Mia Birdsong is a pathfinder, community curator, and storyteller who engages the leadership and wisdom of people experiencing injustice to chart new visions of American life. She has a gift for making visible and leveraging the brilliance of everyday people so that our collective gifts reach larger spheres of influence, cultural and political change, and create wellbeing for everyone. In her book How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community, (https://amzn.to/30WJWX9) Birdsong examines community life, reimagines family and chosen family, and points us toward the promise of our collective vitality. Previously, as founding Co-Director of Family Story, Mia lifted up a new national story about what makes a good family. As Vice President of the Family Independence Initiative, she leveraged the power of data and stories to illuminate and accelerate the initiative low-income families take to improve their lives. Her public conversations, like the New America series centering Black women as agents of change and her 2015 TED talk “The Story We Tell About Poverty Isn’t True,” draw targeted attention to the stories of people who are finding their way into leadership roles despite myriad barriers, while also highlighting the vibrant terrain of all marginalized people who are leading on the ground and solving for tomorrow.
Birdsong is a Senior Fellow of the Economic Security Project. She was an inaugural Ascend Fellow and faculty member with The Aspen Institute, a New American California Fellow, and Advocate-in-Residence with the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice. Mia lives and dreams big on the occupied land of the Chochenyo Ohlone people (AKA Oakland, CA).
You can find Mia Birdsong at:
Website : http://www.miabirdsong.com/
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/miabirdsong/
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Ever hear the phrase chosen family. Well, it's about the people who become your family, not necessarily by birth or adoption, biology or partnering, though they may be a part of it, but by choice.
the family that you gather and deepen into because they are the people you actually want in your life. My guest today, mere birdsong she's, been
exploring the role of family and community
chosen family and how it relates to everything from our a bill,
to love, find, deepen, meaningful relationships and flourish and fuels
worded and at peace to its intersection with social justice, equality, abolition and more
as a founding co director of family story meal, lift
a new national story about what makes a good family and then, as a vice president of the family independence initiative. She lever
the power of data and stories to really illuminated and accelerate the initiative. Low income families. Take to improve their lives, she has this amazing gift for making visible and tapping and
the brilliance of everyday people, so that our collective gifts, reach larger spheres of influence, effect, cultural and political change and
well being for everyone in me, as new book. How we shall up reclaiming family friendship and community- surely points us
toward the promise of our own collective vitality. We dive into all of this in today's conversation, so excited to share with you I'm jonathan fields, and this is a good life project.
as a german work, where it is creativity, come from. What's the secret to living longer, ted radio, our explores the biggest questions with some of the world's greatest thinkers. They will surprise challenge and even change. You listen to and be ours ted radio, our wherever you get your PA guests.
So the ten percent happier podcast has one guiding philosophy. Having
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for with you
Things around the moment, things around the work things around the buck and your ideas you're hanging out in oakland california, right now or it sounds like you've been planted for a long time. Originally, though, from from the east coast from from new york about us originally from
chester arc, and then I lived in brooklyn for seven years before I came to oakland
so that was like after Oberlin. Yes, exactly got it
what was I mean so growing
an righteous, I think we're probably similar ages s twenty seven, fifty forcible about all that.
What was rochester like then, because- and I know it's from friends out of urban and not lately its- it seems a completely
I feel like I don't know what rochester was like, because my certainly I think this is often true fur.
Heads, but was deafening. True for me,
My the vast majority of time that I spent was either at home or in school
like I was, you know out, I was added lots and lots of extra
curricular activities. I wasn't like hanging out in my neighborhood very
and I certainly wasn't paying attention to like you know what the city councils
weighing or how like what businesses
growing and which ones warrant, and things like that
I feel like my childhood, wasn't it
was it existed in the kind of a bubble, but not a protective bubble, necessarily just a very specific one. How so anything not predictive? So I
up in the city of rochester, in an all black neighbourhoods and got
must to a suburb that
is almost entirely white to go to school and with like a handful of other black kids, too, you know doing airports
Great it- and there was no, you know there was no
conversation kind of through the programme that bastard
about what our experience might be like going to an all white school. There was
support for us. There definitely was no work being done.
school with, like the staff to you now talk about
racism. So we,
experienced it. You know tons of racism. We got called all kinds of things and there are lots of assumptions about who we were and what our families were like and what our neighborhoods were like and for
long time most of my wife,
you weren't allowed to go to my house because of what
parents assumed about the neighbourhood that I lived in, so it was about
like in that. I didn't really know what was going on in the rest of the city
and the county. But it wasn't like it wasn't a protective bubble, yeah
got it and I mean I know you describe yourself as sort of like pretty much a latchkey kid to from the time. You're about eight were eight yeah. It was you're pretty much I mean even when you're back home, you sort of yours
experiencing what your experiencing during the day and then you're you're, largely on your own cause. Your mom is single mom. I know raise a family and just working a lot yeah I mean she worked,
you know regular hours. She worked like nine to five and as an only child and like I think, just who I am kind of and fundamentally as a person, I was very independent, so yeah when I came home after
cool as a kid I took you know, took the bus home and I came home and let myself animate myself a snack and did whatever tourism.
