren’t. That time is now.
  2. We will be so connected to each other and to the earth herself that we will feel the consequences of all our actions, and our ancestors’ actions, and we will be thankful for those consequences because they mean we are alive, learning, growing, connected, and changing together here on the home planet we share. Here where I live among the chatty trees of the Pacific Northwest, a lot of white women in my life are experiencing serious vertigo this fall. Medical science calls it a virus. I don’t disagree: I’m not that arrogant anymore. And, it’s more than that. We are realigning our bodies with the earth and fully recognizing our voices and gifts as earth’s inhabitants. We are allowing ourselves to be realigned by the earth for the benefit of all beings. For many of us, the time for this step is now. The alignment, especially when faced alone, is jarring. We bow to all of those who’ve already been living these truths for generations and those who never stopped living this. We bow from the earth, from beneath the trees, and on our knees.
  3. We will speak up with and for each other, not over each other, as a matter of practice, and we won’t expect those who have the most to lose in a situation (especially life, limb, family, and livelihood) to be the ones who do all of the speaking up and all of the risking (and accompanying growing and changing). When teenagers are being maligned in our presence, we will speak up for teens. When women are being attacked, we will speak up for women. When refugees are being abused, we will speak up for refugees. When members of the trans community are being terrorized, we’ll speak up. In spaces where straight white men are being maligned and they have the least power in the space, we will speak up for these men, too. When the truly terrified and powerless Trump supporters are being maligned—and we know them in person and their backstories and their horror stories, too—what, my friends, will we do? As we can, we will speak up, on their behalf, as friends, too. Not because it’s deserved. The world is far too complex for me ever to be certain WHO exactly deserves WHAT exactly. No, here we do so because we are remarkably connected to each other, strong, and grateful for this life, and because that’s what truly powerful beings of this world already do.
  4. We will show up for each other, and lean on each other, and on the earth herself, to remember where we are and notice who is with us in the chaos of the human world today.

What’s left to say?

I am here now. With you.

It’s time for these changes. It’s time for committing or for recommitting to these ways of being and actions. Time for building them into our routines and habits and family lives and work lives and stories and schooling. And yep, our governments too. We the people have work to do.

Especially if the world feels chaotic, angry, and hopeless to you, right now is the time.

Because the world is overflowing with energy, love, gratitude, kindness, people who speak up with and for each other, trees who are friends, rivers who are gurus, animals who are guides, teens coming together to serve as adults when their adults completely drop the ball, and elders who are all in, heart and body and soul, on providing hard-won wisdom and comedy relief and help to those less fortunate than them. Even here. Even now.

There is so much of our planet that my people have been flat-out missing for generations.

The jays out my window are nodding in agreement. Although an eagle just passed overhead too, so maybe the jays were just ducking. 😉

This whole place, and this earth, want us to notice them.

We are ready to notice. Ready to move here as learners and as co-creators and as co-conspirators with the earth herself. Ready to feel fully welcome and at home on earth together.

That’s where we are right now.

And we’re not alone anymore, have you noticed? Suddenly the planet is teaming with noticers, with learners, and with deep listeners.

But what am I saying? Of course you’ve noticed. Only learners and noticers and deep listeners walk this far together and alone.

What I most want to say is this.
Thank you for your remarkable presence here in this remarkable place.

Am I an empath? What my community has taught me…

Am I an empath? What my community has taught me…

I’m heartbroken (nauseous actually) about all the lives lost in Gaza again this week and our role in it. Thank you to my Jewish American and Palestinian friends for keeping this sorrow and pain in my line of site. Thanks to you, I’m doubling down on reminding/re-teaching myself and my culture about the deep power of empaths. I’ve been relying on my new book this spring to do that for me. Over-relying on it, actually. I forgot for a moment that I have a non-book voice too. 🙂 So here are a brief (for Lori) few words about empaths…

