Childhood Emotional Neglect

Here’s another big topic. Childhood emotional neglect is something that has recently been on my radar. But it’s also something that, when I read about what it is and its effects, I identified with and immediately knew what it was. In the family that I grew up in, we never spoke about emotions. But what I think and feel was so damaging about this was, that when we did have an emotion openly, or displayed an emotional need, it was made known that the person having the emotion was just one more cross to be born by the other.

I would later realize that this was my parents’ inability to establish healthy boundaries around how much they are willing vs. able to give. But as a child, this sent the message that it was not okay for me to have emotions. As though my emotions were a punishment bestowed upon those who were in charge of my well being, and not an aspect of being human.

In this post I’d like to talk a little about what emotional neglect looked like growing up in my family in action. And ways that I’m coming to understand what happened to me and how I’m healing from it. Here’s a link to the site that sparked the inspiration for this post. And also, I’m not a professional, these are only my experiences and opinions. If you’re experiencing difficult emotional states, speaking with a trusted professional therapist or counsellor is advisable.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall…

When I was a child, what I remember most about my family was, that they had one look, one affect. And it was of disapproval. Seldom did my family look on one another with loving and caring gazes. If I was happy, I would get a tentative look in response. As if to say, “I see you’re happy, but are you really happy?” And on top of the confusion of not understanding my family’s responses and lack of mirroring to my emotions, I felt as though there was something wrong with me.

Their constant, judgmental stares reinforcing my deficiency in some way. So every time I had an emotion, I felt compelled to seek my family’s approval. “Is this right? Am I feeling this right?” was how I felt most of the time, in regards to how I was feeling emotionally. This would also play out in my relationships with women, later on in life. More on that later. But with this type, or rather lack of mirroring of emotions, I was left not understanding how I felt about pretty much anything at any given time.

My emotional world was a confusing maze, thanks to the emotional neglect I had been through. And one I had no map to navigate. So I drifted. I floated from one relationship to the next, one set of circumstances to another, without direction. What I was looking for was a place to feel accepted and approved of mostly. I think I was also looking for someone to tell me how to feel. But that was a lesson that was still on its way.

Choosing Relationships not Knowing How I Felt About Them

Relationships are difficult to understand when you don’t know how you feel about them. The best way to describe the experience is, that I was so afraid of not belonging, being accepted, that I was in survival mode for most of my life. Fear was the number one emotion in my world, and something I knew well. So when it came to choosing a relationship, I went along with whomever was going to tell me how and who to be.

Due to my emotional neglect, I had no idea what was expected of me in a relationship. Or even more importantly, I had no idea what made me happy in a relationship. So I chose people who, in no uncertain terms, would tell me how to be accepted by them.

In these relationships, I spent a majority of my time sedated with alcohol while letting my S.O. tell me what she expected from me. I had successfully created a space where I could exist in a sort of half numb state, where I didn’t have to live my life or take responsibility for who I am or my emotions. I was so busy being what everybody else wanted of me and feeling that I was a burden in some way, that I had no idea what I was feeling emotionally or who I was like. This was confusing.

When Fear is the Glue that Binds

And what held me together in my relationships was mostly a sense of fear. Fear of being abandoned and left alone. A fear of being judged bad or not worth being with and feeling shamed for it. The emotional neglect I endured had left me feeling so much fear, that I was paralyzed in my emotional body. Frozen solid. Too afraid to wake into the reality of what my thoughts and feelings were about who I was.

This did not bode well for my relationships. I was acting against my better moral judgement by treating women like sex objects, as well as writing people off while acting incredibly arrogant. And all to make myself seem “acceptable” as a certain type of man. The type of man I had modeled for me and was suggested for me to be, when I was a child. Needless to say, the types of women I was attracting were not women who were best suited to who I actually wanted to be.

Being Sensitive as a Man in a Relationship

Because under the arrogance and pettiness, I was a super sensitive, thoughtful and caring, hopeless romantic, who was terrified of the ways I was behaving. I was rejected by my family, for who I was, so many times that I tried forcing myself to be as they implied and modeled for me. But this was also how I came to be my own abuser.

By freezing and numbing my emotions, while behaving the ways my family did that terrified me as a child, I had become my own abuser. And in turn, I chose women who craved this type of man. Emotionally neglectful and abusive. Time and time again I would choose relationships that left me feeling worse while I was in them. Too afraid to be my sensitive self due to the fear of being rejected or torn apart for having emotions that weren’t “manly”. So I numbed them to fit into the mold of who my S.O., friends and family wanted me to be.

