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the train station effect

 
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In 2005 I visited more than a dozen intentional communities.  During each visit, I tried to do something resembling and "exit interview" - something where somebody was actively leaving, or on the edge of leaving.   I tried to understand bits of the dark underbelly of community I had not considered before.  

At lost valley, I met a woman that was packing and would be moved out in a day or two.   She had been there for two years.  We talked for more than an hour and she shared a lot of fascinating stuff that has had a huge impact on me.  

One of the things she shared was "the train station effect."   This was her phrase.   It was the first time I had heard it.   I have tossed it around a hundred times since and those with a lot of time in community know exactly what I am talking about right away.

This woman was leaving lost valley for a list of reasons.   She told me about arriving starry-eyed with utter certainty that lost valley would be her home for the rest of her life.   And as we were talking, she told me about how she was weary of "the train station effect."

I think the space she was living in did not have a private kitchen.  

Where we were talking was a  massive dining area.   It could seat maybe 140 people.  And the kitchen was a massive, commercial kitchen that looked like it could feed 140 people.   I think there may have been about 20 to 25 people living at lost valley full time during the interview.  And maybe less than half of those people had their own kitchens.   Everybody else shared a kitchen - which, apparently was great!  

The problem was with constant classes and tours and evening presentations and the like.   People from all over coming for a day, or a few days or a week or two, or even a month or two.   People coming and going.  And you eat with them.  

At first this was a perk!   So many amazing people!   It's like you are traveling, but all the world of people come to you!   But if you have a day where you would like to eat a quiet meal peacefully - you kinda don't get to do that.  The concept of vegging out is only if you don't eat a normal meal.   You could cook for yourself in the kitchen and take it home - but ...  well ...   your options are limited.  

I seem to have immunity to this.  Jocelyn, on the other hand, is an introvert.  Some days she feels the urge to feed everybody so she will make a wonderful meal for the whole group, and when people show up to eat, she hides in her room with a plate of food.  

During the warm months, I've seen people take their food outside.   And during the colder months, I see them eat in the living room.  I think it is important that we make lots of spaces for people to have meals with the whole group or solo.  





 
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So... Privacy. In their _own_ place, not just being apart or in solitude. Privacy at the time and of a kind a particular person (everybody, probably, eventually, in various ways) finds important. Somehow it feels like ownership, of the time, of the space, has something to do with this.

Probably more to it, but is that close to the core issue?

Or. Just getting away from noise which distracts us from our own self? Our inner voices.




Rufus
 
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I would say the woman noted is not really creative enough, and was just looking for an excuse to leave.

Eating together or apart is just how life is. Even in our family which is fairly big at 6 people, and very traditional, we eat most times as a family around the table. But there are days too when we eat "Buffet Style" which is where Katie puts the food up on the countertop, and we grab our plates, and put our own meals together, and lounge around the Livingroom.

For this woman, she had the same option if she was a little more creative. When I worked for the railroad we ate out (3) meals a day for 6-12 weeks at a time. But if I ever wanted to eat in my room, I easily could. There is not a railroader anywhere who has not learned you can fry an egg on tinfoil placed over an iron inside your hotel room. And who alive has not heated up a can of soup with a candle? A candle puts out 2000 btu's after all.

There are many more ways then that to have a light meal, off by yourself somewhere. Goodness knows I have worked alone most of my life and have found ways to be with people, or be away, when I wished.

I do agree with her about the "Train Station Mentality", a phenomenon that I am seeing more and more, as the world gets smaller, and the people within it more rushed. That is a lack of staying power. I am not in intentional communities so I do not see that aspect, but often it manifests itself in homesteaders.

Where I live, they often stay a few years, get disheartened, and then leave, thinking that they picked a poor place, someplace better is just over the hill, and that next time they will find a place that checks all their boxes. That place does not exist of course, every location has problems, and benefits, and so when the honeymoon period is over with their new place, they soon start resenting it again, and start looking for another location. Where I live that purchase to sell time is about 8 years. In any case, these kind of people never really settle down and make a place their own, they just bounce from train station to train station,. If that is the lifestyle that they wish to have, then all the more power to them, but if they are dreamers and think they could have found a better place if they had chosen better, then they are disillusioned. What is your greatest problem, most times is also your greatest asset. Quite a few people are out there so concerned with avoiding problems that they never see the potential of a place.

I am pretty sure all that relates to Intentional Communities as well.
 
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paul wheaton wrote:
The problem was with constant classes and tours and evening presentations and the like.   People from all over coming for a day, or a few days or a week or two, or even a month or two.   People coming and going.  And you eat with them.  

At first this was a perk!   So many amazing people!   It's like you are traveling, but all the world of people come to you!



This would wipe me out in about one day!  Like Jocelyn, I love to cook for people but don't prefer to eat with them, so I would be sneaking away also....
 
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For introverts and/orhighly sensitivepeople, it can be very draining to just be around a lot of people, let alone eat with a lot of people.

We can't help but consider* everyone around us and everything they are doing. When eating a meal together, this demand is at it's peak. We can become overwhelmed with all the sensory input. Our brains our too busy to acknowledge that we are hungry or if we are full.

*by consider, I mean that you are constantly, unconsciously observing and recording and reacting to the behavior of the people around you. Example: That person made a "face"; their eyes narrowed and their lip curled. The food might be too bitter or sour for them. Maybe I should offer them different food. What do i have to offer them...shit. Maybe a drink would help. Maybe it was too spicy; can I find them some milk....ooow what if they are lactose intolerant. How can I know, have I seen them drink milk before....yes! last year at that thing they had a milk shake and seemed fine...
I could go on....but when we are in a group of people, we can feel scrutinized. We can feel like we are being observed in the same way.

Whenever we have communal meals, I will have a few bites, more so to appease those concerned that I didn't get enough. "Oh I'm full! I had plenty!" I lie. Of course I don't feel hungry yet, so it's not a complete lie. Even still, people bring me plates of food. I thank them and pass most of it to the garbage disposal(my husband).

