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When you had the moment on the ferry and then pointed back to the mantra to flip it on its head "I did not sell this house today." it brought me back to my last Saturday. I was also in the midst of a long list of to-do's. Dropping off child number three for a Girl Scout Journey after I had dropped off child one and child two at their respective Saturday soccer games. I was worried that I would have to stay there and had been mentally preparing myself to give a little spiel about how she's 16 and certainly old enough to spend a few hours without my supervision on a local organic farm. My intention was to kind of rush back so I could watch one of the games because I was feeling a little guilty for missing the previous two, especially since I was the "team manager" for one and really felt like I was dropping the ball. So me and my daughter walk up to the table where all visitors are being greeted and guess what - It was cancelled. Not enough registrants. So we're standing there, both of us feeling a mix of relief and frustration. We did, after all, spend the morning (all of us left the house at 8 am) reading over the list of what to bring and printing out girl scout permission slip forms and emergency medical forms and blah blah blah. But then just a little horizon opened up and there we were on a beautiful fall morning at this farm that just opens up to the public for a few hours on Saturday. There was a stall selling hot tea and coffee and pastries so we immediately indulged. Ten minutes later we were sitting under this gorgeous oak tree listening to a lone guitar player strumming "Let it Be" and I'm watching geese fly over the fields in front of me trying my hardest not to sob too openly because I'm just so grateful to have a moment where there are not expectations, nothing to check off a list. Like many of us, I know I can power through and I'll get it done somehow. But there's nothing like those moments we can't control to help us see the world beyond the blinders and get some nourishment for those deeper parts of our selves.

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That is beautiful! I had that moment on Thursday, I had forgotten the print out I needed to edit and my coffee date got cancelled, so I wandered through the Botanic gardens and it was exactly what I needed.

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founding

What a beautiful moment and reminder of what it means to have the freedom to pay attention to life for a little space of time!

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Last Tuesday I had an 8:30am dentist appointment and somehow my normal one-hour commute took over two hours so I canceled, and I was so frustrated for about five minutes that I'd gotten up early and done everything I needed to do to get kids out the door and myself out the door and this thing I needed to get done wasn't getting done. And then I sort of shook myself off, turned off my traffic app, and just enjoyed sitting still in the car next to the river while I waited for traffic. Eventually I got a takeout lunch from my favorite bakery, and walked around Volunteer Park in Seattle for a bit, and then made it to work early. I feel like I don't have permission most days to go do something like that, and that unexpected cancellation meant I could take the scenic drive to the park and the bakery and still get to work by 10:30am.

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I live on a different island in Puget Sound, and the community I have found here means I will never leave. Even though it is November here and between the rain and the dark, dreary.

Interactions like the one you had on the ferry are gifts. Here’s a memorable one I had recently: A couple of weeks ago I was on my way out to draw in a clear cut, and sitting in my car on a dirt road in the middle of this epic devastated space wrapping up a long chat with my best friend. A guy hiked out, fiddled in the pickup truck across the way, and then headed back, but paused by my car in the way of someone wanting to ask a question. I rolled down my window and said hi, and he went on to explain that he had shot a deer and was bringing it back to his truck, but could wait if it was uncomfortable for me. I told him it was fine, and thanked him for being so thoughtful.

Friend and I continue chatting, and a few minutes later, he returns with the deer on a little cart thing. I say bye to my friend, and gather up my drawing stuff and chair, and notice he’s kinda paused. So I ask if he needs help. Turns out he does because he hadn’t really considered the height of the truck and a recent back injury, so together we heave the deer into his truck. It was weird and also great, as we had chance to bridge a bunch of divides in that moment, and it’s been giving me hope for the future ever since.

You should definitely join the volunteer fire department. And maybe then become an EMT!

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I left instagram after moving to a new home last year and it has been a weird transition? We've got a Canopy and Stars voucher to use from pandemic cancellations and have been scrolling through options and it's incredible to hear that voice in my head "how cute of photo could I take?" and realise so many of the treehouses and yurts are set up for instagram rather than real life?

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founding

I've had so many of these moments since leaving Instagram about a year ago. What is the purpose of my taking this photo? Whom is it for? Is it a memory I want to keep? Why did I ever do the Instagram thing in the first place? What did I hope to gain from it, or give to it?

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Facebook: where your grandma goes to get brainwashed.

Instagram: where you go to if you want to develop an eating disorder.

Twitter: where the vaguely intellectual go to get their feelings hurt.

elm

meat space moved online, so obviously OG online needs to go offline

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founding

Love that Twitter summation :)

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Merci beaucoup.

