This weekend I went on a quick trip to San Francisco. Left early Friday morning and got home even earlier on Sunday morning after a Saturday evening departure. I got to visit with a long lost family member who turned out to be a similar path of intentionally living a life that she loves and wants (which was amazing) and I got to be constantly challenged (which, while also amazing in some ways, was exhausting).
I was challenged by the main purpose of the trip. To attend a freedomcommunity Symposium, and surrounding events.
Where to start… What is Freedomcommunity? First, there is no definition… which is the kind of mystique that begins concerns about whether it is a cult or something equally unpalatable. There is no definition because everyone gets to have their own definition. I hear people call it a chosen family. I hear people call it an idea. I hear people call it a group. I hear people say it is everyone and no one. I, when asked, essentially say that it’s a group of folks (who I was introduced to by my beloved) who are dedicated to a level of consciousness, communication, and mindful acceptance of all that I don’t see as highly concentrated in one place in my day to day life. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but it is something that celebrates every moment, even the uncomfortable ones. I don’t know if I am or I am in freedomcommunity, but I don’t have to know or also get to decide either way at any given moment (that’s the freedom part, to me).
The symposium weekend kicked off with a welcome dinner and gathering at an FCers home. As my beloved joyously reconnected with folks who had seen her through dark times I was introduced to them and found many made more direct and lengthy eye contact and gave hugs that last several moments longer than most eye contact and hugs I get outside of my emotionally intimate relationships. And that was pretty awesome. Then there was more of the same from folks that she and I were both meeting for the first time. And that felt incredibly welcoming.
And then it started to get dark out. And more people came. And it got louder. And it got warmer. And my glasses started to get foggy. And I couldn’t hear, get comfortable, or see… and I was pushed past my limit. Apparently, in order to have a good time, I have to be able to hear, see, and be physically comfortable. But instead of just seeing and saying that and going home, I tried to push against it… I tried to challenge myself to see that this was different from the other parties I had gone to and loathed. These people were safe, and I was allowed to be and feel whatever I was feeling… and for some reason that was supposed to be enough to get me past my very real sensorial preferences. It didn’t work, and I was eventually on the front porch in tears, completely overstimulated and feeling deeply ashamed about my inability to connect deeply when presented the opportunity.
The next day was the actual symposium and we spent about six hours in a university classroom listening to impassioned speakers explain that we’re all (literally) made of stardust, give us tools to maintain a sattvic mind, explore the way we communicate with and listen to each other, ask us to examine our privileges, and encourage us to know ourselves as revolutionaries. The speakers were great, the chairs were comfortable enough, beloved and I had snacks… but my inner critic was still present and making herself known. In any moment where I wasn’t fully loving the speaker or the opportunity to be there I was judging myself. When given a prompt to spend ten minutes connecting with someone I hadn’t yet spoken to that weekend, I went to the bathroom instead. It had gotten too hot and loud again.
There were a few hours in the middle of the day where I liked myself enough to enjoy and appreciate what I was experiencing but by the end I was quite far from the celebratory bliss I saw on the faces of so many others. I had been pushed past my limit of comfort and connection, only instead of getting too little… I got too much.
The next day when I found myself at a baby shower with several people I know, am comfortable with, and really enjoy and not wanting to talk to anyone I knew that something was really effecting me. I drowned those feelings in corn chips and the cheese tray and forced myself to be social and believe I was having a good time. It worked, I started to remember that I actually do like people and connection (phew)!
This morning, crying to my best friend about how I was feeling it was revealed that I was ashamed of my own limits. I cried because I can’t function if I’m hot, can’t hear, and can’t see (what am I, a toddler?). I cried because there was opportunity to connect and I didn’t take it (do I not believe that love is the answer after all?). I cried because there was opportunity for joy and gratitude and I didn’t feel it (I wasted time being triggered instead). I cried because I didn’t want to gaze into the willing eyes of every person in the room (because I’m not as open as I like to think I am?). I cried because I am sensitive and it feels like it gets in the way (of everything. all. the. time).
I cried most of all because I don’t want to try and be any other way… I have been working so hard the last couple years to find and be my best self. And I am her. And she’s not perfect. And her “imperfections” don’t permit me to thrive and enjoy in every single environment… but they have flip sides that enhance my life in numerous ways. I am happy with who, what, and where I am right now. I don’t want anything more. I don’t want to push myself any further than where I am right now and I felt badly about that (until I started to realize that where I am right now is already constantly evolving). I also felt badly that being me didn’t result in me having the perceived elation I saw other people having all around me (until I remembered that comparison is not a helpful tool).
My intention for this weekend was to feel out the freedomcommunity experience… so I would have more information about what it is (at least for me) and how to incorporate it into my life (or not). And even though I was clear in that intention–and fulfilled it, some other part of me had a more romanticized hope… that I’d lavish in the hugs and conversations… that I’d know emotional intimacy within moments of meeting people… that I’d feel instantly comfortable to be completely myself.
And that hope wasn’t fulfilled, because freedomcommunity does invite me to be fully myself… and myself can be, and was this weekend, sensitive, shy, hesitant to reveal all of what I am, desperately wanting of love and approval, easily overwhelmed, expecting of perfection from herself, constantly self examining, and always pushing for more–and I’m not always comfortable with her.
I often sit down to write something that I’m almost through processing and by the time I get to this point in the composition I’m feeling a sense of completion. Not quite this time… I’m still just almost there. I’m starting to appreciate the experience for what it was: an opportunity to experience a facet of myself that I need to know about, a intention that I acted on, an entre in an abundance of potential experiences that I can access or invite into my life at any time.
But fading shame has left lingering shadows of fear… I’m afraid that by acknowledging I have limits, that I’ll be limited. I’m afraid that saying I’ve reached a place where I’m happy to be who and where I am that means I will stop growing. I’m afraid that this proclamation of accessed self-ness is actually denial and a refusal to look and find an unknown that might be even more frightening than what I already know I’m afraid of. I’m afraid that refusing to challenge myself further right now will prevent me from experiencing deeper meaning in life. I’m afraid to say all of this out loud and show how much fear and shame I sometimes still experience. I’m afraid to let myself be seen by people who I was hiding from all weekend so they wouldn’t know how difficult this was for me.
But I’ve said it before… when I really want to avoid writing about something, that’s usually the thing I need to write about. And out it comes…