The problem is that I don't feel hungry when I'm in a group of mostly unknown people. I'm too preoccupied with the task of considering everyone, that I won't feel hungry until hours later when I am finally alone. And then there is nothing to eat...

Thankfully I have come to know myself more and accept that I won't want to eat in a group and that's ok. I can plan accordingly and explain that I'm too busy to eat now, but  I will take it with me and I'm looking forward to trying it! Now I bring a container to group meals for me to take home and enjoy later. This has become normal in my circle of friends.

So I think it would be nice if cafeterias had single tables, like you would see at the library,

where people needing a low sensory environment to eat would feel comfortable. Maybe some signage stating these areas are for people who need a quiet meal, please do not disturb.

Everyone needs community to some degree, but I think we should make an effort to normalize alone time as well. And recognize that some people need a lot more of it than the rest.

I think the person in your story should be commended for testing out her dream. You have to try something out before you know if it's for you or not. And I would rather have people trying and giving up, than suffering in a lifestyle that isn't suited to them.






 
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I have young children. I am home all day with them, and I love them dearly. But, I'm an introvert and need some alone time. So, when lunch comes around, I give them their food so they are happy and stable, and I go and eat my own food over by the computer. I feel a bit like a bad mom, because meal times should be together for all those lovely reasons. But, I'm with my kids all day interacting with them, and just need a break.
 
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At one job where I work part-time, we exercise the cone of silence during the lunch break.  There's limited space and we are usually eating lunch in the same place where we are working.  So when someone announces they are going on lunch, we honour this and won't talk to them until they say they are back from lunch.



It's a workplace filled with introverts.  We know there needs to be re-charge time.  Lunchbreak is sacred.

 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
This would wipe me out in about one day!  



Me too.  One day of this and I would think I died and was sent to hell.
 
paul wheaton
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I think there is a massive difference between having three meals a day for a year with a dozen people who you know well and you think are cool, and a dozen people that showed up yesterday and will leave tomorrow and a year full of strangers coming and going.

 
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I heard this earlier today.  It's from a philosophical perspective.

There is always another now.  There is this now.  The now we're in now, which is not quite the same as the moment of the previous now.  So on, with every moment until there are no more nows.

The now of eternity or infinity, opposed to the false chain of nows that make up our understanding of time.  We live in a world where time is a kind of conveyor belt.  

We may appear to go at the same speed, except we kind of don't.  Some hours feel shorter or longer than others.  Some minutes are like hours or seconds.

Is this a trick of perception?  What is all time but a trick of perception?  

Moments cannot be replaced because they've been spent, so what we do with moments becomes terribly important.  

We choose to focus on what we decide to prioritize.  When we allow ourselves to well up with fears and resentments, concerns, anxieties, sources of irritation and aggravation, then those things are more likely to be what comes our way.  

And those moments are gone.  What's more, time passed is the foundation upon which the future is built.  That doesn't mean radical alteration is not possible.  Building a foundation and future by filling moments with meaningful and constructive positives is definitely possible.

That requires making choices.  Focus.  Intelligence.  Emotional intelligence.  That is what real opportunity offers each of us.

Real opportunity offers a chance to let go of negatives.  To not cling to what upsets us the most.  What is clung to, clings right back as tightly as it is held until released.

Where you know there is real opportunity, yet a negative wants to rule your life like a sword of Damocles, something that seems so unfair or so wrong, let it go anyhow.  

Make a choice to use time, your heart and energy to embrace what could cheer you so much.  What lifts your spirits?  What puts a smile on your face?  What could help others smile?  

Fill time with that.  Fill your heart with that.  Fill your future with that.  Watch how so much changes.  How the now you are living through is no longer a sequence of painful experiences and emotions, and instead becomes a chance to celebrate.  

If you feel it isn't that simple, tell yourself it IS that simple.  That this is an opportunity to discover how simple it is and to benefit from that choice.

 
Catherine Windrose
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This.

paul wheaton wrote:I think there is a massive difference between having three meals a day for a year with a dozen people who you know well and you think are cool, and a dozen people that showed up yesterday and will leave tomorrow and a year full of strangers coming and going.

And this.

Travis Johnson wrote:What is your greatest problem, most times is also your greatest asset. Quite a few people are out there so concerned with avoiding problems that they never see the potential of a place.


Perhaps incessant movement of people coming and going creates a transient feel that trods on what felt like stability, then grows to overwhelm, evolving into a sense of 'I don't belong here either' or 'being only a warm body to fill a void'.  

What Travis said, because problems are opportunities for solutions.  I will add, perhaps when someone feels there is no solution, they are growing in a different direction?

Inner and external forces - personal and work routines, deadlines with workshops, setups, teardowns, re-dos, regrouping to revise.  Each contributes to the drive to do, do, do.  So personal space to think, pee / poo, fart, belch, breath, relax and regroup, mostly relaxing or ruminating without noise, is inherently important.  

And sometimes an important deadline means extra effort and maybe a bit of imposition, but with that comes satisfaction of having achieved a deadline as well as individual growth with give and take.

Perhaps as with music, the conductor leads his orchestra, eventually drawing to a close where there is silence, reflection, possibly discussion about the experience, then off to socialize, or enjoy personal space / me time.

Isn't a permaculture lifestyle about how we raise ourselves and each other up?  

Companion planting, comes to mind.  And something like how trees communicate with each other through their roots, such that every tree is connected and grounded in earth?  Together they grow stronger through resistance to challenges and forces, which if separated could easily devastate.  

This intradependence promotes healthy internal and external growth.

However, we are not trees and the simile seems to fail with our human-ness.  Do we give up because we are human?  Or change perspective to adapt and evolve in a way that keeps us strong?

