On self-care: community

we have been mostly turning inward so far on our self-care journey, but we won't get far without acknowledging the importance of our community.


community, to me, is like a body of water. we wade out vulnerable into this sea-- a complicated network of connections --and we hope that some of them hold strong enough to keep us afloat.


this far-reaching sea carries us to new experiences, and to new levels of confidence and honesty. sometimes it carries us when we can't hold ourselves up; other times we see our own purpose and make use of our own strength in order to help our communities.


i have been feeling exceptionally grateful for community this week-- a week that has showed me new highs and lows. i have suddenly found myself without my partner of three years and consequently without a home. as confident as i feel in knowing that independence is the right step for me, i'm still shaken. the life i knew has abruptly ended, and instead of being able to focus on healing and building up the new, empty spaces inside of myself i have had to focus on finding new places to simply sleep and eat. my community came to my rescue, however. i feel safe and i feel happy. i feel loved and honored. i feel energized by the people around me-- the people who care about my welfare and have offered their arms and their homes to me to keep me from falling down.


for most of us community has five branches: friendship, romance, workplace, public space, interest space

and within each branch there is, or should be, a give and take balance

it's all fluid. connections can enter and exit into different branches or inhabit many at once-- they can take from you more than they give or give to you more than they take...


friendship is arguably the most important branch of community. friendships can build us up or drain us more easily than the other branches and so it is more important for us to maintain that give-take balance. in friendship you should feel an unconditional need to support and carry one another through hard times and celebrate each other during the good times. for some, maintaining quality of friendship over quantity is essential, whereas for others having a wide selection of lighter friendships works best for them. personally i have found that keeping a small circle of very deep, close friends energizes me and gives me the support i need.

good friends are sometimes the friends you won't see for long periods of time. the strongest connections can stand the test of time and distance. the feeling you get when you see a good friend after a long time-- that feeling like no time has passed-- is a great indicator of a deep friendship. what kind of friendships sustain you? quality or quantity, or a mix of both? think about the friends you have and if you've been balancing your gives and takes with them.


the scariest, most passionate connections within our community are the romantic ones. when romance sparks it is impossible to ignore. it can be all-consuming. a proper romance should motivate us to be the best, most honest version of ourselves. romance invigorates the senses. old things appear new again; we feel content and confident with ourselves. romantic connection inspires love and intimacy-- both crucial parts of self-care. we share more of ourselves in a romantic connection-- we are inherently vulnerable when we are involved in romance because of the give and take. We need to give ourselves in order to receive the person we find so special. Romance should be a never-ending process of spilling into one another. Like waves, we crash towards our significant others relentlessly-- stopping or slowing would restrict momentum, but as long as both sides push and pull there will always be a romantic force at play. Romance is serious and unserious all at once. As grave as it can be to let your guard down with a romantic partner, it is also the most satisfying and liberating sensation. how do you sustain romance with your partner? how do you invite romantic connections into your community? how has meeting another at a vulnerable, romantic level helped open you up to new feelings and sensations?


maintaining a healthy community at your workplace is essential to self-care and quality of life. we all have to do some type of work for a living, and working in harmony with others improves the actual work we do and helps with our sense of purpose and personal success. my workplace communities have often flowed into being true friendships-- this can be detrimental to workplace productivity, however, so it is important to compartmentalize the roles your fluid relationships take in different environments. for example, there is a subtle but distinct difference in the way marlee and i behave toward one another while we work at have company versus when we are not working. if you are in school, i would say that the community you have built in school falls into the workplace category. i have a close group of peers who i respect and work with creatively in my fashion program, and having that community helps us all work with more energy and efficiency. furthermore, it is important to feel safe enough with the people in your workspace to ask for help and feedback when you need it. the worst thing you can do for yourself is to not ask for a second opinion. how does your workplace community impact your work? are there ways in which you can foster and stronger, closer community at work?


the public space community is a delicate, shallow space of social interaction that has very deep effects. essentially it is the network of people you cross paths with but do not know. this community is what you see on the street or at the grocery store... you may not pay attention to faces or individuals, but this unique blend of anonymous people you encounter on a daily basis truly affects our moods and sense of well-being. i feel lucky to live in grand rapids because of the public space community i have here. i still hardly know anyone here after two years, but i know what to expect when i go out in public. i never feel scrutinized or judged; i don't feel like i have to perform in any way when i am out in about. i know a lot of people in other cities who have mild anxiety just leaving the house because they haven't found an ideal public space community. how do you feel when you step out in public? how can public space and anonymous connections help you and your personal self-care goals?


the interest space community is like public space and friendship swirled together: this is the community you have sought out for yourself to pursue interests and pleasures. it could be the people you see time and time again at concerts, or bars, or ceramics class, or at the gym or at your favorite park. we come together with this community on the axis of shared interest. this community can feel like a breath of fresh air because we don't have to open up quite as much as we do in friendship or in romance, we are not forced to be in this community the way we are in the workplace, and yet we can share more of ourselves and gain more from others than in the public space. the interest space community is a stabilizer-- however it only stabilizes us if we keep it in balance with our other communities. it is easy to be drawn to the interest space and the interest space only. this community can encourage addiction and skew or moral compass if we are not careful about balance. how does your interest space stabilize you? how can you check yourself to make sure you aren't abusing your interest space community or letting it abuse you?


a couple more important notes on community:

be grateful. always.

remember that each person you meet is full and special no matter how deep your level of interaction goes. we all have many things to offer one another and it is too easy to take that for granted.

keep looking and searching and meeting.

be open to new people as well as people from your past. you'll likely never know what you need from someone until they reveal what they have to offer to you.

stop judging.

give everyone a chance. period. we all open up at different paces; first impressions can be hard; closing yourself off from someone only hurts you in the long run, unless you can be sure that this person is toxic or detrimental to your own self-care.

next week i will be writing about mindfulness and intention in self-care.