Someone submitted a comment last week in reply to a request I made for people to donate things to the Playground, and I want us to sit with this part of it:
“If you have ten people at a Rally, that’s fifteen thousand dollars. I’m wondering why you could need a donated DVD playing laptop when, with these costs, it could easily be afforded.”
It may be that his pain is showing up for him in this comment. We all have stuff.
But I’m also thinking it might be useful and important for people to have some context for what it actually costs to run an event like Rally (Rally!).
Because if anyone is imagining that I’m drinking daiquiris while reclining on top of a gigantic pile of fifteen thousand individual dollar bills…that is so very much not what’s happening.
There is no pile of money. Also I wouldn’t be caught dead ordering a daiquiri. But that’s beside the point.
Let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about what things cost.
Let’s talk about rent for the space where Rally happens.
Seven thousand dollars a month.
Add to that twelve thousand a year in utilities. So that’s a chunk right there.
Especially when you realize that sometimes Rally is the only thing that happens in a given month, and Rally doesn’t happen every month.
Also: ten people paying full price? Assume some people got Rallies as bonuses for other programs, someone we offered a trade to, someone on scholarship.
And staff. My company has three full-time employees, including me.
Even if I didn’t pay myself (and I tried this for several years — not a sustainable way to run a company, as I discovered), other people need to get paid.
Rally wouldn’t happen without them doing important work behind the scenes.
In a space where people are going to be sitting on the floor in five different rooms, you need a lot of rugs. An investment in the experience of Rally.
I’ve spent far more than $15,000 on rugs for the Playground. In fact, I don’t even want to think about how much we’ve invested in floor coverings of various kinds, or about how many years it could take before this space begins to pay for itself.
Rugs are vital to the space. They make the Playground comfy, cozy, colorful and magical. We roll around on them. We do old Turkish lady stretches on them. We nap and play on them. We spread our mysterious projects out on them.
But really, let’s talk about comfort.
Rugs alone do not create a comfortable environment for restorative play.
We have dozens of cushions in all shapes and sizes. Also endless blankets: for napping, snuggling, resting and making blanket forts. I’ve paid for all of these.
And as our programs grow, we keep getting more because having a Playground full of things to play with makes Rally even more magical.
Tables, large and small. Desks, large and small. Cubbies. Chairs. Hooks. Coat racks. Entry signs. Kitchen furnishings. Shelves and racks to hold costumes and art supplies. Furnishings for the Toy Shop.
I’ve put many thousands of dollars into furnishing the Playground, and it will take many, many Rallies to even begin to cover the cost of that investment.
There’s also money to rent a truck to deliver things. The time involved in getting people to help move furniture, and organizing that process.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had to provide lighting for a giant space, but wow. Fixtures. They’re expensive.
I have picked out and purchased seventeen lamps, beautiful ones, for the Playground. And we’ll need to acquire way more than that for the new space.
Refrigerator. Toaster. Vacuum cleaner. Water/Tea dispensers. Recycling bins. Trash cans. Ohmylord so many trash cans.
Let’s talk about the STAGE.
Teaching Shiva Nata to a large group requires a stage, because people need to be able to see you so they can mirror you.
We had to have one built to our specifications. And covered in carpet to work for yoga as well. Big complicated expensive project.
Paint and painting.
Walls. And floors. Several coats.
Buying all the paint. Time and energy for the actual painting. Touch-ups between Rallies, of course, because playing can get messy at times.
In the new space we’ll need to paint the entire thing because the previous tenant trashed it. So this week I dropped a thousand dollars on paint.
Supplies and materials for yoga.
Blocks. Straps. Blankets.
Basically, outfitting a yoga studio, because the Playground essentially needs to double as one during Rally for when we do yoga.
Supplies and materials for teaching.
White board. Flip chart. Markers.
Printing out handouts and worksheets. Printing out monster coloring books for people to color.
Supplies and materials for playing.
Art supplies. Endless art supplies. Costumes for the costume room. Pens and markers. Bottles of spray. Stone skipping cards.
Plus all the clews. Thousands of them, hidden throughout the Playground. And a fairy door. And a hula hoop. And magnets. Fun things that make the Playground feel special.
Let’s talk about food.
Snacks. We go through a lot of snacks. And the Wine and Cheesening.
But you know what else? Dishes. Utensils. Mugs and glasses. Tablecloths. Bottle openers, can openers, dishcloths, paper towels, all sorts of things that you don’t necessarily think about.
Luckily Rallions are very considerate and sweet — they often contribute snacks and extra bottles of wine, and they help with the dishes. But yes, having a Galley is not an insignificant expense.
We hire a company to do a thorough cleaning before and after Rally. I put in several hours of cleaning the rest of the month.
I don’t really want to get into energetic cleaning, but I put time every single day into clearing out the Playground from other people’s stuff.
Other people who help the ship run, and who all get paid.