Recently I saw posts about discussing 'negative' stuff at meals.  Well, why not?  Doesn't working through issues during a day, prepare us for the next day?  In various cultures and eras, meals served as an ideal time to plan the day’s to do list, check progress at mid-day, and at dinner discuss what was done and needs to be done.  Then time for lighthearted levity  or personal time.  Balance between necessities and druthers.

Assuming tired from a full day is a healthy norm in a highly productive group, is it also possible that sometimes people who lack enthusiasm to discuss or do what needs to be done to keep things moving smoothly, may not yet be part of the core group or endeavor that they feel they are?  Nothing wrong with that.  Individuals are allowed to be in a different head space.  

Still, important things need to be done, so what to do?

More to the point, if the end of a day brings a 'good tired' - a feeling of my best is good enough and great or small stuff was done - it would seem all is as it should be.  If instead a feeling of "I'll never get this done" becomes persistent, isn't that when inner reflection or outside assistance could be sought so eyes are still on the ball, focused on the important stuff and the big picture.  

Sometimes it takes an individual.  Sometimes it takes a village.  Asking for advice or assistance is not a fail.  It’s a way to move forward.  Learning to recognize resistance as a healthy way to grow.  

That said, some people, who where they are in their head space, need more time to realize how much more in control of their life they really are no matter the circumstance.  It's when an individual forgets they have total control of their life, that darknesses want to descend and gather like wasps at a picnic.  And wasps or... pick an insect, are usually present at the best of picnics.  It's how we deal with them that makes things worse or less a bother.  

And while sometimes a change in perspective can make a world of difference, there are times when no amount of flexibility with changing a view can make a difference.  This could be a deal breaker type of realization when someone realizes inwardly, "I don't feel right here, I don't belong here".  How can there be anything wrong with this?  It is personal growth to be respected and encouraged.  What seems to remain would be understanding of what is, letting what is be ok, and choosing how to move forward.

Remembering individual choice is present every second of every day, is so important to being able to work with others and aspire to greater heights and accomplishments.  Yes, there are rules or fixed guidelines about how to achieve a goal.  There has to be.  If it don’t fit, don’t force it… old song wafting in :.)

Maybe this distills to self-exploration?  Learning how to live self-sustainably is not just for permaculture, yeah?  A human permaculture is no less about growing.  

Also, emotional intelligence, which is present in all ages.

Sometimes having too many options or opportunities is overwhelming all by itself.  Then the individual needs to make extra effort to simplify their choices, versus asking someone else to decide for them which is likely not to go well.

The big picture though, requires individuals with a specific mindset geared toward the goal.  Those who do not share that goal will naturally feel less inspired, less inclined to choose to cope with challenges, generally less motivated.
 
Rufus Laggren
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From Paul's story it appears that the transients were part of the business plan of the community. Thus they were not (or not just) people, but a resource the community processed. Part the day's job for core member's of the community who needed to pay attention and do the job right when these visitors were present.

This is a normal part of any relationship where ones well  being or goal depends on arranging certain outcomes with numbers of strangers which one relates to (and largely must relate to) in a certain narrow context when trying to do a job. Whether one is a "maî·tre d'hô·tel" or a tour guide or an actor or a bus driver or sales clerk, in the context of the job there will be an "us / them" dynamic which allows and provides one some distance and control of the relationship.

Without this dynamic, trying to relate personally with each of many individuals who all have a similar temporary relationship to you, which you need to manage, will quickly overwhelm a person emotionally. The person will not function well and fail to keep on track with their duties, plans and personal balance.

But living this public dynamic 24/7 does not work well. One needs personal time/space not available when one is "on". And also time to recharge and reorient with the P-group - the primary group which directs and secures one's place to some extent in the public space. Having transients present at all times, crowding out the other, more personal, environment, looks like it kinda messes up the some basic needs.

Rufus
 
Travis Johnson
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paul wheaton wrote:I think there is a massive difference between having three meals a day for a year with a dozen people who you know well and you think are cool, and a dozen people that showed up yesterday and will leave tomorrow and a year full of strangers coming and going.



I disagree.

I measure my success on whether or not my wife and kids still think I am cool and fun to be around. They know me, on my good days and upon my bad, and they still love me and appreciate me for who I am.

Strangers? I could give a care less about them. They are basing their opinions on a sliver of time.

It is kind of like when we have Rock the Flock. Sitting in a sun light day with the breeze flowing over them as they watch a concert many have said..."why don't you build a house up here." I don't because I know what life is like with that wind swept view in the middle of January. They are thus mere foreigners in a strange land...on MY land as it were. They are not bad people, they just do not know the full story. Like seeing a photo and thinking you want to live there? It is just a moment caught in time, with reality not quite framed.

My kids? My wife? They know me and WANT to eat with me, not because I force them, for that is the opposite of love, but because they WANT too. That is true success.
 
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I think Jocelyn is my long-lost sister.  

I like people and I'm good with people.  I absorb groups well enough, and can even be the life of the party if that's needed.  But it drains me.  A lot of introverts don't even realize that their emotional battery has been drained until they find themselves hiding in another room and waiting till everyone goes home.

For our emotional well-being, I think we all need public spaces and private spaces.  Everyone is different, some needing more of one than the other.  

Perhaps one of the dimensions of the train station effect (TSE) is the lack of predictability to it all.  As an introvert, if I know that people are coming over once a week (every Friday night) for a predictable amount of time (from 6:00 till 10:00), I can prepare myself emotionally.  I'm all there and I'm a contributing member of the group.  But if it's 10:30 and people are not leaving, a wave of anxiety begins to build internally.  Why don't you people leave already!  Outside of my immediate family and a few close friends, most people fall outside my zone of "comfortable to hang out indefinitely" group.

So beyond the need for public space/private space is a need for some measure of predictable schedule.  Public time and private time.  The TSE exists in both spacial as well as a temporal forms.
 