There are human beings and groups all over the world who are sensitive enough to feel and help release the trapped pain within ourselves and others long before that pain becomes physical violence. I’ve seen it, lived it, done it. Some of us call ourselves empaths.
The power of tapping into our collective imagination. What if our cultures actually really believed in empaths? What would it be like if we deeply believed in the power of life, of voice (the voice of a whole place, not just human voices), connection, and the fully human ability to feel each other’s feelings and ease each other’s pain–over our belief in machines and weapons, numbness, silencing, looking the other way, or feeling powerless or helpless? I noticed recently that the friends I draw to me now have several things in common despite their vast differences in ages, regions/countries, cultures, skin tones, income levels, religions, gender identities, or species, for example. Members of my community have experienced the world-changing powers of leaning on the voice of a whole place and changing our own beliefs. They have lived–so they tend to believe in–as my friend Mary Ellen calls it, the “sacred imagination.” When you believe in the power of our collective imagination, because you live that power most days, then most days you can step toward painful feelings, not away from them. And most days you can help ease the pain of others/yourself (often with simple silence and presence, which is damn hard to do online and remarkably simple to do in person). And most members of my community now are empaths. Some know it. Others suspect it or at least don’t dismiss it outright. It’s so cool. When I was young, my culture didn’t think to teach me what an empath is–or even that they exist–let alone that I was one. And somehow I found my people anyway. I find us every day now. Actually, usually now, you find me. Huh. Wow.
My culture at large appears to think that we empaths are just imaginary characters found in science fiction books and movies. Appears to believe that humans are only powerful when augmented by weapons, walls, and superior tech, data, or numbers. What have those beliefs gotten us? It’s not progress. Not when we yet again sent numb, vacant-eyed, automaton-type humans to smile and clap and celebrate while nearby neighbors were mourning and children and young adults (8 months old to 22 years old, as near as I can tell) were dying in the streets. Science fiction writers were seeing and describing this same BS a century ago.
What is progress? How about human beings who can feel the presence of dis-ease and feel the presence of health across a community? People who can take action to increase the presence of health outside, within, and around failing healthcare systems? People who silently or quietly encounter and greet the violence within themselves and others and who can temper it without raising their voices most days? I want my leaders, my humans actually, healthy, which to me means people who are inclined to weep, not smile and clap, when nearby humans are dying. Healthy humans are deeply connected to other humans and to all of life. They don’t have vacant, distant eyes that refuse to even acknowledge other’s pain. I’m not saying that Gaza–or any violent human situation, long term or not–is easy. But we humans are so much better than what most of us witnessed on our screens this week, so it feels like it’s time again to more fully and visibly name HOW we are better. So we can remember together and not lose hope.
Question. How are you better than what you witnessed in your leaders and on your screens this week? Something to think about–no need to answer out loud unless you want to. I’ll start…
I’m an empath. I cry other people’s tears, get other people’s goosebumps, and regularly receive other people’s joy. I have been doubled over in pain by the bubbling-over caged pain within a stranger’s chest–without them noticing or speaking a word to me about it. I can help hold, understand, and vent/ease/lessen the pain of those close to me (physically close or emotionally close). And with the help of just one close-to-me other (just someone to listen), I can even help vent/ease/lessen the caged pain of total strangers. Also, as an empath I deeply need my community, because I’m sensitive enough that I can become quickly overwhelmed on my own. With my whole community’s help, I no longer have to hide to recover to the same extent. I can recover as I move in the world now, most days. Be healed by the world and be healing. Spreading empathy has become a breeze here, at least for me, because I can see my ever-widening community spreading empathy like a field of dandelions spreads her seeds.
As an empath, I am unable to celebrate while nearby others are awash in grief and I am unable to continue on with my own well-laid plans when others are calling/crying/lashing out in overwhelming frustration, loss, or sorrow. I may be a pain in the ass sometimes (ok, often), but I am better than a gun, better than a bomb, better than a tank, and better than a wall between us at dissipating violence, because I can do so without increasing violence somewhere else in the world. They can’t. And as an empath I am a better representative of the true power of humanity than those center stage who claimed to represent the U.S. this week in Jerusalem. My eyes may often be full of tears, but they are never vacant or cold. I don’t overlook entire swaths of neighbors–I can’t. Not anymore. And thanks to my community, I’m now wholly unable to look away during moments I could actually make a difference. Thanks to my community, I know I’m not alone in my pain and that none of us are. I know where I and my loved ones are most needed, I more often know how I’m needed, I can usually feel whose voice in a space needs to be heard next (and when mine doesn’t need to be), and within my own community, my strengths are often recognized and celebrated. With empaths in all directions around us, this isn’t science fiction. This is reality. This is my reality.
So, nice try fears, but I’m not an optimist, a wearer of rose colored glasses, or a snowflake. I’m a sensitive, powerful being who feels remarkably grateful and lucky every day of her life now, even during horrible, heart-shattering days. I can see more because of who I really am, not less (as I’ve been told). I’m always aware now of our deep connections, shared emotions, caged pain, and hidden powers. I can even feel the pain and joy of ancestors some days now, including younger versions of myself. My community and I can find and expand tiny grains of health into entire gardens where others see only or mostly dis-ease. That’s what it is to be an empath within a global community of awakening empaths. It is a strange experience to feel fully at home and needed on earth—and almost never powerless anymore—by simply paying closer attention and tapping into the voice of a whole place.
Welcoming newcomers into a community coworking space

