Another blog? Yeah, I think anyone who publishes one of these pretty much has to answer that question – as many of them as there already are in the world. I’ve got control of three other blogs I already don’t write on enough. Seriously, another one? If that’s not a question you’re asking you might not care to read this.
Maybe you’re not asking questions about how best to emerge from quarantine either.
Or, you might not be asking questions about how to re-engage the world around you.
Since part of the answers to those questions when I ask them is a need, and a responsibility, to engage the world outside my solitude more often and more directly, I’m asking the questions out loud. You do you…
But why here? Why ANOTHER blog…?
The other blogs I have access too are all fairly specifically focused around their own conversations. Those are conversations that are important to me but, they’re not always the only conversations I’m trying to listen to.
Often enough though, the conversations I am trying to listen to don’t really fit in those specifically focused spaces and would risk just being a source of confusing distraction. So, I don’t write reflections about them at all. Then, I end up not writing for the more specific topics either because I’m distracted by the things that I don’t really have any place to put.
Yeah, I could open a text file, dump the thoughts, and save them on my hard drive without going public. That’s not what I mean though. I mean a place to put them where I have to own responsibility for them in the world. A place to put them that makes them real in The Neighborhood, not a place to set them aside.
Let me back into why that matters…
If you’re familiar with the Enneagram, I’m a Five. If you’re not familiar and would like to be, you can get the Wikipedia overview, look up The Enneagram Institute, read about The Enneagram at Work or, check out Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation. There are others, but these are probably the best places to jump off.
Fives are cerebral types focused on discovering and understanding. The Enneagram Institute describes Fives as Investigators. The Center for Action and Contemplation describes us as living in the Need to Know.
The hardest part of a patch-work-quilt of an economic strategy for life is that you have to keep promoting yourself to find work – and get paid – and have electricity – and tap water. As an Enneagram Five – and throw being a rather pronounced introvert on top of all that – umm, yeah, that’s pretty much the definition of a personal daily hell.
It’s sort of a cobbler’s-kids-always-have-bad-shoes, or a mechanics-always-drive-broken-down-vehicles kind of thing. The former professional life I lived of going to work and helping other people promote THEIR work so they could raise the money they needed to accomplish their purposes was really easy. Simple even.
Raising money by telling compelling stories and inviting people to participate in making them come true, or helping them become better, is not a difficult arcane mystery – it’s just fun. I enjoyed it enough to get good at helping other people do it. It was also a really nice steady paycheck.
Self Loathing In Public
Doing that for myself, promoting my own work, is a loathsome task for a Five and one that I’ve mostly avoided. There’s probably a fortune in that fact for a therapist somewhere. Good look getting it. I haven’t found it yet.
I haven’t found the fortune yet because I would really rather talk about other people’s good work than my own. Of course, that means I don’t always get enough opportunities to do enough of the things I get paid to do.
My primary source of earned income is from coaching a small handful of (mostly) newish, young ministers, and a random collection of others who find their way to me. It is both the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done – and the best paying per hour with no driving – so, that’s nice. Let’s face it though, not a lot of people needed a coach to help them figure out a strategy for sitting through 2020 on their couch wondering what the ever loving hell was gonna happen next… So, that sucked.
The other significant source of income that helped me keep having things like electricity and tap water during a mostly WAY underemployed quarantine came through a Patreon page that supports the work of the farm and the podcast. What that really means is that it supports ME, so I can DO the work of the farm and the podcast…
It’s not a massive amount, but I wouldn’t’ve survived quarantine without it. Here’s the thing… As nice, and necessary, as it is to have income from Patreon supporters to help make all the projects work, I’d rather have more coaching clients.
On average, I earn more money from adding one coaching client to my roster, than I receive from adding 4 or 5 supporters on the farm/podcast Patreon page. I need both but, all things being equal, I’d rather have more clients.
Almost all of my clients currently find their way to me through contracts I have with this or that program at this or that university or organization. I don’t really advertise – at all. I get a small but steady stream of the clients they pair me with and keep flying under the radar into Solitude…
I could easily enough serve 2 or 3 time the number of clients I currently have – if I’d advertise. Of course, that gets us back to the loathsome tasks of self-promotion that I’ve mostly managed to avoid. I’ve also paid a tangible price for that avoidance.
I’m An Enneagram Five
Finding ways to thrive in isolation is one of my Superpowers.
Here we all are though – emerging from quarantine, having learned a few things about ourselves whether we meant to or not. Part of what I’ve learned listening to the Enneagram is that I need to do a more integrated job of “Fiving.” That means venturing out from solitude with a little more regularity to engage things that deserve to be engaged.
Here’s an excerpt from The Center for Action and Contemplation’s description of Fives from the links above:
“The essential core of the FIVE is the soul’s capacity to be illuminated and to illuminate, to make things clear. When you’re clear, the world becomes more transparent. You notice the littlest things. You’re more awake to everything. That illumination is exactly the same as what we call recognition. Whenever you have an “Ah ha” it’s not thinking, exactly; it’s a recognition of truth. It fills your whole body. We all experience that; if you’re a FIVE, you live for that. It’s your specialty.Russ Hudson in conversation with Fr. Richard Rohr
The other side is what I call black light… If you’re present, there’s not only the illumination of the truth, but there’s the clearing away of the nonsense, the delusions, and our false beliefs and ideas.”
