Reese’s Reflections on Community
So much has changed in a matter of months. I’ve moved, gotten a new job, started the Too Thrifty Chicks venture with Ricks, and met some incredibly fascinating people. Ricks and I started Operation Do Better to tackle debt and save money, and that has been more of a blessing to each of us and others than we could have ever imagined. Life is moving…and I’m trying to move with it.
About a month before we officially moved in together, Ricks sent me a blog post called, “Create a Superhealth Community.” It couldn’t have been more on time. The very morning that she sent it, I was freaking out about moving and all the changes that would happen. I lived alone at the time — and for good reason. A year and a half prior, I was in a challenging roommate situation that convinced me that if I was
going to have another roommate, surely it would have to be my life partner. Living alone really spoke to my inner solitude. If I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I didn’t have to. If I wanted to hide my head under the covers all day because I didn’t want to be an adult, I could do that. Going back into a roommate situation freaked me out because I knew I would be in a space where I’d have to be mindful of someone else. And not just anybody. Someone who I had only recently developed a friendship with.
Because of some shared experiences (including a roadtrip to ATL for a race), I had developed a deep appreciation for Ricks, particularly her character, her style, and her willingness to see life as a series of adventures worth tackling. I had a number of concerns about moving. Worry about damaging our newly formed friendship was not the least among them. But, even in my freaking out, my spirit knew moving was the right thing to do. The blog post Ricks sent calmed me and reminded me that (as Ricks put it) “It’s good for us!”
And indeed it has been. I am overwhelmingly grateful for the community my roommate and I have built in our home space. I think my first “ah ha” moment about this came when Ricks went off to Florida for a week for work sometime in December. The weirdest thing happened: I actually missed my roommate! Dinner and TV alone wasn’t as appealing to me as it had been, not because I don’t like quiet time (there are times where we’re in the same room and never talk), but because the equilibrium of our shared space felt off. When I picked her up from the airport, it was like a flood gate opened. We talked a mile a minute for hours (literally), finishing each other’s sentences as we sometimes do. Perhaps for the first time, we realized that whatever our respective life journeys are, we were destined to support each other along the way.
We joke about how often we’re #twinning (thinking/doing the same thing) but even in those jokes there’s a bit of affirmation/comfort in knowing that as much as another human can understand me, she does. Our home is a place of laughter, silliness, transparency, and comfort — all of which (I think) people feel when they come visit. Several of our friends have joked about wanting to come live with “the thrifty chicks” and we always reply with something like “Come on! There’s an air mattress for you!” We’re quite lucky to have each other, but I think we’re equally lucky to share our lives and adventures with the people in our lives. It’s a great reminder that our individual lives are never solely about us. We all have some role to play in others’ journeys.
The warmth and encouragement of community isn’t limited to our in-person encounters. Everyday we’re amazed at the level of honesty and accountability exhibited in our small but faithful group of friends and friends of friends who are committed to Operation Do Better. In our Facebook group, we post our successes and struggles, cheering each other on like we’ve known each other for years when in reality, most of us have never met in person. In just a month’s time, people have had exciting victories and we can’t wait to see what will happen by the end of 2013! Empowerment is happening…and it feels great to be a part of it!
We’ve been meaning to write a post about ‘community’ for a while now, because we spend a lot of time talking about it. In some ways, I think it’s hard to write about just how important community is. The gratefulness I have for the people in my life sometimes can’t be put into words, but I hope my actions toward them shows my appreciation. There is one thing I wholeheartedly believe: if there is to be genuine change in this world, if there is to be healing where hurts exists, it will start with the relationships each of us build with each other. Wholeness can only be accomplished through community building.
A word about community from Ricks…
When I reflect on the four years that preceded my moving to the D.C. metro area, I can only describe them as solitary. I had tons of friends and great work colleagues, but I lived alone. And the only-child in me that places a high value on her private, quiet, personal space thought that I liked it that way.
