We are not just parts...
We are the sum, which is greater. And each of us is also a part of the community in which we live, work, and play. Community is magical and necessary to survive and thrive in this world. There are many things in my life I could not have accomplished without community support. Surviving my tumultuous upbringing, leaving my toxic marriage, earning my black belt, starting my business and keeping it going.
I have been fortunate to have such a high volume of community support throughout my life, in both small and incredibly significant ways. Growing up with a single parent for much of my childhood included many challenges. We lived all the way across the country from the rest of my extended family, so I relied on a local network of adult friends, neighbors, and mentors. Each one of those people touched my life and the culmination of their support is what got me all the way to adulthood.
A family friend gave me my first job, working in the office at her small company. The pair of brothers who lived upstairs looked out for me and my sister just like family long before they officially became our step-dad and uncle. My friends parents gave me someplace to go when my home life became untenable. And a trusting landlady let me move in to with my friends and sign the lease later, once my emancipation was finalized by the court.
Of course my tenacity and my organization and my determination to reach every milestone also caused my accomplishments. But without the opportunities I had access to, my path would have taken different turns and the outcome would undoubtedly have taken a different form. Freshly adult me was the sum of all the parts of my growing up experience.
Years later, I was trapped in an unhealthy marriage by the shame of what my family and friends would think of me if I got divorced. At that time I thought of the end of a relationship as a personal failure. And the end of a marriage as the ultimate failure. Extra level irresponsible. I had bought-in to the narrative that marriage was a serious and irreversible life decision. Like having children or getting a tattoo.
So even though I knew my marriage could not continue as it was, I could see no way out of it. Until I was out with a friend having our weekly post kung fu bagel when, out of the blue, he said to me “I see how Blank treats you and how it makes you feel. I just want you to know you’re not alone. I see you. I am your friend and I have your back if you need anything.” And he meant it.
I was stunned. I had been working quite diligently to cover-up all the dreadful aspects of my marriage because I thought I was supposed to be able to fix it all. But in that moment, I knew there was at least one person who saw through the facade and loved me regardless. I was completely disarmed, and I told him everything. Including my fear that if I left my husband I would be abandoned by everyone else in my life.
That conversation saved my life. It gave me the perspective I needed to see my situation a little more clearly. I was staying in that relationship to meet other peoples expectations. I was sacrificing my mental and emotional wellbeing to avoid discomfort for other people. I did not want to disappoint all the people who spent time and money to come to my wedding. Those are not good reasons to stay married, and they are not healthy relationship practices.
When I ultimately decided I needed to leave, my fear of abandonment turned out to be completely unfounded. Community supported me through the entire transition. A friend with a spare bedroom let me stay rent-free until I found my own apartment. Friends helped me pack my things and move them across town. Friends invited me to dinner and took me out and offered me counsel and comfort. How fortunate I was to have access to community with resources and time and energy enough to spare some for me.
Many years later, I am in an incredibly fulfilling life position and community continues to contribute to my experience of safety and stability. Most of my business comes through personal referrals. Colleagues and connections send projects my way regularly. And just this week another friend offered me a significant amount of help completely out of the blue.
It’s overwhelming to think about all the parts and pieces that come together to create my life experience. I am incredibly grateful and keenly aware of how much I have that many people don’t have access to. And I am just as grateful for all the opportunities I have to support others and give back. From seemingly small things like smiling at a stranger to helping a friend move to much larger interventions like offering shelter to an un-housed person. I am part of a larger community, many in fact. Community is powerful, and I want to use that power for good and not evil.
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.