Everything’s Connected: The Space In Between Us

When I went to grad school to study the history of South Asian religions, I thought that my passion for work in the community would have to be relegated to a hobby.  I felt like the two were so unrelated that there was no way I could justify my research of ancient medical and religious texts and stories from India with my desire to create a just world and sustainable, vibrant communities.  I started working with The Chicago Time Exchange while I was in grad school to create a “hobby” space for social justice.

Fast forward what feels like a hundred years (who’s working on that time machine, people?), and I’m no longer officially studying myths, texts, religions, and languages, but I am still active in The Chicago Time Exchange working to affect social change in communities.  What I’ve realized recently (and I promise this is going to be not about me–insofar as I can write about something other than myself–very soon) that they have always been related for me.  The stories and myths I’ve studied have always highlighted the experience of the non-dominant class.  Likewise, I’ve learned that stories, myths, and history play an important role in the way people relate to one another.

This joke-of-a-“spring,” Lara, an active member and co-director of The Chicago Time Exchange, finished her LinkUp residency at Links Hall.  The residency was designed to investigate Lara’s art practice and her social practice.   How does her community support her art?  And vice versa?  What is the role of art and artists in community building?  What about her love for etymology and linguistics?  And, probably most importantly, what about balloons?

Lara’s performance artistically wove these questions in with folklore and storytelling, social justice issues, current events, her own journey, desires, needs, and offering gifts.

Lara beautifully tells and illustrates the story of the princess and the frog and presents it as a story about desires and vulnerability.  The princess needs the frog to help her with her ball and the frog represents a need for human connection (and sexuality) that can be scary and sometimes intimidating.

She then recounts her story about how she came to the sharing economy.  She was listening about the BP oil spill and felt so furious and desperate that she was moved to action.  She needed to do something.  She found about gift economies at the Social Forum in Detroit and worked on building their presence in Chicago.

These are both two really separate things, right?  I mean, what does a fairy tale have to do with the BP oil spill?  What does any of this have to do with The Chicago Time Exchange?  They are all about needing each other.  The motto, if you can call it that, of the CTX is “we have everything we need, if we use everything we have.”  The two major premises of this statement is that we (individuals and communities) have needs and we have something to fill the needs.  It is never true that an individual can fill 100% of their own needs.  Basically, we need each other.  Lara’s performance illustrated in different ways, that I need my community.  I need other people.

The great thing about Lara’s performance is that saying “We need a community.  I need people” is a nice and cheery thing to say theoretically, but putting it into practice and living it is kind of brutal.  It is a pain in the ass to need people.  People fall through and they mess up and they can be super awful sometimes.  I wish sometimes we “needed” something a little less complicated.  Like,  chocolate.  Can the CTX motto be “we have all the chocolate we need if we eat all the chocolate”?

I certainly don’t have an answer for this.  Though I think we can vote on a motto change.  People do awful things.  I never do (ahem), but others definitely do bad stuff.  That stuff sucks and it’s constant and there’s nothing for it.

But people do awesome stuff too.  Lara starts gift circles in Chicago.  Rebecca starts The Chicago Time Exchange.  My husband tells the funniest jokes ever.  Laura knits stuff for people and is great to talk to.  Tom helps me with website stuff out of the goodness of his heart.  Julius tutors kids to make sure they do well on the ACT.  My boss enthusiastically supports me even when I’m being awful.  The kids I work with are simply hope incarnate.

I need these things.  I need this community.  I need these people.

It’s scary to need these things.  What if they get taken away?  What if I am no longer deemed worthy of these people?  What if what I offer them is not worth what they offer?  What if something happens and they cannot offer what I need?  What if I need them and they’re not there?  What if they do not follow through?

Those are scary questions, and the only person who has all the answers is Brene Brown and possibly Oprah.  And Beyonce.  I think Tavi Gevinson has some too, even though she’s only 17.  I digress.

The larger need that we have is the need to be needed.  In Lara’s performance, she describes a break down after the BP oil spill.  She needed to be helpful.  Do all the people I need, need me to need them?  Does my husband need me to laugh at his jokes?  Does Rebecca need me to appreciate the CTX because she needs to help her community?  Do the kids I work with need someone to see them with hope rather than despair?  Does my boss need to support me so his mission can be successful?

Perhaps it is not a weakness to have individual needs and desires.  Perhaps the secret strength of our community rests in the ubiquitous and inter-related nature of our needs.  When I need you, I am weak.  When we both need each other equally, we are unstoppable.


Links Hall performance with CTX member Lara Oppenheimer

For those of you who haven’t met Lara, she is one of the co-directors of the Chicago Time Exchange. She is wrapping up a LinkUp artist residency at Links Hall which is one of the CTX’s organizational partners.

This weekend, March 28th-30th, please come see her performance called “The Space in Between Us,” which is an intelligent and creative look into artist practice, storytelling, community, and social practice.

