This week’s column is an expansion of an earlier blog post, about my big takeaways from the 2016 Instagram Project, which has just, thanks to Paul Charron, this week’s guestagrammer, become the 2017 Instagram Project. Please join us – as a follower, or a contributor. It’s really fun.
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Hello Wind Changers! I'm @paulcumin – I'm the pastor at @pembertonchurch and I live with my wife and our three kids (@mackensy.beth @bendangeredspecies @drbacon373 ) on a chunk of traditional Stl'atl'imx territory behind Ivey Lake, near where I took this pic on Saturday night. Reminds me that one of the keys to living well in a place is —> #gratitude
I can tell you within 10 seconds of meeting you whether you’re someone I want to spend more time with.
Don’t be too impressed. You can do it too, and according to Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, you do it all the time. We all do – make instant judgments – based on how people smell, what they’re wearing, how they hold their skis, pheremones, whether a person reminds you of someone you love (favourite cousin, best friend from childhood) or hate (the mean girl from high school, that regrettable love affair)…
What we think are our reasons for these snap decisions are actually the brain’s rationalizations, after that fact, that kick in to justify those initial instant reactions that rose up from deep in our ancient brains.
Throughout 2016, I approached more than 25 people in our community and asked them to take us on a tour of this part of the world, to share a week through their eyes. The invitation? Take over the Wellness Almanac’s instagram account.
Although the roots of the Winds of Change is in addressing addiction and drug and alcohol misuse, the Wellness Almanac – the Winds of Change’s five year old outreach initiative — is, at its heart, a reconciliation project.
It’s motivated by the idea that what it takes to be a community is a willingness to walk in each other’s shoes. And what it takes to be well is a willingness, not to tell other people what to do with their lives and their sorrows, but to ask, what does it take to be the best version of myself, in this life, in this place? A side effect of working on that might just be helping someone else.
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George Saunders: "So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it: What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly." ('Congratulations, by the way.' 2013). #GeorgeSaunders is like a fictional #Gandalf imo
The 2016 Instagram takeovers were just an experiment – an idea to leverage something people were using in their personal lives anyway. I thought it would be interesting to try and like a new vegetable or the latest superfood, it might be wholesome, good for you, but not necessarily compellingly delicious.
On that front, I was proven wrong. Again and again.
I didn’t discover a single person I didn’t want to be friends with,
I always kept a corked bottle of suspicion in my Cellar of Judgment, for relationships that started online, even as I said out loud in my kind voice, “Oh really? Well, that seems to be the way of the world now.” Isn’t the online world where we tell our best lies? How can you trust anything they’ve said? And now here I am, claiming all these new “friends.” 25 people I barely knew, who my 10 second brain might have eliminated for being too different from me, I have now become genuinely fond of.
It took an average of 12 photos… although typically I was enchanted after the first one, when they introduced themselves, as they had been briefed, and I inevitably realized, “oh, he’s/she’s so much more interesting than I knew.”
Take guestagrammer 20, Nic MacPhee, for instance. I had an inkling she took photos, but I didn’t know Nic outside the library before I asked her. I liked the way she reads stories to babies, the way she genuinely engages with my three year old when he goes to borrow books with his very own library card, all by himself.
So one day, after the borrowing was done, I warriored up and blurted out an awkward invitation to Nic to be our guestagrammer.
She went really quiet, and I thought I’d shanked it, been too weird, come on too strong. Asking for help, for favours, for anything, makes me hot and sweaty.
Later, she admitted it to having an instant physical reaction, herself. “I went bright red in the face and felt very shy. After a million thoughts centered on my inadequacy, I told myself to shut up and be bold.”
When she shared that in her wrap-up post, I realized that the only thing keeping us at arm’s length was our own shyness, not the other person’s lack of interest. How close we came to staying strangers forever.
When Nic introduced herself in her first post, she declared herself a mother/radical librarian/musiclover/feminist/hippie/punk/introvert/dancer/reader/gardener/cook/extreme forest walker/glacial lake swimmer/photographer/art lover/glorious traveler and adventurer – and it hit me, as it has struck me with every new guest at the helm, how rich this place is. How rich and full and complex all our lives and identities are.
Nic claimed them all, and recently Lindy did it too, and it gave me permission to think of myself as 16 or 17 different things, even though some days, I don’t feel as if I have time to be anything but tired, a mom, a writer-on-deadline, a neglectful partner, a person who is chronically falling short.
I try to reframe it, be kinder, ditch the judgment and the labels. Who am I? If I could only have one word, I’d choose “work-in-progress.”
But guess what? There’s actually no limit.
Maybe, by giving you the space to be a million things, instead of just one, instead of the most obvious, reductive, politically-charged identity, instead of the label, then you’ll return the favour my way. And we’ll all expand into this beautiful space called a community, that’s waiting for us to step over our own shyness and say, hey, you seem interesting.
Skip over to instagram.com/thewellnessalmanac this week for Paul Charon’s takeover and say hi.