Bobbing for bits on the media streams

Sally’s World, July 2003
www.worldwit.org

By SALLY DUROS

Lately, those who make a living as pundits have been busy clicking and clucking and clattering keyboards and uttering bellicose profundities about one, single-syllable word: Facts. The questions about fact morphing into fiction float and bob about like so many balloons buoyed by the media winds.

Me – I’m not chasing any balloons because I take as fact very little of what I read or see broadcast in any of the media streams. I am one of those people who thought the Barry Levinson film, “Wag the Dog,” was a thinly veiled documentary.

Instead I ride the media currents to see what is bobbing on the horizon of the public mind. What’s happening today is a simple matter: The media soufflé has flattened and with the collapse of the puffery – within corporations, government, and media outlets – we are rushing to fill the void. I’m enjoying the “whooshing sound,” and looking forward to seeing what kind of omelets we’re left with.

Label me wacky or label me a cynic (perhaps both!), but for me a fact begins with that which I can personally touch, see, smell, taste, and hear. I then apply the gut test – my intuitive sense – to create an impression aligned with my value system, cultural wants and spiritual beliefs. Some of my criteria are tangible and some are intangible. And then, when I’m done I still don’t have a fact. I have my belief. One of my core beliefs is that we are all – each of us – a spinmeister of sorts.

I liked the tale that was being spun by master storyteller Judy Wicks, owner of Philadelphia-based White Dog Cafe, co-chair of the National Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), and chair of the Social Venture Network (SVN). She was speaking at a kickoff meeting for a new organization here called Sustainable Chicago.

Wicks says that upon waking every day, she looks in the mirror and says: “Good Morning Beautiful Business.” You have to like a woman who has two cabins in the woods, one named “Happy House,” and the other named “Fart Freely.” What began as a home-based coffee shop in 1983 is now a restaurant that seats 200 and grosses $5 million a year, with a commitment to fun, food and social activism.

What was most persuasive about Wicks was that her tale came right from her heart. I could tell because I had heard it before – from entrepreneurs of all political stripes and others involved in building local economies. That is, that business is really about relationships, relationships with certifiable, verifiable, living, breathing real people.

“A large factor in our success is that we are a real community-based business,” Wicks said. “We share values with our customers.”

“Living and working in the same community has given me a great sense of place, which is really important for building local, living economies,” Wicks said. “When you work and you live in the same place there is a very short distance between decision makers and the person who is affected by your decisions because every day you see your customers that you serve, every day you see your employees that you work with. And you live in the community and you see your neighbors (and the impact of your decisions.)”

That’s the kind of real world fact-checking that resonates for me, and helps me spin my personal vision of a perfect world. It also occurred to me that that’s the kind of fact-checking you get, and you can create through your local WorldWIT email discussions and real world events.

WorldWIT was ahead of the game in understanding that the strength of the new email tools of the web could help women with a friendly point of view, women from the same work/life integration tribe, women in the same cities and regions, share information with each other, and then create real world networks.

When you post a question to a local discussion list, like ChicWIT, you can receive a dozen or more replies. You can pick and choose what information to follow up on based on your own criteria. Even better yet, you can attend a networking event and meet the helpful individuals who communicate with you through the lists. And if something happens and you have to change jobs and move to another city, you can use the same WorldWIT resource to check out your new hometown.

Before the rush to make the Web a commercial force, there was a web that was a community of people. Hobbyists and techies and those who were simply curious built the web by putting up special interest sites, basically as communications tools that said, ” Hi, there – look what I’ve done!” That was about it. If you were on the web around 1995, you will remember when Yahoo was just a page of favorite links, a daily record of what was new on the web, put up by a couple of guys who thought the information-sharing was really neat. It was a community, and the sites were places where like attracted like, where you could find your tribe.

During the days of the dotcom gold rush, some of us lost site of the tribal energy because some financial wizards got the idea that there was money in huge global markets and numbers of eyeballs. Perhaps there is. But in my opinion, that is not the richest or deepest well.

