The Power of Co-Creation / Gilbert's Cheese Experience Launch
All my adult life, “co-” has been a dirty prefix.
It was usually followed by “-dependency,” which stripped me of my dignity, my identity, my livelihood, all my material comforts, all my relationships and, very nearly, of my life. I’ve spent the past three and a half years learning to focus on words like “I” and “me.” Phrases like “female empowerment” and “self-reliance.”
I’ve done such a good job at that, I not only forgot what it was like to depend on someone else — I became downright terrified of the idea of fully letting someone else into my world, to encroach on my preciously carved-out, hoarded and barricaded time and space; to enter into all the rituals and practices, whether healing and healthy or workaholic and neurotic, that go through my head and go on inside my little bachelorette pad.
When I heard the term “co-creation,” I interpreted that as the power of me creating on my own along with the Universe: the “co” being Love/Source energy. I do think that’s an important part of it — but now I see the truth. The “co” is about all of us. Creating with other people. Maybe that isn’t a scary or shocking realization for someone without my past, but for me, the idea “co” that didn’t just refer to me, myself and my guides and gods, and that that didn’t necessarily mean a return trip down damnation highway, was a bit mind-blowing.
I’ve always known that a return to partnership, in more ways than one, was my ultimate goal. I guess I’ve just had a hard time envisioning how to actually get there.
I’m still working on the romantic side of things, but the Universe has recently handed me a hearty blessing and a healthy lesson in this whole co-creation thing: my dear friend and soul brother, Brian Gilbert, and I have officially launched what is the realization of a lifetime of dreaming on both of our parts, even if it looks a little different than either of us originally envisioned. Gilbert’s Cheese Experience is a full-sensory cheese-pairing pop-up, where we take people on an interactive journey directly to the source of their foods and beverages. We tell the stories behind how their food and drinks are made and the people who made them; show them behind the curtain; and introduce them to exciting new flavor combinations and culinary experiences them. It educates and entertains, as each experience is fun and interactive — but most importantly, it connects consumers with the things they eat and drink and the local ecosystems behind them.
And already, business is booming. Anyone who reads this blog knows it’s a dream come true for me: a chance to truly enter into the food and beverage community in an integrated, hands-on way I have never quite had access to before; it’s an outlet for my overflowing passion on the subject of high-quality, local food and drinks, the artistry of this medium and what it can inspire between people; it’s a chance to tell the stories within this industry of the people involved and of how food and drink are the origins of culture. It’s a platform to springboard this very blog and an opportunity to share more of myself in an authentic way with others.
And it’s a chance to build something beautiful with an equally passionate member of my soul family.
It seems only fitting that our business is centered around pairings. This theme is resonating everywhere for me lately: learning how to create a pair that works, whose flavors sing together rather than cancel one another out, or where one dominates the other. An effective pairing is about celebrating each thing individually — plus the beautiful new thing that’s created when they are brought together.
Our event was held at Stoup Brewing on May 14: a location that couldn’t be more fitting, as telling their story was the beginning of my first new, big, co-created thing; my first truly successful incarnation of a business. At the event, our favorite pairing was Stoup’s Citra IPA and Cascadia Creamery’s Glacier Blue cheese. The two products that are each delicious on their own: one with restrained bitterness and bright citrus hops, the other with a pronounced yet approachable spiciness. But when combined, a remarkable dance takes place: up front, a light and refreshing wave of citrus and tropical fruits; then the beer steps aside as the robust bite of the cheese creeps in; and then the whole thing recedes into a final high note of mild bitterness and savory creaminess.
This combination is perfectly emblematic of the way my relationship with my friend and partner is developing: two individuals, each strong and celebrating our own distinct identities, but learning a new dance; one in which we take turns, bowing out and coming back together when the time is right; creating something new and wonderful, with an irreplaceable chemistry and infectious spark that comes from our heart centers and beyond, flowing in from the endless light of the Universe and back out into the world as pure Love.
The event was a smashing success. Everyone loved the pairings, even the ones we weren't sure they'd like — but true to our mission, it was about more than just the cheese and beer. It was what the event facilitated. It brought together friends and loved ones and colleagues from all walks of our lives. They came to support us — but at a certain point, it clearly went beyond solidarity and moved into an authentic and wholehearted inhabiting and endorsement of the experience, the stories and the knowledge; of what we were trying to share. People who didn't have to say it told me afterward that they would be back, and would tell others. The glow emanating from the souls of two kids who just wanted to share all this love with the world spread to every person in that room, and it lit up the whole building; the whole block; the whole city; uplifted the whole collective, per the intention we set.
And for me, the implications of all of this are immeasurable. This may be the first healthy relationship I've ever had.
It doesn't matter that it's not romantic; it is just as intimate in a different way, and in a sense, is training wheels for the one that is. It’s a safer way, within the bounds of an equal and understanding friendship, to learn how to be in relationship with someone again; how to give and receive and share and love and disagree and maybe get a little pissed off, but always work it out and come back together stronger.
And I am learning the most valuable lesson: I don't have to lose myself this time. I won't lose myself. I used to think relationships were about taking two half people and creating one whole one. But now I see the truth. Real relationship is about taking two healthy, whole people and creating a third thing by adding them together — something new and separate that’s equally beautiful.
I’m learning a new dance. Old patterns and reactions rear their heads from time to time, and I must recognize that’s just the Resistance and the Fear, and I am learning to let it pass. I don’t have to be critical or fearful or lapse into negativity. I can welcome the light with open arms.
This isn’t the end of individuality. It’s the creation of a new entity and the beginning of a shared dream coming true. It’s our own bootstrappy, single-person lives, plus more. My early models for relationships were either to crush or be consumed; annihilate or merge. I started life by trying the latter, and it crushed my very soul. Then I spent over a decade doing the former, and it almost killed me. It’s time for a new way.
Today, I see that “co” can truly be the most beautiful prefix of all. I can’t wait to see what we create next.