People Can Be Good, or, Relationship as Refuge
Shame is such a sticky, deep, murky feeling. I'm struggling to write this because I'm wrestling with a sense of shame. I feel embarrassed to share the things I'd like to share with you because it means coming clean about ways I've failed and things I've been learning that feel so obvious, but for me have been a revelation. One thing I know to be true, though, is that it's important and worthwhile to be honest, even if it isn't easy.
Last month I spent a couple weeks in a bit of a hole. It wasn't a deep well of sad, but enough of a hole to derail my focus and certainly my enthusiasm. Truth be told, it's been a really difficult year for me. My living situation has been extraordinarily stressful, and activating to my deepest core wounding. Out of desperation, I crawled back into therapy and because of this have at least been able to make good use of some of the more painful moments. This chapter has been highly uncomfortable, and also clarifying, healing, and in a long term sense, helpful.
Somewhere around 2019 I started to notice it was getting a little strange in my head. At that point I'd been single for a long time and had spent the few years before that taking long, adventurous, highly Instagram-able solo journeys. I tried to be honest about some of the harsher realities behind my glamorous-looking lifestyle, but really, it was hard to argue with that version of myself. I mean, come on! Hanging all day by an infinity pool in Bali? She was having a really good time.
She was also avoiding responsibility for anyone or anything besides herself. This was a sort of counter balance to my overly responsible, high achieving earlier life. My only "job" while I was traveling was to climb temples to watch sunrises and make new friends and eat street food and read in hammocks and try not to get hit by a scooter while crossing the road. I got to know myself intimately, made massive gains in confidence and reclaimed a kind of carefree childhood experience. It was good medicine...for awhile.
Eventually I began longing for people and purpose. I planted myself back at home in New York City to ground my roots there again. I've been getting so much healing around connection, reliance and attachment in the few years since then, spurred on by a hunch that I had reached the limits of what I could learn about myself without a trustworthy mirror. Suddenly, I needed people. I knew there was more there than I could discern on my own, layers I needed assistance to peel back, dark corners I needed someone else's lantern to illuminate.
It's so humbling and slightly terrifying to admit that I can't do it on my own, and ultimately that I don't want to. I muscled through for a long time, and I did alright. Yes, I am capable of great feats of strength and courage, and life is just so much sweeter and easier when it's shared. When I was in a hole last month, I recognized I was in a hole, but that recognition wasn't enough to pull me out. I tried something new. I reached out to some people who've expressed sincere care for me and I let them into my moment. It felt so awkward showing other people what I consider the most cringe version of myself, but damn if it didn't totally sort me out.
One of our most deeply human, healthy, normal needs is to feel safe, seen and appreciated. If your early experiences with intimacy and closeness were confusing, scary, overwhelming, or otherwise not ideal, it's especially difficult to understand the possibility for relationships to be places of refuge, comfort and loving insight. I have a complex relationship to relationship. My early life closeness was never entirely safe or straightforward. Even with all the community building I've done, even with a strong intellectual grasp of how important connection is, I'm embarrassed to admit that I've been way too uncomfortable with vulnerability to really Get It. Only a few have consistently been allowed close enough to see me when I'm still messy, still in process, still figuring it out. It's pretty lonely in here, though. There must be another way.
Some of you may remember that back in 2019, inspired by my burgeoning interest in People, I attempted to start a business. It did not work. For many reasons. First of all, I had not even remotely begun to live into my healing around attachment, and possibly more importantly, I had absolutely no idea how to start a business. There are lots of articles and checklists out there, but writing a business plan (which is important!) is hard work that's made immensely easier with guidance. I hadn't given up on my business baby, School of Self-Study, but I wasn't making meaningful progress on my own. I watched my gifted quilter pal, Sabel Rose Regalia, transform her processes through an ethical creative entrepreneur course taught by couture designer and business maven Kelly Hogaboom, and it planted a little seed in my brain: maybe with the right support and strategy, I could also carve out a professional place for myself in the world on my own terms.
This summer I've had the pleasure to be in class with Kelly and a brilliant, supportive cohort of other creatives. The process has helped me craft a rockin' business plan, and elicited a heady mixture of both swelling confidence and abject terror. Oh my god I'm so totally freaked out to be doing this, and thank goodness I'm not trying to go it alone anymore. I'm so grateful for the means to access this life changing resource. I would not be here writing this, filled with this much belief in myself, my work and my worth, were it not for Kelly. And my talented therapist. And my wonderful partner. And my pals who cheer me on no matter how cringe I think I'm being. I get by with a little/lot of help from a LOT of people, and I am so happy and relieved to arrive at this moment with all of these generous, loving folks in my corner.
There is still much to do before I can officially open the virtual doors of School of Self-Study. My rockin' business plan has some remaining gaps, and if you're so inclined, you can help me get closer to finished. I created a market survey to better inform some of my choices, and it would be a big help to get your feedback. No pressure, truly. I'm really into enthusiasm, so if it's a No for you, let it be a No. If it's a Yes, here's a link to the Google form: thank you in advance for your insight!
If you have a hunch that you've reached the limits of what you can learn or do on your own, this is your sign to get resourced. Believe me, I've been in deep wells of sad, in sickening spirals of panic, blackout drunk a few too many times. I know just how hard it is to ask for help. I feel a little queasy writing this because now you know that I need help sometimes, too. I learn a bit more everyday that my needs are meetable, that needing others just makes me human. You don't have to take my word for it. Think of some people who have expressed sincere care for you and let them into your moment. I know, gross. Cringe! But because they care about you, they really want to help you. It turns out that lots of people do. Give it a shot.
Another world is possible.