Post to do and did my homework and I mean we are taking. We did
together every night, but there was
As you know, three hour period I would say like after school that I was on my own.
which, frankly, I really appreciate in terms of what it allowed like how it
I loved me as a person who is capable and
while I experienced in a kind of low level too,
medium level racism at my school, I also
I loved school. Like love tat, I was
I like the way that you no kind of amerika
education is structured, happens,
work. For me, I did sports. I did
theatre stuff? I did music staff that was very involved
really like interesting
several interesting, like groups, are friends right, so I there were like
the white boys that I was in a p classes with and like during launch. This is in high school. We would like sit and play euchre or hearts and like watch alfred,
Skype movies on the weekends and then there was like all the kids who took shop classes and drove motorcycles
sometimes hang out with a man. There was my cheerleading squad and then there was all the like feeder and music people, and then there was like my friend
That's who you know did dry,
eggs and went out clubbing. So I have like I had this really amazing community that I kind of an end like these groups of people who I kind of crossed over
the kind of traditional highschool boundaries with and I loved it like totally loved it
most curious when actually somebody share something like that weakness really drop into different groups. Different communities
feel like you're, you're at home and abroad
Curiosity tends to be one:
said that you were you
just really comfortable being in your own skin, no matter who you are around and people loved that wanted and and wanted to be around that too or, or did you learn to code switch really effective, so I actually think it was probably both of those things right like I don't know that I felt comfort.
well in my skin, but I think comparatively for highschool I mean was, I feel like I was. I was kind of very grounded and confident for a high school,
but definitely felt super insecure right from all of the kind of
normal reasons that a teenager feels and secure, but also the reasons that a black girl and predominantly white environment we feel insecure ends.
and I also think that it will
that I felt at home
each of those places. I think it was that, like part of me, felt at how many of those places- and I think for a long time- I really wanted the like you- no kind of myth- mythological grew
that was just like my right or die. People from you know childhood to adulthood that I dislike. That was my leg group of people,
some point. I realise that I wasn't gonna. Have that and I could I could be,
more fully myself with lots of different groups of people as opposed to being per,
myself with them and if they can handle it than I want to hang out them and what I found us at both most of them like welcomed the whole mia, as opposed to just apart
that that that I assume that they were cool. If
and so I didn't you know I didn't feel like. I found home
in one place, it was really that I found home and a lot of places yeah I mean the way describe it. Also some really interesting foreshadowing there for
the world even eventually end up doing, namely a decade down the road from there.
Dancing around also the the
here s a sometimes wonder about Gaza notices. Similar experience to me was whether that experience gave you energy or took energy from you
about the kind of code switching and bouncing around there. I think it was some of both right and, I think,
That's true of me now
I am definitely.
I mean, I think, I'm an amber right like there are times when I like and absolutely get restore,
an and energized by being with groups of people.
I love public speaking right like there's something about that kind of like holding court
like an audience of folks that that totally just like you,
a lot of juice and at some point I need like
mendous amounts of a long time, I you know- and I think that is again partly council-
Stalin, partly because I was only child and I spent a lot of time.
alone as a kid and really learn to enjoy
company yeah other make
since I am not at all
the child, but actually similarly wired love to be on stage. But I read
for the stage doors soon, as I'm done speaking exactly ass want to walking alone summer after that
michael. You end up in a balloon. Did you ever since
or what you lie to deepen into there was a gesture. Let me see what calling me I mean
I think I went in thinking I wanted to major in psychology and that I don't even think I took one psychology class.
so Oberlin is- was
the time one of the only college
that had a free standing black studies programme, which I had an eye
the idea when I went I just I chose Oberlin, because when my mom and I went to visit colleges- and I got a re drove into town- I was just like the vibe is right. I was just like this is where I'm supposed
and so much
get semester of my first year I took a
like intruder black studies with this amazing professor Adrian last jones and my mind, was just like completely blown and I became
studies major largely to learn, you know,
All of the things that I should have learned in the first eighteen years of my life and to do so
their stand, who I was in a way that I had before and I am less
he that my introduction to
black studies was deeply intersection. Also was very much about learning about
but also winning about gender, and I
like I got to see myself in the world
in a way that I haven't before and see that my experience, you no kind of both what I grew up with
also kind of like how interact with animal
in by american culture like had a historical basis, but also was like a shared experience.
The amended and I'm curious how that,
So you decide you want that to be your focus. Did you have a sense be on deepening to your own understanding of how
that would end up in forming what you within turnaround do in the world when you left now, I'm was not
and remain not somebody who really
I the long term, you I wasn't. I didn't take that major thinking like or what am I gonna do with this right, like what what is one day,
the black studies. Major had no idea
it is not even so much that I didn't know what I was going to do with it. But I wasn't. I just wouldn't wasn't planning anything, and you know my
path to where I am now was very circuitous
and lots of ways, and I still don't think about like you know what
I have no idea what's next for me, like I finished this book, I finished my podcast. Both of those projects you know, took a huge
chunk of my life for the last two and a half years and my
I do it's next, but I think at this point I recognise that that you know
planning ahead in that way is not something that I do and
I also have enough
with that on working out that I dislike have faith that I will find by next.
Anger? My next thing will find me and it'll be what I'm supposed to be doing.
yeah me enemy, even though it's not you know, necessity, a linear path, lay there definitely through lines in the work,
from the earliest days and one of those you know, I mean
it's interesting. No, you end up in brooklyn, eventually spending some time
the family independence initiative, really
I guess, focusing on strengthening communities and to a certain amount on that date. The exploring the idea of self determination to low income people
and that really it seems
that's also, the birthplace of your fascination for family and friendship and community.