We were repeating the patterns of emotional neglect, from my family, in my romantic relationships. All for the sake of “fitting in” with the people I had come to fear. This was unhealthy. I wish that I could say that there was a defining moment, one where I woke from this fear and started living a life more true to my emotions. But there were some dramatic events that coincided with my awakening.

Waking from the Fear & Emotional Neglect

I drifted through my relationships and most of my life, until I was married in my mid-twenties. Our relationship wasn’t terrible by any means. We were amicable to one another and pleasant most of the time. One day, my now ex-wife came to me and said that we felt more like roommates than a married couple. Looking back now, I understand more clearly what she meant. And she was correct. But I was so numb at the time, that I couldn’t tell the difference.

My family members had acted much the same way as I was acting, so it just seemed natural to me. But what I realize now, what was missing from our relationship was, a felt sense of affection for each other. Sure physical attraction, but more the type where you would lay in bed and talk and cuddle. Being open in emotions and thoughts while being physically close. What I missed when she brought this up was, that these were the questions that would have lead to more intimacy.

But I was much too scared to be intimate in relationship then. I’m only now realizing that intimacy comes after overcoming your fears of being close to another, not before. I first needed to learn to feel safe in relationships with others, before I could be intimate with another. These lessons are usually learned with family in childhood. So in order to feel safe in relationship, I went back to where it all began. To my family.

Safety with & Among Those Closest

After my divorce and the break up of the relationship which immediately followed my marriage, I had no choice but to move back in with family. What made this move so difficult was, that I had been so thoroughly neglected by this family member, I was terrified to get anywhere near them. But I stayed.

I stayed and learned how to take care of myself, but also and more importantly, I learned how to allow myself to be supported by those I was with. I had been so used to do things my way and Feeling Supported By Communicating

And it’s during these interactions where we’re collectively reversing the emotional neglect that we had all experienced in the family. The more often we connect, the more comfortable we all feel with asking each other more and more questions. In the family of my youth, there were no boundaries. Family members would root around in one another’s belongings to try to find something, anything that was being hidden from them.

It turns out that all we were hiding from each other was love and trust. What we wanted to know, we didn’t trust that the other would be honest with us if we asked. Due to us feeling as though we had to be secretive about ourselves and our emotional states for fear of being torn apart. Fast forward to family dinner Fridays and we’re communicating more open and honestly than we ever have.

We’re concerned about each others well being. We share things we find that we think will aid each other. We’re creating community by being honest and open with our emotional states. And this is what we were missing all along. Because we were too afraid to be our authentic, sometimes scared, vulnerable selves around each other, not knowing or realizing that whatever happened we would and could be there to take care of ourselves. Care we could then extend to each other.

Finding Your Connection

I recognize that my situation is unique. Not everybody can go back to a fearful place and make a fresh start. And it was a lot of hard work on my part too. It’s not as though our connection didn’t have its difficulties. But what made it possible to reconnect again was an open mind and staying in the discomfort. Knowing it’s going to be hard but staying anyways, that’s what helped us to create tighter bonds with each other.

Emotional neglect in relationships is not easy to overcome, but it’s also not impossible to either. If you’ve found yourself relating to some of what I’ve written, please seek help. Feeling alone and isolated are two major parts of emotional neglect. And the longer we live with these feelings, the more difficult it is to come back from them. Reaching out to a professional can be a great way to open the door, if only a little bit, to start letting people in again.

Because it is in relationship where we really come alive. The love and trust that we share is life blood to our relationships. And our relationships with each other can be so rewarding. I also find that it helps to think the best of others as well. Not everybody is out for themselves. There are good people out there doing good work. It’s our job to be that person and recognize it in others. Good luck on your journey, and know that you are not alone. Peace & thanks for reading : )

Image Credits: “Broken Mirror” by Rakesh Ashok is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Living Your Life: Friendship

Learning to Navigate Friendship

Friendship was an aspect of life that was difficult for me to learn. With so many different types of friendships, if you’re not shown or told how to navigate them, they can be confusing to manage. Friendship can be especially confusing if you’re not used to being in a healthy form of it. My motto through my teenage years and twenties was, “bridges are for burning”. And, not surprisingly, I ended up with few people I could call my friends. I pushed just about everyone away.