Trace Oswald
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Marco Banks wrote:I think Jocelyn is my long-lost sister.  

I like people and I'm good with people.  I absorb groups well enough, and can even be the life of the party if that's needed.  But it drains me.  A lot of introverts don't even realize that their emotional battery has been drained until they find themselves hiding in another room and waiting till everyone goes home.

For our emotional well-being, I think we all need public spaces and private spaces.  Everyone is different, some needing more of one than the other.  

Perhaps one of the dimensions of the train station effect (TSE) is the lack of predictability to it all.  As an introvert, if I know that people are coming over once a week (every Friday night) for a predictable amount of time (from 6:00 till 10:00), I can prepare myself emotionally.  I'm all there and I'm a contributing member of the group.  But if it's 10:30 and people are not leaving, a wave of anxiety begins to build internally.  Why don't you people leave already!  Outside of my immediate family and a few close friends, most people fall outside my zone of "comfortable to hang out indefinitely" group.

So beyond the need for public space/private space is a need for some measure of predictable schedule.  Public time and private time.  The TSE exists in both spacial as well as a temporal forms.



I could have written that exact post. You summed up my feelings better than I could have.
 
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Amy Arnett wrote:
*by consider, I mean that you are constantly, unconsciously observing and recording and reacting to the behavior of the people around you. Example: That person made a "face"; their eyes narrowed and their lip curled. The food might be too bitter or sour for them. Maybe I should offer them different food. What do i have to offer them...shit. Maybe a drink would help. Maybe it was too spicy; can I find them some milk....ooow what if they are lactose intolerant. How can I know, have I seen them drink milk before....yes! last year at that thing they had a milk shake and seemed fine...
I could go on....but when we are in a group of people, we can feel scrutinized. We can feel like we are being observed in the same way.



This I think is the heart of the issue.

Some people are by nature incredibly concerned about the wellbeing of others, to the point where they exhaust and stress themselves. Others are able to detach themselves more.

I'm on the latter end of the spectrum - I trust that if people are uncomfortable, hungry, thirsty etc that they will be able to either communicate, or will sort it out themselves.

My wife is on the former end. She is tries to anticipate every persons possible needs and comforts, and make sure that they are catered for. This is exhausting in groups where you know people well. In the circumstances described - new people passing through day in day out - that is exhausting and essentially impossible to achieve. The stress of trying to do so consistently wears people out. I find it unsurprising that people with this kind of temperament find those situations exhausting over the medium to long term.

Some comments above suggest that those people can just do x, y, z to find some privacy. But the privacy isn't really the issue, the problem is that their temperament is fundamentally not wired in a way that is compatible to be on permanent hosting duty. Even when they retreat from the group they feel a nagging guilt/concern that they are neglecting their guests.
 
Michael Cox
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Travis Johnson wrote:
Strangers? I could give a care less about them. They are basing their opinions on a sliver of time.



And this is the fundamental issue. You are able to detach yourself emotionally from the stream of constant strangers. Your personality is wired in a way that makes it simply a non-issue.

But for people who are not wired this way, the same circumstances can become emotionally exhausting over a period of time. What starts out fun and challenging eventually becomes unbearable.
 
Travis Johnson
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You are indeed right, but I guess my question is, why languish in a spot if it is uncomfortable for years? There are mechanisms that we can all work on so we get better.

I do not look at my garden and say, "well, it has pretty good soil, but the PH is real low, and the nitrogen is not much better; well I guess all I can plant is potatoes." No, I address the problem, work on things a little bit, and improve the situation, so that things can be much better, and I have more options.

I am not here to say, "I do not have this problem so be more like me." That is not what I am saying at all. I am asking why people seem to just go all Eeyore on everyone, and mope around when there are friends, counselors, and mental health professionals that can help to shape an area of a person's life that is a problem.

I would never go out and till my whole field up, and go all crazy and plant a whole field of alfalfa because that crop requires a lot higher PH level then what my soil normally has, and so too I am not saying a person that is an introvert expect to be an extrovert if only see a counselor. I am not saying that at all. But I think it is a downright shame that the woman who first mentioned "being in a train station" has never got any help, and is just going to move, and move, and move again all her life, not being content. What if someone in her life could have a deep meaningful conversation with her and help her coping skills a little bit better so in SOME instances she felt more comfortable?

For some reason in this country if we have a rash on our arm, we go to the doctor to have it get better, but when it comes to improving our lives through a little mental maintenance people put up their defenses on the idea, and instead live in fear all their lives. You hear it all the time, "oh that is just the way that I am..."

People don't have to be, they can work on small changes...I have, and I am better for it.
 
Michael Cox
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Travis Johnson wrote:You are indeed right, but I guess my question is, why languish in a spot if it is uncomfortable for years? There are mechanisms that we can all work on so we get better.



Isn't the point of the original post that these are discussions with people who are in the process of departing a situation they find uncomfortable?

I think it is reasonable to try a community like this and - six months of so down the line when the honeymoon period has worn off - discover that there are systemic issues that make you incompatible with the place. I see no fundamental problem with such a self learning and discovery process, but I also see no problem with trying to design systems intentionally with those type of personalities in mind. Humans are diverse, and the systems we make are diverse - and can have unintended consequences.
 
Travis Johnson
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Michael Cox wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote:You are indeed right, but I guess my question is, why languish in a spot if it is uncomfortable for years? There are mechanisms that we can all work on so we get better.



Isn't the point of the original post that these are discussions with people who are in the process of departing a situation they find uncomfortable?



The woman was there for two years!

In using the analogy of my garden again, it would be like me growing potatoes for two years and then telling you I really do not like potatoes in the first place!!

I suspect there was underlying issues far beyond her comfort level with eating with people at such a place. And I get that.

I used to do a lot of woodworking, and I would think of my project all completed, the cuts and joints all made, the finish put on, the end product sitting beautifully in my house, but the thing was, as I did the project I rushed it, I struggled with the difficult parts, and I was just not having fun. I wanted it done!

