Hi all, I’m filling in for Kelley today since she is at Camp Widow Toronto. She’ll be back with us next week! Until then, I’m sitting down to write who-knows-what to you, on the fly. I suppose the first thing that comes to mind right now is community. It’s been on my mind all morning. Not only am I missing Camp Widow Toronto, and all the laughter and tears that are shared within this unique, incredible group of people, but I’ve also been missing my overall sense of community since moving to Ohio a year ago.
I will admit, I grossly underestimated how hard it would be to move so far from everything I’ve ever known back home in Texas. The culture itself is quite different. The people are. The restaurants and stores. The landscape and seasons. I suppose - as in grief - you really cannot grasp what it will be like, or how hard it will be, until you’re in it.
Last night I attended my first session in an art class I am taking, and instantly I was reminded of just how badly I am in need of a sense of community here in Ohio. I used to take art classes every few months back home, some just for fun, others to expand my skills for the art that I create for a living. I don’t really need classes to learn new skills though, I am great at teaching myself. What I really took those classes for, was the sense of community… the shared experience. The feeling that I am not alone. The affirmation that I am doing just fine. Being able to have others build my confidence and do the same for them. That beautiful give and take that makes being human so amazing and worthwhile. In art and in life, community is so much more important than I think we sometimes realize.
Without a sense of community, we live in a vacuum. We live inside our own minds far too much. Without any external voices to bounce off of, we begin listening to that inner sensor that says we aren’t healing fast enough, dating soon enough, or finding our way. And ultimately, that we ourselves are not enough. The more we listen, the bigger the voice gets. And the less confident we become in ourselves. Eventually, we truly start to believe that sensor as fact, and that is where - in life as well as in art - we get “stuck”.
Without realizing it, I’ve been getting creatively stuck this past year. Although the many adventures that Mike, Shelby and I go on keep my creativity and my spirit up - that alone is not enough to fuel me and keep the cup full enough to create art from. It has been increasingly difficult to be motivated to make things, and my excitement for it has waned. Creativity is so connected to life and soul and grief and confidence and faith and hope… so I see them really all as one interconnected thing.
I learned last night, in this class, about this idea of the vacuum and the sensor taking you over. It seemed so simple yet I had totally not seen it before. This is why I did so well after Drew died - because I made sure to have tons of community around me, widows, artists, family, friends… I felt supported and lifted up so much of the time. I felt like I had many people I could turn to. I was rich in community.
And now, here I am in a much happier time of my life, and oddly, I have very little community. Does everyone just stop calling you when you find a new man? Do they think you don’t need them anymore or want them? Or that you’re too busy? Or that they don’t need to worry about you anymore? Or did I push them away without realizing it? Whatever the case may be, it’s been an oddly lonely year. A beautiful year of love within my romantic life, and with Shelby. But a seriously lonely life when it comes to a greater sense of community.
I hope this experience gets others thinking the way it did me. Sometimes, the process of greiving can be so lonely that you get very used to that alone time. Eventually, that can lead to us forgetting we need community, if we aren’t careful. Community is what made me still feel alive in the midst of grief, more than just about anything else. So I hope if you’re in a place where things are feeling flat, or you want to feel more alive in the midst of your grief, that you’ll reach out and look for community in others. I know this week it has really shown me that I need to make some changes. I need to be proactive at building a new community around me here in Ohio, not only to be my best creative self, but to be able to be and give the most that I can in all areas of my life. There really is nothing like finding your people, is there? I may be starting over in a way here, but I will find them.