Pain is a necessary message to the brain. Pain triggers the removal of a hand from a flame before too much damage. Pain protects us from further injury,…. when we listen. When I began to listen to pain, I learned a lot. Pain is my best teacher.
This last month has been painful. I’m learning a lot. Passing the lessons on in a blog post, with an impersonal keyboard and clumsy words, is not nearly as useful or effective as direct pain, but modern times bring vicarious experience more often than direct, real life. Such is the world of screens, machines and pathological individuality.
Long life story shortened, a fantasy balloon of mine has been popped. Loud bang and disappointment were accompanied by some deep pain of rejection and feelings of betrayal. Instantly, however, I saw those feelings coming from the little kid in me – another fantasy: my projection of someone betrayed me, not the actual person. Also, I could see reality and be grateful for all the clear sky and spacious beauty where the balloon had been. Life as I had planned, worked for and expected didn’t happen. I can cry over the bits of balloon on the ground or look at new blue sky, billowing white and gray and purple waves of clouds, more mountains and their pine forest clothing.
For years, in different ways, I have experimented with developing, supporting or engaging community. My most recent effort, accompanied by more than one fantasy balloon, included growing food, alternative building and living, practicing sharing and giving economies, and communal cooking and meals. I had three and a half pages of all kinds of ideas, and spent all of my liquid assets on infrastructure and preparation while I fantasized about meeting the future community.
Then life happened, and I lost the garden or farm or orchard to be, the land for my newly built tiny house, and three and a half pages of fantasies. Within a week, I moved into a shared living situation, reeling from the roller coaster turns in my life. I sensed all the openness, newness and vast expanse of life, but my eyes needed time to adjust to all the brightness, after the shadows of my fantasies.
Two nights after moving into my new place, I was at a table with three strangers, eating and laughing and sharing. I was communing.
The shared meal came together spontaneously, with strangers, all of us rocketed to that moment, mostly against our wills and plans. It had nothing to do with anything on my three and a half pages. This community sharing, laughing and eating happened, in spite of me, not because of anything I did or planned. Growing pains ushered in a lesson I had heard, knew intellectually but had not practiced regularly: Community is Everywhere.
We are never alone. We cannot be fully human alone. Community is all around us. We cannot always see or engage others because of our projections and assumptions. Those fantasy balloons blind us.
May the bursting of your balloons, along with the painful pops and stabs of disappointment, open your eyes, hearts and minds. Growing pains are worth the newly gained heights and views.
Look around you and be pleased.