Our bookkeeper. Our accountant. We need an attorney. We have a realtor.
Occasionally we need to hire consultants to help with systems, organization, culture or expansion. This will help us financially in the long term, but right now it means we invest more than we make.
Like when the heating stopped working and we had to get space heaters.
Or when someone has an emergency and has to back out, and we’ve given them their money back but it’s too late to get someone else to come to that Rally.
Obviously there’s the week of running Rally. And the week of preparing for it. And the week of recovering from it and reviewing what worked and what didn’t.
But there’s also filling it.
And the years I spent building a community of people who care about this work, the years learning to write copy, the many years developing skills, systems, resources, materials. I may not ever be compensated for those years, but they’re incredibly important.
We’re fortunate to have several things there on consignment. But quite a lot of the items for sale in the Toy Shop we buy wholesale.
I’ve invested thousands of dollars into the shop, without any assurance that we’re going to make that money back. Or an idea of how long it might take.
So that’s money and risk. Risk is a big deal. It really deserves it’s own section.
I spend about eight hours a week firming up systems and making systems changes. To pull off an event like Rally, there are hundreds of systems that all need to be running smoothly at all times. When there’s a hole, I’m the one in there patching it.
Let’s talk about the most important thing: RISK.
I am the sole provider in my household. I pay the mortgage. I support us.
So when I have a crazy idea like “hey, let’s rent a space and make it into a Playground for grown-ups to play and destuckify in, even though no one has ever done this before and there’s zero data to show that it could even work”, this isn’t just my risk. It’s all of us.
I had to talk my family into agreeing to let me try this. I’ve had to provide endless emotional hand-holding and reassurances. And they have to count on me and trust me. At times it has been really, really rough.
The burden and stress of financial and emotional risk in a venture like this cannot be underemphasized.
There’s other stuff too, of course.
Music and speakers. Signage. Flags. Flowers. Candles. Art. Volunteering. Stuffed animals. Time meeting with neighbors in the building, discussing how shared space can work, or dealing with grievances that they might have. Organizing maintenance. Interacting with contractors. It doesn’t really end.
What does all this mean?
There are four things that I want to be really clear about. Four things that I really deeply care about. I feel so strongly about this.
1. Always, always assume hidden costs.
Most of what is listed here are costs that you cannot see when you visit the Playground.
This is true for nearly any business that you encounter. You won’t be able to see what someone has put into it. But if you pay attention, maybe you can feel it.
2. ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE WORTH IT.
I do not regret one penny that I’ve invested in making Rally an incredible life-changing experience. People come away with an entirely new relationship with themselves, their stuff, how to work, how to be with themselves. It’s all worth it.
But if you ever find yourself thinking WOW WHAT A SWEET GIG, you’re wrong. There is no sweet gig. Not this one.
There is blood, sweat and tears. And money. Lots and lots of money.
3. Anything can show you your stuff
Reading that comment showed me my stuff.
I got to see my deep fear of being misunderstood, of being judged or blamed as a result of that misunderstanding. Hi, core issue!
I got to see my fear of being seen as vulnerable or needy. My fear that no one can appreciate how hard I work. My fear that if I ask for help, I will be criticized.
That’s my stuff. My pain. And I have been using all of the tools that we play with here to interact with it and rewrite it.
And, of course, the person who left the comment could, if he chooses to, read his own hurt and pain patterns in it, and learn more about what’s there.
And you can see whatever pain or fear may have been stirred up for you, reading this piece. You can meet it with love. You can make safe rooms and remember that now is not then, and talk to your monsters. You can ask what is useful in this.
4. Community means we all help, to the best of our ability.
Even if I were swimming in money (which would be awesome and I can’t wait for that to happen so that we can do even more good for the world in magical ways), I would still hope that we’d all want to pitch in.
Because there is this tremendous power in coming together to create.
It’s such a healing for my hurting heart when I realize how much the people in my world want to help.
Yesterday at the Playground play day we held an Enthusiastic. We sang pirate songs and had brilliant ideas and rejoiced over the new space. Everyone asked when they could come and help paint. Or what they could do to be a part of this.
And I cried. Because you guys are amazing, and because it means everything to me that so many of you want to help and join in. This is what keeps me going on the hardest days, and on the days when my stuff keeps me from seeing how much love and support there is for what we’re doing here together.
The commenting blanket fort today.
We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff.
We take responsibility for our stuff. We let everyone else have their stuff.
Taking responsibility for your stuff means owning your pain and not putting it onto anyone else. That’s our starting point.
We don’t throw shoes. We support each other. And, of course, we’re not going to speculate on the commenter’s motivation or what his issues are. That’s between him and him, just like how my stuff is between me and me, and your stuff is between you and you.
Things that are welcome today:
Loving sighs. Appreciation. Noticing how much time, love and effort goes into everything that is around us, and into what we do as well.