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Small Town

Together – We are all in this Together

Together We are in this together. All of it. Wow. That’s a little frightening isn’t it. There is just one planet (until some of you go muck it up on Mars) filled with all the people, the water, the air, the land, the creatures. Just one. And we get to be here. Together.

This is all part of a series to highlight what really matters as I kick the hell out of 2016. #SuckIt2016

I have this feeling that we have allowed other people to divide us into red or blue dots. We are divided into people who care or don’t care, people who help or don’t help and people who give and people who don’t. The thing I know is that we aren’t dots or so singly defined by someone else’s ideas about us. We are complex, creative, smart, funny and we all experience joy and suffering. Every gosh darn one of us.

So what does that mean? What do we do with the idea that we are all in this together?

We aren’t separate. If just one of us is suffering we are all bearing that suffering. That’s a pretty huge concept and one that you can’t take on every moment. But it is real. Every time someone is killed, goes to bed hungry, lives in fear or just doesn’t have enough we are part of that interdependent web of suffering. Often times we think that’s “them” and not us, but take one moment and consider if that person was your child and they are no longer something outside of you. They are you. It is the same with everyone else.

Breaking it Down at a Stoplight

This is BIG picture stuff, but you can break this down to the day to day. Think about when you are at the stoplight and the person in front of you won’t move their ever loving car and the light is going to change back to red and you are still stuck. Instead of yelling at them in your head (or in your car) send them a little heart filled love. They are distracted and having a bad day. You have those, too. Cut them some slack.

Together in a Small Town

I live in a tiny mountain town filled with passionate, smart, creative people with lots of ideas and sometimes issues arise. Heck, I’m often dumbfounded at the thing that becomes the issue and the sheer energy that folks have around it. It’s great to have engaged folks. Sometimes, though, I think we all forget that we are all in this together. Things can get down right ugly at meetings, along the gossip grapevine or in the online comments. (Dude. We are going to have to talk about how online commenting has RUINED everything.) Anyway…

I can’t change how other people use their energy or share their voice. I know this, but I have seen that this idea of “together” has made me decide to just model better behavior because people deserve that kind of respect and time. And when someone says something a little “off” online or through the grapevine I’m going to cut them some slack because they just might not feel comfortable picking up the phone or confronting a person face to face. Heck, they may be having a really crappy day.

I’m also going to remember that although we might have different ideas, communication styles or capabilities mine isn’t better than theirs – it’s just different. And different is ok. If we don’t villainize people we can see them as the same as us – flawed, striving people who experience joy and suffering just like us.

There is No “Them”

This is it folks. There is no “them”. There is only us. We are in this shit together. All of it. You can push everyone away and make your ideas the best ideas, your vision the best vision – but it’s going to be really lonely out there (and you might just be wrong and need more insight, creativity and passion).

We can be different and still in it together. It is how we approach everyone and everything. I know that it is hard when someone seems totally opposite of you, believes things you think are cray cray or acts in a way that is completely counter to your sense of what is right. I get it. I’m not trying to say this idea is easy. Hell, it might be the hardest idea I know, but if we are going to evolve and move towards a better world (the one we all share) we are going to have to get this down.

Repeat after me:  We are all in this together. I’m going to cut you some slack. I’m going to treat you with respect. I’m going to find a thread of commonality because I remember that you experience joy and suffering just like I do.

Whew. That is heavy. We can do this, though. We can do hard things. Yes we can!

Let’s Build a Better World

Shrill by Lindy West Why are we here? That is a question I ask myself a lot. What are we doing with our time here? How are we building a better world? I just finished the memoir, Shrill – Notes from a Loud Woman, from Lindy West, who, I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know. She was featured on This American Life, she wrote for Jezebel, she worked with Dan Savage and she now is the culture writer for GQ (which, honestly, as a super feminist, I think is a little odd – but what do I know about her path?). She asks this question and her answer is kind of brilliant.

“I think the most important thing I do in my professional life today is delivering public, impermeable “no”s and sticking to them. I say no to people who prioritize being cool over being good. I say no to misogynists who want to weaponize my body against me. I say no to men you feel entitled to my attention and reverence, who treat everyone the light touches as a resource for them to burn. I say not to religious zealots who insisted I am less important than an embryo. I say no to my own instinct to stay quiet…

It’s a way of kicking down the boundaries that society has set for women – be compliant, be a caregiver, be quiet and erecting my own. I will do this; I will not do that. You believe in my subjugation; I don’t have to be nice to you. I am busy; my time is not a public commodity. You are boring; go away.

That is world-building…

Voting is world-building. So is kindness, compassion, listening, making space, saying yes, saying no.

We’re all boiling our world, right now, in real time. Let’s build it better.”

The whole thing is amazing. Go read it. (Eureka Springs people it is in the library!)

What World Are You Building?

Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of people blame other people for the woes in their lives (we aren’t talking about real woes like #blacklivesmatter) – we are talking about “it just isn’t how it used to be or how I want it to be” kind of woes. I’ve also been listening to people complain about every. single. thing. around them. Constant. They are spinning in negativity and like when you were a kid and used the Spin Art toy (was that what is was called in the 70’s) that negativity is spiraling out in big splats and blotches into your world. You are spreading negativity splat by splat.

