Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dwelling in Possibility: Update #3

The East Side of Austin

Life has been pretty rough around here, friends.

First, Matt has been looking for a new job so we can move to Austin, while simultaneously talking with his current job about telecommuting from Austin. Everything in that department has been pretty uncertain for something like three months. Uncertain and stressful.

Then, to add to that stress, I have taken on way too many projects. I won't bore you by listing them all again; I'll just reiterate that it was too much to tackle in a calm manner, while trying to take care of Henry all day, every day.

Before I got pregnant, I did a really good job of learning to say no to external requests and making space in my life to take care of my developing baby and myself. I also did a good job of slowing everything down post-partum, so that I could get to know Henry and heal.

But then I started saying yes to different requests (like revising my friend's 65,000-word book manuscript--which was really good!--and agreeing to provide two full days of professional development for a school in Austin). Those major projects were in addition to all of my own projects and impending deadlines.

Matt has had to take on a lot of extra stuff around the house (Henry duty, laundry, cleaning, etc.), so that I could meet all my deadlines. We also haven't been sleeping well because Henry is teething and he wakes up constantly. We're all tired and cranky (and I feel bad about saddling Matt with so much extra work at home). So I'm tired, cranky, feeling guilty, and stressed.

But anyway, I don't want to dwell too much in the negative stuff. Well, I have a few more negative things to share.

While we were going through this rough patch, I kept wondering about my two big goals (to start a public Montessori charter school in Austin and to create an intentional neighborhood). Kelly Rae always talks about pursuing dreams that make your heart sing. And these two goals were definitely not making my heart sing. They were giving my heart laryngitis. I kept asking myself, "Do I feel so anxious about these goals because they're ambitious and I'm nervous or because they aren't really aligned with my authentic path?"

And then I got another response on the intentional neighborhood survey. She and her boyfriend already live in Austin. She researches climate systems (so cool!) and is an avid gardener. She comes from a family of DIYers and is striving to live simply and sustainably.

And here's the icing on the top: She would love to get married in her own backyard.

How amazing would it be to christen our little intentional neighborhood with a hand-crafted wedding? I'm getting weak in the knees! (and my heart is singing)

So I think these two, big goals are aligned with my authentic path. I think I'm just scared (of not knowing what to do, of failing, of taking on too much and not making enough time for family, etc.). I think my insecurity sometimes drowns out the song in my heart, but that's okay. I know it's there. I can handle the insecurity. I just need to make my lists and take it one action item at a time!

Now that some of my major commitments are wrapping up, I'm eager to take bigger steps toward my goals. I need to be extra careful not to take on too many projects for other people. It's difficult because we're subsisting on one income right now, while trying to save money to buy land and build a house. So part of me says yes to so many things because we need the money, but part of me always has another good reason (I try not to ever do things just for the money, if I can help it).

The school I was working with in Austin is on the east side, which is where we think we want to buy land and also where I want to start the public Montessori charter school. While I was driving to the school one morning, I stopped at a stoplight and took a moment to deeply inhale the smell of the east side. It smelled like the country, and it's only 15-20 minutes outside of Austin. Amazing!

So here's a little mini-list to brighten my day:
  • We're going to put our house on the market right after Labor Day. (Matt decided to keep his current job as the Director of Knowledge Management for KIPP Houston and telecommute to Austin).
  • I'm going to work on my book about meaningful and memorable weddings a little at a time, so I don't have a big crunch time right before a deadline again. Yuck!
  • I'm going to go back to using my strategic organizational system, so I always know exactly what I should be doing when Henry naps and I get some free time.

And, for all of you who are out there dwelling in your own possibilities, I just wanted to say that I don't believe we each have only one authentic path. I honestly believe I could have chosen multiple paths and still accomplished my personal intention to live a life of joy that makes the world a better place for all people. For example, the two other paths I considered were gay rights and sexuality education. In the end, I instead decided to join Teach For America, and my life's work became about helping all children have access to excellent education.

