From earlier in the week …
It’s Monday morning and we’re on a high from a weekend-long collaborative design workshop. Guided by a professional facilitator, our CoHousing Houston community worked with our architects to align on a shared vision for the common amenities in our project. It was a surprisingly exhilarating experience for so many hours spent parked in front of a Zoom screen.
This would be a tall order under any circumstances for any group of people with relatively little shared history, mostly zero experience living in community and still stubbing our toes on working with consensus.
When you layer in 2020 COVID dynamics it might seem like a stretch too far. We haven’t even met our post-COVID new joiners in person. Lively pot-luck social-cum-business gatherings have been downgraded to the flatness and boxiness of Zoom galleries with tightly scripted agendas.
I’m mystified by this uplifted feeling after ten hours of Zooming with 18 people. I was fully expecting to be depleted and cranky at best and thoughts of “I can’t do this any longer” at worst.
So what happened?
Investing significant time and treasure in the early stages of a forming cohousing community is an act of faith. A core group of us have been working on this for over three years now. We had finally reached the point where we had land under contract, the legal structure was in place a date was set for the signing of legal documents plus the first sizable down payments made, and the timetable for face-to-face design workshop weekends was fixed in our calendars.
It was all systems GO, then the COVID lockdown burst in on the scene.
Do we postpone? Do we slow down? The answer was a resounding NO. We will not be deterred. Let’s press ahead. We have great momentum. Carpe diem, and all that — and anyway, this virus thing won’t last forever.
“Onward through the fog”, as they like to say in Austin, Texas.
Four months later, we’re Zoom-weary, we miss the contagious energy of a group gathering, some are technology frazzled and others are suffering financial fears. The idea of even seeing people face-to-face, let alone living in a closer community together is seeming more and more remote and nostalgic. It’s a like a faded painting which we can no longer visualize in its original vibrant colors.
Yet we carry on in faith.
Then this virtual design weekend happened. I’m sure if we were honest about it, nobody was really looking forward to all those hours staring at the tidy framed grid of Zoom screens. Ugh.
Yet we all showed up ready to participate.
We very quickly found ourselves imagineering an oasis of community living.
This was going to be better than expected …
We shared pictures of communal dinning and living. We dreamed of shared drinks on the rooftop terrace overlooking the treetops of the neighborhood at sunset. We placed ourselves in the meditation space, the reading nooks and even hanging out around a pool. We felt the joy of bumping into each other in the mail room, distracting someone cooking in the community kitchen and shooing the noisy youngsters into the kids cave after dinner. We dreamed of group woodworking and ceramic projects and borrowing bikes from each other.
We spent the whole weekend living in a world we long for and cannot see being lived out anywhere on the planet right now. It’s a world filled with the things we have given up these past few months.
It’s a place where we can channel our dreams for a better future.
So many of our social institutions and structures are being eroded by lack of connections. What will be left standing on the other side of the pandemic? All the places that have knit us together — what can we count on still being there? Even some of the basic foundations of our society like classrooms, churches, concerts, plays — what will they look like?
We can’t predict or control many of these broader outcomes, but this weekend we brought to life a sparkly alternative to an otherwise bleak forecast. We can see this more clearly now, we can see the road map to getting there and we can visualize a vibrant oasis with us in it.
What had felt like an act of faith in a risky social experiment has morphed into a beacon of hope.
It’s called CoHousing Houston. We believe we can make this happen.