What I found was, constantly moving from one project to the next was not where the heart of the project was, it was in actually doing it. It is called "living in the moment". This is not psychobabble, it is realizing that if I am prepping my garden, it is just fun being in the garden, the food at the end of the summer is just icing on the cake. If I am doing a woodworking project, I have learned that having the time, the reosurses and watching the project takes shape is as much fun as the project being done and inside my living room. That is being content, It is the same for this woman, until she realizes that the point of an Intentional Community is community, I am pretty sure she is just going to keep moving on, and on, and on...

Why?

She obviously picked that location for a reason, and stayed their for two years for a reason, so if all that is really keeping here there is the way the place is set up to dine, she would be better off working on that aspect of her personality then to keep trying to find the Holy Grail of Intentional Communities. There is help out there for those that want to stop running.

Paul Wheaton in this post has cut to the crux of the problem without really knowing it. At his location he will never satisfy everyone. For me, I do not even try. As my Grandfather told me when I was 18 years old, "People complain about what you do anyway, so you minds well do what you feel is the best thing, and do not care about what others think."

It is so true. It does not mean things are not changed or are improved, but it is a silly to keep trying to appease strangers because there will always be detractors.

 
Trace Oswald
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The way I read Paul's initial post, the woman wasn't unhappy for the two years she was there.  

"The problem was with constant classes and tours and evening presentations and the like.   People from all over coming for a day, or a few days or a week or two, or even a month or two.   People coming and going.  And you eat with them.  

At first this was a perk!   So many amazing people!   It's like you are traveling, but all the world of people come to you!   But if you have a day where you would like to eat a quiet meal peacefully - you kinda don't get to do that.  The concept of vegging out is only if you don't eat a normal meal.   You could cook for yourself in the kitchen and take it home - but ...  well ...   your options are limited."

I think most of us have been in a position where something was okay at first, but eventually wore us down to the point it was no longer worth it.  I know I have.  I don't think the only option is to stay in a place that has people constantly coming and going, and to try to make yourself okay with it.  Surely there are places that are less chaotic.  It doesn't seem to me that the woman is one of those people that is just never happy, and I think living in a place without constant chaos is a reasonable thing to want.  
 
Catherine Windrose
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Perhaps some individuals need varied life experiences abroad to figure out what others discover without moving here and there.  There is a balance within this.  If everyone stayed in place and never explored outside where they began life, maybe histories wouldn't be so spotty :), yet think of all that cultures have discovered about each other by moving here and there.  We are explorers and pioneers in our own way.

One of the first things I learned by living outside the United States, is the majority of the world is not nearly as white as it is here (U.S.).  And there are fantastic 'other ways' of getting things done.  I discovered where I came from was not the begin and end of anything.  Such discoveries can have very significant impact on an individual.  An example is after having been in the military, visiting relatives who had never left where they grew up was phenomenally strange.  And exhausting.  After only a few years, I went from being very close to a few cousins, to being unable to relate to them at all.  I learned to appreciate 'rights', because I gave up every right when I joined the military.  So when I exited, there was an entirely different horizon to view and consider.  I learned to appreciate universal principles above individual man-made rights that seem overly limited due to being designed for a particular culture / society / environment.  Most of all, I learned freedom is what I make it for me, and other individuals determine their sense of freedom.

Now if everyone saw things like I do, the military term 'clusterfuck' comes to mind immediately :=)  So I'm quick to say to people, do what is good for you and the rest will follow in a good way.

I don't feel sad for the woman in the OP, or that she needs mental health guidance.  I've been where she was.  I can suppose she might have felt drained and sad and tired.  But I can just as easily imagine she found somewhere more suitable to be and has a new set of experiences in the proverbial toolbox.  

Self-exploration is an internal growth experience which no one else needs to make sense of.  And in some cases it is probably a good idea to step aside while someone is exploring certain things :-)  Still, while it is a good exercise to to try to understand why people do what they do to appreciate commonalities or differences and learn something about ourselves, using a single personal view and unique set of experiences is likely to be a mind boggling exercise in frustration.

If what the woman said to Paul is taken at face value, not judged or viewed as something that needs to be fixed, then the train station effect and how it impacts intentional communities seems more about how to attract individuals who self-explored themselves on a path to Wheaton Labs.  Happy coincidences are awesome.  Just as awesome is having learned what you don't need which is as important as discovering what you do need.  

Elsewhere in the forums, Paul wrote about offering individuals opportunity to discover if an experimental, lab-type, permie lifestyle is for them.  I am thinking, "for now or later".  Some individuals might be drawn like magnets because they feel where they are headed, while perhaps they are not quite ready for 'here and now' yet.  Hence moving on with the next leg of their journey.
23-emotions-people-feel-but-cannot-explain.png
[Thumbnail for 23-emotions-people-feel-but-cannot-explain.png]
 
Rufus Laggren
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@Travis - aka Half-Full Johnson! (if I  may)

T., don't know if you were ever in the service, but I'm totally sure you were/are a Marine, somewhere in your lives. <GG>  I've never been in service, but my dad was a Marine in WWII. Could never understand how that fit, because he was just a mild mannered easy going fellow. Took me into my 40's to start to realize and see the "dive over the top and pound straight through everything to _do_ something" kind of person he was; he just did it calmly, quietly and inexorably. The Marine Corps was a perfect fit.


Cheers,
Rufus
 
Travis Johnson
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Nope, never been in the military at all.

I guess I am just trying to wrap my head around all of this.

I like to skim off the dross and get right to the heart of the problem, which in human nature does not happen all that much. What people say, and what they really mean, are often two different things.

Myself, if I had a place that I wanted to improve, I would never go interviewing the people that were leaving another place anyway. I would be more concerned with the positive, then the negative.

