The Start of a Love Story for Community
I have a confession to make. I am terrified of letting you read this post. I told Heather once that, most of the time, I would rather strip down naked and go for a walk down my street than let people read my writing. She was surprised, as she considers me a good writer with things to say that she thinks people ought to hear.
I think there are a few reasons that allowing people to read my writing makes me feel so incredibly vulnerable. The first is that writing, for me, is a kind of therapy. And not in an ‘I journal every day’ kind of way. I tend to write a lot of fiction where I have conversations with my characters – some of them based on real people – and, during these conversations, they frequently tell me things I need to hear. How, exactly, I have wondered, do I tell you about these conversations without sounding like I am slightly insane?
For instance, once, in an imaginary conversation with one of my characters, I asked, “What happens when you find out that all the stories I’ve told you about me aren’t actually true?”
After some thought, he responded with his own question. “What happens when you find out that they are?”
Well. That floored me a bit. I was struggling, a lot, with imposter syndrome at the time. It’s a thing that happens to all of us, I think. We are terrified of what will happen when folks realize that everything we’ve made them believe about us is a total farce and they see us for the inept, insecure beings that we really are.
But his question re-framed things for me. What if all those things I’ve made folks believe about me are actually true? What if I am as capable and clever and smart as I think I’m pretending to be? And hey – what if you are, too?
You see my dilemma. How, exactly, do I properly cite that bit of wisdom? Did it come from me? Or did it arise from a tulpa I have unwittingly created?
Or, another time, in a discussion I was having with yet another of my fictional characters who happened to be an actor, I asked, “Was it hard, giving up so much for the role that made you such a huge, public figure?”
“It was,” he told me. “But the character didn’t take everything.”
“How did you keep what you needed?” I pressed.
“I trusted the people who cared about me,” he said. “I knew that they would bring me back when I got too far away from myself.”
At the time, I was struggling about stepping into this new role as business partner with Heather in the Centre. It all felt bigger and more visible than anything I’d ever done. I suppose I wanted to pick the brain of someone who’d had to make a choice like that before.
“It’s scary when it feels so much bigger than you,” I confessed.
“It is,” he agreed. “But there’s a kind of freedom in it, too.”
“How?” I wondered.
“It’s too big to break,” he said.
Another giant ah-ha moment. Maybe, just maybe, this Holding Space work I was moving towards was big enough to bear even my failures. Maybe it’s bigness wasn’t a constraining thing, but a freedom, instead. If it’s bigger than me, then both my screw-ups and my successes will have less impact on it than I fear. It’s too big for little old me to break on my own. And, if I can trust the people who love me, the danger of becoming lost in that bigness becomes so much less.
The second reason I am terrified of letting you read this is because I have no way to influence how you read or receive my words here. I can’t be in live dialogue with you. I can’t change how you’ve interpreted something you’ve read by my facial expressions or my tone of voice. You can’t even read this with my voice in your head if you don’t know me. In a strange way, I feel like I am giving myself up to you through this. You are internalizing me as you read, projecting your own thoughts and feelings and opinions onto my written words that might have very little to do with what I think I’ve actually written. You are deciding things about me solely based on what I’ve left here on this page and I have no choice but to let you. I have no recourse to alter your opinion of me as you read.
That’s really hard for me to accept, because this is not the last post I will be writing for the Centre and I imagine I’m going to say things that evoke feelings in you and we won’t necessarily have a chance to talk about it as you go. I wish I could. I wish you could have seen my face as I told you the stories of my imaginary conversations so you could see that I’m really just a bit goofy, and not downright delusional.
It’s a helpless feeling, letting you read my words right now.
And yet. This work of Holding Space that I am continually being drawn to, much to my consternation, seems to demand more and more of just that – releasing my need to control and submitting to the lessons of helplessness.
I’ve sub-titled this post ‘A Love Letter to Community’ because, in the end, I have concluded that community is the only reason I have ever been able to give up any control or submit to helplessness. Those things cannot be done in a vacuum of apart-ness, or they tear you apart. However, those things also cannot be done within communities devoid of true love. Hence the title of my post, ‘Find Your People. Be Each Other’s People.’ The wrong communities can be as damaging to us as having no community at all.
As a part of my role here at the Centre for Holding Space, much of my job is to hold the rim of the community we are building here. It is to help create an environment in which healthy community can grow and thrive so that the work of Holding Space can grow and thrive in turn.
On this blog, I plan to share my stories of the communities that have held me. I also want to share the stories of the communities others have found themselves in that have held them. I want to talk about how we can build better communities together and explore some of the things that keep us apart. I want to dig into the role of suffering and impermanence in community building, but also think about the role of love in the midst of it all. I will, inevitably, talk about God, because I don’t know how to talk about these things apart from Them, but I want you to know upfront that I have very little interest in trying to convert you to a particular deity or religion.
(Also, in regards to God and for the record, I think it’s fair that I warn you that I will use the gender-neutral pronouns “They and Them” when referring to God, as I believe both that God represents Themselves in the Bible as gender-inclusive and as a Trinity – a God who is three persons in one being – a community in and of Themselves.)
I have often joked that I am a ‘community evangelist’ more than anything else. I suppose I am publicly owning that moniker now and, I think, if I ever attempt to convert you to anything, that will be what I will invite you towards.
The Centre for Holding Space was a dream I had whose end goal was to allow Heather freedom to move towards whatever the next thing the work of Holding Space wanted from her, without sacrificing all that she has built up until now. I didn’t realize how much more that dream wanted from me, as well.
And so, as I offer myself to you now in this inaugural blog post from my own brain, I’m going to be brave and believe that the story I’ve been telling folks about me is true. I’m going to trust that this work is too big for me to break or to make totally successful on my own, and I’m going to trust that the folks who care about me will bring me back if I get too far away from myself.
Oh, and I’m going to practice what I preach and engage in community with you by trusting you with the parts of me that I’m offering here, too.