The underlying basis of the whole thing is that Zuckerberg who, by all accounts, is a serious creep, and who also aspires to be the silent emperor of the world by owning everyone's data. (He thinks you should be totally generous in giving him all your data for free, but he's quite tight-fisted about giving *you* any real data. Gee, I wonder why?) So, unless you are a famous person (in which instance, you're already out there in the open as part of your job), I have no damned idea why anyone would give him their data. Because he has no compunctions about messing with people's minds.

Overlay that with the various distasteful aspects of meatspace celebrity culture, marketing culture, ripoff culture, conspiracy culture and what not, it's all pretty ripe smelling.

Twitter is a much clearer case of a through line from old skool internet culture, which was full of frequently snooty fucking intellectuals, nerds, dorks, some crazy people, run-of-mill dweebs and the like. ({mutters} a group which apparently includes me).

Which is a shame, since you can talk to people you don't know from around the world, including much more civilized countries than the US, and learn lots of new things, and finally locate a certain person you've been looking for for a long long time.

elm

but the bottom line, i am sad to say, is more money for rich assholes and who cares who gets run over in the process

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Also, I subbed up.

elm

because

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This is one of the many things that came to mind reading your essay:

I very mindfully cultivated community over the past 7-8 years. I realized how much I had pursued it as another way to be good enough, by doing, giving, being of service. When my dad died in Jan 2020, a friend asked me if I was going to sit shiva back home (funeral was 400 miles away). I said what you said to the firefighter: (imagine the italics) “oh! I’ll figure it out!” I thought I’d stop by the market on the way home from the funeral and maybe order a few things. Thankfully, they told me not to be ridiculous and prepped it all for me, and I came home to a house full of people who were there for me.

Honestly, accepting that care and love was one of the harder things I’ve ever done. Learning to receive from the community I contribute to is one of the better lessons of my adult life.

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This hit home for me - thank you.

I’m planning my sons second birthday, which will be his first party due to Covid. The guest list will be small, just my parents, in-laws and my husband and I’s siblings. Yet I’m still finding myself pushing back on feeling a strong need to go all out with decorations and a professional cake.

(My mom always made a pan of brownies and got a carton of ice cream for birthdays and I never felt neglected.)

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founding

I saw the answer you needed in between the ( and ) - inside.... if we listen.... we know the answer

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Thank you. I have been in such a deeply reflective, grieving for our society and what it is, kind of place these past few weeks. I have been thinking a lot about how we can start to rebuild real community and society. I appreciate this very much.

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I feel this a lot ❤️

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I think one of the reasons we have weeks of overflowing tasks is that the tasks we think are necessary really have increased historically. I'm reading Alison Bechdel's book on exercise, which starts out with a reminder that before the 1970s, the American middle class didn't really exercise in the way we do now, with gym memberships and hour-a-day commitments common.

And to that, I would add (spurred by your list) household stuff like dehumidifiers, humidifiers, white noise machines, and air purifiers. My parents had none of these; I have 3, with attendant care and maintenance.

And the list can go endlessly on...

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I want to time travel back or visit someone who doesn't have things to see how they actually live. Does that even make sense? I somehow know my life is overly and unnecessarily complicated but I can't seem to figure out how to uncomplicate it.

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This may not uncomplicate it, but maybe will help to prevent further complication: Every time I want to purchase or commit to something I try to think about exactly how much complication it will create beyond the initial joy of purchasing it/committing to it and then weigh whether it will be worth it. Want to buy that top because it's pretty? Is it worth finding room for it in my closet and how will it feel if and when I need to purge it? Want to buy that Apple Watch? How do I feel about having to upgrade yet another device every couple of years?

It doesn't always keep me from buying/doing the thing, but it has helped me realize I don't need that Apple Watch or all of those clothes. (But I do want an air purifier). It's kind of like teaching yourself the art of saying no ... to yourself.

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Two contradictory things to say here: first, don't overextend yourself. Self-employment is wonderfully liberating, but if you have an overdemanding boss, it'll be a burn-out just the same. I totally get the make hay while the sun shines imperative, especially in a line of work that is still in the process of being invented, but you have to pace yourself: it's a long run.

On the other hand, definitely join the volunteer fire department. My wife's first teaching job was in a small town in rural Montana, and I was lucky enough to be told, at the beginning that teacher's husbands were expected to (a) attend all home games and (b) join the vfd. I did both, and it was a terrific experience. (Even if I did have to miss some mornings at work for having been at fires in the wee hours of the morning.) I didn't get the chance to save any lives (we moved away after a year) but it was a good service nonetheless, and driving the fire truck on dark winter snowy nights was an experience not to be missed.