Welcoming newcomers into a community coworking space

In my beginning is my end. – T.S. Eliot

A family/neighbor/friend celebration at the big round table

If you do just one thing: Say “Welcome! I’m so glad you’re here!”
The core of what we do here: This is a community within which we almost always feel happy and grateful and lucky when newcomers show up. We say welcome out loud and mean it. I experience the space as a playground. I believe that if you feel fully welcome then you will be fully welcoming. Believe that it’s possible to so ooze welcome that even the busiest person in the world feels compelled to stop, take a breath, relax, and slow down for a moment. I’m learning to be a welcome-oozer here. Recently I also learned the importance of sharing the task of welcoming newcomers with community members. I look for people who exude welcome themselves and who are willing to say to me “You are too busy/distracted/pissy/grouchy/touchy/PMSing to welcome a newbie right now. Sit down. I’ve got this one.” Then I ask them for their help.
The details of what we do here: Given that we run our free coworking space out of our Seattle home, our onboarding process for newcomers is casual. Here casual does not equal “not-thought-through” it instead means “reflecting of our happy and relaxed and trusting nature.” Our “t-shirt-and-sweatpants-casual space” (here I quote from the postcard amazing coworker Tabitha just created for our space–yea Tabitha!!) doesn’t lend itself to formality, and these days neither do I. Here’s what we do.
When someone new comes to the door…

One of the regulars here:

1. Waves/gestures through the windows in the door to come right in. The door is unlocked.

2. Gets up, shakes hands with, and welcomes the person as they come through the door.

3. Helps them settle their stuff somewhere.

4. Gives them the “Hollywood Celebrity Tour” of the space to familiarize them with the amenities and the highlights/people. This involves introducing them to whoever happens to be working here that day, telling them about what other coworkers here do, and asking them about who they are and the work they do. Also, introducing them to the play features (board games, video games, dog and cats, movies, bookshelves, backyard, etc.) not just the expected work features.

5. After the tour, asking them if:

  • They’re here to work alone today or together. (I make myself available to those who want to work together in case other coworkers are on tight individual deadlines.)
  • They’d like to read the 2-page Welcome document for the space. (more on this below)
  • They’d like a drink. If they do, and I’m the welcomer, I get it for them. This is my home, after all, and it matters to me that every single person who walks through the door feels deeply welcome.

This is what I’ve observed us doing here so far most days and the order in which we often do it. I’m not a fan of checklists given to others. Other welcomers do whatever they feel like doing to make people feel welcome and are often far better at it than I am given my propensity to rattle on endlessly about things I’m passionate about (as most of you already know).

When someone new emails us or joins our Facebook page…

  • Email: Sometimes I hear from people via email that they’d liked to come by. I exchange two or three emails with them, find out about them and what they’re looking for, and tell them about us and our space. I welcome them to stop by on Wednesday if they’d like to meet more people or on another day if they’d like to start by coworking just with me or a smaller group. People only hear about us via neighbors, online community members, our neighborhood news blog Central District News (thanks Tom!), and postcards in neighborhood community centers/shops/spaces. So most people who email me already strongly suspect that we’ll be a good match, we hit it off immediately, and my task is mostly to answer a few of their logistical questions and to remember to not to rattle on endlessly via email. Depending on the person and what they ask for, I may also recommend that they check out Office Nomads, The Mill, Agnes Undergound, and other coworking and/or maker spaces in the surrounding neighborhoods. Coworkers in Seattle are so lucky. There are dozens of spaces to choose from (or–for nomads like me–dozens of spaces to work across), and we Seattle collaborative space people encourage coworkers to try them out and find their own good fit(s).
  • Facebook: About once/week, I recognize new community members by name and say “Welcome!” to them.

Seven experiments in welcoming (in progress)…

1. Telling the stories. To emphasize the spirit and nature of the space, when a newcomer shows up, I often tell the story of why we started it (I was lonely and tired of working by myself most days), why our regulars choose to cowork here, and how we got the idea (visiting a more formal coworking space in another city and thinking “This is amazing!” and “We could do it even better!” simultaneously).

2. Being/doing what we want instead of talking about what we want. Frack this is tough for this introvert writer, but I’m trying. For example, instead of telling people we’re looking for coworkers who like to share things, we just very visibly share things. Seeing our share shelves and share board and community books and free tea and strawberries and blueberries and popsicles is enough. Instead of talking about the fact that we want to work with playful people, we just play. Seeing our games and toys and puzzles and after-hours movie watching (this week, seeing Fisher and Sean’s Water balloon fight and free popsicles event) is enough. This community is teaching me to lead with play–a state of being I’d almost forgotten I even could be.

