A Spontaneous Reflection on Community

This week brought another final interview and another rejection. I could easily slip back into frustration and insecurity. It’s sitting there in the background, that bit of darkness. But when I look around me, at the other ways the Universe is providing, all I feel is love and gratitude.

On the same day I was rejected last week, my partner got an under the table job on Saturdays slinging pastries at a Farmer’s Market and our housemate added another day to her bagel slinging Market job (same employer), so more money is coming in, alleviating the stress of adding another person to the household. The other housemate’s college financial aid came in so we have a buffer if we need it. We’d like to save it for a deposit on a house, but it’s there if things get rough. And my partner has an interview with the bakery after Market tomorrow for a possible full-time baking job. He was treated pretty crappy by his last two employers, so it’d be super awesome for him to get this opportunity with people we already know we like. And he already made a DJ connection, so he has a gig next Monday night. While my right fit is taking it’s sweet time in coming, my partner is already making active connections for work and for his art.

I am amazed at positive changes that are happening in our relationships as we finally learn how to live all together, as couples and as a collective. We are navigating road bumps imperfectly, but with increasing amounts of grace and forgiveness. We are all looking at our stuff and willing to work on healing and growth. I love them all more than ever. This is the (mostly) healthy, interdependent and empowering life partnership that I’ve been craving all my life.

I read this week about how loneliness is killing us and how we need villages to thrive and recognized even more profoundly the gift I have in my life with my family and community. Beyond our household of two co-parenting couples, we started a Fire Tribe in Portland with our other platonic-life-partner, a friend who was in our Fire Tribe in Humboldt, and two Portlanders new to our tribe (8 total). Having Fire in my life again makes my heart incredibly happy. It’s an active community building practice, which is pure bliss for me.

What is Fire you ask? We gather around the Fire on a regular basis to bring intentional depth to our relationship as a community. The original fire met every Sunday between May and September for two years in a row, formed from 20-30 volunteers in our sex-positive community, The Impropriety Society. Everyone contributes something to eat, drink and/or burn, as well as takes responsibility for cleaning up after themselves. All first timers introduce themselves to the Fire with an offering of some kind (story, poem, song, etc.), as the Fire is the one consistent presence at every gathering. We often focus on an intention for conversation, sometimes based on spiritual holidays, sometimes driven by someone’s story or someone’s need to share. One fire was a mini-Burning Man (the man constructed on the spot was rather ingenious). A couple of fires involved boisterous celebration and topless dancing. Most Fires involved a lot of laughter. Some involved a lot of tears. Every fire was different, and yet it was always a space to feel connected. It was a place where we felt like we belonged. Do you know how important that is? The sense of belonging? It’s really fucking important. It literally makes or breaks people.

Intentional conversation is a practice we are striving to deepen in this Portland version of Fire. As well as the ability to hold space for each other’s process and create a safe container for challenges to be addressed, especially between members of the tribe. We want to take community building deeper than we’ve taken it before. We desire to be vulnerable with each other in ways we haven’t been before, which is crazy to imagine with a bunch of people who have already experienced so much intensity together (as is the nature of a community based in sharing sexual expression and relationship).

This time we are choosing each other from the start and choosing how we grow the circle. We aren’t interested in exclusion. We are interested in shared values. This isn’t a time to party. Some of us drink and some smoke weed. But never in excess at Fire. We are agreeing to be conscious of the energy and presence we bring to the Fire. We are striving to bring all of ourselves to each other. No masks. No defenses. No distractions. Just love. Love, love and more love. Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.

Beyond the personal experience of belonging, I am excited because I see opportunities to practice what I’ve been learning about facilitating circles and community conversation. I’ve been researching community building on and off my entire adult life. The Imps were my first experiment in bringing some of what I learned to life, but it had limitations because not everyone involved was interested in consciousness and depth and the “woo.” This time my community is based in a sense of love, family, and a shared desire to grow together as individuals and a collective. Even the one atheist in our midst desires to go deeper in this way and respects everyone else’s perspective, as we respect hers.

My idea of community is sharing our lives and taking care of each other. Healthy interdependence. There is the kind of intentional community that shares life through sharing a home. And there is the kind that shares life through making a commitment to regularly share time, food, conversation, heart and life transitions with each other. We celebrate each other’s joys and we grieve for each others losses. We increase our experience of abundance, and lessen our stress, by sharing resources of every kind. We show up for each other. We all know, down to our bones, that someone has our back, no matter what comes. People used to get this from extended families of origin, but that is rare now. Many of us have to build our families and tribes. We get to choose who shares this life with us and how deep we’re willing to go together.

Building and nurturing these relationships is work, but it is a work of the heart that brings more rewards than we can possibly imagine before experiencing it. I know because with all my research, I only experienced dysfunctional and violent communities when I was young. While my intellect knew something else was possible, my heart had no clue it could be like this. And we’ve only begun this chapter. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

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