Enlivening

  • J Sherman Studio - The EnDesign Council
    Missions and Movements: Launching the Enliven Project Design Council Missions and Movements: Launching the Enliven Project Design Council

    Missions and Movements: Launching the Enliven Project Design Council


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Missions and Movements: Launching the Enliven Project Design Council

A few months ago, Noah Flower, a brilliant network weaver, put me in touch with Julie Sherman, founder of J Sherman Studio, a small design firm in Newton, MA.  Noah thought Julie and her team might be interested in the work of The Enliven Project, and that The Enliven Project might be interested in their creative minds and design skill set. It turned out he was right. Julie and I hit it off right away, and dove into a conversation about sexual violence, movements, and ways in which we can all align our work more closely with our values and passions.  While our lives look very different on the outside, Julie and I are both moms balancing paid work with volunteer work, parenthood with professional lives, not to mention households, partners, and friends. But at the core, we are committed to using our skills and talents in a meaningful way – particularly when it comes to shedding light on stigmatized issues, and other social and community challenges that prevent us from living our best lives. That first conversation led to an exciting partnership that we’ll be launching in early September with a pair of conversation graphics about the prevalence of sexual violence.  But more importantly a deeper dialogue centered on the following questions: How can designers make their work more mission-focused? How can good design support and expand a movement and a field? Out of this conversation, The Enliven Project and J Sherman Studio developed the concept for The Enliven Project Design Council, with J Sherman Studio as the founding member. The Design Council is a way for designers to connect mission to movement around the issue of sexual violence that goes beyond traditional pro-bono […]

  • Shame
    The Shame Spiral: A primer in shame monsters The Shame Spiral: A primer in shame monsters

    The Shame Spiral: A primer in shame monsters

The Shame Spiral: A primer in shame monsters

Have you ever gotten caught a shame spiral? You know, that feeling of descending into the rabbit hole of shame? The moment when you just want to crawl into a hole and never be seen by the world again? Shame is among ickiest of human emotions – it’s like a mold that grows inside of you, breeding and multiplying faster than you can imagine. It can start off as a passing thought or a flicker of doubt and quickly leave you crushed in its wake. Both small things and big things can trigger small feelings and big feelings of shame. It can be as small as giving the wrong answer in a work meeting or a class. Or it can be as big as feeling like you failed at a major project or challenge. Maybe you took a risk and made yourself vulnerable, and it didn’t turn out the way you hoped. Shame, while it may be ugly, is also human. And there are actually things you can do to stop the spiral before it starts, or keep your spiral from getting too far out of control. Turn on your shame alarm. Recognizing what shame feels like and how it manifests itself is an important first step. Maybe it feels like a flush in your chest, or it triggers a familiar wave of self-doubt. Shame might make you blush or want to slap yourself on the forehead. You might find yourself defensive like a cornered animal. You might be overwhelmed by feelings of self-hatred or even self-harm. Whatever it is, learn to recognize it and label it what it is: shame. That way, you can have a shame plan, just like you would have for any other […]

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    What if? What if?

    What if?

What if?

In the wake of terror and tragedy in my home city, my heart aches with the great “what if” for family, friends, and strangers. Violence is, of course, senseless. Yet it is our human nature that wants to make sense of it – to feel safer and more in control. The what if can take so many forms. What if I had run 2 minutes faster or slower? What if that sweet 8 year old boy had been standing 10 feet to the left? What if my husband’s meeting ended early and he made it to the finish line to to take photos? What if that girl in India had just taken a different bus? In a moment, joy can turn to sorrow and excitement can turn to terror. Strangers can become your lifeline and the best of humanity emerges. Bravery can it exist in the absence of fear. Connection cannot exist without the promise of loss. The what ifs can bring us together or drive us apart. Sometimes the “what if” becomes “you should have.” This is a sign that we believe we have far more control over the universe than is possible, and we are smug in our judgement that we would have done differently and avoided pain and hurt. In Boston, the “what if” is overwhelmingly “what if it had been me,” which unites us in sadness and sorrow, but also weaves us together as humans. Hug a friend. Smile at a stranger. Say what is left unsaid. We are all just seconds and coincidences away from something senseless. We are all connected by the great what if.