And bigger picture like what is this thing we call the quota merit
dream it, and how do we ve heard and watch it
she doing two and four
back a little bit, I mean all the things I left out about my path, we're, like you know at the time. I spent in publishing and my few years apprentices as a midwife and my stint doing. Country music like there was some other things that that existed kind of along the continuum, but I didn't talk about because they weren't super relevant. So
wait a minute.
We can just brush by so
special like it's a midwife and then still doing country music
yeah, not as a not for a living. But yes, when I lived in Brooklyn friend of mine, taught me
play guitar and she and I started playing country music together, we totally when we went to
merle fast. We went bust gang in nashville and then
I came to oakland in two thousand one. I wanted to keep playing
he's. So I like through craigslist, I think like it,
acted with this amazing singer, songwriter called a J Roche, and he- and I were
do oh for a long time and then a trio we gotta fiddle player and m yeah for fur
I don't know three or four years. He and I would play around the barrier and occasionally go unlike short tours. You know in California.
was superfine. That's where I met my husband of my husband's musician was kind of through that that music seen yeah
have an abiding love for like old times,
country, music and bluegrass. Thy love that ok,
so my entry point to active
but also to like the
The invitation to imagine the world that we want was through
abolition I was living in new york and a friend of mine, who is immigration attorney was in berkeley.
and she and I can't
or why she thought this was a good idea, but, thank goodness thank you could see. Nevertheless, she
invited me. She was like you should come to this conference. This happening about the prison industrial com
it's an abolition like at berkeley at the university of berkeley. So
to california. I think I don't think ever been california before and went to this conference and my mind was blown like
I got to hear ruth
listen, Gilmore, speak. I got to hear Angela Davis speak and I was
reduced to this idea that you know that is like
having this resurgence right now. It is amazing, which is that we
I'll need prison
and policing because they don't keep a safe. You know that
the thing that I think people focus on is this: the absence of prisons and policing
but what abolition is really asking us to do is think about what are the things that actually create safety and well being for us, and you know what I ask people about it like they know right, like people need food and housing, people need access to health care people
education, people now
mental health services. People need, like all, we think about the crises that we have right, like police are not like. We cannot
unleash police on all these issues and challenges that they are not equipped to him.
never mind that the sis,
of policing in the
it states has its founding in space
at and its
infused with white supremacy and is really about protecting property, because black people property
not about keeping a safe right so that entry point like I
planets the seeds of how I think about what we need in community be,
it's not that you know what
prisons and policing that harm isn't gonna happen. It's just that
actually need to address harm in a way that actually reduces it right
We need to address harm in a way that is
repetitive and protective of people who experience harm, but that also works with people who are perpetrating it so that they don't continue to perpetrate it and that
only happens well in the context of deep community
I mean It- is so interesting to see- what's happening now and a re examination of these
institutions in in a really major way and then
a re imagining of ok. So what was the superficial purpose
that was given to them. What is the deeper down reason that they exist, and
all we need to live in a quote lake
flourishing society. If those ceased to be there like what? What are you, what are the pillars that stand in its place in their place, for us to all thrive together,
I still feel safe and still feel whatever it is. You want to feel from the illusion of what we think those injured giving us yet. I think part of
part of the invitation to us to examine like how we think about safety, because I think again
when I have one. I've talked to people about that in particular like what
actually makes you feel safe
People often are like will as something if, like somebody,
breaking into my house, like I'm gonna, call
the cops and I'm like well, the cops are going to come like after the cops are not going to be there in time to save you unit, but you know who will be there like if you need them is your neighbors. So if you have a relationship with your neighbors, which is really
in our community and if you have a deep relationship with their neighbours, and they actually are folks who would
show up for you if they found out that, like you were in the middle of experiencing violence, that's what's gonna, keep you safe, not calling police, but please
we're coming like try to get your stuff back
you know again like that. Doesn't that doesnt address the fear
happens when your home is violated. It doesn't address the
sperience of and the trauma part right that doesn't do anything for that that your stuff
we really need is: is people in your life
who are able to help you he'll from the trauma that you ve experienced and who help you like actually feel safe.
Don't do any of that and an even bigger picture. He, though, when you look at okay, so why do people who cause harm cause harm
systems that that happened underneath add that brought them to a place where that is what they felt actually been able to do, then my letter would happen in a vacuum, and I think, on top of that, like it's, not just that police don't prevent
or a dress harm on it happens, but that police actually perpetrate harm right. I mean
and, like obviously, there like part of what we're seeing or seeing, is, as you know, another cycle of of white violence and police being part of that that they actually like cause vial
to human beings and then are also perpetrating violence to the people who are protesting because of the violence of the cause. But outside of that right, we can think about the fact that
the violence that happens and the harm that happens, you when you remove people from their communities the violence at her
friends when you, when you have a system of punishment, that
it reinforces this idea that there is that people
are either good or bad
when, in fact, all of us experience harm and all of us purposes
harm and one of the things that
feel like. I learned from the folks
talk to for this book about
about how we actually address harm and
The idea of redemption is there,
when we have a system that kind of creates that binary that will like you're, either good or your bad part of what we're doing
is we saying that we are not redeemable bright like
individually and collectively we're not redeemable because if someone
is bad. We lock them up, we think of them, we think of human beings as disposable
Therefore, when we cause harm, which we all do we're saying
there's no way for us to to find redemption theirs
for us to repair whatever
rift or severing is created by the harm we cause
that I feel like as one of those things that
ten years to reinforce this idea of our separateness, but human beings. We are
wired for connection we cannot.
