(or The Magic of Thinking Small)
An annual Valentine's Day love note from Mixolo founder, Carolyn Walton Lynch
Let’s try this again: Happy New Year! I plan to embrace the Lunar New Year and all of the fun trappings of the Chinese horoscopes and creative gifting. It’s the year of the Ox, after all. It’s supposed to be lucky, a good year to cultivate relationships – safely, of course. I'm also cherishing real-life good fortune, no matter how small, and the incremental progress that I tend to ignore when confronted with big things.
I’m not suggesting that your year hasn’t been happy so far, but I’m pretty sure it’s been weird and downright scary at times unless you’re living in an alternate universe. Negative 2020 just walked all over Optimistic 2021 like, “I will not concede!”
Some of us are still mourning the loss of freedom, livelihoods, or, sadly, loved ones. I’ve experienced a couple of recent heartbreaking diagnoses and losses concerning loved ones in this time of COVID. The horrific attacks on Asian-Americans seem to be the latest symptom of the sickness of racism.
To get beyond 2020’s reluctance to just go away peacefully and be history already, I’ve been experimenting with NOT measuring time or progress by years - or months. I’m all about the micro-moments. We’ve got big problems in our society, no doubt. Stepping back from the macro-view into our span of control and doing the little things, sometimes hard things, can lead to monumental change.
Turning big things into bite-sized pieces is not only more manageable emotionally, I feel physically better when I’m fully present in the moment, even when that present is actively sucking. I’m more focused and I perform better at tasks, problem-solving, and caregiving.
Granted, the bar for "better" is low right now, but I’m giving myself high marks for every micro-achievement and less energy to macro perceptions when I'm faced with challenges. I believe that those who can maintain the presence of mind in the inevitable joyous and painful moments in life may have a distinct emotional advantage. If less [internalized trauma] is more, I want more of what they’re having!
This renewed moment-to-moment approach has rekindled my excitement for holidays and just about any observance. In the last year, I’d almost forgotten that celebrating is my jam. I'm learning about truly hidden figures in Black History (also known as American history, but we still need a designated month until it becomes integrated into the fabric of our collective story).
We interrupt this blog with a Black history micro-moment...
Sociology is also my jam. When people think of prominent Black figures in American history, W.E.B. Dubois, the first black Ph.D. (Harvard) in sociology, comes to mind. Not many know world-renowned sociologist, Dr. E.Franklin Frazier, born in Baltimore, Maryland (like Mixolo!) in 1894. He attended Howard University, graduate school at Massachusetts’ Clark University, and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1931. He published several groundbreaking books on the black experience in society and explored the notions of race and caste post-slavery. He was recognized on the world stage for his contribution to UNESCO’s still relevant publication " The Race Question" post World War II in their efforts to examine and address the role of racial hatred in the Holocaust. Although now somewhat dated in some social references, it is a groundbreaking and fascinating read. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000128291
Valentine’s Day has always been one of my favorite holidays, with or without a lover. I am obsessed with heart-shaped anything. I’m pretty sure a heart was the first shape I drew as a toddler. I’ll be low-key making heart-shaped cookies with royal icing (thanks, Great British Bakeoff) and delivering them to a few shut-in friends and "micro-connections."
Speaking of low-key observances, Mixolo was launched on Valentine's Day four years ago this Sunday with a virtual Valentine’s Day party on Facebook, “no plus-one required.” My appeal to other solo adventurers, meant to spark organic and platonic micro-connections around shared interests, turned out to be more than a personal desire. Lots of people also wanted to live fully and share experiences beyond romantic love - on February 14th, too. I still contend that everyone should be able to enjoy heart-shaped desserts and tasty dinner specials, regardless of relationship status.
Micro-connections, or “weak ties,” and the positive benefits of a broad social network (not Facebook) were first introduced in 1973 by Mark Granovetter, a renowned sociology professor at Stanford University. Examples of weak ties include acquaintances, neighbors, fellow members of a faith-based or special interest group, work colleagues, activity partners (your COVID walk buddies, including pets!). According to Granovetter, those loose ties in our social networks can positively impact cognitive function, mental and physical health, and can contribute to longevity.
Many leading sociologists suggest that even brief friendly encounters with say, grocery store workers, baristas, or a delivery person can inspire a deep sense of connectedness. With nearly 30% of U.S. households with solo occupants according to the latest U.S. Census estimates, and in the midst of a global pandemic, those encounters have become lifelines for many.
So, a diverse social network can spark life-affirming joy and introduce new opportunities that we may not experience when we limit our social interactions to strong familial or friendship ties. It should follow then that expansive micro-connections can have a macro effect on our societal community’s wellbeing, right?
Unfortunately, some networks have been way more welcoming than others leading to marginalization and widespread disenfranchisement. Historically, exclusivity based on false merit can have a destructive macro effect on a society or way of life.
Thankfully, more and more of us are standing up for others for a more just and inclusive society than ever before. Social media’s algorithms played a dangerous part in heightening our political divide and fueling the rise of cultism, however, many of the micro-connections online have increased awareness and empathy exponentially for the plight of populations enduring long-standing injustices.
If you're reading this, you've survived 2020 and January 2021. If you've survived my written account of how I'm getting on, you'll deduce that my mind is working intentionally to let in light even in times of darkness. America's Youth National Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman's timely, uplifting poem on January 20 inspired me to also remember to BE the light.
Savoring the small accomplishments can help us survive and thrive when the big stuff inevitably happens. I encourage you to be present in your moments, the good and the seemingly awful.
While any outcome for 2021 will be influenced by many little factors out of our control, I promise you the ripple effect of every micro-effort we can muster to find and spark joy will be consequential. Real change is usually made up of small actions in the least opportune moments in time.
"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way." -
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Update on Mixolo:
Mixolo is dormant for now and I have come to terms with my personal disappointment in not been being able to continue to provide a platform that works in the current environment. As I’ve mentioned before, as a solo founder, high risk and undercapitalization in uncertain times sent me back to my fallback plan. How do I micro-fy this disappointment you may ask? My current micro-focus as a CPA and consultant is simply another incremental step to personal financial stabilization as I devise the comeback plan for a more collaborative Mixolo.