Of course I do all sorts of work that doesn't relate to the achievement gap, but I still choose to focus on one big goal, so I can accomplish more in that area. My long-winded point is: I have a lot of passions, so I just had to pick one of them to pursue. I call it my authentic path, but other paths would have been equally authentic.

In the same vein, there's an awesome article in this months Yoga Journal, called Soul's Desire: Uncover Your Personal Blueprint for Happiness and Let It Guide You to Bliss. (I get it for free since I went to this yoga retreat last year.)

P.S. Don't forget to enter the Feeding the Soil header re-design contest! We already have four lovely entries from Olivia and one lovely entry from Sebrina.

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Rebecca said...

I wish we could be where you guys are but we are one step behind. We want to raise our family in a similar community way but don't know where or how right now. I could pretty much go anywhere for my job (and get hired easily - I am lucky) but my husband is a rowing coach and they don't get paid that much (even at the college level) -ideally I would love to be able to be a stay at home mom or work part time from home (and we would be willing to cut way way back). We do have a friends with children that we love like family that would would love to move to the same city with and share a house with to raise our families together. Maybe we will start talking to them about it, his contract (he is also a rowing coach - in canada) ends next year. We could move to the same next place together!

Anonymous said...

Sara, I'm always inspired by your projects. I have a similar desire to make an important impact in the world and I'm great at coming up with fantastic ideas that i'm passionate about.
On the other hand, I have a hard time jumping into those projects because of the same exact fears that you mentioned.
I think I often will convince myself that my idea was not really a good idea so that I don't have to go through the pain of failing, not knowing what to do etc.
I'm working on a small project right now and I'm doing my best to ignore the internal doubts in hopes that when I succeed I'll show myself that I CAN do it.

thanks for sharing as always!

P.S. would you consider sharing your strategic organizational system (or have you already)?

Anonymous said...

You inspire me!

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ Anonymous #1: I know it's so, so hard. That's why I have to write about it here. The more I say it out loud, the more I have to do it, no matter how much my Fears try to stop me.

P.S. You can read about my organization system here:

@ Anonymous #2: Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Are you planning on creating an intentional community that's affordable? There is one being built in Portland, OR right now. I can't seem to find the article about it but the homes start at a very unaffordable level (300k+) and I remember thinking how problematic it is for intentional communities to be built so that only those who are financially blessed can afford to live in them versus those who would most benefit the community.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Anonymous: I'm thinking about something much less formal than co-housing, which is why I'm calling it an "intentional neighborhood." (By they way, an "intentional community" is actually the word for "commune.")

If I were doing something as formal as co-housing, I would be partnering with a developer who would build all the units and then sell them. If that were the case, we could offer all sorts of housing options, like apartments, townhouses, and free-standing homes.

As it is, I'm thinking of something much more informal: Matt and I buy land, we build a house on it, we sell off pieces of the land (not to make money) so other people can build their houses on it. We reserve some of the land for communal spaces (e.g., a pool, garden, chickens, play area, composter, greenhouse, etc.). If that's the route we take, people will need to have enough money to cover the cost of the land + building their house. We're hoping to buy in East Austin, which has cheaper land than anywhere else in the city, and we're looking into a modular building company that starts at $125 per square foot.

Carrie said...

@Sara: Not to sound like a total lawyer here, but you should consult with a real estate attorney regarding your intentional neighborhood. I'm not familiar with TX real estate law but as described, your plan in ME would likely involve municipal subdivision approval, which involves an application and permitting process, plats and plans from a certified engineer, town meetings, etc. Also be sure you buy enough land to accommodate the number of homes you envision; you must respect local zoning ordinances, if any, re: lot size, road setbacks, frontage, etc. I don't think Houston has a zoning ordinance, as I recall, but I don't know about Austin.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Thanks, Carrie! The more I look into it, the more it seems like we're going to have to go the official co-housing route, just with a smaller group of people. When I search the MLS in Austin, I can see there is land zoned for multi-family use, but we'll have to figure out the financing, layout, co-ownership of communal areas, etc.

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