Vulnerability opens doors to community

Tomorrow I am hosting a potluck for my local polya group. I usually host a Thanksgiving celebration for my polycule every year, and a Christmahanukwanzikayulemastide celebration, but that’s been about it for a while.  We’ve had a few small game nights at the house here and there.  I have been saying for years that I would have some sort of BBQ, or plan a themed party like I used to, but it wasn’t something I managed to manifest from casual conversation into reality.

I remember vaguely searching for local polya groups a little over a year ago, I think what prompted it was curiosity, and one of my loves saying that we didn’t really have polya and RA folks in this area. This was the only local group I found, and while I joined a bit over a year ago as I mentioned, I didn’t really become active in it until this spring.  I don’t actually remember exactly what prompted me to start being more active in it, I believe it was noticing that a potluck was coming up, but it could be that I started engaging more first and that was why I noticed the event.  Either way, I RSVPed to it, and possibly because of that and their desire to make new folks feel welcome, or possibly because of my sheer queer magnetism, the two admins initiated conversation by reaching out to welcome me and start a friendship.

The beginning of the friendship that has developed with those individuals was interesting, I actually found that I took up a role of advise-giver and listener-to-rants for a while there.  That’s a frequent role I find myself in, so it was a comfortable one, but it was a little surprising to be that for two people I barely knew.  They were both at a bit of a rocky point with mental health, each other, other life situations, and I tried to help the best I could.  Despite that being a role I frequently find myself in, two things were different about it this time around.  The first was the amount of openness and trust and rawness they showed me, despite us just getting acquainted.  The usual skating around the issues and revealing a little bit at a time until trust was established and that picture perfect masked could be dropped, we just skipped right over that step. I value that raw authenticity beyond measure, it is something I crave in a world where people are guarded little drones pushing their identical Target shopping carts with their identical forced smiles.  These two people showed me the ugly parts of themselves and their relationship, and I was barely more than a stranger.  It wasn’t an over-share, it was a baring of the soul, and it was a courageous act. The second thing that was different was that in all my years as resident advice-giver in my groups of friends, I have almost never seen anyone really focus on examining the advice I gave so completely and then applying it.  It was unique to see someone actually evaluate the pretty advice scarf I painstakingly knitted them, realize it’s merit, and put it on and use it daily.  The fact that they put value on the time and energy I put into trying to offer assistance was an affirmation I had rarely been given, and was a true gift.  The fact that I was able to offer assistance to people who wanted that much to actually grow and improve, rather than mouth the words and continue on in the same old patterns, was so refreshing.  And seeing them both grow as people in tremendous ways over the eight months I’ve now known them, is an absolute inspiration. What I didn’t realize until much later was that being allowed to take the role of advise-giver for people who were so immediately vulnerable and also quite completely dedicated to personal-growth and positive change, also effected me in the most wonderful positive way.

I felt comfortable and at home in the raw gritty realness of those individuals, and in the inspiring growth they showed.  It mirrored my own fractured and flawed existence and constant search for vulnerability and need for self improvement.  I felt welcomed by the intensity of the sudden closeness I found with them, and the invitation to be myself.  I also was allowed to enter into my venture into the group within a role I felt very comfortable with, which eased the transition from mostly recluse, to reemerging social butterfly.  It was one of those times in life where circumstances line up in just the right way to allow for a new path to unfurl with radiant clarity right when you need it.  I was craving community, I was craving what it felt like to have a group beyond my polycule where I felt belonging and a sense of home, and I was craving a realness in my interactions with people that broke past the surface of the casual and polite and restrained that permeated my social engagements with your average human. That began to extend to others in the group as I went to the potluck and also began engaging in conversation through the group online.  The atmosphere in the online group forum was unique as well.  Most local groups I’ve seen have a lot of unicorn hunting and meme sharing, and not much else.  Here there were group conversations in which people also showed startling levels of vulnerability, where we talked about our traumatic pasts, and deeply flawed selves to a group of almost-strangers on the internet, and there was always an outpouring of support and love in response.  It also was one of the only communities I’ve been a part of that both centered and elevated and protected marginalized groups, while also welcoming those who weren’t really up to date on or concerned about social justice issues and gently guiding them to understand. I eventually joined the moderator team and found an even bigger new circle of friends I could be my absolutely obnoxious flamboyant self with, who even seemed to appreciate it and welcome it from time to time. People who came from all walks of life, but again shared a welcoming openness and realness that felt just like coming home.

And that led to now, where I’m getting ready to get up and clean house for a potluck tomorrow.  I’ve spent years saying I would host a gathering like I used to in the good old days when I had the energy to be a sparkling force of nature that hosted exuberant parties that brought people together. I also haven’t had any more then a shadow of the desire in me until now, the want to do so flitted around in my chest cavity but there was no passion for it to feed on and break out with.  The amazing group of people I’ve connected with changed that, I feel renewed having found a place where I feel at home, and a place that inspires my own growth as well.  When the opportunity came up to offer to host one of the events instead of just being in attendance, I was compelled to do so.  For me, that was a huge step after years of somewhat isolating myself due to a lack of passion and energy and motivation. The community I found that was so invigorating and raw has changed me, giving me back a certain spark that I have not felt in a good long time. So I hope, as I work on preparing food and finding places to hide my clutter, that this gathering has a few more new folks as well, who may also realize that they have found their community, and settle in and call it home.

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