It doesn’t seem like it should be a challenge to do that, but I am willing to bet I’m not the only one overwhelmed by this idea.
A friend of mine sent me a link to a wonderful, inspiring Ted Talk.
I really recommend you click through and listen. It isn’t a long one and it’s powerful!
It made me think.
Our farm has let people help. Even when it was hard and I felt like I had my hand out, I always felt it was a fair exchange, much like Amanda Palmer in the video.
A few years ago we invited people to be a part of our farm via Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/littlebrownfarm/cheese-cave-and-classes-and-farm-store-at-the-litt).
We were rewarded with an amazing experience of over 270 people investing money from their pockets to support our dream. We hope our backers felt balance in the transaction. It was my first experience ripping away pride, being utterly exposed and vulnerable, and simply letting people help. The connection felt was overwhelming.
We have invited people to our farm to let them “help” with bottlefeeding the baby goats. More than 50 people each week come through our doors and experience the baby goats. We invite those people to shop or even just leave a ‘tip’ in the Milk Money jar. There are always some people who do.
We ask people to help us by shopping local. Help us by buying our products. Our community has been wonderfully supportive willing to exchange their hard earned funds for the fruits (or cheese) of our labor.
We have asked interns to help us, in exchange for housing, food and a stipend coupled with a learning experience rarely available. The experience, while providing us some concrete benefits, was enough for us to radically change course. Sometimes help doesn’t arrive in the format you expect it.
We have asked for help resolving concerns and were surprised to not receive the help… which served as a perfect reminder, inviting, asking, “letting” people help does not mean that they will (even when it is in their interest to do so), sometimes they just aren’t in the place to be able to help.
Generally being vulnerable enough to let people help is hard. Not like completing a marathon hard (2001). Not like opening the first micro-creamery in your county hard (2010). Not like recovering from a medical condition that is “incompatible with life” hard (of course I had a near-death experience – do you think I would have turned my Kate Spade’s in for MuckBoots without something BIG knocking me up alongside the head?). Being vulnerable can be hard, challenging, even crippling.
Vulnerable is the key word.
Is the help, which is not a guarantee, worth being raw and exposed?
When I hit the roadblocks, I often think it isn’t worth it. I find the critic in my head saying “I trust the wrong people.” “I’m too trusting.” “I need to be less honest in my communication.”
When we funded our Kickstarter, the answer was YES! Easy. Well, the Kickstarter wasn’t easy, but the community support (local, domestic and international!) was worth every minute and then some. The relationships I have now because of our Kickstarter, I wouldn’t trade for all of the funds received x 1,000.
Even now, as we face hard times, was the vulnerability worth it? Still reeling from the pain of dashed hopes, I might think not. But it was. It was BEYOND worth it. (backstory: our interns are leaving soon. They have been a great help to us here and their footsteps on our farm will stay for decades… you’ll get this full story in a few weeks with many photos. It is exciting to see them pursue their path and we are grateful for their help while they lived here.)
Being vulnerable and open to the public has put us in the situation to be burglarized. Worth it? How would I have anything worth taking if I hadn’t been open to the public?
Risking my heart with a close friendship, to have it shattered… worth it? Ouch, but yes. Being in tune with someone the way we were was special, unique and eye-opening. If it happened once, it can happen again, and again. Now I know to be open to it and maybe can talk myself out of running from it when I see it again. That relationship made me a better person. It helped me to recognize a better, authentic me, and be more appreciative of my charmed life. Worth a few (okay, a lot) of tears? Yes.
Loving my beloved pets, only to have them die in my arms… worth it? Speaking of tears, flowing and unfettered, YES.
I had many years with my pets that have passed. Never enough. What would be enough? I know I made their lives better, healthier, longer… and they returned the favor unconditionally. Do I still squeeze my critters tight at the thought of their passing? Of course.
Living my life as I have been for the past decade has been a shift. Most of you reading this never knew the lifestyle we had before. You can extrapolate from learning about my experiences in my writing, but few of you were there and witnessed the change. I wonder if I could go back? If I would? This winter I was certain I must, for self-preservation if no other reason. As I built the walls of self-reliance and separation, despair quickly filled in the vacuum. Vulnerability was gone. Risk was minimized. The burden was untenable. The pain was too familiar.
I have lived motivated daily by love and passion, surrounded and in touch with the things that feed my soul. This amount of soul care has put me in the position to allow my vulnerability to show, something I was never strong enough to do before. I have had so much support and love that I know I can face things like stage-fright, difficult neighbors, regulatory hurdles, heartbreak. I am so lucky.
I have been able to live with my hand open, to receive help, knowing that I was returning value to the equation, just as the 8’ woman in the video above.
We have had our share of hecklers, she talks of the cars driving by yelling “get a job!” our hecklers often have just as witty of insight as they lash out – sometimes from positions of smugness, or fear, or overwhelming envy.
Some of our harshest criticisms have come from those we opened ourselves to the most. It is a searing pain to bare your soul, be your most vulnerable, and have someone you trusted shred it like a weathered old tarp in a spring windstorm.
The rich community support has allowed me to get past the hecklers and the critics… in spite of the wounds caused by the thoughtless words.
Vulnerability can hurt. Sometimes vulnerability is rewarded with support and appreciation. When it isn’t, the hurt cuts deep leaving open, tender wounds, and ultimately scar tissue where there was once freedom and easiness.
Now the question… Knowing the risks and still being quite raw, do we open our hearts again?
We are the precipice of big change.
Do we show the pale underbelly?
Do we let people help? Or do we push forward with the hard choices we know?
When does showing vulnerability become opportunistic?
When does inviting others to help become not being responsible for one’s own decisions?
When does the heart decide it just can’t handle one more break? One more kick while we’re down? One more battle?
I am a lucky girl. If you’ve followed any of my writing you know this fact. I’m really not complaining.
I lead a charmed life. I know it, and I’m grateful.
I am, however, at a precipice. A leaping off point… and as much as I embrace change, I’m terribly fearful of heights. I’m not up for crowd surfing or being naked in a crowd like Amanda in the video. I’m afraid of taking a course that impacts so many of my creatures and my community and finding out later, once it’s done and can’t be undone, that the support we needed was there and we just didn’t LET someone help.
Do I miss out on the risk that someone out there has a solution for us that would complete them by sharing with us? Could there be a fair exchange of support? We have learned the intern or apprentice programs won’t work for us. We have also learned that my business skills still leave me employable. They aren’t so rusty that I can’t return to helping a start-up company make a go of it, or help manage finances for a business person with assets to balance (or juggle, as the case often is), or manage the most valuable assets a company could wish for, their staff, by keeping teams fiscally, physically, and emotional sound – connected to their work, invested in their performance, satisfied by their contributions, while improving the bottom line for their bosses. These are skills I possess and excel at executing. They are not my passion, but they are sound and valuable, and could help an entrepreneur achieve their passion.
I’ve out-thought myself, we’ve out-talked the options.
Do we simply pursue what we have determined the best course of action is? Or do we open the invitation and let you help?
This is our lives, not salacious gossip. Please keep the precious pink belly of Marshmallow in mind as you form your opinions. That’s about as vulnerable as I feel posting this.