Friday, May 4, 2007

The Build-up Week

This is a pretty long entry and maybe it should be part of its own blog, but I'll paste it in here and see what you think.

I woke up the first morning with a sense of dread, my mind racing with misgivings and concern. I was carrying loads of guilt about the last few days and apprehension for the future. We had a very stressful 10 days putting Flatland together out of sticks and screws; how were we going to all get along now?

The last week of the build-up had been very, very stressful for everyone, but particularly Doug, Pelle, and me. I felt like I was carrying the ultimate responsibility for the piece, and that others understood this to mean that they could relax a bit because I would carry everything on. I had been working fifteen hour days for more than a week, almost never alone, because everyone else was working very hard too, but feeling isolated and overwhelmed.

We had bitten off more than we could maybe chew. Doug and Pelle would come in as almost like a factory team and take on a large chunk of work and just grind it out. But sometimes they would leave early or have a "day off". At these times they were actually working on a couple of other projects with other people that were tightly scheduled, so they were not getting any rest, just working very hard but others of us felt like they were too often off somewhere else. I had trouble not resenting their absence, and their other partners may have felt the same way, but this is a symptom of the desperation of that build-up week: you look for someone to blame, even your best friends. Doug and Pelle were really in the middle. Its safe to say they had over-committed themselves for this time, but they were toughing it out and trying to accommodate everyone, it was no-win situation. They just had to get through it.

For me, it was hard not to feel a little like a martyr, and then to recognize and check that feeling, and then to try to express my dilemma (at various times to Alex, Doug, and Maria), and realize that others couldn't hear much about it because they had their own self-centered point of view that they were trying to not let overwhelm them. I think my close friendship with Doug and our experience with other (but less overwhelming) projects is what got us through, and our friendship was trusted by the others too. Doug and I were in the middle: 2 of the others knew only me and 2 really only him and had to take it on faith that we could all trust each other, that we were good people, that we could live in this thing together.

Doug had brought in 2 close friends from Denmark, Pelle and Eva. I began to feel as if that might be a mistake because they seemed to be becoming a group-within-the group, and all my communications to and from them came through Doug. I remembered the story from Biosphere 2 about how groups tended to split into opposing factions, and cause big problems. And Doug and company didn't know the other two, Alex and Maria, who I brought in. So all the ingredients for disaster were already present, particularly because there were elements of personal style that seemed to define and separate the "groups".

Alex joined us physically late, only a week before Flat-day, and for me he was like medicine. He stayed with me at my place and we were nearly always together. I could tell him my complaints and use him as a sounding board. He was upbeat and positive and that helped me keep an even-keel. That was more important than he will ever realize. He also shared the construction supervision with me, which is generally invisible and thankless work but goes on forever. And then he re-designed and built the bathroom. Have to talk more about that later. Like a well stocked food pantry, a bathroom has a lot of symbolic security value, It needs to be private and adequate and "friendly"; else people's "personal plumbing" can freeze up.

Maria had been very devoted to the project for weeks. She has a very organized life and used organization to keep conflicts from creeping in. She worked long hours but had reasonable limits and so she never seemed stressed out, and that continues even now. She is our imperturbable bright face and her presence sets standards of neatness and civility for Flatland.

Eva eventually asserted herself by showing that she could take on her own projects, particularly building out the kitchen, which she did with a clever and personal flair. Both she and Pelle add a warmth and humor to Flatland. They seem more naturally social and relaxed in a communal situation, very patient and kind.

Once we all got inside Flatland and there were, seemingly, no obvious resentments. That indicates to me that Doug was a great diplomat and managed to explain away the hardships as being of the moment, not a product of an evil art-dictator (that would be me).

So the opening went off well and everyone seemed okay. No one seemed to hate me, and I realized, I must have a pretty good group here, if they don't hate me after all this....

1 comment:

encke said...

Too much, like, honesty. Too much getting along together. Come on, let's see some melodrama. What about a love spat. What about infidelity. What about treachery. Come on, we're all watching you guys.