Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Struggling Under Skeleton Woman

" they lift their masks and become vulnerable, they discover that community can be a terrible place, because it is a place of relationship; it is the revelation of our wounded emotions and of how painful it can be to live with others, especially with some people. It is so much easier to live with books and objects, television, or dogs and cats! It is so much easier to live alone and just do things for others, when one feels like it.” 
- Jean Vanier, Community and Growth 

These past few weeks have dealt a devastating blow to my optimism and hope.

My roommate from Houston, Taylor, joined us a bit over a week ago, then decided she did not actually want to be here in Phoenix with us, and she left on Monday to go back to North Carolina.

As I walked through the feelings of betrayal, hurt, and frustration, I watched my vision of community die. I saw how my worth was tied to the "success" of this community, how I thought it would succeed if people joined, committed, fought it out with one another and themselves, and stayed.

This is what I had been dreaming of for two years.
This is what I had been preparing for.
This was what I had been creating and anticipating with every meeting, every conversation, every book.

I had not been preparing for such death. And death so soon.

From the scattered ashes of this fire, I am looking for new life. Now is a chance to re-imagine community, to find equal footing with those around me and participate in something we create together instead of something I've created for them. Now I have the opportunity to step back and say, "I am not in charge of this. Should we do it together?"

Since Taylor left, Emily, Justin and I have discussed where we are headed. We know right now, after such pain, we can not handle the amount of intensity we have experienced thus far in our community. We decided we would spend less planned time together, leaving more space for our own individual desires and values, navigating how to build friendships with one another and with others while maintaining our own unique perspectives and paths.

Another aspect of all of this is that Justin and I have decided to start dating.

Yeah, we lived together first and then started dating. It's kind of weird. The mentors and guides we have found in our lives have reminded us that this isn't all that weird. People have been living in community for generations, seeking to build relationships and serve others, and in that process have found people they end up spending their lives with.

As we navigate community we are also navigating each other, how to be most ourselves with one another, how to invest into one another and the relationships around us, how to find life in all this and seek the direction that has been laid before us.

I've watched a deforestation take place in this community. All the things we were growing have been chopped down. It looks so barren. But in the midst of this, there is a flower blooming despite the death, finding life in the ashes that nourishes it and pushes it toward the sun.

"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in."
- Leonard Cohen, Anthem 

The season of Advent has never meant much to me. I have never really cared for ritual or tradition. 

As I enter this Advent season with both a broken and full heart, I am looking forward, eagerly anticipating the arrival of hope, of light, of new birth. I will be bringing Advent ritual into my life on a daily basis. 

I will leave you with a quote from Louise Erdrich that has brought me hope over the past few days:

"Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. 

You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. 

And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. 

Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could." 

I will taste as much of life as I can, despite the pain, despite the death, despite despite despite. 

If you are interested in finding out where the title of this blog came from, you can read the story of Skeleton Woman HERE

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