I didn’t know I’d lived so much until I reflected back

I am absolutely terrible at keeping track of time.  Not short time, like the hours in the day, but long time, like years passing by.  I think about things like when I first got on the path to stop drinking and I’m like hmm, that was a few years ago right?  A few years ago feels pretty short in my brain.  Then fb memories remind me that it was five years (and forty days) ago that I first truly acknowledged I had a problem and then took a hundred days of sobriety, which then led to learning moderation, and eventually the last year+ of complete sobriety.  Five years. When it’s a number instead of a vague concept of a few, it seems a lot longer.  Holy crap, has it really been five years?

Likewise, I often struggle with putting concrete times and dates on other big events, until I have something to measure them against.  My ex-fiance left the same year I stopped drinking, so now I know when that was.  That’s pretty exhilarating.  I love being able to concretely date the times of things better because it makes me feel more accomplished.  I’ve spent five years without a person who only saw how I could fail.  Five years later I’m sober, have gotten one degree and am working towards another, have a bunch of lovely stable relationships with fantastic communication and none of the toxicity of the ones in that older time period, have held down jobs where I literally saved lives (I mean, doggo and kitten lives, but that’s legit), and decluttered the mess of a house I once shared with him to have a home that on it’s messiest days is still eons cleaner then it ever was in it’s cleanest state before.  I’ve begun pursuing my BIG life dream of having an intentional community, and my life has been basically a whirlwind of forward momentum with a few little bumps in the road.  Oh, and I have a flat chest and facial hair now and get gendered correctly all the time, let’s not forget that.  Being able to recognize where events fit into time really helps me in feeling excited and accomplished about life, because I can see how much progress has been made.  In the day to day moments it may not feel like things are moving fast enough, but reflecting back really shows the huge transformations.

Often I look back and wonder how I’ve packed so much -stuff- into such short amounts of time.  I’ve been an adult for a bit over ten years.  I spent about three or four of those years in a drunken haze.  Yet just in that time I’ve lived with 20+ people in households of various sizes, had 20+ relationships that on average lasted a bit over 3 years, gone to 4 different schools and gotten 2 college degrees and now working on a 3rd, raised my own livestock and fed my family with the meat and eggs from them, traveled to 2 countries outside of my own and 12 states within my country, worked 9 different jobs, and tried to run my own business.  I’ve had an uncountable amount of experiences trying amazing new foods, exploring new kinks and developing deep bonds of trust, making absolutely phenomenal friendships, taking ridiculous risks and feeling ecstatically alive, and generally living life to the fullest.  And I mean, I spent quite a few years drunk on my couch and pretty much out of commission, so when I think of where I packed that all in, I can’t even really include those years.  I don’t often reflect on it all as a whole, I may think of specific moments or dwell on specific relationships, but it takes looking at it all at once to put it into perspective.

Now I know this whole post might seem like some sort of long humble brag.  First of all, there’s nothing fucking wrong with that if it is.  I am all for each person listing their accomplishments that make them feel fantastic, reading the fuck out of that list, and feeling on top of the world because they are a rad fucking person who can do anything.  And I’m happy to do that and feel no shame in celebrating what I’ve done.  But, this is more then that.  I don’t know if I’ve always come across as confident to others, but I’ve always felt I was a confident person.  I’ve realized recently that it was because I’ve gotten very good at telling myself that narrative and ignoring the parts where I felt like I wasn’t enough, or was failing somehow to do this whole life thing.  I hear those parts of my mind, I recognize them, but I didn’t let it disrupt the view I had of myself as a confident individual with great self esteem.  It was a discordant note, viewing myself one way, and feeling things that were quite to the contrary.  And therein lies the problem, I could tell myself I had great self esteem and believe it, but that didn’t actually make me feel any less shitty and like a failure when those were the messages my brain meat focused on for the day.  So instead I’m learning to recognize those, to see that I do struggle at times and I can admit that.  Oof, that vulnerability hurts.  I don’t want to be a person who has to admit that.  It is part of me though, and in recognizing that, I can begin to accept and heal parts of myself that were damaged by years of abuse, by the hands of others, and even more so by myself.  I hurt myself when I spent years being a pretty toxic being to my own body and to everyone around me.  Healing that means recognizing the time that was my reality, and how much time since I’ve begun to move on from that.  It means acknowledging all I’ve done, the amazing life I’ve led, and what I can do when I am a better little human.  Somewhere in there I might have to forgive myself for the person I was through some of the dark years, though I’m not quite there yet.  For now, I look back at time, and I build a real confidence rather then a fabricated one, through seeing the journey and really cementing in my mind how far I’ve come.

