Life here on the commune has been crazy and full.  Last night we had our “Validation Day” celebration, our cultural acquisition of Valentine’s Day.  We have the day off (meaning we get a day’s worth of labor credits to add to our labor balance for the week), and there are activities scheduled throughout the day (this year it was jewelry making, a table-tennis tournament, and cooperative games).  In the evening we have a lavish dinner — we often celebrate holidays on Saturdays because George and Jake are the Saturday cooks and they make marvelously rich meals (George used to be a chef in a French restaurant before he moved to the commune).

At dinner we go through a ritual of card distribution.  Folks have been working for the past month on creating elaborate cards for each member (we put out a membership list and one person signs up to make an individual’s card — so each person ends up with one card).  Most cards are collages of images and phrases that are somehow relevant to the individual, though this year there was a trend towards more creative conceptual cards (a cardboard accordion, a hula hoop made out of toilet paper rolls, lots of hand-drawn images…).  We try to have all the cards made and out in an alphabetized box about a week before the party, so that folks have enough time to go through and write in all 100ish cards (we do cards for a few ex-members who still have strong connections with the cmty, and also local friends).  The comments are intended to be appreciations and validations of the person whose card it is, not necessarily declarations of love or desire for intimacy.  Lots of folks write things like “I really appreciate the hard work you do in the dairy” or “thanks for being so willing to listen to me when I’m having a hard time” or “I love watching you work with the kids”.  Folks write all over the cards for about a week (some, like me, waiting until the last minute and spending a few hours in the lounge yesterday with the other last-minuters).

At dinner, three or four people get up and read comments, anonymously, from the cards.  We all then try to guess whose card it is, based on the content of the comments.  About 70 of us were at dinner last night (we never have everyone in the cmty in one place, ever), yelling out names until we got it right.  Some of the guesses were funny: “You’re a great leader and I appreciate the way you articulate your ideas” inspired someone to yell “Gwen!”, our youngest child (2).  When we got the name right, that person received co’s card, which ideally hadn’t been seen before then.

Looking through my card can be a bit emotionally overwhelming.  It’s a
love letter from my community, from my friends and chosen family, and
also from people who know me peripherally.  I get to read what people
think about me (though only the positive stuff), what they value in me
and my presence in the community.  I was crying before I finished
reading the first page, just from raw, amplified emotion.   The card
itself is amazing, too — an artistic representation of how someone
views me.  My friend Mala made my card; she’s a very verbal person and
my card was abundant in funny and inspiring phrases cut out of
magazines, all of which relate to me in some way.

In the midst of all the celebration, I felt a bit disappointed after reading through my card.  Certainly appreciative and honored by all the folks who wrote such sweet things… and at the same time, a bit “unseen” by lots of people.  I got a lot of appreciation for the theater I do here and the organizing I’m doing around our current musical — that was the overwhelming sentiment I got from the card.  My closer friends wrote much more personal messages and those were fantastic, and I still wanted more people to see a TickledSpirit deeper than the theater, deeper than the big projects I do.  I’m sad that people’s experience of me is so shallow, excepting my closer friends.  Few people wrote about me, my personality and their experience of ME… they just wrote about what I do here, and even then only about this one thing that I do here.

argh… I’ve been having a hard time in general lately… the winter blues?  Maybe… I don’t think so.  I’ve been going at a breakneck speed for the past month — doing doing doing doing and I haven’t spent much time at all taking care of myself, writing, dancing, painting, thinking!  Maybe my Validation Day card is merely a reflection of that, and the piece that stings so much is the truth of it.


to finish the recap of the night — after dinner I went over to a friend’s room to get ready for the dance (first she listened to me cry and vent about having a hard time — friends are great).  She lives near the community center where dinner and the dance were being held, and she invited a bunch of people to come over and get ready.  We modeled costumes and helped each other zip zippers and lace corsets (yes, corsets) and offered fashion consultation, then headed over for the dance.  The All Request Dance Band played an all Motown set (I sang lead on “Shop Around” and “Heat Wave”, and played sexy backup singer on every other song).  I loved singing “Stop in the Name of Love” — when I was 12 it was a song I would sing in my room in front of my mirror, holding an invisible microphone to my lips and belting out the chorus in my adolescent voice, doing all the hand motions.  To sing it in front of a real band in front of a real audience with a real microphone was so gratifying, fulfilling a childhood fantasy as I thrust my hand out, palm forward, belting out “Stop! in the name of love, before you break my heart” and then twirling my finger “think it oh-whoahoh-ver”.

When the band was done playing someone jumped into DJ mode and we had a dance party that lasted to the wee hours of the morning.  I danced and kissed and danced and snuck away to the “makeout couches” once or twice (which the party decorators labeled with a huge sign that said “Lips Lounge”).  The Kissing Booth is a mainstay of Twin Oaks’ Validation Day dances, and the makeout couches were an extension of that.  Hippie commune?  Sometimes we play right into the stereotype, I guess.

I left the party after some more kissing and dancing and some delightful contact improv with the DJ (my friend from New Year’s Eve — our relationship has deepened a lot in the past month… lovely!).  I walked back to my room alone in the starlight, stopping on the path to look up and take in the expanse of clear sky.  I was in the mood for some brilliant insight about the nature of life… I just saw the stars.  And that was enough for me right then.  I’ll find brilliant insight some other time.