I’m still amazed that the few people who actually did stick around, even through my neglecting our relationship to the point of not talking to anyone I knew for years, decided to stand by me. And to them, I am forever grateful. It must have been no easy task to endure the petty and neglectful ways in which I managed my friendships. And if anyone is reading this who is my friend, thank you, I’m sorry, and you are truly great friends.

Role Modeling Friendship

But I also didn’t have many stable friends growing up. This was mostly due to my caregivers not being able to model what a healthy friendship was. Or the lifestyle that would lead to lasting and loving relationships. In one case, one of my caregivers had no close friends save one. And on the other end of the spectrum, my others had many, but were petty and cutting in their judgements of them.

I was in between complete isolation or being surrounded by rowdy and rancorous pettiness. These were polarizing ways of seeing the world and a very confusing place to be. So the few friendships I had, I held onto for dear life. As a way to escape the chaos that I was surrounded by. This was unhealthy too, as it set the standard for me to depend on the few relationships I kept, too much.

Losing Loved Ones

And this fear based way of maintaining relationships, as you’ve probably guessed, was unsustainable. The only people I was in touch with regularly were friends found for me by my then wife. I spent most of my time by myself, drinking and playing videogames. I was avoiding opening up to others due to the considerable amount of distrust I learned to have of people by my family. By the time I was 8, I had experience the loss of a loved one to cancer while my parents were divorcing due to the stress in their relationship.

I lost both my childhood best friends to drugs other unfortunate events in their lives. And all while watching the slow decline and neglect of my family, which ultimately left me on my own. On top of the trauma I experienced, I had lost everybody I loved as well, leaving me completely alone to handle all of these traumatic emotions. This is and was a lot to handle for anybody, let alone a child of 8.

So I learned to distrust those closest to me. My caregivers and support network, just about everybody. This was the model I would later use to navigate all of my relationships. AKA tactfully avoiding any type of close contact with others. Especially those close in so as not to get hurt again when they eventually decided to turn on me. This lead to lots of drinking and video game playing to avoid connection.

Unhealthy Friendship & Isolation

When I was younger, the types of friends who I would drink and play video games with were a good time to be around. But as I aged and life progressed, the more video games I played, the more disconnected I became from my life and the relationships in it. And this isn’t a soapbox for railing against video games or the people that play them. They can be a fun distraction and intellectually stimulating. Even bring out a sense of creativity. But I was definitely using them to avoid people.

In fact, as if I were trying to tell myself as much, I was playing and replaying Zelda’s, “Ocarina of Time”. The original Zelda being the game I first played before and when all the traumatic events happened in my young life. And the premise of the latter game, “Ocarina of Time” is that Link, the main character of the series, going back and forth through time from his younger self to his adult self, in order to do battle with monsters from his past and present! Talk about meta! Art imitates life maybe 😉

So I managed to create a sort of comfortable cocoon to insulate myself from my role in my relationships. I say “sort of comfortable” because it took an immense amount of energy to keep myself so disconnected. The right amount of vice mixed with the right amount of avoidance. It was a balancing act for sure. But when I came to, I realized I had almost nothing in the way of authentic connections with friends. I was alone and thankfully it took me a while to get scared. Otherwise I’m not sure I’d have been able to handle the reality of my situation crashing down on me all at once.

Aftermath & Reconnection

So when I did come to, after my divorce and the ending of the relationship that was the catalyst for my divorce, I had one close friend who remained loyal to me, (thanks Jon) and my parents. That was about the extent of those I had to support me. It was a tough place for me. Luckily I had taken to hiking. Something that helped me to reconnect with myself and develop some healthy hobbies. This would also later give me something to do with those I was trying to reconnect with.

Because I first had to reconnect with myself, befriend myself. I had spent so much time running from others and burning the bridges behind me, that I could barely trust myself that I wouldn’t do that to me. This is an ongoing process of getting to know myself and trust that I’ll treat myself with respect and love. It’s also not an easy task. Because in the process of running from others, I HAD run from myself.

Discovering Who I Am By What Tara Brach Calls, Resourcing

This is when I discovered what my likes and dislikes are. Why I do certain things and what those things mean to me. Things such as certain songs, my relationship to my style and how I want to be seen. The ways I nourish myself and the care I provide for myself with my meals. Grooming habits and caring for my surroundings. These were the foundations of me coming to trust myself and trusting that I have my best interests at heart.