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Building community is coming home

Sometimes I’m thinking so hard about something that my brain feels a bit too big to fit in my head.  If I’m going to have a headache though, I suppose that is the sort I’d like to have, because at least it nets good results in the long run.  I’ve been thinking about community for a long time.  As a kid I went to a socialist Jewish camp modeled after Israeli Kibutzim, which are intentional communities focused on farming and living with the land, and mutual support among members.  They involve an integrated group living style and camp was much like that.

At camp we got up every morning and all met to check in at the flag pole before breakfast, any important announcements were shared and then we ate together as a group.  Following breakfast we had work groups, each choosing what group we wanted to be in at the beginning of the camp session.  Not surprisingly, I always gravitated to the group responsible for the garden and taking care of the animals.  Through all my childhood, if being near animals or in the dirt was an option, I jumped on it.  Throughout the rest of the day we had meals as a whole community, and some activities were structured that was as well, where others were split up by age group, skill level, or interests.  Song was an ever-present reality of life, one thing I miss the most about being there was living a life where song and dance were a constant part of daily existence.  The landscape as well absolutely haunts my dreams and my soul sometimes cries out for it.  The summer skies were perfection, no matter the clouds or the endless blue, or the deep violets at night with an endless amount of clearly visible stars.  They had a quality to them that was so intense, they felt so close, that it made every other sky I had seen before seem fake.  The camp was nestled by a serpentine, so we hiked through meadows where the mineral composition of the soil caused the grass to grow in beautiful shades of blue and purple intermixed with green and teal.  It felt like another world, and it felt like home.

The sense of community there was so palpable, it was everything you’ve dreamed of when you think of coming home.  It was the last place I remember being entirely comfortable with touch, where I could just curl up in a pile of warm bodies and not cringe or tense up.  There was always a feeling of safety, everyone had the best intentions of others at heart, or it certainly seemed so.  It wasn’t that we were too young for malice and selfishness, but as a community even of young folk, we actively discussed ways we could create a more kind and generous world, fight bigotry, and tear down the walls that divided us.  I’ve never met so many driven passionate people in one place, so many artists with a vision straining to burst out of them, so many healers with a desire to absorb all the ills of the heart and mind and make everyone around them feel whole.  When I ever wonder if with my rational logic driven mind, focused on figures and arguable facts, if I could possibly believe with my whole being in magic, I only have to think back to that place to say yes.

I didn’t know that my last year there would be my last, I always intended to return as a counselor and stay for many years onward, but that didn’t happen.  I did spend every summer there from around when I was ten to when I was fifteen, and I knew after the first one that I would create something that felt that way, when I grew up.  I talked for years incessantly and with passion about my dream for a community, not a summer camp, but a place where as an adult I could live my life constantly in that feeling of comfort and home and magic summer skies.   I have lived most of my adult life in communal living environments, usually with my polycule, partners and metamours.  There has been sometimes a glimpse of community, it is a shadow that flits around our home, but there were barriers in truly creating that in full.  After incessant talk of community for the past almost twenty years though, I have found others with a shared dream and we’ve begun the discussion process towards truly building that.  In discovering the term, intentional community, and then beginning to explore ecovillages, co-housing, communal living, and other IC models, we opened the door to the knowledge we needed to move forward.  I’ve done a lot with my life thus far, I have two college degrees and working on a third, I’ve run a craft business briefly, raised my own meat, had many partnerships and loves, descended into and back out of alcoholism, dealt with and societal and emotional impact of being trans and queer in today’s society, and shoved a fuck ton of adventures under my belt in the process.  Nothing I have done resonates with me as much as this though, I’ve known since childhood that this was my driving passion.  So, as I work on so much other personal growth and have begun several other new life journeys, I also look to move forward with this.  I know with the other amazing people I’ve found who share this dream that it will succeed, and I look forward to coming home.