One of my favorite things in the world is finding out what people are using as a cover story for coming to Rally (Rally!).

Because when you’re coming to Rally, you don’t really know what it is, right? Even if you’ve done it before.

I mean, I’ve been at Rally (note my avoidance of the verb) twelve times now and I’m still not sure what it is.

That’s because Rally is magical and weird and surprising. And hard to explain.

All you know is this.

When you’re on your way to Rally, all you know is that you’re off on a crazy-fabulous adventure and that things will be different and sparkly when you return. It will be a sort of voyage.

And there will be pretzel sticks in wine glasses. And a hammock in a Refueling Station!

This makes it difficult to explain to the people in your life who casually (or very seriously, in some cases) wonder why you’re going to be AWOL. Or why you’re journeying off to Portland for a few days. What are you doing?!

And thus the cover story.

Oh, I’m going to………

  • a conference
  • a yoga thing
  • a business thing
  • a creative thing
  • a craft-ey thing
  • a retreat thing
  • a secret thing
  • a coordination training thing
  • just vacation, you know, nothing special
  • I’m on silent retreeeeeaaat!

And then you change the subject super-fast! —-> “How are you doing? What are you up to? How’s your whatzit? Really? Oh, wow.”

Most popular cover stories.

I think “oh it’s a conference” and then running away before people can ask what the conference is about.

That’s probably most people’s favorite.

Followed by pretending you’re going to be doing something that sounds fun-for-you, but a thing the other person would find fairly uninteresting.

“It’s a convention for people who do that really specific kind of knitting I was telling you about….”

“It’s a conference about the history of birdfeeders in North America…”

“It has to do with the internet, I’d tell you more but you know how it is…”

Or go with the real story…

Some people can totally get away with saying exactly what it is:

“So there’s this woman? I kind of sort of know her from online. No, not like that. She has a duck! Anyway, she runs a playground. Yes. It’s like preschool, but for grownups.

“And I’m going to go there and work on something — but I don’t know what it is yet — while eating potato chips. Also there’s a costume room.

“We’re going to flail around ridiculously and have epiphanies and then stuff will happen. At the end of it, I’ll have been insanely productive and everything in my life will be better. Anyway, whee! I’m going to Rally! “

The truth is a beautiful thing. It’s just that the truth — much like most epiphanies and big realizations — can sound sort of stupid or silly or insane when said out loud.

It loses its essence in translation.

Of course if you can make it work, go for it! But cover stories are still a useful thing to have in your pocket for certain people, situations or circumstances.

Why we need cover stories.

We all need some spaciousness when it comes to working on our stuff, being in a process, figuring out what projects really are.

Because a Rally (and everything we bring to it) is a form of a tiny, sweet thing.

So we protect it.

We keep it safe and make sure it’s supported. And we do this by giving it buffers. Hiding spaces and holding spaces. Room to breathe and grow.

A cover story is a form of buffer.

It’s a way to build space around the experience you haven’t had yet.

It’s almost like a safe room for the seed of the adventure that you are embarking on.

Who these stories are for.

For you. You get to have buffers and spaciousness too!

For the Rally and the experience itself. So that your experience of Rally can be its own thing, not weighed down by other people’s expectations, projections, judgments and desires.

For your projects, whatever they may be (and you do not need to have a project when you show up at Rally because it will find you while you’re there, I promise).

It’s a way of arranging a secret rendezvous to meet your projects without anyone knowing about your process while you’re still trying to figure it all out.

And also for the people who are asking. The stories are good for everyone.

More stuff to think about!

Sometimes people are just being polite.

Sometimes someone will ask you a question (“what do you do?”) and for them it’s this really simple, casual, I-need-something-to-say-to-fill-this-pause-of-awkwardness.

They don’t know that for you this question is related to big, deep existential pondering and that it can throw you into your stuff.

They’re just as relieved as you are to talk about something else.

So it’s absolutely okay to say something like this: “Oh I’m going to see some friends and work on an old project, thanks for asking! What are you up to?”

Sometimes people are just being distracter mice.

Sometimes when people ask you awkward questions, they’re really just trying to move attention from something they don’t want to talk about. I find this weirdly reassuring.

This is a great time to bring up a book you just read or a film you just saw, or stick to topics that you know they like.

Sometimes people just want reassurance.

If it’s people who are close to you, they really just want to know that you aren’t changing. That you will still love them when you come back from your crazy, mysterious voyage.

Sometimes a hug is a really good answer.

I’m doing something that’s important to me. I’ll tell you about it when I get back. I love you so much. HUG.

And not everything requires a response.

I cannot emphasize this enough. Even though it’s the thing that is hardest for me to remember.

Really and truly: Not everything requires a response.

The magic of the cover story.

Rally is, among other things, a place for creative play. For approaching things with curiosity, wonder and receptivity.

Coming up with a cover story requires that you step into this mindset of invention.

Which means you’re already accessing your Rally superpowers of creativity, possibility and play when you start coming up with stories that hide what you’re really doing.

You’re being inventive. You’re creating safe spaces for yourself. You’re approaching things in a way that is designed to give yourself support and spaciousness before you even get to the Playground.

So cover stories are like secret spy codewords. They’re full of play. They’re helping you arrive. And that’s important.

Play! And comment zen for the giant blanket fort.

If you have been on Rally or are coming to Rally or might come to Rally someday, and you have a cover story, I would love to know what it is.

Let’s invent ridiculous and/or totally believable fake back-stories! And throw confetti.

And if not for Rally, then for other things as well.

As always, we are all working on our stuff. We make room for other people to have their own experience, and we don’t tell each other how to feel, how to think or what to do. Unless they ask!

Kisses to the commenter mice, the Beloved Lurkers and everyone who reads…

postscript: The September Rally is sold out. November is filling up crazy fast. Schedule for new year on the Rally (Rally!) page.

The Fluent Self