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Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?
~December 7th writing prompt

Sometimes it’s what I crave more than anything else – a sense of belonging to a place, to people. That I’m somehow important enough to someone that we don’t go more than a day or two without talking or hanging out.

This hasn’t been my experience of life in recent times. And while I crave this thing, I very much feel the ringing absence of it all and I wonder how it’ll ever be any different. So I do what I always do, and hunker down close to the things I know. And that can be lonely, but at least there’s no feeling of rejection there. Just… space.

I’ve watched my idea of community change a whole bunch in the last few years, as much as I’ve experienced it shrinking then growing again in unexpected ways.

Before 2010 I spent so long hiding away from everyone, licking my wounds in private and slowly losing touch with those who might care.

Mostly just because it was easier than saying things like:

Yes, I was assaulted. I wasn’t raped, just beaten up. And even though it only happened once, I somehow developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression – and I’m way more surprised about that than you’ll ever be. I’m also highly embarrassed and pretty messed up. Actually, I’m really fragile in lots of ways and it can be so much effort just being out around other people, frightening me with their mysteries. Sometimes, I even consider committing suicide because constantly living in terror and having flashbacks is both exhausting and soul-destroying.

If only I could’ve said those words: they needed to be said in order to feel like I was heard. Seen. But I couldn’t, of course. Mostly because I didn’t even know what was going on for a while. Then, once I did, it wasn’t like I suddenly felt the urge to share. So my community grew small. Smaller. Smallest. Gone.

Then a flicker of life, the tiniest of sparks came back to me when I began blogging in 2008, kick-starting the process of purging sticky toxic grime from the insides of my skin.

Silently (to those not in the know) and wordfully, I published my screams and terrors and found others like me: teetering on the edge of our own extinction and yet somehow finding the strength to fight back.

Throughout, I’ve gathered my online community like the cosiest of patchwork quilts, adding another patch here and there. Creating comfort and warmth.

Some have been with me from the start, or shortly thereafter. Others are more recent. They’ve either discovered me, or I came across them – it matters not. In each other we’ve recognised the reflection of our bejewelled inner nature… we salute another solid gold soul and each and every one of you (and there are many) make me happy. Your benevolence gleams brightly in my eyes and heart.

Twitter has enhanced the sharing and further developed these friendships. I’ve even been emboldened to meet a few of my blog and Twitter friends, which has been just like I expected: in the flesh, people I’ve known and loved online and from afar are as marvellous as I imagined (oh yes, you are).

I don’t really understand how it works – but all these people I would never have met or known otherwise are now a part of my life in one way or another, and that seems mightily precious and special. How did you get here? I’m not too sure, but get here you did. Thank you for that!

My online life has been one of safety. It’s allowed my writing skills to grow, and created a haven of protection for the things I’ve had to say. My blog friends have helped me understand that no matter what I’ve shared, I am loved anyway. That is inexpressibly invaluable because it’s not something I’ve had in spades very often.

Words that might never have passed my lips any other way have escaped as pixels on a page and were launched into the stratosphere via WordPress. They’ve gained freedom from the prison of my inner world and in doing so, helped very much to change my own perspective on my experiences. It’s kind of magical in a way!

My blog has changed over the last two and a half years. It used to be just about purging the grief, anger and horror from my lungs, my heart, kidneys and all those other great hiding places within.

Now, I balance writing on mental health topics with my ever unfolding interest and love of yoga. And in this I’ve found new friends – more treasured patches for the quilt!

Then, my online world started spilling into the non-virtual in other ways. Someone suggested I use a service called Meetup.com to find local interests (and therefore people). Which is how I found the kirtan group I’ve been a part of since late last year. More about kirtan in another post very soon!

This year the dynamics have changed – a core group of us became not just people who meet up once a month to chant, but suddenly we had each other’s phone numbers and email addresses and outside that original circle, friendships are slowly growing.

But I can be hesitant to allow people into my life. The only time that’s different is those lightning moments where the spark of knowing transcends any sense of social awkwardness. Instantly, a stranger and I are friends and it’s always been that way, will always be that way.

Mostly though, it doesn’t happen like that (except for when it does).

This is how I’d like my community to grow in the coming year: I still need my online safety net – in some ways it’s the overflow station for all the things I can’t/don’t want to say or do elsewhere. But I’d like to find a way to prise open my stringent self-preservation a little. Crack the corner a bit and let myself out to play with abandon.

I suspect I might not have any choice about this anyhow – being nudged by the universe as I am to teach yoga more and more. And the more I teach, the more I’m lovingly forced to open. Don’t think I can actually teach any other way.

Community isn’t just about what you get from others – it’s something you contribute to and help create. And I think it’s coming for me, as I am for it.

Love. I have lots of it to share and I hope y’all out there are ready for it…