“Storytelling, lecture, balloons, and a golden ball traverse the territory of pleasure and fear between the kitchen and pond, frog and princess, utopia and apocalypse. Created and performed by Lara Oppenheimer, Marie Casimir, Jessica Marasa and Lindsay Hopkins, “The Space Between Us” explores intimacy, economy and ecology through the lens of a fairy tale and the question of how we name home.

Lara’s LinkUp residency is an investigation into the ways an alternative economy can support artistic work and vice versa. Throughout the residency, members of the community were invited to share skills and offer artistic support, being paid in time credits through the Chicago Time Exchange. http://www.chicagotimeexchange.com”

CTX members can pay for the performance in Time Dollars by logging into the Chicago Time Exchange website and clicking here (offers tab).

Learn more and RSVP for the performance HERE.

Creative Economy Mini-conference, Stephanie Rearick, and Trade School Evanson Launch Party

There are so many exciting Chicago Time Exchange events this Friday, September 20th!

First, from 1-6 pm there’s a skill share and mini-conference potluck.  People are sharing their creative skills from 1-3.  Some people have signed up, but we need more.  Please email Jami at jamigarton@gmail.com if you’d like to share!

Stephanie Rearick, a fantastic musician and the Director of the Dane County TimeBank in Madison, Wisconsin, will be facilitating a discussion about Creative Economies from 3-4:30pm.  Afterwards, we’ll break bread together!  Bring food and drink to share!  More information is on the Facebook event.

Later that evening at Trade School Evantson, The Chicago Time Exchange is launching it’s collaboration with Trade School Evanston.  To celebrate, Stephanie Rearick will be performing along with others.  Feel free to bring food and music to share!  More information is on the Facebook event.

As always, people who who plan, set up, help out, and skill share will earn Time Dollars.

Exchange in Review: Gentle Yoga Class with Julia

I make a lot of jokes. Mostly awful, unprofessional, inappropriate jokes and usually in serious situations with people I barely know. Bad jokes are to Jami as beouf bourgiounon is to Julia Child. It’s science!

One joke I often make about The Chicago Time Exchange is that there is never a shortage of yoga instructors and lessons. We’re like a guy standing in an alley in a black trench coat dealing out yoga on the black market.

Like all classically excellent jokes, this one has a lot of truth. One of the many benefits I’ve reaped as a coordinator of The Chicago Time Exchange is that I will probably never have to pay money for a yoga class as long as I live.  If I do it right, my grandchildren will not have to pay for yoga classes.  If i’m really on top of it, no one’s grandchildren will have to pay for yoga because people will recognize it as a necessary public health practice instead of a luxury.

Like many abundant resources in our society, I have been trained to believe I have little need for it anymore. I have my own yoga practice at home and am 150% over most Western yoga courses that focus more on getting a good workout than the meditative aspects of yoga. Also, as a scholar of Sanskrit (read: hack), the use of not understood Sanskrit slokas and mantras before and after class perplex me at best and irritate me at worst.

But, the purpose of abundance-based economies reminds us that even though something is abundant, doesn’t mean it is no longer valuable.

Julie and I have been emailing back and forth as she had been providing support for my meditation practice. So when she posted an offer for a Gentle Yoga class I jumped at the chance to have a non-aerobic yoga class to enrich my meditative practice with someone I trust and to meet a person I had only met online.

While I am prone to hyperbole (see bad jokes above), this was the most excellent yoga class I’d ever taken. Julia is a master instructor, adapting her class to the students’ needs, keeping her finger on the pulse of her students needs.  This class was exactly everything I needed at that moment (disclosure: Needs may vary.  Sometimes you just need a hot dog.  This class will not fulfill that need.).

Imagine that there’s a time in your day where you can just relax in a way that feels best for your body.  I’m sure most people will understand that sentence and know what it means to relax, but really how often do we take time to move and rest and relax in a way that FEELS best for our body?  Probably only while yawning when you do those weird involuntary movements and make crazy faces.  Or before we sleep MAYBE (unless you’re like me and you fall asleep nightly atop empty malt liquor bottles and half-burnt cigarettes).

It’s really a foreign concept.  We do things because we are being told to do them, because we should do them, because people are watching.  Doing something because it feels good to our actual body is seen as such an indulgent luxury in our society.  We do plenty that we’re told is supposed to feel good such as strenuous exercise for long periods of time, eating kale, etc. (and sometimes it does feel good).  We do plenty of what we think feels good drinking and staying out late (and that’s a high-stakes hit or miss).

Julia’s class was like a bit, fat body yawn.  Her guiding principal was to do what feels best.  And honestly, I’m out of practice.  Yoga classes are so often associated with aerobic exercise which is so often associated with self-flagellation.  It’s hard to think of it as anything else.