The under tapped frontier is the landscape occupied by WorldWIT, where the locals knock on each other’s doors to find the answers to the burning questions of the day, the answers that simplify our everyday lives.

When we send our request to the WorldWIT universe, we are inviting friendship and collegial exchange. We are building trust and creating relationships. We – friends, neighbors and colleagues – are finding and becoming trusted sources for each other. And that is a great way – and the only way – to do business with each other. And that – to me – is a fact that I count on.

Choosing Otherhood over Motherhood

Sally’s World, May 2003 www.worldwit.org

By SALLY DUROS

New research in the United Kingdom has found that among women born between 1954 and 1958, college graduates were 50% more likely than non-graduates to remain childless throughout their lives. Studies conducted in the United States and Germany had similar findings.

These trends register as true for my generation of college-educated women, but I am betting that findings might be different for women younger than I am.

I have seen three circles of friends choose motherhood at different phases of their lives. When I was in my early 20s, many of my neighborhood friends from grade school were married and had their first children shortly afterward. When I was in my late 20s and early 30s another circle – these women my college friends – married and had kids a few years into their careers. And finally during my late 30s and early 40s, during the 90s, another circle – this time high-level executive women – decided that to follow their hearts, they would put corporate America behind and have families.

I made a different choice. When I was 13, I decided that I would not marry and that I would not have children. My youthful decision, arrived at so easily, emerged organically from the political, social and economic climate of the time. It was my personal hard line against what I saw as an erosive devaluing of women’s contribution to the world.

Sometimes we doubt the powers of our intentions, our ability to do what we intend to do. But this youthful commitment was something that I accomplished with little difficulty. Throughout my adult life, as time passed, with considerable reflection and equal doses of gladness and sadness, I have stayed that initial course.

At times, I have felt as though my head intended one thing, but my heart expected another. There is a way, I think, that women of my generation, no matter how well-developed our desires, still believe at some gut level that a knight on a white horse will ride in to save us from ourselves.

When I told a client of mine recently that the main reason I didn’t have children was because I had chosen a career over home-making, he said he didn’t believe it. I suspect many people just a squeak younger than me don’t believe it. But it’s true.

The way I perceived things as a teenager, the role of wife and mother was limited, especially financially. I really didn’t like the idea of not having my own source of income. My mother worked hard creating a loving home environment, raising four children and being wife to my energetic, responsible and loving father. Still some inner voice urged her out into the world, and in 1971, like so many women in their 40s at the time, she headed off to do office work. It was a point of, well, umm, discussion in our family’s household, and it met with a little resistance (I love you, Dad!)

But in the end my mother won. She took deep pride in the work she did, the money she earned, and the substantial contribution her income made to the well-being of our family. My mother loved working outside the home. As a result, she was always very supportive of my life choices – no matter how hare-brained they seemed to others – and she always urged me to aim for personal happiness.

At the time I made my youthful decision, there were few visible and positive examples of the myriad ways to be a woman, raise a family and have a career. After watching my mother’s happiness with her work, I took the road most natural to me. It seemed that to have two full-time jobs, and to try to do them both well – was not an option for me.

Since that time, many women have taken creative plunges into unknown seas of work and motherhood. Their powerful excursions – into business, politics, family and community – have opened doors for women and men alike. The most fortunate of us now have full freedom to choose our roles in accordance with our unique desires as individuals rather than by rules of gender and conformity.

For Mother’s Day, I offer them deep gratitude for their courage in finding their own way, clearing the path and making transparent and accessible for all of us what was once invisible: our unique hearts and our unique paths.

Recommended reading for this Mother’s Day: Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh; The Price of Motherhood: Why the most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least valued by Anne Crittenden; Bold Women, Big Ideas by Kay Koplovitz; and Toward a New Psychology of Women by Jean baker Miller.

By the way, the opinions presented in Sally’s World are mine and do not in any way represent those of WorldWIT. I invite your rage, your praise and your suggested readings. Email me!