We had this issue on the railroad, and finally we got a budget and attacked the problem head on. Our target was to improve the safety culture, but in the end we also improved morale and job attrition (people leaving to work somewhere else). The results absolutely floored us. The first year alone we saved the railroad 13 million in injuries over the previous year, and that was just in ! division!

But here was the basic premise. A manager spends 85% of their time dealing with (2) types of people. The bottom 10% which are the troublemakers, and which you want to leave anyway. And the top 5% that were overachievers. Inevitably both ended up leaving. The top, because sooner or later they felt unappreciated, and just plain got burned out. And then the troublemakers soon got tired of the antics, or the managers figured out how to motivate them, so they grew tired of it all and leave.

So we changed all that.

Instead of targeting the top 5%, and the bottom 10%, we specifically went after the middle group. That is where the magic happens. Those are the ones that come in, everyday, do a good job, do not ask for much, and do what they should. As a manager, as an owner, if you spend your time on that middle group; in very short order you have yourself a team!

I saw it in baseball. I coached a Farm team and I decided that I was going to play everyone the same, NO FAVORITES. And you know what, we sucked...that first year. The second year we got a little better. And the third year we were winning championships. The reason is, EVERYONE on the team moved up. Yes there was better players than others, but as a group everyone improved because everyone was stepping up, getting a chance to hit the ball, getting their turn at bat. It is the same way in a group. At work, or even at an intentional community. You have to make even the guy in the middle that just wants to be lost in the crowd, feels like they are really contributing to the team, and that you recognize their efforts, and you appreciate it. It is okay if they go and eat off by themselves, but as an owner, as a manager, you had better make sure they feel their contribution is worthwhile. I have seen it first hand so many times. People do not get hurt because they are recognized. People get more done, and people do not leave.

That one guy that gets up an hour earlier and thinks he is all that? Go, I do not need to stroke your ego all day, and I sure the heck do not need to babysit troublemakers. The top notch guy will eventually leave anyway, or get burned out, and I got a group of people in the middle that if they just bump it up by 10%...if I can figure out how to motivate them...will do twice as much as that top notch guy that just quit.

It is called positive-reinforcement and it works.

Does that mean if you see someone doing something wrong you do not correct them? No, you correct them, but you had darn better be catching that same guy doing about five things right too.

I highly doubt that woman is leaving that intentional community because the kitchen is too big; I am pretty sure she is leaving because she does not feel appreciated. She is not a troublemaker, and she is not a workaholic, she is right in the middle and no one is paying any attention to her.

Change that, and you change attrition.

 
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Another piece of the puzzle that I've found, is the kind of people that are running through your life. I raised my 4 kids in a smallish house, and there were always even more kids around. Our house was the hang out spot. Given that we never had a lot of space, we learned how to take time/space for ourselves. Just because we were in the same room didn't mean that we were interacting. When others came into our space, they couldn't understand that, and seemed to constantly want attention. They thought that we were being rude, or they just didn't understand what was going on, and we could never understand why they wouldn't stop talking.
 
Rufus Laggren
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> in the middle... appreciated

Can't go wrong there. Even if they just feel somebody _sees_ them, understands a little. I don't view myself as a manager, but when I ran a small team of plumbers, I tried to "hear my people" _and_ make a brief, job related, positive connection at least once a day, each person. Generally we did good work and got along productively with little drama. Grease the wheel before it runs hot.

> [people don't say what's really up...]
Yeah. That. 'S ok. Comes with the territory (people). <g>  Either don't want to or can't. Lot's of ways, to communicate, though. The logical meaning of the words might sometimes be only very small part of what we convey by "talking" with a person. Notice, a flag for help, strokes, warning, comradeship for a moment, etc.

I have found one of the great challenges of "conversation" is favoring a topic/direction that leaves our ruts behind for a moment, where the answers are not all pre-recorded, for both of us - where we're willing to accept what comes w/out too much prejudice. Takes some carefulness, some luck, some restraint. Often some persistence...

Paul's "Be Nice" facilitates that kind of communication.


Cheers,
Rufus
 
Catherine Windrose
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https://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/blue-lake-resort-erie-illinois-nudist-camp-20190902


I fully understand if the link above needs to be removed ^.^  It is shared because this intentional community has successfully coped with the train station effect.

I'm not entirely sure why it is successful.  My understanding from listening to discussions there, is about seven-ish people (this was 10 years ago, mind you) managed what one couple (original owners) dictated.  Consensus opinion was considered but did not rule.  Perhaps because of the particular purpose of the community there is a strong cohesive sense of 'us vs not us', though anyone is welcome to be part of 'us'.  

Their success may also be partly due to being a mature community in most ways.  Though young people live there and young members who do not live there come often, it is mostly run by 'grandparents' with like minds.  Most had lived longer than what is considered half a life time.  Many are retired with fixed income.  Their interests vary widely.  Some younger members do work.  But most residents are elders who decided they are done with the world gone amuck, who want to enjoy the time they have left. Together they strive to simplify complexities and protect the unique qualities of their community.

I went there often because it was the closest place to the Chicago area (2.5 hours away) where I could entirely escape without interference from the outside world.  You could choose to socialize there or not.  To eat alone or not.  Come and go as you please.  Sometimes I went and left without speaking to anyone there.  It was that kind of place.  Pay a membership, follow some simple rules, BE NICE, be considerate, keep up after yourself, and all is golden.  And it really was, and may still be.  I rather enjoyed the elder management.  They were fun, funny, insightful, all about people, family, and most importantly:  their community.

There is only 1 must there, and only rules that support that single must, the necessity for which become crystal clear and quite reasonable if you choose to learn more about this particular community.  That said, not everyone who went there agreed and they found other places to go.  Ten years ago only several families lived there year round, though that may have changed since.  Otherwise people came and went throughout the year, though mostly in warmer months.  There is an outdoor community shower in warmer months.  There is a single community building with an onsite 'restaurant/cafe' with a shelter for extreme inclement weather and an indoor community shower for during the winter.