Tara Brach calls some of what I’m talking about as resourcing. An example, some of my resources are burning candles, drinking herbal tea and listening to music. Basically whatever brings you a sense of comfort and ease. Once I was able to make acquaintance with myself again and gain some trust in myself, I was then able to extent that practice to others.

Extending My Resources to Others to Foster Friendship

I started out small. As I said, I only had one friend at the time. So it was important for me to stay loyal and in touch with him. We went for hikes, got coffee and lunch together. And basically just did the normal everyday things I had previously taken for granted. We were friends in high school and then roommates in our twenties. So we have a shared history. But I had only just begun to know him as a person and as my friend. And it’s a good feeling getting to know him again, appreciating him for who he is.

From their, my friend group began to grow. Soon after establishing my first friendship, I started running with another old friend from high school every week. Jon, my first friend got married to an amazing woman, also another brilliant friend. I was reaching out to people I hadn’t spoken to in years. Some live across the country, others a few towns over. I was amazed at how many of the people I reached out to were responsive and more over, friendly to the idea of being friends.

As one friend who I recently reconnected with said, “our younger selves would have bullied our older selves for who we are”. She was referring to how mean we were back then. But to know that we’ve made the change from bully to responsive and friendly adults, is comforting. Knowing that the strength of our empathy and caring is stronger than the anger and bitterness of our past is reassuring. More so now then ever.

Looking Forward to Friendship

Now that I’ve reconnected with so many people and since I’m a list maker, I’ve listed the names of my friends in my journal along with some bullet points on what they’re experiencing or anticipating in the near future. This way I can open up my notes and quickly see what they’ve been up to. I do this so I can check in with them and see how they’re progressing with something or offer some support. Or an ear for listen. Or maybe to go for a walk and vent some frustrations.

An example of this in practice is, one of my friends is renoing her house. So I’ve created a board on Pinterest with ideas for her backyard living space and shared the board with her. This way we can have an ongoing conversation about what her focus is on.

On the same note, I also keep a list of upcoming plans I have. This way I won’t miss out on spending time with those I’ve been building a relationship with. It’s been helpful to have a place where I can see everything I need to know in one bird’s eye view. So I can adjust and respond to those in my life with care and conscientious actions and words. This is where the rubber really meets the road. In mindfully supporting those who support you, you can build some seriously strong bonds. You’re there when they need you and you know what they’re going through. This is powerful for someone who is really in need of a friend.

Finding New Friends

I’ve also discovered some friends in strange places as well. I use a meditation app called Insight Timer. After meditating, you have the option of thanking those who meditated with you, while you were both meditating. I’ve made a decision to choose six people to thank after every meditation. Four of them respond regularly, two respond every day and one has become my gratitude partner. I asked them a few weeks ago if they’d like to practice gratitude with me since we were already kind of doing it by thanking each other every day. They said yes and we’ve been gratitude buddies ever since. It’s been nice knowing that I have something to look forward to in the mornings. Something positive to read.

So if you’ve found yourself in a similar situation as I was in, do not give up hope! Reach out to old friends, you may be surprised with how they respond. Start some conversations with those closest to you. Work is a great place for this, seeing as how you are already around a select few people on a daily basis. Join an online community like Reddit. There are loads of people out there looking to connect over shared interests. Find a place to volunteer. This way you can match your passions with your connections and do good work along the way. I met one of my friends at a grocery store. They worked there and went there almost three times a week. We’re both ginger so we hit it off immediately! And a word of advice, stay open. You never know where you are going to meet your next friend. Peace : ) and thanks for reading.

Image Credits: “friendship” by bekassine… is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Updated: 10/21/22

What Can We Buy vs. Make? DIY and Sustainability Meets Budgeting

I like to DIY things. Things I need, but also things that fit my style. Things that I’m able to eat, are functional, sometimes not functional. Whatever it is that I’m making, I enjoy the process of bringing something new into my life and the world. I also like to budget. When the numbers all come together, and I’m slowly but surely achieving my financial goals, it feels good. Good because I’m attuning to my own needs for security. For example if it’s in regards to building an emergency fund. Or my need to live sustainably. Another example would be me paying off my credit card debt. But when these two areas come together, when I make something that would otherwise cost me time and or money, the feeling is exceptional.