Survive without each other. We are deeply interdependent and we are meant,
to be in community with each other, even them
like hermetic person, needs
people for something else?
I completely agree
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so. This fundamentally
and and I guess in a more focused way,
really understanding and exploring the ideas of abolition, especially around policing and presents, becomes certainly the jumping off point
It becomes a thing that draws you in and opens you up and has an and starts to happily turn you in
the broader question of the role of community in everything, and then I guess that becomes really a dominant focus for you in a logical
ways yeah, so there's the work that you mentioned, that I did so. I came to the bay and
did, and while the first work that I did was actually at this organization called
the initiatives for youth- and I got introduced to her
reduction there and sex positivity and again, I think,
kind of like sweet
of orientations that were really about
How do we support the physical and emotional
well being of young people in ways that see them as whole human beings and see them is connected to community.
Don't demonize people for choices that they make but like.
Assume that all of us
ultimately want to move towards our own well being and that workers,
informative in terms of my this just kind of like adding to that not just
of the abolition approach about like what are we getting rid of, but like what are the things that we need to build the world that we want to live in, and
and then I
started doing work at the family independence initiative, which you mentioned and that's all that's an organisation that is vote
and economic justice, but
is really focused on the kind of shit
during the narrative that we have about why people are poor and
If how we think about resourcing poor folks and
The shifting the narrative part as being like people are poor because they
No money and people
have money because of wealth hoarders, not because they are
spending it on. You know sneakers
tat is not because they dont know how to budget, but because
The money that exists in the united
dates is distributed in a deeply and equitable way, and that
If we're going to support people in not
poor, then we have,
recognize that being poor.
Absence of money, so that the way that you address it is by giving people money,
So in many ways it's like deeply simple, tremendously simple, but because
because of all of the things
built in to them
or can dream narrative right. This idea this this idea,
that america is a meritocracy
and even though we will acknowledge like a little bit of systemic oppression like we have all these examples, right of people who worked really hard and like made it, and we hold up those example.
As a model for like what everyone should do without recognising that are actually exceptions.
I put myself in this category right. Like I m an exit.
in that way, and not because I am like smarter than anybody else or you know
was more thoughtful about how I, like you know, I just told you, like our plaid, didn't plan anything plan. Anything I was, I just got really really lucky and we
want to. You know I think, particularly those those of us who have power and privileges.
those of us who have managed to for whatever reason, find ourselves kind of in the
space of success, as defined by the american dream we
to believe that
That was our own doing right. It's,
to us that we that we
you're able to say like I deserve this, because I worked really hard for it or I did whatever it was, and it's not the
but don't work really hard people work really hard, but, like so do all the people who are poor like hard work is
our kind of baseline
and certainly from the
search and relationships that I have with people who
experience, economic and justice. They are actually working harder than everybody else so
that's not the story. Right, like success, is not about hard work
Success really is about either you have
of power and privileged cause you're born with it or you get lucky and you become,
the idea of giving poor people. Money goes against like this.
very deeply entrenched america,
belief that the way the
It is you work hard, and that means that people who don't make it must not be
working hard and god forbid, we should
want to reward that right. Like people like, don't you can't give people money because then will become dependent or they didn't earn it. So, partly at me
work at the family independence initiative was pushing back against that narrative, but I think
stake that I made in that was
Trying to kind of em for
as in proving that that people who are poor, work, really hard and have all of these kind of attributes right
because the fact is that the thing
that we're talking about right, the things that money allow us to have our things that everyone should have right in, because we live inside of capitalism. If you want housing,
education like money is the way that we get there
and if money is, are kind of the currency. Let me literal current.
For us to access things
that our human rights
and everyone should have it, and it doesn't matter
if they work hard or not, it doesn't matter
they are, you know, following whatever rules are
heidi has laid out for us. Somebody who fits every single stereotype that exists about poor people are the like,
Fifty five year old man, who is smoking, pot and moms mom's basement and doesn't have a job, still deserves housing.
any food health care,
and access to information, so
those things are not things that any of us have to earn
cause human rights, and you also count on them, and I think that
of where I think about how abolition and my work around.
economic justice, intersect because, of course, would have
when somebody is imprisoned, is there, these rights are taken away from them in it it
on every level at committee. I guess this also, where I'm going
the conversation around guarantee basic income, which I know you ve been a party congress. Conversation also dropped him, because if you look at these things as fundamental human rights
its, then that becomes
much more conversation about thing to add in and I'll say you know the research than I did for podcasting
round guaranteed income we know was about tuna.
If years of research- and I
did not imagine that
would be somebody? You know potential
presidential candidate, talking about it as problematic as his platform was, and I certainly didn't think that you know we'd be having this
we'll pandemic, which all the sudden made lots of people open to the idea of the government, writing them a check. So I think that
and part of that, for me, is really is really a reminder.
