Solitude and Community

Steve and I have scheduled a Summit for today.  This is what we call our periodic “relationship discussions” where we aim our canoes and talk about where we’re headed and what we want.  I tend to have a deer-in-the-headlight kind of reaction to certain phrases that have been used in these intense forums simply because I get over-anxious about coming up with a “right answer”.  One of those phrases is “on the same page”.  I hate it when Steve uses that expression, and I have forbid it from future talks. It makes me freeze up. “What does that mean?  Do I have to think the same way as you?  Do I have to be you?  I don’t know how to do that!”  So he now describes what he’s after in a different way.  Another question that is beginning to have the freeze effect is “What do you want?”  I am dangerously close to over-thinking that one, too, and getting defensive.  “What do I want when?  Now?  5 years from now?  What do I want about what?  I don’t know what I want!”  It was really helpful when he put it to me this way: “We have a really great relationship.  But we can always do better.  What are some areas where you want us to do better or differently than what we’re doing now?”  Suddenly, I began to have thoughts and ideas where before I would just draw a blank.

The first area on my brainstorm list was community.  I want to do better in this area.  We are both nurturing our inner lives very conscientiously and intentionally, and I really like that.  I also want to work intentionally on community.  This morning, I received notice of a new post by thousandfoldecho.  The quote by Orhan Pamuk described the formation of a writer’s inner life so well.  The blog author then turned that question over to musicians and asked, “What do you think of the musician’s paradox of needing both solitude and community?”  I think this is probably any human’s paradox.  We all benefit from both.  The work of finding that balance in your own life is what keeps my partner and me coming back together for Summit meetings.

So how do you go about building community, finding and developing relationships where you can be your true, honest self?  I am more conscious of being myself in every encounter now that I’m focusing on that.  I used to just slip into roles very easily without a thought.  That was the actress in me.  It was a way of life that was smooth and slippery, easy to glide by.  I would be who people wanted me to be.  Now, I’m trying to allow myself to be…myself.  Even with the grocery clerk.  And my broker’s secretary.  And my voice students.  This is a no-brainer to many people, and they wouldn’t know how to do anything else.  I think I got into “acting” very young and had some early encouragement that kept me there.  My inner life was so different.  Writing is a way for me to really exercise that inner self, bring it out of hiding without costuming it for a certain audience.  One writer whom I really admire is Annie Dillard.  I just finished An American Childhood and even had a dream about meeting her.  I love how she writes about her inner life and becoming aware of others.  But I’ll save that for another post.  For today, I’ll leave you with this photo.  I think watching waves roll into shore is a good background for musing about solitude and community.  I invite you to share your thoughts on the subject, too!

Lake Michigan again