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    Get Uncomfortable Get Uncomfortable

    Get Uncomfortable

Get Uncomfortable

Sexual violence touches on pretty much every taboo topic in America: sex, gender, family, privacy, intimacy. As such, it evokes such powerful and raw emotions. Talking about might make us uncomfortable, but not talking about it will make us feel so much worse. The Enliven Project’s mission is to bring the conversation about sexual violence to new places, in ways that require people to think outside of their box. Conversations about sexual violence are messy and complicated, because the issue of sexual violence is messy and complicated. We can’t be afraid to get ourselves a little dirty as we sort things out. We are deliberately pushing the envelope. We are provoking dialogue. You won’t agree with everything we do and say. That’s okay. You might think we should have said things differently. That’s okay too. Tell us.  Be a part of the conversation. Agree. Disagree. But never doubt our intentions for a moment. The Enliven Project cares deeply and passionately about reducing sexual violence and its impact on men women and children. We are committed to engaging unlikely bystanders and converting them to powerful allies and champions in the movement to end sexual violence. That means we have to go to new places to have them and try new ways of getting people talking. Who should care about ending sexual violence and reducing its shame and stigma?  So many people.  Moms and dads who want their children to grow up safe and happy. Sons and daughters who want to break family legacies of abuse. Husbands and wives who want to connect more deeply with their partners. Men who are ashamed that they were abused as boys. Gay, straight, transgender survivors and their communities. Teachers who want their students to succeed. Managers at […]

The Whole Story

Here’s the challenge with blog posts – they are a great medium for capturing a moment, a feeling, an idea. Not all of my moments, feelings, and ideas. I recently wrote a post for Good Men Project about honoring men’s commitment to survivors of sexual violence as a way to engage them in dialogue on the issue. If you read the comments, you will see the many complex stories readers created about me, my identity, my experiences, my intentions, and my politics. Depending on which comment you believe, I am holding men responsible or letting them off the hook, supporting or rejecting feminism, and over-simplifying or over-complicating the issue. In truth, I’m a feminist, but I also have criticism for some of the more extreme feminists whose dialectic approach is unnecessarily polarizing. But the post wasn’t about that. I also feel strongly that men and women, as bystanders and perpetrators, need to hold themselves accountable for their role in sexual violence. But the post wasn’t about that either. And there are some things that make angry. I’m a regular human, not an enlightened one. So why is this point relevant for the issue of sexual violence? You will rarely hear a story of sexual violence from start to finish. And you will rarely hear it in its entirety in one sitting. Why? For one, sexual violence isn’t like a trip to the grocery store. It doesn’t make a good anecdote. It’s an experience that completely embeds itself in who you are and how you live in the world. And through the process of healing and recovery, it doesn’t become less of who you are, it becomes more of who you are. Furthermore, sometimes we want […]

  • Angry
    Not Angry Anymore Not Angry Anymore

    Not Angry Anymore

Not Angry Anymore

In 1999, the year I graduated college, Ani DiFranco, my favorite angry girl rocker, came out with a song, Not Angry Anymore.  It was about how she understood what all the fighting was about, but she just wasn’t going to be angry anymore.  It’s a beautiful song, but I was pissed. How could she not be angry at the world anymore?  Had she gone soft?  What about the revolution?  What about the movement? Over the years, I have grown to understand the relationship between anger, revolutions, and movements.  And while I still consider myself a feminist, I’m really not angry anymore either, and here’s why: Anger might start a revolution but it doesn’t fuel a movement. Hope does. Lately, I have been distressed at the amount of anger – unhelpful anger – in the context of social movements and in the name of causes I care deeply about like sexism, homophobia, and sexual violence. The first example that comes to mind is the Occupy Movement.  The Occupy Movement started because people were angry about income inequality, which is certainly a good reason to be angry. Occupy is fighting back “against the richest 1% of people that are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.”  Maybe I need to be more of a conspiracy theorist, but I’m not convinced that the richest 1% are proactively trying oppress the rest of us.  Are there selfish, greedy, unethical bankers on Wall Street?  Sure. But there are also generous philanthropists who care deeply about structural poverty, and fund organizations that work to end it. And there are IT professionals, secretaries, and middle managers who actually LIKE their jobs on Wall Street and […]

Welcome to the Conversation

Welcome to the conversation.  It’s so nice that we are finally having one. Before this week, I was just a woman with a regular day job, a wife, a mom, a friend, and a casual writer on a blog that I shared with my friends.  But I believed deeply that the world needed to have more honest and compassionate conversations about the things that really matter in our lives.  So I started sharing my thoughts and perspectives publicly.  Sometimes in provocative ways. And somehow, accidentally, I found myself in the middle of controversy, watching an infographic my brother and I made go viral overnight.  Tens of thousands of people shared it on Facebook and Twitter, re-blogged it on Tumblr, debated it, loved it, and hated it.  The intention of this graphic was to spark a conversation about how we experience the fear of false accusation of rape as greater than it is in comparison to the problem of rape and sexual violence.  The data behind it has been critiqued, both fairly and unfairly.  And I’ve listened and learned. But we started a conversation, and an important one at that. Sexual violence is the biggest issue we aren’t talking about in America.  You don’t have to look to Steubenville or Brooklyn or India to find stories about sexual violence.  You just need to look around the table at your next staff meeting, classroom discussion, or family dinner to find stories of direct and indirect impact. 16-25% of Americans will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.  Yup, that’s 1 out of 6 men and 1 out of 4 women.  If you don’t know someone who has been directly impacted, you either don’t know very many people or […]