You know and then another's the abolition question is coming up on we're talking about defending police, and part of that is a reminder to me that that there is
nothing that we ask for or want to build,
world in which we are all cared for and have the thing
we need. That is too much it's never too much, and I think that
this is just a reminder to me:
we all really need to be dreaming really big about what it is. We want
do not think in compromises when it comes to
What we demand from our systems and institutions- and you know our government and our leaders-
yeah me in such an interesting time for both
getting and re imagining right, really understanding. What's gotten us to this place to this moment in time and then
being open enough to re. Imagine well not with you
instead of saying. Well, what would like you know,
iterative next step, be what words relate the process of quote reform be which
it hasn't, worked really cross any domain. What would the if we could re imagine this? You know like
Actually, we were start this today. What would that look like a feeling nobody's
it's been really hard to get large numbers of people to step into that space, but
does feel like I don't know where we go from here. I dont know if it sustains but does feel like at least in the moment. While we're having this conversation, we ve been.
sort of being in that space withdrew larger, broader section of our population than then at least I've. Seen in my lifetime, yeah me too, I mean I am. I am cautious
we're thrilled like by
All of you know and
of its performative?
but I also feel like you know, performance- is part of what creates culture thou right so
it still mean something in the moment when you know
Maybe names dot. Com has their homepage
Have you seen us their homepage? Is a list of black people have been killed by police and it says at the top all these names worsen
this baby, or something like that. Like its end, it was. I I've, been somebody
sent it to me, and I went and I looked at it and I was It- was really powerful
and you know, and for an organisation that, and my experience or a business that my experience like tries to be a political, I don't think that's a
all right for them to have such a
or full statement
on their homepage like at it means something so
in the things that are performative like the fact that we're seeing corporation
Who have you know until now not said the word black
you know out loud, I think is important.
And then I think I also dislike ok I'll. We need like pace yourselves. This is this. Is now,
A this is not a short term thing like what we really need to be thinking
long term, and you know that it's about like actually crap,
legislation and figuring out, like you
and you're in your city, if, like you're doing this on a national level like what's happening, inner city like what's the budget of your city, how much is being spent?
on policing and prisons, or surveillance or parole and what else
do you imagine doing with all that money? You I mean it's interesting as I spent um, I spent
hunk of years studying the
the theory and dynamics of non violent revolution, hand down
And one of that-
the things that was really fascinating to me was that
How easy it is to rally large numbers of people around that idea and a rally call to to mobilise against something like this is what we don't want any,
brutally hard. It is to then create
intelligently well digit, even if we can define
be able to identify. These are the qualities of the thing that must replace this and then
begin to replace it on a level or or make it feel real enough?
so that people will transfer into supporting that on a level that will
to allow it to happen. There is such a harder translated into me
it's one of the challenges of progress re. So, if we think about, I may method
about both in out
make amerika great again right as a slogan
the way in which you know a lot of businesses. A couple of weeks ago, a month
we're talking about going back to normal and
there is tremendous comfort nato, regardless of what
what it actually is. Their tremendous comfort in the
idea of returning to something that we have
travel our heads. That's that feels normal to us or that we can.
I think, with make amerika great again like we all have picture our head of what that means. It was included in that for
people that that resonated with that felt like that felt like safety right
returning back to normal, even though we know that the normal we'd be returning to was not working for the majority of people in this country, even people who think it was working
that was not working for them, but people know what
but that is right and when you're, when you're faced with this kind of
invisible, you know,
global pandemic this virus. That issues like spreading around the globe and someone's talking to you about returning to normal, like I get the comfort of that
so part of it is that we really need to be steadfast and kind of find the courage that we need to be like ok, normal socked.
What do we really want and be brave
after actually kind of lean into that space, and then I think the other thing is that the people who
it's, not everybody's job, to figure that out, and I think the people for whom, like who are committed to doing that. Work need to do
good job of painting, a very clear picture of what it looks like if we were
and I think the other thing is that- and this is a big part of what my work has been- is that there are
samples of what it looks like in communities all across the country? Like people are already practicing abolition? People
in ways that are less extractive and less whites apparent
this, unless patriarchal then the broader society and
If what we need to be doing is actually look-
for those examples and then fell
when the leadership of the people who are making those things reality for themselves, and that was a big
of what I do know what I did with this book.
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really that focus on ok. So what is it
to step in, to make things better
and this idea of
if we re and also really re imagining when we,
talk about not just community but family
I like what do we mean by that? What do we mean by by friends? What do we mean by family? What do we mean by extended family and and
like. You were saying, like water, the models that we can look to right now to learn from each other
explore a little bit yeah. This is really been the focus of the last chunk of yours for you,
I'm curious also because I think one really step one is.
Is this question like re imagining what what is it that actually makes for a good family or a good community? You know I have so,
people this all the time, unlike what makes but like what makes a good family the first
everyone says, is love
and then they talk about. You know, people who will be
for you. They talk about people,
air about you, people who will support you.
Unlike you, know your
to do something new like they'll support you and that no one ever talks about structure
No one ever is like what makes a good
really good family is that you have a man, and a woman
married and they have biological children. No one has ever said that to me and granted like
talking to like right
fundamentalists, but I think all
thus fundamentally know that it
the function of family. That is important, not the structure, and the fact is that
kind of insular nuclear family is a very recent invention.
