When you want to bake a cake, plant a tree, assemble a piece of Ikea furniture, or even build a house, there are clear steps that need to be followed. And (Pinterest “Nailed it!” examples notwithstanding!) assuming you gather the raw materials, and follow the step by step directions (or have someone else do that for you) you’re going to end up with what you set out to create.
But what if you want to ‘make’ is less clear cut or concrete? What if you want to be a wonderful parent, build a business, or, as we did recently, find new tenants who would also be our neighbours? These aren’t paint-by-numbers projects. They’re not things you can create by following step-by-step directions. And yet, the outcomes are too important to wait and see what happens, or just be left to chance!
While there are clear action steps that need to be taken along the way, especially where (like our recent need to find a new tenant) there’s financial pressure involved, it’s easy to jump into action. I’m certainly not making action wrong, but there are other equally, if not more, significant steps to pay attention to.
Ready to welcome our new neighbours and friends!
Here’s what happened with us. Just before Christmas, our tenant who’d lived in the space for 10 years told us he’d accepted a new job in another State. By the end of January, he had moved out, and we were faced with updating and preparing the space for whoever would come next.
We knew it would take time, energy and money to do this, and we wanted to balance and minimize all of these. Being with uncertainty isn’t the easiest place to live, and doing so can often trigger other challenges.
We certainly weren’t perfect in how we navigated this journey, but we’re really excited to share that we’ve signed a lease agreement with our new tenant and her family!
Below, both to anchor the experience in me, and share it with you, I highlight some of the steps we consciously engaged in this kind of co-creation. Perhaps counter-intuitively, we start with endings …
- In the months before our previous tenant left, I was aware of a rising desire in me for a greater sense of community engagement – both in the community in Columbus at large, and in our home where our tenants are also our neighbours – living on the main floor of our home
- I’d imagined we’d create that kind of community with him, but when he told us he was moving, I trusted that though unanticipated, this was an invitation for us from Life
- As we worked with and supported him in leaving, we chose to use the last weeks of his stay with us as a time of deepening care and understanding in that relationship, and of getting clearer on what we wanted to co-create in this opportunity with the new neighbours – whoever they turned out to be.
- It was clear we had no control over who would come, still, together my husband and I began to feel into what it would be like when we were creating life with the ‘perfect tenant’. We held that they’d love the space as much as we did, that we’d have easy and respectful communication between us, and that this would be a life-giving experience for us all
- We also asked others to support us in holding this vision of possibility. Friends, family, neighbours, groups we belong to all joined in … and they not only shared, but added some of their ideas to enrich the felt sense we already had.
- This journey required us to ride a big emotional roller coaster. There was intensity throughout, and moments of both highs and lows – of delight, and anxiousness. The invitation to us was to be present, and take action that was neither an attempt to relieve tension nor force outcomes
- We needed to be with the excitement and then disappointment when a young couple who had showed interest even before the space was ready, ultimately decided they couldn’t afford the rent we were asking
Larger version of this image here.
- Creating safety for the parts of us feeling anxious about the financial uncertainty – both soothing internally, and tapping into external resources to create a line of credit that would cover cash flow in the short term was another
- Pouring our love and care into our actions as we did the practical work of preparing the space
- Another task before us was discerning what was ours, and what we needed to hire skilled tradespeople to do.
- As we intentionally reached out, and accepted the skills of others, more engagement with community organically emerged. Later when my own physical energy was flagging, I also deeply appreciated a generous neighbour who offered to help
- We connected with a real estate agent who, though she didn’t do rentals, pointed us to a service that relieved us of the responsibility of verifying potential tenants
- In preparing the rental agreement I was reminded of some work I’d seen at the Center for Collaborative Awareness. I used that as a basis for a companion document to the formal agreement. It paints a picture of how we can ‘be’ together with the greatest ease, and how we’ll deal with the inevitable challenges of living as neighbours
- The stage was set, and the day after we formally posted our space on the free online rental site, the person who has since become our next tenant called and came to see it.
- She loved the space! Though she’d been looking to move for some time, this was the first space she’d looked at. It perfectly suited her needs, and she was currently in a month-to-month rental, so that suited ours. The rent worked for her. We felt a real resonance with her. Everything seemed perfect
- Yet there were complications almost immediately. We were surprised by challenges accessing, and questions raised by, the service that verified potential tenants … more tension that we needed to be with
- Was there something wrong? What do we do? In the delay, do we allow our understandable disappointment to flow into awfulization?! Or do we trust our felt sense of the connection between us enough to keep exploring further? Right off the bat, that companion document to the formal lease agreement became an important anchor of our intention of how we ‘be’ together
- We called her up and invited her over, using that document as the foundation of our conversation together. She agreed right away, responding to our questions with no trace of shame or blame. Instead her response was fuller, more open and clear than we could have imagined
- We used the challenges as our opportunity to deepen the connection between us, and our intention to use any stress as an invitation to create clarity and movement
- So we’ve agreed, she’s signed the lease, and we’re all excitedly curious as to how this next iteration of our future together will unfold – as she put it “we’re looking forward to being neighbours and friends!”
Along the way there’s also been a deepening of the partnership between my husband and me, and even more in-our-body experience of the trustworthiness of this process of creation from the inside out, and Life’s invitation for me to rest even more fully in my commitment to say “Yes, and …” to the improv of life.
Whether you’ve felt resonance, challenge, confusion or questions arising as you’ve read this, I’d love to hear from you! Consciously using this form of creativity can make an enormous difference in navigating some of the more complex challenges we face.