We stopped in Ocean Springs at a little restaurant/bar called Government Cheese Grocery (or something like that). A comfy spot--i.e., not crowded, no blasting AC, only one TV on low volume; prompt, friendly service--to drink Irish coffee (alcohol is becoming a cheap substitute for prescription pain killer) and talk on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
It might have been the greyness of the day or the marked social isolation I've experienced during "the holidays." In any event, the conversation turned to relationship. I said that nearly all of my social relationships require a high degree of self denial and compromise and she wondered, that being the case, why I long for "tribe." It was a great question.
We discovered that while she finds relationship in and to groups a great challenge, I find relationship to individuals most challenging. In most cases, it's just a matter of time, I said, before I espouse an opinion or turn a phrase or choose an activity or something that causes the other person to burst into flames or otherwise abandon the relationship. And all the compromise and self betrayal/denial comes to naught.
For J, one-to-one interactions are a process of collecting data: enough data is collected eventually to justify choosing to move forward into deeper connection with the person; choosing, in a sense, to care what they think, to care enough to be hurt if the relationship breaks.
Listening to her, I realized my approach was different. For me, with a few wild exceptions, every encounter holds the possibility--if not outright potential--to become a relationship of deep caring. When it doesn't work out, I'm usually shattered.
I told her that I enter every relationship willingly showing more and more of my hand; but looking back on the conversation today, I see that in actuality I am ambivalent with people: simultaneously insecure--hiding parts of myself to avoid their disapproval--and....yes, hopeful--dragging out all my toys to share with someone I "hope" will become a friend, a tribe member.
What a shock! After years of trotting out my standard spiel about "not doing hope," to discover that I DO "do hope" all the time, one to one socially.
- we are committed to becoming good people and we support each other's work toward that end
- we recognize and believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all beings--so when conflict arises discourse does not disintegrate into personal attack; or does so only momentarily until one or the other party reiterates our mutual belief and recognition of the inherent worth and dignity of all beings
- we each take responsibility for our feelings--so when conflict arises discourse does not disintegrate into "you make me feel so....!!"; or does so only momentarily until one or the other party reiterates our mutual commitment to take responsibility for our own feelings
- we care for each other, celebrating accomplishments and victories and commiserating in times of disappointment or grief
- we are able to apologize and equally capable of accepting apology, i.e., letting "it" go once an apology is tendered
- we start from a place of acceptance and curiosity in our interactions with each other
- we believe that everybody is an expert on something and nobody is an expert on everything
- we strive to never act with an intention to hurt--and admit it and apologize when we fail at this
- honesty, unselfishness and respect are our watchwords and the development of these traits our communal mission
- we sincerely celebrate diversity as unique external ornamentations of the core Oneness that all of Life expresses
- we embrace Ruiz's Four Agreements: Be impeccable with our word. Always do our best. Make no assumptions. Take nothing personally.
- Most of us live in close proximity to each other, perhaps even on the same piece of land
And there's probably more to add to the list. I'll let you know.
I love this: gaining clarity as a new year begins.