Re: multiple communities (was: Re:: Diversity of Cohousing)
From: Kay Argyle (
Date: Fri, 5 Jul 2002 17:01:01 -0600 (MDT)
Based on my own experience, the danger your other communities (family,
friends, people you share an interest with, be it world hunger or knitting)
falling away through neglect when you join cohousing is no paper tiger.

I was starting to reply to Racheli's message, saying maybe Howard was
responding to covert pressures in his community rather than anything on the
list, and then I read Howard's response.  Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
We too had misguided souls who thought cohousing would make their lives less
busy (I think most have moved).  We too have big fans of togetherness,
trying to turn this into an encounter group.

A member will argue that the real work of the community is relationships,
and so it doesn't matter that not much gets "accomplished" at work parties.
Everybody nods wisely.  On to the next topic:  Landscaping.  Why hasn't the
landscape committee been able, in three years, to get the bond money back?
(if/when the city inspector okays our landscaping, presently mostly wood
chips -- an improvement over the thistles and bindweed they replaced).  They
don't see any contradiction.

There were heated words earlier this year between a member who feels that
meetings should be social occasions, and one who says that if we would work
on a thing for the number of hours we spend talking about working on it, it
would be done! and in any case was already committed to, and unwilling to
cancel, a noncohousing activity for the time the other person had scheduled
the breakfast meeting.

Pending some upcoming (long overdue) discussions on community values, we've
tabled implementing a proposal that allows members to opt out of the monthly
work teams, in favor of an on-going individual work assignment -- "Solitary
work," it was called, and you can hear the nasty taste some people get in
their mouth when they say it.  Wanting to work by yourself is apparently
some sort of pathology and shouldn't be permitted, for people's own good.

When I questioned the centrality of relationships to the negation of
everything else, I was asked if I'd read the cohousing book -- a tacit
accusation that I was straying from the One True Faith.  (I was too polite
to respond they apparently hadn't read it too closely themselves, since they
were forgetting the FAQ about what if I don't like someone.)

For a long time I was on the community-is-everything side of this issue.  At
times I felt that other members' commitment was lacking.  I've felt stifled
resentment at committee members who didn't show up for meetings (or worse,
for work parties), or who were too busy to do the assignment they had
accepted, and so held up some project -- I'd given up my time, missed
something I wanted to do, for nothing.

Then there's the struggle to find a meeting time -- let's see, Abby takes
her son to soccer Monday, Betsy has class Tuesday and Thursday, Chuck is
going out of town Friday, Danielle works Saturdays, Ed has guests on Sunday,
Felipe's other committee meets Wednesday, and none of them can skip that for
this meeting.

I've gritted my teeth over people who didn't join the committee, didn't
respond to the survey, didn't do any work, but "felt left out of the

Eventually I applied the rule about only being able to change yourself, and
started reframing things. The problem wasn't other people not measuring up,
it was my unrealistic expectations.  Being responsible and committed to such
a degree was to my disadvantage and in fact unhealthy.  I owed a
responsibility to myself first.  If the community wanted the work done, it
was up to them.

So I started occasionally ditching meetings and failing to follow through,
myself.  I haven't yet (as you can see) gotten to the point that the reset
limits to my commitment seem morally neutral and natural, instead of
antisocial rebellion, and I occasionally backslide (like accepting a
nomination to Management -- not a light-duty committee), but I feel what I
put into the community and what I get back are not quite so far out of
balance, and I resist attempts to make me feel guilty (I can do that myself,
thank you ;) ).


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