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Teacher's wives attended all home games as well, and I think one of the EMTs was married to a teacher. The whole might well be less gendered in this century.

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I want to write something here for folks feeling overwhelmed and overcommitted and ragged and crispy. Please understand that what I'm going to write here comes from a place of tremendous love and empathy. Okay, ready?

There is a way to live a more uncomplicated life...live alone. If there is no one who you need to arrange a space for but yourself, there (can be, your anxiety and your mileage may vary) is less pressure to make sure it's clean all the time. You don't have to worry about cooking for or chauffeuring anyone else. You don't have to struggle to rub your last two brain cells together to pay attention to your SO's download of work drama at the end of the day. If you can swing it and you can also work remotely from home like I do....shit it pretty fucking chill. It's quiet...almost all the time.

Why do I bring this up? As a humble brag? Nope.

I bring this up to say that the lifestyle of peace and freedom I live and you may feel you crave as you roll out of bed at 6am with a to do list the length of a CVS receipt, is attainable but only if you give up your SO and your kids. Would you be willing to give that up? Hell no! The life you have built for yourself is dramatically different! It's got different highs and lows. I have the mental energy to manage an interior design firm, teach at university, privately tutor, write three novels and regularly take volunteer shifts as a case manager at an abortion fund. You have a family! You might feel exhausted by 8am just helping get everyone out the door, I get lonely randomly on a Tuesday watching my eighth episode of Brooklyn 99 at 1am. We are not built the same, and that's not just ok, it's awesome!

Your lifestyle low key gives me the heebie jeebies. I lived it for nearly a decade before my partner passed away and his children moved away and I still don't know how I didn't lose my mind. My lifestyle might sound super boring and isolating to you; and it is. It so is. In the best possible way.

Why am I writing all this? I dunno; it's a version of something I say to my one friend with kids and an aggravating husband. We've all got a different burdens, but I don't think you would trade what you have for what you might long for occasionally. I find that kind of soothing and uplifting. You're not trapped. The benefits far outweigh the sacrifices.

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I lived on rural islands for most of my 20s and into my 30s, and used to feel envious of my friends in urban locations because of all they had easy access too (particularly a dating pool!). But I am glad now that i learned to a) never, ever take convenience for granted/think carelessly about efficiency and b) ask for help. My car broke down all the time, and I always had to ask for jumps...you can't jump your car without another human being, even if you always have the cables with you.

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founding

So wonderful! Community is in fact why I moved back to Montana, to my hometown, from a place where life felt the opposite. And where most of the women I met did things like change the decor of their house not just every holiday, but every season. Community, not aesthetics, is how we survive.

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CW: Cancer (also really good community showing up in ways that make me want to cry because I'm all overwhelmed gratitude)

I've spent a lot of the last 18 years thinking about the ways that cultivating community builds resilience. I got to spend the most of last summer in Canada with my partner (he's Canadian), and one day he commented as I was snickering at an endless round of dumb jokes in my pandemic pod group chat, "you spend a lot of time cultivating these connections."

And I learned something about what I really believe about life, because the words that came out of my mouth were, "it's my best survival skill."

Two months after that I was diagnosed with a kind of breast cancer that can be very aggressive in pre-menopausal women--but is also very treatable . Thanks to modern medicine there's a 98% chance that I will be cancer free in a year, and a 2% chance that I'm still in treatment, but well on my way to being cancer free. Which is good news, even if the next six months in particular are going to be Very Tough.

That's not the point of this story. At the beginning of the pandemic, I moved in with my best friend and her husband (who I barely knew at the time, and now is my brother from another mother). We podded up with the households of our two other local closest friends from college. One of whom was married to a dude who was not my favorite. Not actual dislike, just a failure to mesh in the same way that tooth paste and orange juice are both great and worthy but taste terrible together. And I had social dread. But we spent a year trusting each other with our lives and figured out how to appreciate each other, even if we will never be a lot alike.

Then my cancer diagnosis and my podmates turned into Elizabeth Warren, they have a Plan (which mostly involves making sure I don't have to drive places when I should not be driving, and don't have to go to appointments without a note taker). Dude who was not my favorite quietly let his boss know that he would be using sick leave on short notice to take care of a family member with cancer. He didn't tell anyone that he'd done this until a day when his wife was scheduled to drive but was migraining. "Oh that? I cleared it weeks ago."

