Comparing your inside to everyone else’s outside

You know when somebody says something that just totally shifts your thinking?  One of those phrases was when my old boss, Kate, years ago said to me:

‘Stop comparing your inside to everyone else’s outside’.

Ping!  That was the noise my brain made.  Suddenly, I realised that’s exactly what I’d been doing all my life.  Looking at how calm, together, organised, happy and fecking PERFECT everyone else seemed to be, then looking at my own messy insides and feeling like I was never going to measure up.

I realised that everyone, (yup, everyone) around me was struggling with life, usually way more than it appeared on the outside.  That everyone is pretty messy and full of worry, doubt and that sort of stuff on the inside no matter what their outside looked like.

I also realised that’s why I love art so much.  Art is one of the only ways we get to take a little peek inside somebody else’s heart and mind.  It makes us feel less alone, less like the odd one out.  It made me realise pretty much everyone feels that way pretty much all of the time.  

In fact, when I examine my feelings of exclusion, being different and an outsider, I realise that under the negative feelings there’s more than a little bit of ego in the mix.  I’m more messed up, therefore special.  My pain is deeper, more valid than everyone else’s.

Except it really, really isn’t – as you of course know!

Another great saying, attributed to Plato, us ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.’

It’s a good one to remember, and I do try to remember it.

On keeping up the good work

So, I’ve kind of arrived in the life-of-my-dreams situation, not to be too smug about it.
Years ago I really wanted to change my life and make it meaningful, useful and creative.  I left university and ended up in some pretty boring jobs, although I have to say I rocked them for the most part, and made the best of them, and learnt a great deal about all sorts of useful things.
So, around 2003 I realised that married life with job wasn’t really fulfilling me, and I did some serious soul searching and study, and a bit of travelling, because that’s what us white middle-class hippies do!
Shortly after I returned, I did one of those throw-everything-away-and-start-again numbers.  No more job, no more marriage, no more cosy house, no plans.  
It was great for my figure (OK maybe I got a bit too skinny!) and terrible for my bank balance.  My judgement regarding men went haywire for a bit (that’s another blog post, probably one I’ll never write!).
But in amongst all this, I was treading firmly along the path that led me right here – to my dream arts cafe.  I still pinch myself daily as I stand and look at it.  I mean LOOK AT IT!!
When stormtroopers turn up for tea, I really do wonder if it’s a particularly bonkers product of my subconscious.  Which, in a way, it actually is.
So, I’m totally bloody over the moon with the whole situation and that’s the truth of it.  Here’s something they don’t tell you though.  Some days, even your dream job is a bit of a drag.
In fact, it’s worse because you feel unmotivated, then you feel guilty for feeling unmotivated, then you feel worse.  Oh my goodness.
That’s when the mission comes into play, because at the end of the day it ain’t ever been all about me, me, me.  Sure, working here is a hoot and most days it’s more fun than work, even the work stuff is fun.  I get to be myself, I get to be around an amazing bunch of people, I get to eat burritos for lunch every day (which has sorted out that too skinny problem, I can tell ya, and then some).
On the days it’s not fun, when crises hit, or I’m just grumpy, or one of the other crew are grumpy, I have a fuel I never had in those boring jobs.  I know people are counting on me.  I know people are happier because of the work we’re doing.  Not like ‘oooo I’ve got some cake’ happier (though that, too) but ‘ooooo I can live my dreams’ happier.  Like, the happier I’ve managed to find.
It’s a buzz like no other, and it gets me through the worst days.  Whatever mood I’m in, I’ve got a job to do that I believe in right in the core of my little heart.  So I get on with the good work and soon I’m feeling just fine again!
“This is the true joy in life – being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” ~George Bernard Shaw


Jani Franck is not getting married :)

Right, it’s looking rather official and imminent – my lovely beardy man Bik and I are having a handfasting ceremony on 28 July!
We’ve wanted for some time to celebrate our relationship with our friends, but neither of us fancy the legal bit, or the lifetime vow bit, or the God bit, or the huge cost bit, or many of the other bits.  These things do of course suit lots of people and we’re totally down with that, but they’re just not right for our relationship.
So, here’s the plan!
We will be having a Pagan ceremony, outside, with our lovely friends Mal the Bear & his Lady Twinkle officiating and a group of people we think are splendid there to witness and take part.  
Today, we went through some of the ideas with them over lunch (in between our evil pet biting Mal – twice).  Some of the traditions will be there, some will not.  It feels so good to be able to choose, free of the expectations of family and society, what we want to do.  It’s also been quite hard, as treading your own path often can be (let’s be honest, even a totally conventional wedding is challenging to plan!).
I’ll be honest, when I did the marriage thing it was slightly unconventional, but it was still subject to certain pressures I was too young and too unsure of myself to resist.  It was a promise made for life, a promise I was unable to keep – not if I wanted to embrace my dreams, and I really, really did.  It took courts, papers and men in suits to dissolve it.  A horrid experience for both of us, however right the choice to part was. My estwhile spouse is now married to a very lovely woman, who in my opinion is closer to him in her dreams, ideals and life aspirations so that they’ll have a much, much better chance of sticking with it.  Also, she and I get on like a house on fire and their son calls me ‘Aunty Jam Jam’ – which is pretty cool!  So that story had a happy ending, after all.