Free strawberries!

Sharable books, toys, and games in the space

3. Having a two-page Welcome document in a silly folder that reflects the nature of the space for those who want it. As part of the Seattle Collaborative Space Alliance now, and I’ve started visiting other spaces and seeing what it feels like to be a newbie in a space, intentionally witnessing how they welcome me,  and eventually hanging out with them and directly asking them about how they welcome people and help brand new people feel welcome. One of the many things I’ve learned from our ancestor/partner/sister spaces is that as a newbie stepping into another space, socially awkward me appreciates a bit more formality and hand-holding than I myself thought to do for others in our space. For example, if you’re nervous and/or new, you may forget half of what you’re told on the walking tour and have to re-ask questions and feel even more awkward. So I created a two-page Welcome document for our space and put it in a silly folder. The full text of this document is at the end of this blog post. Guess the other tip here is: Visit other coworking spaces and experience what it’s like to be a newcomer for yourself.

4. Community member board. Thanks to Office Nomads, I’ve also learned that a community member board in the physical space can make you feel more welcome and help you feel part of the community faster. It helps newbie-you remember names and faces (also helpful to old person/faulty memory me). I actually recognized several people on ON’s board, which really made me feel part of the community. So I began creating one for our space last week. Here’s a photo of this work-of-art-in-progress. Names aren’t on it yet. I lost my label maker somewhere in the basement. Sigh. Names will be on it eventually.

The beginnings of our community member board

5. Online community playground. I think of our online community spaces as playgrounds and more opportunities to spend time with people I love. So far, we have a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/collectiveself), a Collective Self community photo album (http://collectiveselfphotos.tumblr.com/), and a Seattle Collaborative Space Alliance photo album (http://seattle-collab-space-alliance.tumblr.com/, this one is brand new but will eventually reveal all the names and faces and personalities of the collaborative work spaces in the area). With just an email address, community members can be added to the Tumblr photo albums and add their own photos/pictures as they see fit. The Facebook page is used by regulars here to post stories/ideas/images of interest to the community, talk about upcoming events, and directly help and/or tease each other. Newcomers can feel for themselves what kind of community we are and decide to join us or keep looking for a better fit. Love that. My goal is to find community members who will be happy here with us long-term–people who will go gladly on this life’s journey with us.

6. Mad-ninja-skills-of-the-community list. We have a share board where people can write the names of skills and things they have to share. Sometimes people don’t though, so we also ask people periodically about their skills and have created a monster list. I just hung that list on the wall yesterday. There are enough people here now that I can’t even remember all the skills we have. The list is my place to go to remind myself just how frickin’ AMAZING this coworking community actually is. I’ll share the list in an upcoming post. It’s amazing. Whether somebody is paid money for the skill or not is immaterial. It is a skill this community has. Walking into a new space, and working with new and different coworkers for the first time is awkward for me and, I suspect, most people. I suspect that having the Community Skills List on the wall will make the initial tour of the space for newcomers more fun: another fabulous stopping point on the Hollywood Celebrity Bus Tour of Collective Self that you receive the first time you visit.

7. Bad-mood buddies. If I’m dealing with something particularly stressful or difficult in my life on any given day, I should not be the one who opens the door, gives the tour, and tells the stories. Someone–anyone–in the space is better suited to help a newcomer feel welcome those days. I learned this the hard way last month. I answered the door on a day when multiple things were going wrong in my life. I haven’t seen that coworker since. Now I think of all the regulars here as my bad-mood buddies, and I’ve told them (or will tell them next time they’re here) to step in to welcome people whenever they’re up for it and especially when I’m clearly NOT up for it.

This is the official end of this post. The following text is our 2-page Welcome document, because Daniel’s out of town and I can’t figure out how to attach a document to a blog post. 🙂


Welcome. We are beside ourselves with happiness and gratitude that you are here.

Important: This document is for people who like reading documents. If you don’t, stop reading now.

Hours: Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. All other days, by appointment, unless you have a key. Email lori@collectiveself.com or call 206-805-9978 to work here non-Wednesdays.

Front door: Just come in Wednesdays, don’t knock. Other days, the front door may be locked so either 1) make an appointment or 2) become a good friend and receive the code or your own key.

