November 11, 2017
So, I'm new here. I've been at Windward for 3 weeks now. Almost a month
I'm pretty good at being a "new person". When I was a kid, we moved every couple months, and I learned all the right things to do to make new friends quickly. I wasn't good at putting down roots, but I was talented at making a good first impression.
"Hi! I'm Katie C! What's your favorite color?"
That pattern followed into my adult life, where every few months, I would have the compulsion to switch cities or even just neighborhoods. Something about settling in scared me. I was good at being new. I was good at superficial, fun, light-hearted conversations. I was not so good at letting people see me when I was weak, depressed, or angry. I started to realize that any time I felt ashamed of myself or afraid that someone would see the "real" me, I would just remove myself from the situation and start over as shiny and new again. It was much easier than facing the potential of rejection.
Needless to say, this wasn't the most productive pattern.
When I found my first intentional community, the OnGoing Community in Portland, I wanted to learn to settle. I wanted to get good at staying still. It was hard for me. I got restless. I got scared and the familiar shame came up and drove me out of the first house I lived in. I knew I wanted to stay in the community, so I jumped around to a few houses within our neighborhood and continued to participate in community activities, but my shame drove me further and further away from the people that I respected and loved the most. I was afraid that I didn't deserve to spend time with these incredible people.
"Medicinal plant gathering with Ongoing Community members"
Once, on a camping trip, I saw members of my community interacting with people that I didn't know, but who were old friends of theirs. They were so playful, carefree, and joyous. I was jealous! I finally overcame my insecurities and talked to one of the community members about how I was feeling: rejected, unloved, and out of place. He said, "Chuck, we've only known each other for a few months. I've known some of these people for years. It takes time to build that love and trust in one another. Don't worry about it, just don't move away again."
Well, I moved away (sorry, friend). And then back. And then away again. And geographically vacillated, as I often do. But I still stayed in touch with my loved ones in this community. And the more I learned to communicate my fears and insecurities, the deeper our bonds grew. They came to understand that my constant moving had nothing to do with how much I cared for them, and everything to do with my own cycles and need for self-care. We stitched together a tight quilt of love and understanding, and now I feel as if I am one of the "old friends" I used to envy so much.
"Street Painting during the Village Building Convergence"
My friend was right. Staying in touch and staying in love take time and energy; Patience and confidence; Trust and a willingness to be honest and vulnerable.
None of those things were easy and I'm incredibly grateful for the humans who allowed me to grow in their arms and their hearts.
The Ecosex Convergence, my first experience at Windward. (That's me in the red nose!)
Fast forward to today! November 11th, 2017.
I'm at Windward (which, quite delightfully, has a relationship with the OnGoing Community). I'm turning 28 next month, which means I've had almost a full decade of adult life to screw up my relationships and learn from them. I'm grateful for all those years, and the stumbles and pains involved, because they've lead me to a place of calm, steady focus and self-assuredness that I couldn't have found any other way.
I'm among a wonderful group of individuals who can stand on their own, but lovingly support each other in times of need. I am inspired by the bravery, determination, and sheer intellectual and emotional agility I see here on a daily basis. I'm astounded by the way the land speaks of the dedication and inventive curiosity of the folks who precede me on this land.
It would be easy for 25 year old me to convince myself that I don't deserve to be here. It would be easy for me to feel insecure at the depth of the relationships that current members have built over the course of years (nearly a decade, for some). It would be easy for me to be concerned that there was no room for my shadow here, and that I had to hide my depression or physical fatigue.
But because of the lessons I've learned from my previous community and the radical vulnerablity that I witness here, I can show up with my whole heart (light and dark) and my whole body (strong and weak). I also know that it takes time to integrate. For now, I am learning the systems, cycles, and social fabric of Windward. I am looking around for clues as to what keeps this community going and how I can support and improve it's functionality. I am learning how each person fits in and how I fit in too.
"Facing my fear of heights and painting with Andrew"
I look forward to the projects and relationships that I'm just beginning here. I expect to look back on this time and laugh at how much I did not know. I willingly face that there will be pain and hard work, interlaced with love, tears, forgiveness, and tests of patience. All life is that way. There is no "escape" from that reality. As much as I used to search for an end to my trauma and anxiety, It's still there. It's in me, waiting to be worked on, piece by piece every day. You can't rush this stuff.
What I will say, is that living out of the city and in this still mountain air has given me time to breathe and to be less distracted. I'm socially stimulated in common spaces and can scuttle off to my warm little yurt when I need to recover and be an introvert. Folks here respect both sides of me and I feel safe communicating my needs. I can ask questions and get clear, articulate answers. Windward really is a marvel of intention, and what can be achieved, both socially and physically, when enough people work towards a common goal.
I'm challenged constantly, which I love, to learn more and to lean into the person I really want to be. I get to learn something about physics, permaculture, or history while I'm frying an egg for breakfast! I have opportunities to deepen my capacity for compassion and curiosity every single day.
"Leveling the longhouse floor"
I feel incredibly privileged to be here, and relieved that all my strange, seemingly disparate studies can finally be put to use. I've been describing to friends as "finding a perfect Chuck-shaped spot to nestle into". The single largest stress in my life so far has been the expectation that I must do only one or two things and make that my job. Here, I can create a life that stimulates the renaissance person inside of me who was dying for a chance to be activated in every area of my life. We sing, build, cook, grow, discuss, invent, and teach here. The only limit on the amount of things you can study is time. And you learn to manage your time effectively here. Without the distractions of a metropolitan city, what really matters to you comes to the surface. Another bonus, is that I can't spend all my money at expensive taco bars.
I don't know if my spirit will settle and I will find a way to sit still, but I am hopeful. I feel that enough of my needs are met here and that I could never run out of learning opportunities in this wonderful outdoor laboratory. But it will be a test, certainly. Do I really want what I say I want? Is this really where I belong?
The apprenticeship here is a 3 month long interview that goes both ways. So far, I'm enjoying learning about Windward and seeing where I can fit in and who I could become if I chose to spend my life here. I would whole-heartedly encourage anyone who is dissatisfied with our current society to come visit us. If you want a place to lend your heart, mind, and body to projects that are both empowering and ecologically responsible, we need people like you! I look forward to meeting the next new person, and hope that the lessons I've learned can help me welcome them, as I would welcome a more tender and less experienced version of myself.
Wish me luck!
Blessings and warm thoughts.