But the truth of the matter is I always lived as if I was going to suddenly be whisked away from the tiny house where I lived. It was sparsely furnished because I really only slept there. It wasn’t a place where I entertained friends over meals that we cooked in my tiny kitchen together, and it wasn’t a place where I watched movies and drank wine with a so-called “significant other.” It simply was the place where I slept and got dressed for work every morning. It wasn’t a place that I considered home.
When I moved, I knew I wanted things to be different, but had no real thoughts or ideas about how to change that, or any inclination of what I was really trying to change. I was a full participant in this world where self- reliance and independence are valued above connecting with others. Being transparent enough to let others help me in ways I didn’t know I needed help was something that I craved, but I had no clue how to let my guard down. How I solved this dilemma that I didn’t even know I was having is rather unique because I didn’t solve it at all. It solved itself.
First, friends of a friend opened their doors and their furnished basement to me to give me an opportunity to get my sea legs in a new town and to look for a place to live. They were a sweet, fun couple who took a chance that I wasn’t a horrible person. I mostly kept to myself, but they were always friendly. Whether it was helping me get my things out of my packed car when I first arrived on a cold, rainy afternoon at the end of March 2011 or lending me a fleece so that I’d have something warm to wear in Afghanistan, I couldn’t have had a nicer introduction to a scary new place.
I was baffled at how to make friends in a strange new place, so I reached out to colleagues who I knew lived in the area and fell back on my sorority ties to connect. These were all things that I’d done in the past whenever I moved to a new area. But it didn’t work as I had intended. Where I thought I’d find a comfort zone was non-existent. It’s like the universe wanted me to do something completely new, so I did. I managed to connect with a friend, who wasn’t a friend when I originally met her because in the space that we used to know each other, we didn’t really “know” each other. (You caught that right?) I also deepened a friendship that started in the place that I had just left.
Through Meetups, church and getting involved in other organizations
I have made and built friendships that have been a blessing to me and continue to be so. Through these friendships is also how I met Reese. If two spirits were ever destined to meet and make friends, then we are those spirits. I’ve been fortunate enough to have roommates exactly at key points in my adult life when I needed them. But Reese is truly the first person that made me think about the value of shared space and shared investment in the deepness of each other’s lives. I’ve been fortunate enough to like all of my previous roommates and even had deep affinity for one or two, but this is different. It’s a rare thing to live with someone who just gets you. Most people expect this type of synergy to come in their romantic relationships and maybe for some people it does, but she and I are like peas and carrots. We just go together. And it’s good for us.
When I learned my mother was diagnosed with earlier onset Alzheimer’s and started reading up on the things that can contribute to this devastating illness, I came across this New York Times article about an island of people who regularly live to be 100 or older. These centenarians get regular exercise by walking everywhere because they don’t drive, they drink a little wine regularly, and grow a lot of what they eat. But what struck me most was that though some of them had lived through tragedies, including the death of their own children and even being diagnosed with cancer, they had each other. They enjoyed each other’s company and had stimulating conversations.
In our country, it’s common place that getting older means losing friends and family to death and illness. After the death of a spouse, or even divorce, some people never find love again and live out their lives in solitude that gets louder and louder as they get older. One day you look up and everyone that you used to know is gone. You drift away from meeting new people, disengage from the things that used to bring you joy because you no longer feel like you have anyone to do them with. This also can happen to single people as their various friends go off down the traditional path of getting married and starting families.
But many studies have shown that connecting to a community of people and engaging in acts that keep you mentally stimulated and involved, whether they be with family or friends, is vital to your health.
As Reese mentioned about the blog post I sent to her, it’s good for you. So often, I think we get caught up in the idea that when you’re an adult, you shouldn’t really need anybody that isn’t your so-called “significant other.” Some might even argue that you can only have this kind of relationship with a spouse. But I disagree. Investing in the lives of others and making real connections can happen in any kind of relationship if you let it. I believe that this adventure with Reese is teaching me to value all of my relationships individually and collectively, to not place more pressure on one than another, and to find ways to connect with others and build community wherever in the world I might be because ultimately it is for my good and the greater good of others.