And right now that's what community means to me. The aesthetics and care packages are truly lovely and kind and thoughtful, but knowing that I don't have to worry about making it to an appointment and that someone will notice if I pass out on the bathroom floor makes me weepy with gratitude.

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Holy shit. I've just sent this to my gang, my coven of women. We hold each other up in our group chat and in real life while our lives are seemingly falling apart and I don't know what I'd do without them.

I'm lying in bed willing myself to get up and go to work (don't wanna, it's freezing and snowing!? in NOVEMBER!? when summer's just around the corner!?) and just yes, yes to all of this.

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I'm a single mum and I work full time and a lot of the time I feel like I'm not doing a good enough job at either of those things. The constant push-pull, the boss and the ex and my own anxiety needling at me all the time telling me my best isn't good enough. Fucking hell, no wonder we're all such a mess.

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I don’t do social media precisely for this reason: it gave me all these feelings, all this anxiety and discomfort, all these thoughts about me and them and all of it; it made me dislike more than I liked and ironically, all that energy for things that aren’t ACTUALLY in my life… and in a context comprised of people who aren’t actually in my life - none of them were on the roadside for the flat or at the grocery store in line behind me. It’s hard enough to live in the mess but to have to think of how it looks to others or to have to think how others’ lives aren’t messy just makes it all so much harder.

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I've been systematically cutting back on social media, leaving facebook in 2016 and instagram in 2020. For me, it was helpful to make a cull thinking "if I saw them in an airport, would I have a drink?" and later "would I invite them into my home if perchance we were in the same place?" And then leaving entirely. I worry I have very few ties with people from my past, but maybe that's ok?

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“I worry I have very few ties with people from my past, but maybe that's ok?” - this is very much how I’ve been feeling recently. I’ve been working to accept that I can only keep so many people in my circle of connections at a given time and because I don’t keep in touch with someone it doesn’t mean that relationship wasn’t meaningful and important for what it was at that time in my life.

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I keep my FB page alive for that reason, I don’t have Jordan from high school’s email or cell but I do so like her so would want to be in touch somehow maybe - I treat it as a rolodex, I just don’t post or look at the feed. The looking at the feed is what done me in - that’s where all the uncomfortable feels reside. Comparing. And years of meditation and good self care still don’t prevent that compulsive habit of comparing but at least I know it’s an option and so I opt out.

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I look at my feed and engage with groups (the ones for my building and neighborhood, which distillers both the best and worst of those communities) but rarely post anymore. I was getting sick of my life and opinions being performative and the feelings I would have based on the reactions. I occasionally post photos on IG, and when I do it’s generally because I think they’re photos people will find interesting and I like to look back on what’s basically a curated photo album of my life.

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I have also been thinking of the people who I deeply value from my past who aren't on social media and therefore I let them go. It's great that I see that person who I worked with once at summer camp 15 years ago, and her kid is lovely, but what about the guy who was one of my dearest college friends that I let drift away? This really hit home for me when it was confirmed that Facebook was experimenting with whether putting people in your timeline more often made you keep up with them as friends later.

F it, I'm off to try to send my old friend an email.

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"If I saw them in the airport, would I have a drink?" is a really great way to consider Facebook friends. I think mostly yes, I would, but there's a few I keep around purely for the small-town gossip and the never-ending wtf-ery of their lives.

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Love this! The scope of my community has been reduced to almost nothing thanks to moving + pandemic. I hold on fiercely to what little I have. I know my immediate neighbors. I give them holiday gifts and ask if they’re all right when the power is out. I know the parents of kids at my daughter’s school. I do my best to chat politely and set up a group for us all to connect. It’s not much, but it’s something.

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Heather, I moved during the pandemic too and it has been very hard to feel any sense of community. Being in a new city that I am not from but most people are from compounds the alone-ness. I had a conversation recently with someone who offered to “set me up” with friends of hers who are also new in town. I’m normally very *Independent* and don’t take people up on offers of help but maybe that’s the lesson for this time. How will I have community if I don’t take the offer of community when it’s made? Time to be less Independent? Or something. Good luck to you in your new home and town. 🙏🏼

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I recently became friends with a woman who moved to our community at the start of the pandemic, and it’s been super fun connecting with her and helping her meet other folks. I hope you find the same.

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"...allowing yourself to rely on others isn’t a source of weakness, but a real fucking strength." Such a key realization, and one that can truly unlock so much more possibility (and availability!) in days chock-full of things-to-do.

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