The idea that two people will provide
What like all of the things that we need from human beings, that we would get it from like one other adults and that to me
can raise. Children is justly
on its face absurd, like that's, never
in human history ever been the case, we ve always had extended
families we always had chosen family, but always had family with people who are like in our tribe, who we weren't necessarily biologically related to. We have all
If and when I you I'm talking about like thousands of years of human history, we always collectively raised children so
The nuclear family really. Is this like bizarre, and
trawl anomaly and
It is not serving because
you know, unless you are the
very small percentage of people who has won.
in person in your life who can be. You know that
and who you are a romantic land, sexually attracted to and then like, actually have good sex with
the person who you can be roommates wealth and
manage a household with and co mingle, your finances and
travel with an beer best friend and your confidence, and that, if you have kids raise kids with like that is
many roles for
people to fill turbot for each other, so
No. What I see is that a lot of folks who are trying to do that are deeply unhappy because
not actually getting their needs met and they don't recognize
and this is particularly true of straight men, and they don't really recognize that there.
our other ways for them to get some of those needs matt. You know, like I'm a terrible roommates like my,
you know my husband. I have lived together for like twenty years, but
In some other configuration of our marriage and in a world where housing was not so incredibly expensive, like it might be better for us to, like you, know, live in a duplex athens, I could make my my
upstairs and he could keep his note. Part neat downstairs so
part of is about re imagining, but part of his also recognising that we actually-
used to do something else. So I think of ever is both kind of
standing and looking to like our ancestral history and
in how we know our people did.
This before and then re imagining those
structures and ways of being in relationship with each other for a modern life
right so for what actually fits our lives,
yes, it's more. It's really more. The questioning of why
Why we're doing it? The way were doing it when we have so much history of doing a different
and and very arguably
spiriting our lives in.
many different ways and levels better.
I mean it's interesting because also there's there's this expectation. That said, I think now that you know,
if you shoot your coat should be able to get everything you need from this nuclear family and you don't
you know you're feeling lonely, you're, feeling stressed you're feeling overwhelm all the different things that yellow pretty much. Everyone has to feel at some point
their journey in this relate small, tight family. It
don't feel those. Then you judge yourself. A failure. Exact
and then you layer on top of that, the sense of shame wished
makes things worse, and then I think
and being silent about it right. They don't talk about it. They don't have
The conversations they need to with their partner about like what they can actually do for each other and never mind
if you're, not if you dont, have a partner right, then what he supposed to do there all
these ways in which our our culture, our
the design of like you know, houses and cars and certainly also like bennett,
It's that exist in our culture,
are really cream
it for an oriented toward the insular nuclear family and there are hell of single
ball in america. Who are
to dislike, navigate systems that weren't made for us and who are having to kind of exist
culture that says that their failure, right that says, there's something wrong with them.
And not only is it saying that, but of but lots of folks also internalize that and assume that there is something wrong with them or seal
if their life is incomplete because they dont have a partner or they are no use to, and now they doubt and I
that is like they're, so many ways and will mean one of the stories in my book. Thy love is
my friend diana who
who is, does not have a partner
that does not have a romantic sexual partner, but like
her and her friend, cynthia are each other's plus one. They talk
retirement. They text each other every day they
I have made this friendship that they have
fill the role that many people look to a romantic and sexual partner for and they both you note date, people and
have, you know, have had other relationships, romantic in sexual
relationships, but this friendship between them, as is primary,
and I love that I just love the model of that-
largely like so much so many the stories that I tell in the book
and the book, as you know mostly stories. It's mostly the stories that I I found that helped me understand and answer the questions that I had about. Creating family community.
You're just there to seize these ma
is that they're not like blueprints for it for us right, they're not like oh, like this is what this person did, I'm going to go and replicate it, but it really is about. Having
enough examples that allow us to expand our understanding of what possible and then
We can kind of get into our own. You no person
enquiry about. What is it that I actually want in my life right, one of them
is that, I learned from a bunch of the folks who I talk to about friendship was
about kind of like getting rid of the,
the very narrow confines of how we think about what a friendship is and what its four and action
thinking about you know the people who are like, I think, about the people. I consider close friends and, like
be in conversation with them about like what is the culture of our friendship like what are the expectations we have of each other? What can we count?
each other, for what are the bound.
Is that we have and that's expanded
the relationships that half of those people into places that do not
into you. No kind of the day
what we say a friend is, and I love the depth of those relationships. I love the kind of intimacy that that's created between me and folks, both because right
actually having conversations about our relationship, but also-
as we realise, like. Oh here's, a here's, a thing:
what we want from this this relationship. That is not that we would,
discovered if we hadn't- have this conversation about like how do we be friends had a week
threatens the immediate review really blurring the line you know so, instead of new acosta, here's, the box or family, here's, the box or friends hears about your acquaintance says: if you say
let's throw it up against the wall and let's fundamentally asked the question: what do
want and need from the relationships in my life. What am I open to giving and then how do I had a? I
constructed in away from like the the
diverse a people who are in my orbit exactly feels
that gives me, and that gives them what they need and whether we call that family, whether we call her friends who really cares at that point
but that requires I mean it really requires, especially
in a world today, where you ve got this, you ve gotten
separations right, you ve got a lot of people who go their tradition.
