In part two of the third edition of our series on relationships, Karen continues the conversation about our relationships with our community.
“Accept, then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.” ~Eckhart Tolle
Jim included this Tolle quote in his last article and I liked it so much I wanted all of us to read it again. Life is nothing if not constant change. It is said that the only sure things are death and taxes but I disagree. One of the surest of things is change. Learning to accept that change, and therefore accept what we can’t control (a constant theme with us you will see) is really the key to happiness in all of our relationships!
Most of us grew up with a picture of what we wanted our lives to look like. For some people that picture was based on a successful family of origin and wanting what their parents or grandparents had created. This, unfortunately, was not the case for most of us. For many of us the picture we had was more about not duplicating our family of origin but of being successful in our own families despite the reality of our parent’s divorce of dysfunction. For some of us, the picture we conjured up had to do with families we saw around us, those of friends or neighbors. Some folks based their idea of what their lives should look like on what they saw on television or in the movies, some American Dream version of life that usually had very little basis in reality.
However, what is a universal experience for all of us is that at some point we each find ourselves saying “hey, wait a minute, this isn’t what I planned on for my life” and then learning to deal with whatever that unexpected event was. Whether it was unemployment, money issues, ill health, or relationship or family issues we have to regroup and some how continue on. We have to let go of and adjust the vision we had because clutching with white knuckles to a paradigm that is no longer relevant not only holds us back, but will cause us to sink completely if we are not careful.
Sometimes, when we are in one of these white knuckle situations, we feel completely alone, completely abandoned by those around us. This is almost never the case. We are just clinging so tightly to something we need to let go of that we fail to look up and around at those who are a part of our lives. You see, most of us, without even realizing it sometimes, have spent our lives building up a community of love and support that we just need to tap into.
Human beings are naturally pack animals. We seek connection with those around us and we build those connections in one way or another bit by bit, day by day. That connection is the community we live in. It is the friendships we have nurtured. It is the people we have loved and brought into our family circle who have no blood relation to us but who are more family than some family could ever be. It is the teams we have joined and groups we have volunteered for. It is our co-workers and our fellow church members. It is the neighbor we always say good morning to or the person who knows we will always hold the door for them. It is the girl scouts who come to your door because they know that year after year you will always order the Thin Mints. It is the people we see every day and the positive interactions we have and the little ways we pay it forward whenever we are given the opportunity.
Little by little, day by day, we’ve built our own support system. We have done all these little things that we think no one notices, all of which are vital and important ways to build a community. You see all these things we do for other people are the ways in which we feed our own souls and build our own lives. We need the people around us, not just our immediate family members but every single member of our communities, all of the people who are seeking exactly the same things we are. We are all on the same journey of self-discovery and we are all looking to give and receive love in countless ways.
When you are in those white knuckle situations, when you are sure you have failed and nothing has gone as planned, all you need to do is look up. Look to those around you. Look to those who have had the exact same experiences. All you have to do is let go of whatever it is you are clutching to and reach out your hand . . . and I guarantee, there will be someone around you who will take your hand and help pull you up. And if you look around and you don’t see someone right away who can help, look to the left and right and find someone that you can help pull up. In that way, with each other to lean on, you will both be saved.
Feeling down, lonely, unconnected, here’s what you do. Call a friend who is worse off. Bring hot soup to someone you know is sick. Volunteer at the homeless shelter. Go donate blood. Pick up some pet food and drop it off at the Animal Shelter even when they aren’t asking for it. Say good morning to that grumpy guy who lives in your building. Support and attend any and every local event you can get to. Create a beautiful piece of art work and put it where you know it will make people smile. Take a beautiful photo and share it! Write a song and sing it for anyone who will listen. Smile at that person you are walking by downtown, even when you don’t feel like it. Just show up. Be there. It’s your community, it’s your life, and it may look nothing like you had originally envisioned. Embrace it anyways!
Look for the fourth edition of our series this month when Jim and Karen will discuss our relationships with our extended family – just in time for the holidays.