There is one thing to call something out and then live that truth – Like Lindy has done for abortion, fat shaming, and rape culture in comedy, but (there is always a but) if you are just grinding on the same old negative stories from now and the past you are going nowhere and nothing is going to change.

Sure. Life sucks. Tell that to my mom (RIP, Poppy) who lived through the depression eating oatmeal for every meal for 3 years. I’m not kidding. Her life sucked, but she saw that suckage and she did something about it. She fought to go to college, she lived her creativity, she battled her mental illness because just sitting around complaining about (which she did, she wasn’t perfect) wasn’t going to change damn thing. I include this because our idea of sucks – no wifi, airplane is late, tourists are loud, I had to wait in line… seem so trivial.

Here’s What I Know About Building a Better World

We have a only a little bit of time in this world and I am going to make sure that I not only do all I can to build it better, but I am going to surround myself with people who are compelled to do the same thing. Life is too short for me to listen to you bitch. Do you have a solution? Let’s do it! Do you want to work on an idea and make it happen? Let’s do it. Do you want to dig yourself out of your spinning hole and just need a hand – I’m there.

I also know that I have an amazing life and you probably do to if you are reading this. I live a life of relative ease. I work hard because I love it. I live in a beautiful place. I have a loving family who makes my heart sing. My friends hold me close. Life hasn’t been easy, but I’ve been flexible and able to figure out a path that seems to be working. I’m lucky and I’m hardworking. I am also focused on what is possible. I can name what is wrong and I can see what the world will look like when that wrong changes. I’m like the damn song Imagine.

Any moment I forget all of that I am wasting precious moments. When I remember the place my feet are planted – where I am grounded – I can make change happen, I can make a difference, I can build a better world. Let’s do this.

Does Complaining Work

Milwaukee Last week I had the honor of representing my Main Street program at the Main Street America Conference in Milwaukee. I led two sessions; one on attracting travel bloggers to your small town and one on getting other people to do your social media. They were both full sessions and it was great to visit with so many dedicated folks across the US.

My main take away was that I live in an amazing place. Other small towns and communities are working with less infrastructure, more challenges, and have so many more needs. My town, Eureka Springs, is amazing. People dream of living here, visiting here and wanting to share it with friends and family. What struck me was the only people I ever hear complaining about my town is my own community. Everyone else loves it.

I get it. You only complain about the things that you are involved in – mostly, I’m sure there are exceptions. For the most part though you complain about your job, your family, your bowling league, your husband – things that you are deeply engaged in. You don’t complain about the community next to you because you aren’t really part of that town. You, instead have laser like focus on your own community.

Does Complaining Work

On some level complaining does work. Change can be sparked by a complaint and if the right person hears it action can happen. That’s the key. Complaining to the person who can make something happen. Just complaining doesn’t change anything. In fact, it probably makes things worse. It feels like we are just venting, airing our frustration to make ourselves feel better but it’s actually making everyone around us and ourselves feel worse. In fact the science says it may actually be killing us.

“People don’t break wind in elevators more than they have to. Venting anger is…similar to emotional farting in a closed area. It sounds like a good idea, but it’s dead wrong,” psychologist Jeffrey Lohr, who has studied venting, memorably explained.” (from an article on Inc. Magazine)

Is There Another Way

Solution based thinking works. That’s where you see something that could be better or different and you create an action plan to making it better. You gather the team around you who can make it happen, you develop the strategy and you move forward. All of your energy is spent making change happen. There is no time or energy for complaining. You are too busy making stuff happen.

The other option is to focus and be mindful about what you are doing and not worry so much about what everyone else is doing. You aren’t here to be the “superhero of fix everyone and everything” – you can, instead, focus on your own stuff and make that right. I know I have a lifetime of things to fix!

Stopping Complainers In Their Tracks

Stopping complainers is hard work. They like to wrap you up in their head trip and get you to agree with their view of life. I am a BIG fan of the head tilt, smile and “mmmm”. It isn’t an answer. I’m not engaging in the conversation. I’m not offering them solutions. I’m not commiserating. I’m just present. This doesn’t work on the phone. Sadly. Instead you have to be silent. Which is awkward and weird, but it will shut a conversation down.

My Ongoing Project

I realized on this trip that I am just as guilty as the next guy of complaining or looking for fault in someone else’s actions. I’ve had my fair share of bitch sessions. None of those sessions got many results and were, in fact, a waste of my time. My new idea is to just stop it when I start complaining myself and to stop people in their tracks when they are headed down that path themselves.

We aren’t getting better as a community by tearing each other apart. In fact, we may be making each other ill in our desire to be ever vigilant for wrong doings and imperfect projects. We could instead use our energy to celebrate one another and focus on our own stuff.

So, that’s it. My own work. To be focused on my own work and to be mindful in conversations. I suspect it is a lifetime challenge, but I chose to live in a beautiful town and am thrilled to be in a place that makes this challenge worthwhile.

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