My Five Agreements

Sitting down to write for this blog has felt challenging lately - for months, actually - and the reason for this started to come into sharper focus on my walk yesterday. I have always felt like kind of an oddball blogger, in that my blog doesn't fit neatly into any particular category or struggle or clearly defined mission beyond sharing my observations and experiences of creating a meaningful life. I have also, over time, chosen to build a stronger boundary between the specific details of my life and this blog, a decision inspired mainly by experiences where something I wrote or shared here created a wedge between myself and another person. I do my best to write honestly, passionately, and with an open heart here - always - but somehow my words and intentions have still managed to be twisted into a significant enough thorn from time to time that irreparable damage has been done. This is rare, but for it to have happened even once is too much for me.

On the other side of that same coin, I have also come to appreciate the delicate balance between sharing certain experiences - particularly with fellow bloggers and friends - in a way that is inspiring versus coming across as superior, exclusive, and even clique-ish. And here's the other funny thing about that - I know for certain that if I were to increase my name-dropping and spend more time announcing to the world who I know, hang out with, and go on retreat with, my blog traffic would increase. Associations with certain people are definitely good from a marketing standpoint, and I most certainly did my best to capitalize on that for a while, but over time it started to feel a little too strange and forced and, at times, false.

There have been times over the past few years when I have walked around beneath a dark cloud of disappointment and frustration over the tangles I've encountered in this community. I know that fundamentally this is a creative, supportive, inspiring, connected community, but in the darker corners of the halls and behind closed doors, there is also a fair amount of misplaced sensitivities, competitiveness, unprofessionalism, gossip, and actions that don't back up what is presented online. And let there be no misunderstanding - this includes me. This is not unique as far as group dynamics go; these things are true of any community - yoga instructors, teachers, even families. This is simply everyone being human, and therefore beautiful and well-intentioned and flawed and doing our best and trying to figure out how all of these social media dynamics are supposed to work. We're the guinea pigs here, so there are bound to be some bumps.

Having said all that, what became clear to me on my walk yesterday is not a revelation but a recognition that I haven't been entirely convinced that my more recent ability to ride these currents peacefully has been real. I made certain commitments to myself a long while ago and I've stuck to those commitments, and because of this my heart has settled down and my sensitivities have ebbed, and I have developed a much healthier approach and relationship to this community as a whole. This, in turn, has had a positive impact on all of my relationships, both in and out of the blogosphere.

This is a mighty long introduction to a very short list of agreements I now live by with regard to this community (and again, I believe this is applicable to any group, community, or relationship.) These agreements were born out of a recognition that I was setting myself up for a lot of the disappointments I experienced. Once I stopped blaming others and wallowing in my hurt feelings, I found the tools I needed to create stronger, healthier, more balanced relationships, both personal and professional. And then once it dawned on me that, "Wow, this has actually worked," I wanted to share it here. Maybe I am the only person who has tripped and stumbled in a world where we are all privy to the details of one another's lives more than ever before - and therefore having to keep track of what was said over here, but how it wasn't at all what we witnessed over there - or maybe there is at least one person out there reading this who might find some of this useful. I have learned so much from this community, and am grateful for all the ways it has made me a better person.

1. Let go of expectations - all of them, every single one of them. If there is something specific I want or need from someone, I try to express that clearly rather than hope the other person will be able to read my mind. Then after I've shared this, I release all expectations. This practice has changed my life.

2. Take responsibility - this doesn't mean I blame myself for everything, it means that the more I blame others, the more I give away my power and ability to change, resolve, and overcome whatever problem or frustration I am experiencing. I always play a role in the stories of my life, and the more I focus on my role, the easier it is for me to work through the prickly parts.

3. Don't be afraid to set boundaries - for the longest time, I fancied myself the kind of friend and colleague that would "go the extra mile." The problem is that all those extra miles got really exhausting and usually sent me to the same place:  Resentment. Setting a boundary is not about closing my heart, it is about taking care of myself and honoring what feels right. It took a long time, but I'm now comfortable acknowledging my limitations.

4. Trust there is enough room for everyone - this has been a belief I have held close to my heart for years, and I've always chuckled when people are amazed I'm willing to share information, advice, experiences, etc. I don't see the world as an entity with a finite amount of space available for me to pursue my most meaningful life, which can include creating art and books and jewelry and films and workshops. I serve no purpose comparing myself to others, and I need not worry that someone else is going to "take away" something from my work, career, or passion.

5. Do my work - the more time I spend mindlessly browsing blogs, websites, and Facebook, the less work I do, and the more miserable I feel. I love and am inspired by what this community is doing, and I try to keep up as well as I can in order to offer support for everyone's endeavors, but my real work is to do my own work. The more I stay focused on that, the better I feel.

I would love to know what other tools and "agreements" have worked for others navigating this big world of social media. What advice would you offer to a future blogger? Share your stories for today's Creative Business Diary with me at diary@swirlygirl.com.

Christine Mason Miller

Santa Barbara, CA

Writer * Artist * Storyteller * Guide