Having had a marriage that ended (in my case) and serious relationships that didn’t work out (in Bik’s) we are being realistic in what we want to promise each other.
Something that particularly appealed to both Bik and I was the idea of making vows that last a year and a day.  Not so we can escape after that short time, but so that we can renew and refresh our connection (not publicly each year, that would get rather tedious!).  
Also, we feel that, much like a garden can’t be planted once and left, our relationship needs to be tended, renewed, cut back, reorganised and new seeds planted as the year turns.  We also recognise that, at some point, two people may decide that their relationship may change back to just friendship, or whatever is required to honour the love between them.  We liked the idea of promising each other that, if we do part, we’ll do it lovingly and peacefully.  There’s a true freedom in that, which lends richness to what we have together.

Another typical part of a ceremony involves new beginnings, where in our case we wish to celebrate and bless what we already have.  Also, we’ve avoided the ‘two become one’ image as we don’t see ourselves that way – we’re two cubed, as Bik puts it, together we are greater than the sum of our parts (also silliness cubed, but that’s another story!).
So, the dress is bought (it’s a simple, lovely dress that makes me feel great).  Bik hasn’t sorted his outfit yet, but he can always wear the parrot cape.  The ceremony rough draft is on it’s way to our Priest and Priestess, so they can craft it into a lovely ritual, which we know they will.  
When it’s all done, I shall post again to tell you all about it in another blog post entitled ‘Jani Franck is not married’. 
Now to send some e-invitations like the true high-tech-tree-huggers we are!


More on money, and on the magic of investment!

Two blog posts by two particularly awesome ladies have really sung to me recently…..

Zero Investment, Zero Awesomeness by the magnificent Lisa of Sassyology – an online Goddess I am extremely to privileged to know in the actual real world, too! 

and a blog post by Leonie Dawson (my new guru girl on all things businessy!) explaining why she’d doubled her rates, stating that she was no longer willing to work with women who were unwilling to invest in themselves.  Wowsers!

Like SO many passionate dreamer-hippy-types, I’ve had a dodgy relationship with money since the word go.  I bought into a common idea – a person could either be poor, happy and principled; or rich, miserable and a big fat sellout.

I’ve carried this with me my whole life and I’d carried this into the business I’d co-founded.  We are nonprofit, right?  So we live hand to mouth, on the edge, wobbling along a tightrope between whether we can pay the rent this quarter, or not.  Because that’s the right thing to do.  Because financial success is BAD.

Here at The Art House we had always priced things way below the going rate – particularly our workshops and events.  We did this because we genuinely, wholeheartedly wanted everyone to be able to join in.  We’d all been in that place where there was something you really wanted to do, but the cost was just out of reach.  So, almost everything we did was by ‘Magic Hat’ and we’ve always made way, way less than we would if we just charged for things, like normal places do.  But that was OK, because not making money was OK too.

But a few months ago, something happened.

I’d just run a drumming session with my lovely Djembabes drumming group.  

Turnout had been smaller than usual and, although the session had been fun, I ended up feeling really drained by the end of it.

I don’t get paid any extra to run the group, and had always run it ‘by donation’ of a suggested £3.50 per person, with the money going to The Art House.  The going rate around here for a drum circle is usually around £8.

That night, I’d had five people come to the session.  When I looked down at the money in my hand, it totalled just under £9.

For this sum, I’d given up my evening, run an hour and a half session, shared the drumming skills I’d built up over years, used the venue it costs us £450 per day to maintain and the drums we bought for the group.  Because of the noise of a drum circle, we’d been unable to book any other groups in that night.  From 7pm to 9.30pm, our venue took just that amount.  Under nine quid.  If I totalled up the rent, bills and rates for those two and a half hours, and my already rather little wages, the donations would not have covered them – not even close.

I realised that, instead of making the session accessible, I was enabling people to shrug off their side of the energy exchange.  I was undervaluing what I was doing and cheating The Art House out of much-needed revenue.  Most of all, I was being unfair to the people who HAD paid their £3.50 every session.

So, us Directors had a brainstorm.  We decided that we were going to start charging what things were worth, whilst putting into place some ways to keep things accessible for those genuinely in need.  These ideas included free or discounted workshops for our volunteers, and Friends of The Art House card holders.  Those people who, in their way, had invested in us.  We would also, once we were actually making a surplus, look at a bursary fund for those in need.  But first, we had to get there!

So, how is it going so far?

I can only say WOW.  The last Djembabes session was filled with so much energy and passion, it blew me away.  Saying that there was a set charge focussed me – I planned the session properly, I sent publicity out, I was totally up for it.  I didn’t want to let paying people down.  

Firstly, there were SO MANY new people!  Most of the group turned up on time (lateness had been a real issue before) and they paid attention as well as money, the chatting that had marred the sessions before diminished.  They sounded amazing.  We rocked.

In the break, everyone lined up and paid their money without complaint.  At the same time, quite a few bought a drink and some even had cake.  There was a proper break, so people had a chance to enjoy a drink and a chat, before we drummed some more.

The total at the end of the night was more than TEN TIMES the paltry £9 in donations.  We’d all had a great night, nobody had been excluded and The Art House had met it’s target for the evening.  

That’s called a win-win situation, folks!

So, when I read Leonie’s blog and Lisa’s, I realised what had happened.  

People had invested in The Art House, and in doing so, they’d invested in THEMSELVES – and this had made all the difference.