Little Paper Cups: How I Do Co-working is How I Want to Do Everything / by Megan Jones


Dawn Dreyer is a documentary maker, teacher, and advocate. Her short animated documentary, Fear, was accepted into the Tribeca Film Festival's Whoopi's Shorts, a panel curated and facilitated by Whoopi Goldberg. The following is Dawn’s reflection on Member Brunch, a monthly space for Mercury Studio members to share what is going on in their work and life, encourage each other, and eat something yummy.


My experiences at Mercury Studio have gifted me with the opportunity to explore my longing — and resistance — to participating in the life of a community. My ability to sustain community ties has been complicated by my decades long struggles with depression. For many years now, I’ve managed the symptoms of my mental illness, but still struggled with the attendant feelings of isolation.

I find it remarkable — and unexpected — that I’ve been able to not only practice being in community, but also, engage with my coworkers about what that’s like for me. I’ve received offers of support, and I’ve been able to accept help, which is no small thing.

Clearly, it is not just people who live with mental illness who suffer from illusions of separateness. But bottom line, for me, is that when I resist a connected life, I falter. When I allow shame to keep me from asking for help, I fall deeper into shame. When I choose connection, I create a space for healing: not only my own, but for others.

I’ve seen the “me” I am at Mercury Studio ripple outward into other areas of my life. I like that.

  drawing by Emily Ensminger

drawing by Emily Ensminger

Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Monthly Member Brunch

Megan asks us,
how is your heart?

My heart breaks a little, because I have to leave to get to a meeting. And by the second answer, I can tell this conversation will be rich and deep.

As I go about my day, Megan's question stays with me.

For most of my life, I've asked my heart to go from zero to 75, 100, 150 miles an hour. Then, after the inevitable crash, it would be a really long time before I asked any more of my heart. Some combination of depression, fear, shame, perfectionism, and isolation reinforced this pattern.

Then some combination of a deeply held conviction, the opportunity to learn something new, a passion for a cause, the possibility of connection, my new meds kicking in, or an external sense of urgency (deadline) would get my blood pumping again. My heart would get right back to work, and for a little while, I might even feel hopeful, like this time might be different. But I never felt safe, never felt like I'd built up the necessary stamina, that my initial burst of momentum would get me across the finish line.

I've finished races. I've even won a few. I've received praise from reliable sources, dismissed most of it, no matter how thoughtful or heartfelt. I'd smile and say thank you, filled with grief over how separate I felt from everyone else, how little I felt like celebrating.

At one time, my inability to accept praise may have been about low self-worth. But that wasn't it, not anymore.  It was more complicated. My heart used every bit of oxygen coursing through my veins to fall through the yellow tape. There wasn't much left to go on. Bed rest was in order.

For a while now, I've been working a different training regimen with my heart.

I'm more consistent, building up strength more slowly. It's definitely not as exciting, much less of a rush. There are times I still return to my bed, but not for as long, and when I get up, I usually feel gentle towards myself. Ok, that happened. Let's go. I've still got a pulse.

I'm resisting the marathon metaphor, one because it's obvious, and two, I understand that sprinters also have enormously strong hearts. But I can't get this vision out of my head: I'm running along, and just when I'm starting to lose heart, I notice a station filled with people handing out water in little paper cups. I gratefully swerve over to receive my water, brushing hands with the giver. It's just what I needed. I holler thank you, and crush the cup with my hands and drop it on the ground. (I think I've seen that on TV.)

Maybe at the next station I get one of those little energy gel packets. Maybe I match my speed with another, and for a few miles we are running the same race, and we encourage each other when we hit the wall — hopefully not at the same time — and hang in there until the endorphins kick back in.

  drawing by Emily Ensminger

drawing by Emily Ensminger

I find this metaphor so irresistible, finally, because finally, I get it:

I am not alone.

Look at all these people! Each running our own race, together.

My heart is delighted. My heart is strong and pulses in a reassuring rhythm: You got this. Keep going. I'm with you all the way.

This post was originally created for Dawn’s blog: Cracked