It’s for these reasons that I often look for things to DIY that are of interest to me. Or items and food that I use or eat regularly. It is in this vein that I will be going over some of the ways I make the things I would normally buy. Or turn something already owned that may be on its way to the garbage, into something useful. Nothing I’ll be listing here is new by any means. But it may be helpful to get a run down of how someone else puts sustainable practices to use. And maybe open the valve for your creative juices to start flowing. Let’s fire things up!

Food for Thought

Most of what I DIY is related to my food consumption. I’m a baker by trade, so I don’t make a lot of bread at home. But I’m always looking to create something delicious to snack on or drink. I made a lot of beer in my early thirties. Clones of brews I liked. Some that were staples. Such as IPAs and Belgians and some seasonal beers. They usually came out pretty good and it’s something I’d like to get back into.

DIY Your Beer

I don’t drink nearly as much as I used to. But there’s something about opening up a bottle of a beer you crafted that feels special. The time, thought and energy you put into crafting it, mixed with the some of the varieties of specialty ingredients that are available to the DIY home brewer, to give your brew that special twist that makes it yours, is satisfying. Plus they’re great gifts for friends and family. There’s also a large community of home brewers out there, willing to help each other. If you’re interested, check out Homebrew Talk. There are loads of recipes and advice for the new or seasoned brewer alike.

Also, the time it takes to DIY your beer has a unique feel. It’s like being in a science lab that’s been draped in old and colorful tapestry. This science-meets-art aspect of brewing is appealing to me. Mostly because it’s creating something as you would in a lab, but enlisting your senses to bring it together. The way you would your favorite meal. The elements, fire and water, but also the equipment and live cultures of yeast bubbling away that will soon turn the wort into something satisfying to the taste buds, that bring the whole experience together. There’s also the added benefit of its cost.

DIY Beer on a Budget

And for the quality of your DIY beer you’re producing, you are saving loads of money. Some of the clone recipes are spot on too. And if you drink occasionally, then it’s a great way to have some quality brew on hand for when you have company over. Or just a way of having a rotating selection of seasonal brews that will bring another dimension to your enjoyment of the time of year.

There is a lot that goes into brewing your own. So be prepared to spend some time doing the research if you decide to DIY your own beer. I once had a batch explode on me. Luckily it was in the closet. But I found shards of glass sticking out of the wall. Those are called “bottle bombs”. This is something that happens during the bottle conditioning phase. If you put too much priming sugar in the batch before bottling, they become supper carbonated. I’m not saying this to deter you in any way, just as a reminder of how important it is to become familiar with the process.

Pickles in the Pantry

For the pantry, sauerkraut is pretty easy to make as are most fermented vegetables. Though you’ll need some fermentation vessels first. I use mason jars as they are a conveniently sized for storage and easy to sterilize. I made a recipe from Minimalist Baker not too long ago. It was Gingery Apple Cabbage Sauerkraut that turned out great. And it only gets better with age.

Pickled cucumbers and other veggies are just as easy. You can use the same mason jars and you need only make a brine for the veg you want to pickle. This means more sterilizing jars. Then you pour the brine over the veg in the sterilized jar and either can them, which involves boiling the sealed jars in water for a certain amount of time, or put them directly into the fridge for a quick refrigerator pickle. And making either of these recipes from veg you grew yourself is most satisfying and budget friendly as well.

Grow Your Own

Speaking of veg, if you haven’t started a garden yet there are few things more gratifying in life. While also being able to save you loads of money to boot. Watching the seeds you planted during the colder months grow and bear fruit as the year progresses, brings with it a sense of satisfaction that few other activities deliver. I like growing leafy greens such as kale and collards for their prolific yields. Mostly because I use these vegetables often, two to three times a week usually. So I like to have a few plants on hand to harvest from throughout the season.

Other varieties, such as cucumbers and squash, are prolific producers. So if you plant some of theses guys, make sure you have a plan for what you’ll do with all the veg you will be reaping! That’s why pickling is so popular. It gives you a chance to use up a lot of the produce you’ll be harvesting. Saving you loads of fridge and freezer space. Other treats such as watermelons, produce once towards the end of the season. So make sure you are watering and tending to your plants with diligence to get the maximum yield.

DIY Your Living Space and Wardrobe

Furniture

Repurposing old furniture can be a rewarding experience and add another dimension of DIY to your life. If you have a few tools and the creativity to see new purpose for old pieces. I was rooting around in my basement not too long ago when I found the bamboo bottom of an old dish strainer. I was going to throw it away when I realized it was durable, water resistant, and made for drainage. So I thought I’d use it to some degree for my house plants. I brought the piece upstairs and left it on my chair. I didn’t have time for my plan and the bamboo strainer started collecting things. As things that lay around are apt to do.

