I’m having a hard day, acknowledging the ways that my life isn’t what I want it to be right now.  I feel like I’ve lost my passion — at least, I don’t know where it is right now.  My days are lazy compared to my days at Twin Oaks, so much routine, so much unimportant bullshit.  I haven’t created a meaningful life for myself out here.  I guess I should say, I haven’t done it YET.  A lot of what’s hard for me is getting stuck in despair and hopelessness.  My life isn’t what I want it to be and I don’t see the path towards it… (but really, that’s because I don’t have a clear vision of what I want!)

 I visited Twin Oaks this weekend for a birthday party for Jonah, a six year-old who turned 2 just months after I moved to the community.  I’ve watched him learn how to talk, count, and argue, and seen his personality develop through mirroring the many adults close to him.  It felt like home to be at his birthday party.  It was a Harry Potter party (yup, even on the commune, people are obsessed with Hogwarts!), and everyone dressed up as a character from the stories.  Jonah was Harry, and his 3 yr old sister was Hermione (as was my 6 yr old stepson Ruis, Jonah’s best friend).  An older man in the community (Jake, for those who know) was Dumbledore (using a green graduation robe from Commie Clothes, and his own gray beard!).  There was a Prof McGonagall (Madge) and a Prof Snape (Thomas).  A couple who just had a baby last year (Mala and Ezra) were Harry’s dead parents, and Zadek (their son) was baby Harry.  A red-haired boy was Ron (Rowan), and a redhead Canadian woman was a distant Weasly relative from Canada (Valerie).  I ran up to Commie Clothes (the collective free “thrift store”) before the party to find a costume, and settled on Moaning Myrtle.  It turned out that I wasn’t as original as I thought, because Hawina showed up crying with pigtails, too!  (There were also several muggles, who hadn’t found anything to wear as a costume)

 I loved being at the party, celebrating and playing dress-up with my (still) closest friends.  Jonah’s mom had arranged a treasure hunt as part of the party, and asked me and two other women to canoe around the pond and place lighted tea-lights in the water for the finale.  In the light of dusk, we rowed across the water and talked about our lives, lighting candles until we looked behind us and realized that the wind had blown almost all of them out.  Alas! When the kids came down to the pond they were still excited to be rowed across to the sauna, which was really Hagrid’s cabin, where they all received wands.  When the kids were safely across (life jackets and all), I curled up on the bank of the pond with my two friends.  We snuggled and talked about our lives until the sun went down and it was time for dinner.

Earlier in the day, before the party, I facilitated a meeting between two of my friends.  They work together as part of a team at Twin Oaks, and had been struggling some with personal dynamics, old issues for both of them.  We had all worked together as part of the same team, and they had asked me to come out and help them talk through some of the issues with each other.  I was honored to be asked, that they trusted me to hold the space for them to talk about hard things.  This is another thing that I miss out here… people who want to work through their issues and who take steps forward together.  There’s a deeper incentive to do it at Twin Oaks, because people are interwoven into each other’s lives.  Though not everyone at Twin Oaks does it, there’s an assumption that it’s at least a possibility, and many (if not most) pursue mediation together when there’s a conflict.

By dinnertime, I was feeling the power of life at Twin Oaks, a rich mixture of work and play.  I felt fulfilled in the work I had done to mediate the dialogue for my friends, and assist Thea with Jonah’s party (and take responsibility for childcare for Ruis all day!).  The whole time I was “working”, I was also engaged in deep connections with my close friends.  Everything I did was working towards strengthening relationships, and thus strengthening the community.  I miss that clarity of purpose, present through all kinds of different actions and experiences.  How can I find that out here, beyond the commune?  Can everything I do be a part of strengthening relationships when I don’t know the people around me?  When there are cultural expectations that foster isolation and superficial relationships?  How do I catapult beyond those?  And, how do I immunize myself against their influence… how do I keep myself from getting sucked in by the pervasive culture of isolation when I’m surrounded by people not making eye contact, ignoring the other people standing at the bus stop, sitting in a whole roomful of people and not interacting with a single one because they’re all staring straight forward at their computer screen?  How can I foster community here, when no one feels connected to people except who they’ve “chosen” as friends?  The KEY of community is recognizing our interdependence beyond our small sphere of experience.

 After dinner I hung out with two close friends while Ruis, Jonah, and Willow played down the hall.  Ah, the power of a communal residence.  We were in my friend Sky’s room, which is just up the stairs from Jonah and Gwen’s room (right next to their dad’s room), which is just down the hall from Willow and his mom’s rooms.  The kids bounced back and forth between Willow and Jonah’s rooms, and I didn’t have to worry at all about Ruis because he could easily come get me if he needed to.

 Sky and Kassia and I talked about our lives, relationships, fears, and possibilities… these are the kinds of conversations I miss.  Sharing deep reflections, laughing and snuggling, taking turns being in the middle… Is it just that I haven’t developed new relationships in my life out here, or is there something intrinsic to the communal experience?  I think it’s a little bit of both.  The depth to which we’re able to share with each other is rooted in our shared experience and our intense interdependence.

 I’m working on being patient, remembering that I left the community in part because I wanted to do the work of building community in the larger world.  I need to remember that it will take time and work, and I need to find other ways of nurturing myself while I’m doing this work.  Going back to Twin Oaks feels healthy, reminding me of what’s possible.  Instead of feeling hopeless because of how much of my life out here isn’t what I want it to be, I want to focus on the work that I want to do to offer something different.  What does that look like?  That’s the question I want to focus on… it’s all about believing that it’s possible.

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