I considered living there because in all the places I have lived, and there are many, this was the only place where without knowing the people I simply felt comfortable and at home in my own space or shared space.  The only reason I haven't chosen to live there is because the community as a whole lacks interest in non-human permaculture.  However, they have human permaculture down to a science.
 
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I have always found that if an employee, or a tenant or a customer is regularly unhappy, the best thing to do is sever the relationship, which makes life easier for those who stay. Particularly, with employees, if someone is heavily invested in being unhappy, I don't want one bad apple to spoil the pot.

But for me, it's almost never a mystery , why the person is dissatisfied. With employees, it's because I expect it to get a lot of work done. This doesn't work well for lazy people. With tenants, it's been because I don't want them making a big mess. Some people must do that. With customers, it's because I don't deliver on things that they have promised themselves, but that I have not promised.

People who are unhappy with a situation, tend to spread their unhappiness around. So I don't see departure as a negative thing. Sometimes things don't work out. It's good to find out why people are leaving or why they are dissatisfied, but not usually worth the trouble of accommodating them.
 
Rufus Laggren
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A good buddy put it well: Some customers you just cannot afford...


Rufus
 
Rufus Laggren
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Another thought:

In any well functioning organization there is a need to gather new members regularly. But. There is a very distinct limit to the number of noobs which the organization will support w/out putting it's internal social contracts and culture at real risk. The looser the rules, the fewer noobs can be tolerated - I think. The more rigid and autocratic, the more noobs can be processed. Maybe. But for sure there is a real important limit to the number of noobs if a culture is to maintain and be passed on.

Another aspect is that noobs need to be separated from any prior groups. It's really bad news to bring in sibs or best friends who then hang together and reinforce each other _against_ the culture and authority of the organization. I saw this happen first hand in a small plumbing company (6-8 people, depending on work) when one of the main employees got his best friend hired. I was just a low level grunt at the time and didn't conflict with these guys in any way. There was nothing violent or hostile (at least not exactly) but the flow of information and authority was completely disrupted and these too eventually came to effectively run the company and it failed w/in a year and a half. They didn't know jack what they thought they did but they overloaded the boss to the loss of other input and other people just got disgusted and left.

When there is a certain good culture which people want to maintain, then bringing in new blood needs to be a thoughtful process taken seriously.

Rufus
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:

paul wheaton wrote:I think there is a massive difference between having three meals a day for a year with a dozen people who you know well and you think are cool, and a dozen people that showed up yesterday and will leave tomorrow and a year full of strangers coming and going.



I disagree.

I measure my success on whether or not my wife and kids still think I am cool and fun to be around. They know me, on my good days and upon my bad, and they still love me and appreciate me for who I am.

Strangers? I could give a care less about them. They are basing their opinions on a sliver of time.

It is kind of like when we have Rock the Flock. Sitting in a sun light day with the breeze flowing over them as they watch a concert many have said..."why don't you build a house up here." I don't because I know what life is like with that wind swept view in the middle of January. They are thus mere foreigners in a strange land...on MY land as it were. They are not bad people, they just do not know the full story. Like seeing a photo and thinking you want to live there? It is just a moment caught in time, with reality not quite framed.

My kids? My wife? They know me and WANT to eat with me, not because I force them, for that is the opposite of love, but because they WANT too. That is true success.



But, you are a different person than them.

There are like 300 million people in this country alone.  Probably with 10,000 different levels of how much they want to be around people/ be alone/ be around family/ be around friends/ be around strangers/ dine with strangers/ bare their soul to someone who is transient to their life.  And all that is OK.  But, it's not OK to say that because their level of wanting to be around strangers is different than yours, they are somehow wrong.

I get it.  Because of the unusual nature of the school I teach at, around 1/2 of the students in our high school are different from year to year.  It's gotten to the point that I don't work too hard to try and learn all the new names the first week of school like I used to.
 
Travis Johnson
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Phil Swindler wrote:But, you are a different person than them.

There are like 300 million people in this country alone.  Probably with 10,000 different levels of how much they want to be around people/ be alone/ be around family/ be around friends/ be around strangers/ dine with strangers/ bare their soul to someone who is transient to their life.  And all that is OK.  But, it's not OK to say that because their level of wanting to be around strangers is different than yours, they are somehow wrong.

I get it.  Because of the unusual nature of the school I teach at, around 1/2 of the students in our high school are different from year to year.  It's gotten to the point that I don't work too hard to try and learn all the new names the first week of school like I used to.



I agree, and I think that is why you fortify my point...why would I care about what strangers think of me?

I have seen this with my mother who has spent her whole life, doing everything, trying to appease others. She has the biggest, most boring house of blandness because she is trying to appease to everyone...almost six thousand square feet of off-white walls, and engineered flooring.

I refuse to live my life like that. And I refuse to hold my daughters down, put my hands on their throats and say love me. The fact that Katie and I give our daughters their space, and they chose to spend time with us despite having freedom, is the greatest compliment that they love us genuinely in return.

That is where I base my sense of success.

This is like driving a car, and trying to figure out how fast you are going. There are two gauges on a car that can give you that information; the tachometer, and the speedometer. For the person who bases their life's success off what strangers think of you, is like looking at the tachometer.  It is A WAY to judge success, because a person can tell how fast their are going in a given gear by that gauge, but it is not THE BEST way. I assert that basing your life success on what your family, or closest friends thinks of you is a much better way, which is like using the speedometer on a car.

Too many people go through life looking at the wrong gauge, and when they get to the end of their life, they see how hollow and shallow it really was because it was not accurate.