In this case it was collecting linens. Towels and face clothes to be specific. I enjoyed the aesthetic of the white towels on their new bamboo “shelf”. So I decided to keep it as a linens shelf and find similar pieces to create an open storage concept. With the light wooden tones that remind me of a spa, a piece of would-be-garbage turned into something aesthetically pleasing and functional. All I need now are a few candles, a diffuser and I’m on my way to a relaxing, sustainable and functional environment. My own little spa : )

Clothing & Accesories

Another DIY project of mine is I make a lot of are bandanas. If you’ve read my post, “Read the Labels, No New Clothes, Well Maybe…” you’ll know that I wear a lot of bandanas. During my career I’ve pretty much always worked in the food service industry to some degree. And as a result I have always had to wear a hair covering. Since I was already wearing bandanas, being a hippy, I just continued to wear them at work as well.

I started making them not too long ago out of old shirts I had. I use to wear paisley bandanas pretty much exclusively. I even made a window covering by pinning together a few dozen paisley bandanas. This gave my bedroom a Boho vibe in my first apartment at 19. It fit my style for sure, but the bandanas I DIY nowadays are of a solid color and made from old Tees. And much softer than their paisley cousins. I rotate between four of them, all made with no sewing involved. When it’s a bit safer to go shopping, I plan on going to a local thrift shop to look for old Tees that may be suitable to make the jump from worn-out shirt to new bandanas.

Sewing Throws

If you are handy with a sewing machine, or want to learn how to use one, a project I have planned is, to take some of my old articles of clothing, ones that I have a sentimental attachment to (that’s normal, right?), cut them into squares and make a blanket from them. A sort of patchwork quilt. Where my memories are embedded into its very fabric (sorry, I couldn’t resist). And I’ll also have a comfortable throw laying around for the colder seasons.

Built Additions

Another project I enjoyed putting together was, a wall of windows. I DIYed a frame out of 2″x 4″s and hung old windows I collected in it. This created a transparent partition. It had loads of character, while salvaging some windows that would have ended up in the garbage. This isn’t the most kid friendly piece of furniture so if you decide you’d like to try it, find a place where it will be out of reach of the little ones in your life.

Bringing It All Together

There are so many ways to make and curate the things we need and use. We’ve been bread to believe that we must buy the things we need. And if you think about, we live in a capitalist democracy. Sure, we can vote whomever we want into office to make changes, but they’re still getting paid by our tax dollars. And they are most likely catering to the industries and corporations that are running and controlling the economy of our country.

The phrase, “vote with your dollars” strikes a chord with me and for this very reason. The better we are as a community at saving those dollars, by being thrifty, making the things we need or shopping locally to support our local community, the better we will be at not buying whatever’s popular or trendy because we saw so and so eat/wear/use brand X. And we will embrace the spirit of a community that values craft in the items we use. Above those values of being disposable or easy of use.

DIYing From a Place of Caring

I’m not saying that everything that is disposable and easy to use is inherently bad, but that’s another topic for another post. What I feel is most important about making the things we use and need is the sense of capability in caring for ourselves and those that we love. And in so doing, creating a deeper sense of community and connection.

So go make things! Enjoy the process. Start a project you’ve always wanted to do or find something you use or drink everyday and see if you are able to make it at home. Substitute some DIY instead of saving up for something that’s on your “wish list”. Why not see if you can make it yourself. Because who knows what a little research may yield for you. You may be surprised at how much you enjoy the work and how satisfying the fruits of your labor may feel.

Image Credits: “Tools” by shoesfullofdust is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Socio-Economic-No-Bueno

Canteen tent, Bedouin Camp in the Sahara
Example of a Yrt, “Canteen tent, Bedouin Camp in the Sahara” by jonl1973 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

Looking for some Community, I got it in me that I needed to start throwing pottery. So I walked to a pottery studio that is about a mile and a half from where I live. The studio was beautiful. It was in an old brick factory of some sort, built at the turn of the nineteenth century. Four floors filled with artist’s studios and kinetic energies of all kinds. The vibes were indeed good.