Julia’s class was a revolutionary reminder to take time to trust my body’s intuition about what it needs to be healthy and to feel good.

Artist Really, Really Free Market and Links Hall Partnership

I’m writing this from our first Links Hall/Constellation wine/time event. We’ve seen a lady in a fancy red dress with a mustache and a man in a slick, shiny shirt with a face tattoo. It has been excellent.

This Saturday, August 10th at Links Hall at 3111 North Western Avenue from 1-5pm there will be the Artist Really, Really Free Market/The CTX & Links Hall Partnership introduction. This was previously marketed as a champagne brunch, but we are actually not allowed to have alcohol because they sell alcohol after 5 at Constellation. So it’s a brunch with booze afterwards. I can’t imagine anything better!

Artists and others are invited to bring art supplies, costumes, and other intriguing items that might be of interest to artists and any other person! Be prepared to take the supplies and things that others bring. Bring potluck food to share!

Remember: every Wednesday we will be visiting Constellation (3111 North Western Avenue) for wine/time (wine and sharing). Come meet me and Lara! Come fill out your profile! Come drink lovely drinks!


Links Hall and the Chicago Time Exchange

Great news for the Chicago Time Exchange!

We are working with Links Hall, a non-profit arts organization that encourages artistic innovation and public engagement by maintaining a facility and providing flexible programming for the research, development, and presentation of new work in the performing arts.


Links Hall is a member of the Chicago Time Exchange and will be releasing the information about their co-op membership process and the role that the Chicago Time Exchange will play in that process at our information potluck meeting on Sunday, July 28th at 11:00am at Links Hall at 3111 North Western.  Please RSVP to jamigarton@gmail.com.

Welcome to The Chicago Time Exchange, Links Hall!

Kimberly Lightford Saturday University: Huge Success!

The Pre-Assessment day for the Kimberly Lightford Saturday University was a huge success!  We assessed 64 students total.  I think the students had a great time, much to their surprise.  I walked a few students back to the testing area and as they saw the beautiful site their demeanor changed from upset that their mom was taking them to school on a Saturday to intrigued.  They said, “Wait…is this going to be fun?!?!”

Yes, it was.

The library: While walking by, one kid said, “I want to just stay in this room.”

One-on-one instruction area

computer lab!

The Answer Inc. at work with the kids

lunch room

Again, huge props to Senator Lightford, her team, and her family who put so much time, talent and resources into this beautiful space.  Further, a big thanks to Principal Lang and Dean McKennie whose expertise and demeanor helped yesterday run perfectly.

Exchange Review: Self-hypnotism

I like to thumb through the offers and requests of the TimeBank and see the amazing talents that people have.  We truly do have everything we need, if we just use everything we have.  One of these perusals led me to a member’s post offering self-hypnotism classes.  I get so excited by the TimeBank that my immediate response was much like a puppy’s– “WHAT IS THAT? I LOVE IT!”  Within moments, I had sent the email and was in communication with Elaine Wagner to learn self-hypnotism.

Elaine is an excellent teacher.  She started with a simple intake, asked me why I would like to learn hypnotism, what I know about hypnotism (not much except for some depictions on the I Love Lucy show which are probably not 100% accurate), and then gave me a basic overview of the common misconceptions about hypnotism (spoiler alert: I Love Lucy doesn’t get it right).

Here’s some of what I remembered from those discussions:

  • There are lots of uses for self-hypnotism from lowering blood pressure, quitting smoking, losing weight, getting rid of other bad habits, increasing creativity, to slowing down time.
  • Everyone is in a state of hypnosis twice daily–when they are just about to fall asleep and when they are just waking up.
  • Someone cannot hypnotize you against your will which means that all hypnosis is, in fact, self-hypnosis.

Throughout the three session with Elaine, I learned various (pretty simple) hypnosis techniques.  I won’t go into details about what the techniques were, but in general if you have practiced mindfulness with breathing meditations (anapanasati), these techniques were are similar.

My experience with hypnotism has been that it is a deep meditation practice.  Contrary to popular beliefs about hypnotism (for instance that someone else might be in control over you), my experience was that I felt in hyper-control which certainly pleased this control freak!

During our last session, Elaine walked me through a regression back to when I was a young baby in order to better understand a bad habit I had (it’s now 100% gone).  That was an interesting experience though it didn’t reveal anything I didn’t already consciously know.

In addition to being a hypnotism practitioner, Elaine Wagner is a chiropractor, acupuncturist, and holistic health practitioner with an emphasis on Chinese medicine.  She has had a practice in Chicago since 1980.  She is a long-time member of the Chicago Time Exchange and offers limited services to TimeBank members.  She needs help painting her living room with non-toxic paints.

For more information on this and other exchanges, please visit chicago.timebanks.org!

If you would like to review an exchange you have had through the Chicago Time Exchange (or any non-market economy system), please email Jami at jamibecka@gmail.com!