One of the most special things about Mercury Studio is the community. The depth and diversity of our community offers a space to reflect and to feel safe sharing. One of the moments that facilitates that is a monthly member brunch.
During the hour and a half that I spent with a dozen other Mercury Studio members yesterday, I found commiseration and reassurance in what feels like a confusing and turbulent time.
I want to share some of that with you.
One member’s comment struck me as scene setting, regardless of your political proclivities. She said, “I never thought I’d have to worry about America’s stability as part of my work flow.”
Heads nodded. Who’d have thought that things could feel so topsy-turvy and so destabilized that it has affected moods and productivity?
This sense of the collective mood was a recurrent theme. People are down. People are frustrated. People are feeling overwhelmed. We are not alone in these feelings. There was a discussion about how the news and social media, the modern fire hose of information felt like too much for so many of us. People reported taking more naps, loss of appetite, questioning the meaning and importance of their work.
We also talked about guilt and privilege. Each of us is the sum of our own unique experience. But guilt about one’s background can be an incredibly heavy burden.
On the first level, it was great to be in a space of such comfortable sharing. Such awareness that others were experiencing similar feelings and ebbs of emotions.
Even more amazing was the discussion of coping mechanisms and responses that ensued. One member shared that the way she was going to focus her work on what mattered to her, was to treat herself as the client. To use validation as a payment system. What feels good and makes you happy is its own reward, even if it difficult or impossible to quantify in pecuniary capitalism.1
Another said that the way she was battling the guilt of feeling privileged was with gratitude. She was choosing to feel grateful for, rather guilty about, her story. She noted that without the guilt (which can lead to divisive and self-abnegating emotions), she had far more space for empathy for the situations and suffering of others.
Katie DeConto, one of the co-founders of Mercury Studio, picked up on a theme shared the night before by singer-songwriter Mailande Moran at a Beju Café performance. Namely that artistic expression is a response. It is an outlet for feelings. It is a way to find hope, uplift, solace. By releasing our creative flow, we let go what is pent up in us. We free something. Rather than allow our emotions to eat us up internally, we put them out into the world in a literal manner via the creation of something new.
Katie and Mercury Studio co-founder, Megan Jones,2 also picked up what is a recurring theme around our co-working space. Self-care is selfless. Taking care of one’s self so that one might give the best of one’s self back to the world. In this context, through this lens, one can look to one’s own needs and meet them without angst.
Another member noted, what were we talking about? Getting enough rest. Eating healthy. Exercise. Taking a walk or a long bath when you feel like it. How extraordinary it is to live in society where we feel obligated to ask ourselves if it is okay to take time out for such things?
To take time away from work, email, the phone, the laptop, the ever present tug of guilt embedded in capitalism.3 To take a breath in a world where we are valued by financial assets and profit generating potential.
I am grateful to co-work in place built around a community that dares to believe in a different ethic. When you feel alone and lost in this world, the buoyancy of community is invaluable.
1 As our friend and columnist Story Clayton noted the other day by way of example: “Refrigeration increases the convenience of your eating experience so you can run back to your 16 hour/day job. But that 16 hour/day job in the West is prompting the world’s largest stream of anti-depressants and people trying to mortgage their schedule to have one day at home where they actually cook a meal and taste their food. How to compare this to a pre-colonial society where people lived on the land, took three hours for each meal in a three-generation family under one roof, and took time to appreciate each other as people? It’s a hard question. Capitalism dismisses the latter situation as poverty because it doesn’t cut the mustard in dollars and cents.”
2 Megan Jones is also a co-founder of Durham Bodywork. Another collective that subscribes to this premise.
3 Max Weber.