No family route, because maybe they feel it's right for them, and very often part is that involves.
going away from all of those people who not long before really did serve a lot of those and roles, and now
we become more isolated. They start to expect they get everything from their traditional family and then the friends that are moving away from feeling. Okay. So now I am no longer in the year, I'm no longer part of
family, but also no longer a part of the bigger community
people who decided that this is the model of of what family website for them in that guy and
you feel like an end. Society has, as you mentioned nearly
and of labels and to a certain extent as well
not doing it right, because you're not there yet and just create
more divide. So I mean
Talk about really needing to have intentional, open, comrade and making this a very intestinal at and process at me. This so important tat is wait for it to happen
but does know, there's a there's a I mean you're you're, essentially choosing to counter our culture and doing that requires vigilance and tending,
So I'm you know, I'm a sis, woman and I'm married to assist man like I m in a nuclear family right and I think the
the challenge that I, that I realized in doing this work, that I is that I needed to be vigilant right. My husband and I need to be vigilant about making sure that we're not cool
in ourselves off and that's particularly,
right now, because we're all sheltering in place- and I'm just in this house with these three other people.
I've really had to create a regular practice.
of making sure that I'm in
having conversations with my loved ones, about our relationships, I'm checking and with people I am,
You know I am receiving when people check in with me. You know what
one of the most powerful threads throughout the whole book, is about
how allergic we are too
asking for help and accepting help and how
powerful? It is when we get over that
the things that- and this has been emphasised for me now- that like covert is happening, is that the
offering support to folks I found
This is so much more powerful for them when its specific, so instead of just people dino saying like, let me know if you need anything, I have
and trying to in
I myself into people's lives right crossing this this like boundary, that we think of in our friendships and
trusting the intuition I have about what I know about people's experience and who they are and
offering something that I actually think could be helpful. So saying specifically, you know
I know you ve been doing a lot of caretaking recently. Can I make like extra of what
making for dinner and bring it to you
opposed to saying, let me know if you need anything
and then I think the same has been true for me. Like I've. Had you know, I have a friend who, in the beginning of covert she would
asked me in a couple of other people and say: hey, I'm going to the grocery store d, need anything and I
my kind of resist
as to saying yes, when I knew that
I'm out of salt right and if you like, I can't I can't. I cannot cope with
salt. So if I can get this
one thing that that means I can like weight to go the grocery store for another week, like that, actually helpful. For me,
oh I have said yes every time she has texted, because there's always in one or two things that I could use that would just bring eased. My life
and this last time actually text at her- and I was like hey next time- we go where you get us coffee, because I knew we were and we have coffee in a minute- and I would
they go to the store just to get coffee, but who wants to do in our especially right now? Who wants to do that so there
way in which kind of creating that that cycle of of support both giving in receiving support
lets us know each other more deeply
and creates intimacy.
I feel so much more help
and so much less isolated. Because of the way the
a couple of months. The way in which I feel like me and the people- and I am in community with- have accepted, support from each other and have offered support to each other, and like that's one of the things that I see that I'm excited to take
outside of you know, covered is just like allowing
being vulnerable enough right to allow people to know me in that way and to be in my life. In that way,
people in my life to do the same here
In its I mean being vulnerable and an yourself to be seen in a roman state, even if it's a mild thing like unless deepen
relationships? I mean that one of the things that she didn't relationship it. It is generally its view,
What, coupled with progressive revelation
and- and this has to happen both ways, and I often wonder if the reason that so few of us
comfortable doing that and I'm raising my hand, because I'm not the easiest person. That way is that
There's something in as its wired to keep score
And there's something in as that kind of says. Well, I dont want to feel behold in
You know I dont want to their sort of liking. Electors know the somewhere in there is ignores, make gently credit and debit she that's being kept.
If it's not in balance on a regular basis of families can feel like any two gave our needs a guy. I think that's white supremacy and wrap it up. Ringlets wired, like
deeply and something we ve learned tat. A hundred percent too great a hundred percent agree about it, but I feel like it is: learn behaviour out a lot of us and its.
No destructive, and it's almost like
once you have a group of people who just start doing it, and parties,
Freeman is nobody keep score yeah, it's it's like
I mean I've experienced in windows in my life and it sort of like everything dissolved, and it becomes just really beautiful. Will there's this
This is generosity in abundance that exists when you do that right and part of it.
think for me like, when part of what
when I worked through my head when I'm offered support. Is that
I'm recognizing that it doesn't just do something. For me, it does something for the person whose offering the support- and I know that, because I know what it feels like when I am able to offer support and it's not because I'm like yes now
another like check, and my
column of what they owe me and it's not about you know earning
So my gods, it really is about feeling like I am in this generative cycle of giving
saving that is part of that like deepens my sense of my own humanity and deepens my sense of being part of you have been part of life.
community, and I know how good that feels for me so partly like with this friend.
And who text me about the girl she's, unlike oh, like
me saying, yes, is a gift that I can give her.
Like, being vulnerable and allowing her to insert herself in my life that way is a gift that I can give her
and let me not interrupt the cycle.
And like mess it up right by not providing her with that gift.
so. It is an exchange rate and I think,
important for us to recognise it as that? But it's not
bout like you know,
not about like I'm gonna. Do this thing and then they're they're gonna tell me, because
So if you like in some ways like.