Finding Creativity Where it Lives

While on my walk home I took a different route from the one that got me there. And where the studio itself was inspiring, brick laiden with pieces of ceramics in various stages of completeness crafted by the earthy hands of Carhartt robed artisans, it was the homes on my way back that struck a chord with my creativity. What was most striking to me was the driveway of an apartment building on the outskirts of a small urban city that borders where I live.

What was so interesting about this driveway was that it was adorned with tents. Like carports only used as a gathering space instead of, well carports. And with the yards and driveways so closely packed together, they almost carried an air of being gypsy like. Or possibly the ways that the nomadic cultures of Mongolia use yrts as moveable structures to follow the herds to greener pastures.

Either metaphor falls short of the surreal feeling of a temporary community popping up in and around the more permanent apartment buildings. In the sea of tiered concrete, apartments and single-family homes that they were cohabitating with it seemed strange indeed.

Growing Community

The possibility seemed so whimsical, but the idea really didn’t begin to unfold for me until on my walk home. Walking through a different section of town where I saw the more creative uses of gardening spaces in driveways. And the spaces between the sidewalk and the street where sometimes you will see a small strip of green space.

I thought, what if you could take these two ideas, the temporary feel and nature of the tents and mix that with the creative gardening and rich texture of the yrt?” I imagine you’d create community. Each tier would be a different level of connection, comfort and ease mixed with vibrancy. A place where friends, neighbors and Family could gather and cook out or play games. What’s stopping us from creating something so beautiful? Perceived socioeconomic class boundaries.

Wealth and Breaking Down Community

The main idea of success in America, the socio-economic standard, is usually wealth based. How much money, land, cars, stuff can we accumulate to make our lives more prestigious and comfortable? Enviable of our neighbors, friends and social circles. How are we being ranked in the eyes of those we want to be seen as being successful. This is an old story for sure. I’m not blowing any minds so far but it’s a yolk that seems to regenerate itself each generation.

The sixties for example. Free love wasn’t just some catch phrase to sell a product or to get people to do drugs. It was about actually giving love freely to one another. Instead of, to borrow a line from Bens Fold Five, being so “selfless cold and composed.” But the part of us that fears egalitarianism because we feel it devalues our self-worth the more we raise the worth of another, took those feelings of love and freedom, and turned it into a fashion trend. And that’s not a knock on fashion either.

Who We are is More Than What We Wear

Fashion is usually the entryway into self-discovery. Getting to know who we are as feeling beings. It only becomes a problem when somebody else wants to put their name on our underwear and claim us as a victim of their war. I’m looking at you Vicky. Full disclosure, I am wearing Lucky Brand underwear but I usually just buy whatever is on sale at Marshell’s.

So if wealth and status have been the markers of success in our society, then packing ourselves together to share a space that is warm and filled with a caring community of friends, family and neighbors, would sound crazy in the eyes of those who have achieved success or those aspirants to the “successful life”. More to the point I imagine if it became popular to create outdoor shared spaces of community, those same minded successful would create it, then put a fence around it and control whom could and could not come into their space. This creates homogeneity and reinforces the same sort of class warfare conditions that separates “us from them”. And destroying the key ingredient to creating a community of freely flowing ideas found by bringing together a diverse battery of individuals.

Tuning Out What Helps to Divide

When my father and step-mother watch T.V. they mute the commercials and read a book or talk about something that is relevant to their day or to what they’re watching. This may not be the answer to how we create more community but it’s a start for sure. Instead of being driven and influenced by what we see advertised or what we hear our friends and family talk about wanting, why not be driven by authentic connection and knowing what it is that opens that space of connection between us and those we love? For example, I know my father puts cinnamon in his coffee every morning before brewing. So for Christmas I’m looking for an especially tasty type of organic ceylon cinnamon. As a special treat for their morning coffee.

This is the type of connection mixed with action that creates community. Thoughtful and inquisitive but also with some follow through and to have “the ability to let that which does not matter, truly slide”-Tyler Durden. A.k.a. all the latest trends or anything that is preventing us from connecting to our authentic selves and getting to know each other in an authentic way.

So it is in this vein that I suggest we build and create a space of comfort and community. A space of enough, being together in nature in the rustic. But also the urban or suburban and create something beautiful that we can all use as a catalyst in getting to know one another in authentic and loving ways. Regardless of how someone may try to privities or patent it :]

No fights were started, nor credit card companies destroyed in the writing of this article. Nor does the author condone the use of violence toward achieving any end. Peace : ) and thanks for reading!

Updated: 2/3/22

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