When Fives are being a better integrated version of ourselves we stop looking like Fives from the outside and start looking more like Eights – on occasion. We emerge from the isolation that we like to kid ourselves is some sort of Fortress of Productive Solitude and interact with the actual world around us that we’ve contemplating so relentlessly and engage it more consciously and consistently.
Let’s face it, that’s gonna happen in spurts. We Fives are never going to go at fighting the forces in the world that need fighting with the same from-the-second-their-feet-hit-the-floor-in-the-morning-until-their-last-dream-of-the-night kind of energy that Eights bring to the table when it comes to fighting fights that need fighting, but we’re usually gonna come out swinging when we do emerge.
We don’t ever really get finished enough with our never ending quest to understand – everything – to be presumptuous enough to just go around starting fights all the time. I mean it happens along the way but it’s not our general MO. Starting fights really shouldn’t be anyone’s MO – any of the time. Clearly, not everyone is one the same page with that.
Every now and then, fights come along that you can’t stand by and watch happen while people who are backed into a corner keep taking punches. You’ve either got to jump in and take enough punches for your Neighbor to get back on their feet to stand up for themselves, or get to safety. Or, you’ve got to flat out stop whoever’s throwing the punches. Fives are never going to go out and just walk the block, so to speak, like the Eights do every day.
I’m telling you now though, don’t make us come outside…
Eights. Yeah, I love me some Eights. The Enneagram Institute describes them as The Challengers. The Center for Action and Contemplation describes Eights as living in the Need to be Strong. Most of the friends, close or distant, whose work and lives inspire, encourage, intrigue, and impress me the most are almost all Eights – and are good at it. They’re not going to let shit go down on the block on their watch. God, I love ’em. You know, from a distance. From contemplative solitude.
Solitude As A Base, Not A Hideout
Even Fives can’t do solitude forever though. As noted, when we live into the best versions of ourselves we relent from allocating ALL of our energy to the internal quest and re-allocate some of that energy to engage externally – more. We start looking like Eights when we emerge as Challengers.
It’s not that we ever actually complete the quest to understand everything, but we do reach a point where the futility of EVER completing the quest into solitude becomes overwhelming. There’s just nothing left but to start putting together the shards of understanding you’ve been able to gather so far and shape them into some mottled, stained mosaic of a focusing lens and try to shine some light through it. Not so much because you think it will illuminate what the world needs to see but, because it’s the best you’ve got to light your own path as you make your way to Neighbors who are taking punches.
I’ve “emerged” in various ways all along. Usually in seasonal bursts before being seduced back into solitude.
- I farm to provide food to local groups with sharing strategies that respect the dignity and agency of the folk who end up eating the food.
- I podcast to encourage others to do their own version of whatever might best help end hunger in their area.
- I serve an occasional congregation as interim pastor to help discern their best next steps.
- As mentioned above, I earn my primary income as a strategy coach with some of best people in the world who inspire me every time we talk.
There are other things that need doing though; other ways to engage. There are other conversations to listen to – and ask if the people having the conversations need any help, like moving tables and chairs. Notice I didn’t say anything about showing up and trying to be helpful by leading conversations in other people’s spaces – or trying to refocus them on the things I think are important?
(Seriously, do I have to spell it out…? LGBTQIA+ people don’t need cis-straight people showing up telling them how we’re going to help. Black and Brown folk, don’t need white folk showing up telling them how we’re going to help. Folk who are poor don’t need rich people to parade their bootstraps… If any of us cis-straight-white folk with pretty boots want to show up and be genuinely helpful in other people’s spaces we need to come in listening for instructions, guidance, and invitations. Trust me, the other way isn’t genuinely or effectively helpful and isn’t appreciated.)
Yeah, this is my blog though. So, I’ll be the one speaking. Whatever I have to reflect on here will be less about what I think anyone else needs to hear than about what I’ve heard as I’ve listened. As a Five that’s what I do any time I get a minute.
Listen. Ponder. Consider. Synthesize. Theorize. Ask questions. Scrap it all and listen…
This place will be a sort of front porch from which to walk out into the world from time to time. Or, a good place to have a visit with others who are out and about. A place to reflect on all the other conversations that resonate with my antennae.
Feel free to come sit on the porch for a visit (I mean, there are some rules. We’ll get to those…). Some of what’s here is professional, and some is personal. As the Welcome page says, no matter how we’re connected, you’re free to look around and see what else is going on. We may even go for a walk around the block and see what we see going down in the Neighborhood.
Somebody’s gotta back up the Eights. They do this really cool thing once they see the same futility inherent in constantly Challenging and fighting that Fives eventually experience in their beloved Solitude. The Eights start to look like Twos from the outside. They starting shifting some of their energy from ALWAYS fighting the people who are doing the punching to offering the most tender care and kindness to the people who are getting punched. Some start earlier and do more of it than others, but they all have their moments. It’s a beautiful thing to see happen.
But, they gotta know somebody is gonna help watch the block…