I mean I done anything's thing for them: I've! Let for sometimes I leave eggs on the porch, because we have chickens and there's like too many eggs, but, like mostly should
drop stuff off and like that's it. I also know that, like I'm doing similar things for other people, so it's not even about just like my relationship with her and the kind of like back and forth between us.
But actually, though, as much as part of a much kind of grandeur cycle of giving and receiving that we're, both parties
yeah. No, I love it. One of the things that also comes up in the context of that, I think, is something that you speak too, which is
this idea of you
and there are moments also when you want have boundaries,
but at the same time you can negotiate ways to interact with people. Wanna know one of the stories that that you tell those really fascinating. Waiter approach is
You talk a lot about also.
Family, around food and kitchens and friendships and how that enables all such a different things. And,
how, on the one hand, it's really nice too, sometimes just how people draw buying granted right now, like were not really doing that, but we can learn from it a bullet.
And then there are other times where you would feel like really intruded on
is someone just one by and we certainly live in a culture now where.
Nobody, I know in new york city does that email yeah? If somebody just knocked on my door, even if it was a friend of mine and said, okay, hey, let's hang out it'd- be awkward
yeah the awkward I'd be kind of annoyed, unlike what is
they don't want to see them israelite there is it there's a contacts and
the way that you handled saying, ok, how I made
happen away, were we all feel good, uncomfortable comfortable? I was really fascinating.
Yeah. So I, a friend of mine, talked about
the fact that she would love for people to drop by- and I was like both like
Yes, that would be great and also like, oh hell now like I don't want people to showing up on my doorstep like I because, like event, I want to see them. I would just feel I would be annoyed, like you said
so I was like. I just need to create a container for
like a window and which, like people, are free to drop by. So I created this thing, called drop by dinner and,
I e mailed, like twenty people.
And it had a set of guidelines and the first was you know- I don't, if I'm remember all them, but like
we like I'm I'm like I'm, not cleaning my house, I'm not preparing you a meal
come over bring some.
to add to you- know the the nourishment that we're gonna have. I will give you
ever it is that I'm gonna give my own children, but I'm not
It's not me, I'm a hosting writes about was part of the
things like you don't have to arrest me p. You can just show up. You
and tell me you're, going to show up and show up. You can tell me you're going to show up and then not show up and not explain it to me. It's really like we're not trying to kind of create or replicate any kind of
I also made it clear that they could not bring anybody with them unless it was their kids, because I didn't want child care to prevent people from showing up, but I also do not want to extend this experience to people like that. I didn't actually feel
the ball coming by my house. When is a man
and then I was also like, don't
if my house, messier than you
his what's like clean the dishes, even if I tell you not do so
send it out to a handful of people, and I think,
Ten people showed up at the first one and it was spectacular. I was
wearing my pajamas, I dont think I had taken a shower that day
everybody you know brought food some people,
had been to my house multiple times, so they knew where everything was in. Some people had never been there before and just got support from other people and figuring out how to feed themselves and get what they needed
and I would just do it every few months- and I would you know, give people- maybe a day's notice or a week's notice- and sometimes three people would show up. Sometimes fifteen people would show up and
having my com
in he like coal,
in that way, right, like the various parts of my community collide, was fantastic. The conversations that we had were always really beautiful and I loved digitally expire
of having my loved ones in my home,
that I think it's it's.
I have a feeling that even us being so ice later right now. So many layers of fear,
possibility and change generation being in the air that, as we emerge from this space, that people are going to see
to become more open to things like that, and I think
I love the fact that your sorted out there right now.
Planting the sea to re, imagine, models and ways to gather and wasted, define, friendship and family.
as we emerge from this sort of cocoon that were in to a certain extent. We.
I start to really think about this more intensely. How do we want to step back into our relationships in a world and reimagined and recreated, which feels like a good place for us to come full circle as well? So
hang out here in this container of the good life project. If I offer up the phrase to live a good life, what comes up so many things? I think there
as both kind of like my own.
personal growth and development that feels important to me and that that day
happen outside the context of my loved ones and the examples they give me in the ways they support me and that that doesn't he
then, outside the context of the people that I feel
and solidarity with if I dont, even if I dont, know them and
that happens in the context of not just you know my
human relations, but all of our relations, one of them
that I've lean
more heavily on in this time of physical.
Isolation is nature right, like the other parts of nature cause human beings are nature,
unlike. I can hug tree a trees, not gonna. Give me a virus straight and I'm not gonna make it sick, so
is this web, but I feel
connects me with the people
closer to me, my other
actions that are close to me and then, ultimately, all of us, and that to me kind of being in right relationship with all of those things feels like what it means to live a good life. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you. So much for listening and thanks also to our fantastic sponsors who help make this show possible. You can check them out in the links we have included in today's show notes and while you're at it, if you've ever asked yourself. What should I do with my life, we have created a really cool online assessment that will help you discover the source code for the work that you're here to do. You can find it at spark: a type dot com, that's s, p, a r K, e t, Y p e dot com or just click, the link in the show notes, and, of course, if you haven't already done so be sure to click on the subscribe button in your listening app. So you never miss an episode and then share share the love. If there's something that you've heard in this episode, that you would love to turn into a conversation, share it with people and have that conversation, because when ideas become conversations that lead to action, that's when real change takes hold see. You next time
Transcript generated on 2023-06-23.