Wednesday, March 19, 2014

On Being Found: A Community Map

On Being Found: A Community Map 

We “carry” antique maps of places we have lived and places that are important to us. These maps tie us to locations, and center us in our world. 
You can never be lost if you know where you’re from.
--ginger johnson

Joy Serwylo 's book map
Books are my friends, and some of my best ones.  And here’s another, books have been a life long map that led me to some great friends as well and connected me to places that I have lived in even if it was in my own mind.  Those locations, those imagined places were safe for me.  And constant.  And another, books brought me into a life well lived because in talking with friends over those words I found community, and I belonged.  I knew, because of who I was and who I was with, where I’m from.  

And I’ve found a theme in all these books I’ve been reading lately: of being lost and being found.  All the characters: the dark, the light, the in-between mega pixel grey ones, all of them are looking for understanding and to have someone say, “well now, there you are.”  There seems to be an absolute universal fear in being alone.  And everything I’m reading cries connection.  It’s instinctual and requires constancy and compassion.  How it turns, how it sometimes warps and manifests in something either grotesque or otherwise endearingly human and soft depends on how the tale goes on.  But it begins there—in connection.  It just does. A meeting of souls.  A finding of a mate.  It begins there—the human story begins, I believe, there.   

I’m in a book group, well, actually I’m in two.  I guess I’m just that insistent on tying in through words and thoughts and ideas with people who never fail to surprise and challenge me with their thoughts and ideas about the same.  I’m not as quick as I used to be with reading. There always seems to be a “one more” that I have to do, a pan to soak, legos which become plastic landmines underfoot to be found, a bike tire to pump up, a parallelogram to locate—but I am reading.  And now I am writing too.  Because I think, there’s always going to be the one more.  Always, all the time.  And in the mean time while doing it all, and tending to its vastness, you’ll find yourself harder to locate, and then as Yoda would say, “resentful you will be.” 

It’s the real crisis of womanhood.  The loss of self in all the one mores.  It takes more effort, absolutely, for your story to include yourself.  There are lunches to pack, meetings to take, cleaning to pick up, cleaning to do.  It’s all there, all the time, the one mores.  Then there are the slip stops, the absolute walls that have no way of dissolution: the illness of children, of parents, of friends, of family.  But without it, without locating my people, without taking the time to find a refracted semblance of self in my community, I’ve felt tight and sallow.  This isn’t homecoming, though, that’s saved for my family.  Because I know them and their bumps and bruises better than my own.  And their breath is welcome and surety.  This is an attempt at connection that is beyond the pale of politeness.  As my sage friend counseled me, “write what you feel. Your tribe will find you.”  

Tribe.  Connection.  Community. 

Here’s an interesting couple of meanings:

Community: a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

Communion: the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings.

To be in community is something sacred and spiritual and Godly and true.  We were not, ever, ever, meant to be alone.  You need someone to pull you right out of the blue and into something that is alive.  For me, it was the wall of lies that I thought would protect me from harm and disavowed community.  It wasn’t until I started talking about what things were and weren’t, it wasn’t until then that I saw wholeness and recognition in another’s face.  “My mom died of cancer,” I’d say, “and now I just feel that I’m flying along without a net.”  “Maybe we can have coffee,” you say, and before I know it, we’re pulling each other up again.  And that’s how it works. 
We all need it, community.  We are in an unprecedented time of close disconnect.  We stay in touch via email, text, social media but face-to-face conversations are rare.  Seeing someone’s hopes and emotions in their handwritten notes, rarer still.  And we wonder why there is discontent.  You need people.  And I’m not discounting social media.  No way.  Without it, I would be poorer for not knowing what’s going on with countless friends and their families.  But there is something about sharing a cup of coffee, getting the immediate reaction to a story you’ve told or a joke you’ve heard, seeing the hand covering your own when you’re speaking something very hard—that takes real time. 

It’s easier, sure, to stay unlocated on a map plain, to go off the grid of sociability and say you’re not home, but look at what I’d be missing out on if you did?  I’d be the dull knife in the drawer for sure without your stone to sharpen me some.  I’m not saying it’s easy, good grief it is not, but maybe in the next few months you can decide to join something, with just yourself, not your kin, just you.  Be it a book group, yoga training, a bible study, baking class, a knitting circle, sketching, chicken raising, kickboxing, beginning guitar, or, I don’t know, a Sondheim a capella group—just maybe join something to allow someone to find you.  To tell you how much space you fill and how much your ideas are needed.  Once you know where you are, you’ll never be lost again.  That’s worth something.  The one mores can wait.  If I’d listened to all the lies burning in my brain about why I shouldn’t be doing what I am doing, if I’d allowed the one mores to continue on and on, you wouldn’t have found me.  And I’m so glad you did.    

Being found.  Now that’s a pretty grand thing. 

One last thing, remember my post on Lent?  My jar, it’s pretty full but I’ve only made it to slip # 2—15 days in.  It may take me all these days to work this out, but that’s the great thing about forgiveness.  It’s complicated to break the chains that bind you down into the mess of stress and worry, if they were weaker, they wouldn’t have a claim.  So it’s okay.  However long it takes, it takes.  We’ll make it through.  Communi/on=ity.  Thanks for finding me.  Cheers.      

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