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I returned from Seabeck late last night. The Gathering was wonderful, and the community warm, and it was undoubtedly the easiest, and most relaxed, Open Space I’d ever facilitated. Still, I found the weekend personally bittersweet. It reminded me how I am both so hungry for, and yet so utterly, determinedly, adverse to, any deeper sense of belonging.

Part of me wants to dive into that sentence and explain it more (the hungry part, I imagine); another is pressing me toward a prideful silent stoicism. I’ll compromise in saying only that I’m frustrated with myself. Over the past year I’ve managed to become more and more distanced from anything resembling a committed connection to a group–socially, professionally, politically, or otherwise–and have even actively sought this state: not-belonging feels familiar to me, and safe, and somehow an active distancing feels less painful than the deeper ache of a failed struggle to fit. At the same time, it’s painful, and troubling. It’s true that I like being on the fringes, and enjoy the necessary easy availability to many realms and peoples–I like flitting between groups and being able to understand and embrace a panoply of worldviews–but it’s hard feeling so often so homeless, and so little, myself, understood.

I don’t know what it is that whistles me back, either, nor why I keep knocking timidly on the door of the human collective. It is so easy for me to feel understood, and at home, in the broader expanses of sky and sea, or curled catlike in my own fond imaginings of the larger world, or even–perhaps most of all–in the meeting of a single Other, stranger or friend, in those particular depths that seem impossible to plumb with more than three or four other beings at a time.

Perhaps I was born with gills instead of lungs; perhaps I can only breathe easily in the depths; perhaps the effort of remaining up there, with others, no matter how gentle and inclusive their gestures, no matter how similar their views, is too much. I’m frustrated with myself. How can I love individuals so much, yet feel so started, and so exhausted, by the whole?


But outside that too-introspective lamentation, the gathering–and those who comprised it–was wonderful. I wish I could spend more of my life in circles; it was a gift being able to participate; the intimations of deeper friendships that flickered in the evenings were generous and promising; the work and the stories of those who came were inspiring.

And again, and again, and again, it was a gift to count myself among, even for a short while, this body of beings who’d been touched–even transformed–by the practice of an unusually attentive and heartful listening. It made me want, as always, to listen more, and made me wish I had more often the courage to speak.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Siona,I have exactly the same feelings of ambiguity: simultaneously wanting and shunning community or The Circle.
    Visually I see it as the difference between a lone dot, floating free in endless space, and a dot within a circle (which is the dot sheltered and protected).
    You have expressed those two states so vividly, I recognise every bit.

    November 12, 2010
  2. “How can I love individuals so much, yet feel so started, and so exhausted, by the whole?”

    I agree with Natalie that you have captured my own feelings. You are not alone in your state: pulled simultaneously toward and away from people. I have always loved your positive spin, which I can tell comes truly from the depths of you, and thus (be assured) is your nature. I think you’ll work out a balance eventually, and you’ll find “home” amongst people and somewhat apart from the masses. You are a shining soul.

    We will continue to move through this puzzling contradiction and one of these days our path will make sense. No worries!

    November 13, 2010
  3. Natalie: Thank you for the reflection. For some reason, reading your mirroring back made me fall into this appreciation of the both / and nature of that ambivalence–that a deep knowledge of one almost depends on an equally sensitive understanding of the opposite, in the same way that love and loss are tied.

    Thank you.

    Crystal: It is lovely not to feel quite so alone in that contradiction, then. And I suppose that even if my path never makes sense it’s far better than forgoing the journey entirely.

    November 14, 2010

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