Networks and passwords:

Main floor network is called *************, and the password is **************************

Upstairs network is called ************, and the password is ****************************


Free wireless internet access, full kitchen (some days free food), tea and coffee, printer, large dry-erase board, multiple coworking sub-spaces (details below), round 10-person reservable community table, smart TV, fireplace, board games and video games, sidewalk chalk, garden, porch and patio, Tardis cookie jar (feel free to put cookies in it), share shelves (place for stuff you can just take/give away), community book shelves, sappy dog and 3 friendly cats as coworkers/play buddies

Connect after work:

Facebook (www.facebook.com/collectiveself), twitter (@collectiveself), after-hours hang outs, community photo album (http://collectiveselfphotos.tumblr.com/ send Lori your email, become group member, and add photos here). To connect with the even larger collaborative space community, check out http://www.collaborativespaces.org/ and http://seattle-collab-space-alliance.tumblr.com/.


  • Front porch (at very front of space, good for small meetings in warm weather, taking phone calls, and after hours, having drinks and relaxing)
  • Living room (to the right of the front door, good for very relaxed coworking where you don’t mind periodically mixing conversation into your work. After hours, movie watching. Fireplace cozy in winter, aka, roughly September – May in Seattle.)
  • Dining room (in the center of the space with views of living room and kitchen, good for focused working on your own during work hours, and sometimes we change it up and turn it into a collaborative work area or a game playing area. This space is also available for hosting meetings/teaching classes on all days but Wednesdays.)
  • Bathroom (at the very back of the space, straight back from the front door)
  • Media/meeting room (at back of the space, with door, good for meetings of 2 to 6, phone calls when empty, and movie watching/video gaming when you’re tired of working)
  • Kitchen (good for making tea and coffee, storing lunch in the fridge, and cooking together. Also great space for coworkers who are cooks/chefs/foodies who want to demo something new they’re trying and/or for teaching food-related classes. Yours to use as you like while you’re here Wednesdays. Tea/coffee/mugs and stuff are on the counter. Ask someone for help or dig around and figure things out for yourself.)
  • Upstairs office (first door on the right at top of stairs, this space is good when you need serious quiet, hosting 4-person meetings, or need a large dry-erase board. Large monitor and ergonomic keyboard up there too.)
  • Back yard (behind the house, good for warm-weather meetings, playing ball with the dogs, and taking phone calls. After hours, good for making ‘smores and having drinks and dinner.)

Some beliefs of people who’ve decided to become regulars and supporters of this space

  • I can be myself here.
  • I can relax and play here, not just work here.
  • I’m more effective here than on my own.
  • This community and neighborhood fucking rocks.
  • Dogs and cats are cool coworkers.
  • I can help this community.
  • This space is/could become far more than just a place I do my individual work.
  • Free is affordable. Working here is cheaper than working in a coffee shop.
  • Trusting strangers—people who lead with trust—are innately trustworthy.
  • Wow, there are better ways to work than I imagined on my own.


  • Make yourself at home. Shoes on or off, your call. Put your stuff wherever you want to put it. Dig around for a cup or plate or fork in the kitchen or ask if just digging freaks you out.
  • Take phone calls away from others. Good places to step to include the backyard, front porch, the media/meeting room (with door shut), and for really private calls use upstairs office (first door on right).
  • Add your photo to the member board.  Lori’s also happy to take your picture if you’d like.
  • Use the share shelves and community bookshelves. Bottom two shelves on the back porch are where we put small free stuff for others to take: anything from dishware to office supplies to candles to dog toys. Books and games and toys on the bookshelves are borrowable.
  • Make changes if you feel unhappy. If something doesn’t work for you here, talk to others and change it.
  • Notice the spirit of the space and make sure it’s right for you. We aspire to be welcoming, open, generous, relaxed, fun, playful, helpful, grateful, trusting, smart, funny, and forgiving. A ragtag band of free-range chickens, cute ninjas, kind pirates, and cool neighbors learning to work and build community together.
  • Ask for ideas/help with things. If you ask for help out loud, those who can help, will help. Those who can’t that moment, won’t. FYI: everything Lori is working on individually on Wednesdays can be set aside in favor of working with others. She’s a time ninja!
  • Ask questions and share things while you’re here and also after work. Via after-hours hangouts, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr community photo album, front-porch gifts/swaps, for example.
  • Make friends here. Life’s short. Sometimes deadlines should wait. Sometimes only with the help of friends can we make that regularly happen in our lives. Without Grady, for example, Lori forgets to eat meals.
  • Tell extremely cool others about us. We’re new and growing. Please tell extremely cool others about us—those you can imagine thriving here and those you think would do us good.
  • Lean on the mad ninja skills of others here. See the community skills list on the diningroom wall.