We’re off and running

From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Sexual violence is the biggest issue we aren’t talking about in America.  Today, we are talking about it.  And that’s because of all of you. Last night, The Enliven Project was a promising idea. Today, we are launched.  In the last 24 hours, more than 20,000 people have liked, commented, and shared important statistics about sexual violence.  We’ve begun the conversation.  We are on our way. The Enliven Project is a campaign to tell the truth about sexual violence in America, and to convert the most powerful bystanders to new allies.  Every day, in classrooms, breakrooms, and boardrooms, the issue of sexual violence impacts men and women of all backgrounds – yet we are still not talking about it.  The silence leads to shame and stigma, and it prevents ordinary people and powerful leaders from advocating for the change we need. In the coming weeks and months, we will share more surprising and startling statistics about the prevalence and impact of sexual violence, and illuminate how challenging it can be to measure things that aren’t reported or discussed.  We will also share hopeful stories of resilience and recovery from survivors and their champions.  We will give you tools to have new conversations with your followers, friends, family members, and colleagues. The things you see here might make you uncomfortable, angry, or overwhelmed.  We intend to be provocative.  But don’t turn away.  Join us. Like us on Facebook.  Follow us on Twitter.  Join the conversation.  Tell us about the conversations you are having, the reactions you are getting, and what you need from The Enliven Project to get people to pay attention. With respect and gratitude, Sarah

2012: Year in Review

Today is a time to feel hopeful about the year to come, and grateful for the blessings of the year that just passed us by.  The days are slowly getting longer, I have some time off from work, and some mental space to reflect on the previous 12 months.  It’s been quite a year for me and for our family, with lots of adventures and ups and downs.  Looking back on last December, I was just settling back into work after maternity leave and still struggling with the tail end of post-partum blues.  This year, life feels much more hopeful and promising, and I wanted to share some of the highlights from the year with all of you! Watched my sweet baby boy grow from an infant to a full-fledged toddler who walks, talks, and tantrums with the best of them.  It’s been amazing to see him express who he is in the world, and turn into an independent little guy with a life all of his own.  His birth changed me forever, and I can’t wait to see who he becomes. Managed a major transition at work which meant bidding farewell to a wonderful mentor, embracing change, and landing in the absolute perfect role for me with a NEW great boss and a terrific team. Finally got serious about writing, and wrote over 25 blog posts, many about my own personal journey of hurt and healing.  Thank you for reading and liking and commenting – it’s fun to have conversations about the important things in our lives in this space! Ran my first mile.  And ran 14 more after that.  Ran with my brother, in the cold, on the treadmill, and on the road. […]

  • cupcakes
    Hallmark Cards and Cupcakes Hallmark Cards and Cupcakes

    Hallmark Cards and Cupcakes

Hallmark Cards and Cupcakes

The fall is birthday season in my life, so I have been thinking about the kind of friend I am, and the kind of friend I am not. I am not a friend who often remembers to send cards – and will often forget birthdays.  I don’t make crafty gifts and pin photos of them to the Internet.  I often feel badly for not being creative and thoughtful like so many wonderful friends are. What kind of friend am I then? I’m the friend that invites you to move in with them when you go through a heart- wrenching breakup and are so sad you can’t even take care of yourself.  If I haven’t seen or spoken to you in a decade, I will still take you in, and make you tea and whiskey and find good junk tv.  I’m the friend you call when you find yourself in love with a married man because I won’t judge you – I will just try to listen and understand. I’m the friend you come to with secrets – dark ones – because nothing shocks me or makes me think less of you.  I’m the friend who will trash talk your ex-boyfriend when we run into him on the street and you aren’t quite sure what to say – I will make sure he knows he missed out big time.  I’m the friend who will seek justice on your behalf if you are betrayed or hurt by another, and make it my mission to seek vengeance on your enemies.  I’m the friend you come to when you need to cry until you can’t breathe anymore, and I will stroke your hair. And then, when your sobs become […]