‘No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.’ ― Heraclitus
Over the last seven years I have been running a website and a blog aimed at “do-gooders”. Don’t be offended by the term, I use it to bring a light touch to our work, a work that can be difficult and meaningful, kind and patronising, helpful and harmful. My aim was to start a conversation on how we work, how we serve, how we use other people’s causes to find our ways in the world. I did so through the lens of burnout, a syndrome that mirrors our broken way of working, our attachment to our professional identity as the sole source of self-worth. The outcome of that chapter of my life was my book The Idealist’s Survival Kit. 75 Simple Ways to Avoid Burnout, which has been described as "a beautiful, wonderful healing book."
Thanks to those who read it and reached out to me, I came to see that there is a larger community beyond humanitarians for whom burnout is real, they are doctors, social workers, teachers, tech people, professionals who mean well and whose ideals are shattered by a culture that values quantity over quality. Can this culture be transformed? Over the last months life brought me to California, to the wonderful On Being Gathering (Naomi Shihab Nye was inspiring as a poet and as a person) and to Wisdom 2.0 (#MeToo founder Tarana Burke was my highlight, what a woman!). I witnessed how on the margins of big institutions there are people who are building and modelling a different way of being in the world, of serving, and accompanying others. So I do have hopes.
Between the Middle East and the Pacific Ocean, I crafted a new website, started to work on my new book, wrote hundreds of pages (not blog posts, actual pages, with pen and paper) on trauma, burnout, meaning, resilience, idealism, quality of life vs. quantity. But something held me back. The time to share my (partly) new course never seemed right. In Rilke-style I sat with my questions: How am I going to transition to a new chapter in my life and carry with me my community of readers and blog followers? Will they be interested? Do I need a new website? Who reads blogs any more? How do I bring my whole self to this new venture?
Then yesterday my old blog disappeared. Was it hacked? Is it hostage of some security lockdown? What I know is that I have been bounced like a ping-pong ball from provider to host, from host to security firms and no-one has a clue. I still don’t know whether I lost it all, or whether the content is out there in some magic black box. What I know is that now I have no more excuses not to step out. In stepping forward and sharing my new website and newsletter with you I remind myself that perfection is the enemy of done, that crafting something meaningful and sharing it with others is often a risk, and always a work-in-progress.
There is a part of me that looks at the vanishing of all those posts and pages as a big joke of impermanence in action. Everything changes and passes away, even blogs. The beginning of spring - the start of the New Year in some cultures - seems like a good time to bring an offering to my readers. My old blog gave a partial version of my work and interests, it needed updating. While I sat with my questions, life took care of them in its own unpredictable way. As the poet Edgar Lee Masters wrote “and so now I know that I must lift the sail and take the winds of destiny wherever they drive the boat.”
I hope you will sail along. Welcome to my new home.