Saying that it is wrong to point this discrepancy out, again is like the analogy of driving a car. Today people want to go around and drive as fast as they want...and likewise they want to live their lives basing it on what others think of them. But I am just the driving instructor telling people to look at the right gauge so that they do not get into trouble. They can ignore me, just as anyone can drive around looking at the tachometer, but they only have themselves to blame when life sends them a sharp curve and they crash and burn, or the police officer called life, sets them straight.

Most of the time the people that have lived their lives basing their success on what strangers think of them, happens at the eve of their lives. The lament is always the same, "I wish I had spent more time with my family". I have yet to know anyone who wished they had worked harder at work, or impressed more strangers.

I say again...make sure you are looking at the right gauge. Use your friends and family for the compass of life, and not strangers.
 
Rufus Laggren
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I like the "gauge" analogy. It shows the essence of a situation. I like the conclusion/explanation that one needs to choose their base of praise and self judgment wisely - because it matters. The concrete example of family and close friends vs. strangers is usable by all of us, given we understand that it relies on generally true stereotypes about family and friends knowing you and  wanting you to do well.

Having a clear understanding of ones own situation and values, while an individual important thing, doesn't much help others' or directly affect problems. But Travis has told of his family hosting a music event each year to support funding and help for those with problems. That's something more potent, not an explanation, a theory, talk. That's action and that is what encourages change, makes things different. We can skip the explanations and all the figuring out with minimal loss. We can't skip the actions. And action does not depend on  full understanding, knowing things. At root, it depends on effort, belief, sincerity. Think those great American arch-types: Gidget. Forest Gump. <GG>

Just a reminder.

Regards,
Rufus
 
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Many years ago we lived at a community as volunteers and also left on the 2 year mark. It seemed a common length of time to stay. Yes, by that time, the constant open days etc were no longer a novelty and combined with lack of private space and no longer term security, it was a good time to leave. An old guy exit interviewed us on those last days and commented how often 2 years was the max people at places like ours stayed. He thought it was the infrastructures and buildings and all the energy they consumed of the volunteers that burnt people out. I'd add that 2 years was the time it took us to learn all we could from that project in terms of gardening, eco building, chain saws etc. The next level for us was to be able to do it for ourselves, for projects we'd have 'ownership' of. I always have thought of it as our bootcamp training when looking back.
The next 9 years we had our own acres at a loose community of 9 homesteads. Over a 1000 visitors a year visited here. Though the freedom to opt in and out, and having our own land/house to retreat to, made the busyness and numbers of people passing through totally fine.
On our own fields, we had 400 volunteers over 5 years. This was intense, rich and sometimes we retreated at meal times and so forth. Overall, this big volunteer/passer through culture on our land worked really well by giving them their own social space for the evenings, so we could recharge, plan the work, have family time. We also let the whole scene be fairly emergent and self organising...used less energy for us than controlling eg how many hours a day they had to help. We had our daytime culture together and in the evenings they evolved their own world.
Crucial perhaps, was we had 5 friends living in their vans full time with us in the volunteer field. They held the space, sorted out practicalities of camping etc and helped with induction to work tasks.
The whole experience was very beautiful and reaffirming of the human spirit. Though I was always glad when December came and everyone was gone!
 
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Eating great food with lots of wonderful people is like Thanksgiving with a lot of relatives many of who you don't know....every....single....day....for....two....whole....years. Sometimes you just want to have a turkey sandwich, not alone in your room, but with a couple of your siblings where you can just relax and share memories and laugh and be understood. There's a time and a need for both.
 
paul wheaton
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I think the important thing demonstrated with this thread is that "the train station effect" is something that that we can understand, and has value when talking about community.   It has less value to some, and that's cool.   It has a LOT of value to others, and that makes it worthwhile to expand our vocabulary.
 
Phil Swindler
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paul wheaton wrote:I think the important thing demonstrated with this thread is that "the train station effect" is something that that we can understand, and has value when talking about community.   It has less value to some, and that's cool.   It has a LOT of value to others, and that makes it worthwhile to expand our vocabulary.



I find the timing of this thread interesting.
In a few days 40 to 50 members of my extended family will get together for Thanksgiving.
I'm really looking forward to seeing at least 30 of them.
 
Stacy Witscher
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While not about intentional communities, we are experiencing something similar with the death of my grandson. Lots of people are coming and going, and while we appreciate them coming, it's draining. Everyone wants to talk about what happened, and for many, this is their first time to our property and they want to talk about that and our plans. We are finding that we have to take time for ourselves, away from everyone. Thankfully, everyone is understanding of that at this point. Given the tragedy, we are not judged for expressing our needs. I think that it would be a better world if we were all comfortable with expressing our needs. I think that Pearl said it best, "No is an acceptable answer".
 
Laurie Meyerpeter
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Phil Swindler wrote:

paul wheaton wrote:I think the important thing demonstrated with this thread is that "the train station effect" is something that that we can understand, and has value when talking about community.   It has less value to some, and that's cool.   It has a LOT of value to others, and that makes it worthwhile to expand our vocabulary.



I find the timing of this thread interesting.
In a few days 40 to 50 members of my extended family will get together for Thanksgiving.
I'm really looking forward to seeing at least 30 of them.



Me too! I'm looking forward to seeing at least 30 of them. ...And figuring out how I can avoid 20 of them. Seriously, i love seeing everyone once a year. There's usually about 40 relatives and other people, some I don't know. It's fun but I sure wouldn't want to eat this way at every single meal. I'm good at chitchat so I like these surface conversations as I twirl my gravy into the mashed potatoes and stuff my face with turkey and rolls. But with this many people, I never get to hear what's really happening in the lives of the people I care about but don't see often. The conversation is mostly superficial. And since all the turkey eaters are talking and chatting, I don't even have a chance to really enjoy the delicious food either. I guess I'm not good at multi-tasking. After a few hours, it begins to feel like an ordeal and I'm glad to leave.
 
You ought to ventilate your mind and let the cobwebs out of it. Use this cup to catch the tiny ads:
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