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Notes from the Field

The Transition Narrative |

by Caitlin Dourmashkin

Getting started is always the hard part. You set an intention, imagine the outcome, and then you go get a snack, read some emails, and all of a sudden you’ve forgotten what you even meant to do in the first place. Every time I sit down to outline a policy, read a proposal, or even write my Notes from the Field, I have a moment where I think “let me just switch gears for a moment and get back to this later.” Why do I keep doing this?

The short answer: because this is big. It is mind-bogglingly big. I am good at visualizing an outcome. As Micah knows, I can walk into a room and imagine what it will look like with paint on the wall, or as Susan knows I can envision the exact set of spreadsheets we will need in order to capture spending goals and create a proposed budget. This is different, it is hard to see the end, so walking back from there to create a process isn’t really an option. 

At first, I made a mighty effort to map it all out, to visualize the end in my mind. We had the model policies from SELC to use as a guide. We created our circles structure so we knew what conversations we were supposed to be having and with whom, and we even signed up for Slack to organize all that communication and streamline the work. But still, no end in sight. 

What has changed, what I have realized, is that there is no end. This isn’t a project, it’s a practice. It is the practice of shifting our directional frame from a compass to a scale. We are not pointing to the true north of a single leader or a single outcome, we are balancing all that we are and all that we intend. Radical trust, consent decision making, working in circles, it is all about balance and harmony. 

What’s changed for me is the visualization of my work, instead of seeing myself as a single line moving forward, I now see myself as a circle, and what this means is I am looking for balance in my own heart. Susan once named one of our transitions as going from managing up and managing down, to managing sideways and managing internally. I am rebalancing my relationships with my colleagues, and rebalancing my relationship with myself. I am looking for harmony between the needs of the self, both my own self and the beautiful selves of all my colleagues, and the needs of the organization. Practically, this has slowed down work in some areas, and sped it up in others. In total, it gives me a sense of peace and the ability to get started. This is big, and there is no end to it, but I can get started because instead of visualizing the end and working relentlessly towards that goal, I can start by checking the balance and feeling into what is needed and when. This isn’t a familiar way of working, and I am sure, to start, I will be out of balance as often as I am in. But this work is worth it, and I know I have my co-workers to lean on for support.