Recently, about 25 of us came together to discuss community, specifically, the issues of inclusion and exclusion. Our goal was to come together to learn more about the issue, witness the feelings and stories of each other and to come up with ideas about how to deal with it. Many feelings, stories and ideas came up over the 3 hours. Sandy Broberg graciously let me have a copy of her notes and I was going to write a summary of those feelings, stories and ideas, but instead was called to write an essay using said feelings, stories and ideas. No one is named, no one is quoted. The frame of reference is my own so please allow for that.
The issue of inclusion and exclusion appears to be universal. Even those who we believe are a part of the “in-crowd” have feelings around it. Those people who seem to be at the center of it all may also feel alone, not included, or any number of other feelings that come from being a human being. One of the main “tools” we can use is a sense of Grace. Another is communication.
The community isn’t a static thing, it’s based on individuals and we are all so different. We’re shy, nervous, introverted, extroverted, uncomfortable, closed up, opened up, desperate, needy, arrogant, humble, false, true, fearful, strong, enlightened, unconscious, manipulative, pushy, whiney, god-like, ugly, and beautiful. We lie to ourselves and convince ourselves that we’re something we’re not. Or we don’t. We believe we know the truth, we search for the truth or we don’t care about the truth at all because we believe there is no truth. Or all three. Or none. We value absolute honesty, or we feel more comfortable being vague.
We tell ourselves stories that have nothing to do with the truth. Or maybe they do. We take care of people who don’t need to be taken care of. We inflate or deflate the truth of others and ourselves. We project our own shadows on each other. We have our preferences, and sometimes they are actually thought out and not us acting out of our habits. We have the energy for a circle of 100s or we are challenged by one person. We are all on different places of our paths. None of the paths are the same, but they are all equal. We are each “enough”, no matter where on our path we are.
Whenever we face an individual, whether in our community, or “out there” somewhere, this is who we are facing. A multi-faceted individual who is so complex that labels can’t really be applied. Knowing that, accepting that, gives us a sense of Grace, and the ability to allow them to be who they are. We can give them the benefit of the doubt and allow them to work out their situations and come up with the best solutions for themselves, and not take it personally if we end up not being a part of the solution.
So much pain was expressed around being excluded. Broken hearts, pain, fear, loneliness, and feeling not good enough. Some felt that they were excluded because they were in a committed relationship. Some thought that sides were being taken, that we, as a community, consent to division. Some feel excluded from an “in-crowd” and don’t see how to get included. They felt that they were on the outside. I heard “fuck you” and “I’m good enough…” There was so much pain.
So much pain, and not a lot of solutions because the community isn’t static, it’s based on individuals and we are all very, very different. It’s hard to hear but sometimes a side is taken, sometimes someone is more comfortable around singles or couples, and sometimes someone doesn’t care for someone else. Sometimes, someone doesn’t have the bandwidth to let another person in, they are already full, maybe overextended. Sometimes, someone has put up walls and doesn’t know how to let us in. Sometimes, the challenge is so great, it’s easier to just slide back and let it all go. Sometimes, we don’t know our own truth, our own selves. Sometimes, we make up stories and act on them. We are all growing.
The big subject was communication. It all came back down to communication. Know your truth, tell your truth, lovingly. Many people said that it’s hard to hear the truth but they would rather hear it than a lie. We all have stories in our heads, why not find out if they’re true? Hearing the truth can also help us see that there are different sides to every issue.
If we don’t know the truth, or suspect a lie, how do we handle it? I don’t know about you but for me, I often end up taking my story as the truth. I end up seeing evidence that I’m unloved, rather than looking for the evidence that I am loved. That is just crazy-making. It can be hard to hear the truth but our stories can be even worse.
Sometimes a truth is told that doesn’t even need to be told. The question didn’t even need to be asked. If I’m not a good friend of a person and they didn’t invite me to a small intimate event, is there even an issue? Are they accountable for my “exclusion?” I don’t think so! Just asking the question opens me up to pain that I didn’t need to feel. Just because we are a community, it doesn’t mean that all of our relationships are equal. There is great diversity. People get close, or not close, for their own reasons.
Here is an example from my life. I have had, at times, people who I have not really connected with at all. It might be a very cursory connection, a more of a Namaste connection. “I see the light in you.” “I feel universal love for you.” But, for different reasons, I haven’t made any attempt to deepen that connection. Suddenly, there is drama. I feel like I’m called to the carpet to explain myself. I feel sorry for the person. They are putting themselves through hell, and it’s all their own story. I tend to just ignore the situation. I know, it’s probably the immature thing to do but I am a human too. I just don’t think it’s my responsibility to take care of others in that way and I resent having to spend energy on it. Especially when it wasn’t necessary.
How people get invited
There are many reasons a person gets invited. The hostess might have a desire to get to know them better. They may bond really well with them. The event might benefit from having the person there. In any situation, a hostess will ask themselves “How many can I reasonably invite? Who is best for this event? What am I trying to create? ” There are lots of variables in creating an event. It’s a hard job to do.
One of the things I keep talking about is a revision of the definition of “exclusion”. Exclusion, to be excluded, seems to me like an active verb. Like someone thought of me and then decided that no, I’m not wanted. Karin is not wanted. What a horrible way to look at it. I prefer to think of it as passive. More of a “ok, I’m going to organize an event and these people are the ones who come to mind for it. After all, I would be more concerned if everyone was going to the Comedy Underground without me, than if there was a small group doing a Native American Ritual. Why get riled? Why create reasons to get riled? Redefine what exclusion means and release the story.
What about new people? We’ve all been new people. As a community, it’s very difficult to come up with a “solution.”. How can we prescribe one way of being for such a diverse group of individuals? The totality may be as a community but it’s as individuals that we contribute. We might make a point of meeting new people and including them in our dance. We can adopt a nurturing attitude. We can be honest with ourselves and with others. We can use the issue as an opportunity for our own growth. We can hold each person in loving Grace that lets them be who they are. We can be open, if we can, and model self-care when we can’t. We can encourage others to find their own path and blaze new trails.
What if we are the one who is new? Holding Grace is a good start. Understanding and accepting differences. Realizing that everyone is human. Deciding what we want and then going for it. Getting to know people and opening up to them. Coming to community events. Showing up. Understanding that it takes time to build relationships. Knowing that a non-invite today may be an invite tomorrow. Not waiting to be invited, and doing the inviting ourselves. Creating our own events. Finding people we like and creating relationships.
We are creative beings. Why not be what we want to be? Worrying about the “in-crowd” ? We’re hundreds strong, why not have many “in-crowds”? Soon, there will be new people looking to us. We can find the acceptance in ourselves that will allow us to let go of any outside sources of upset. We can know that we are perfect just the way we are, and soon, we’ll be surrounded by people who also know it.
Couples splitting up/Caretaking
So what do we do about divided couples? Especially when it’s painful for one or both of them? One community leader who often has events said that she speaks to both parties first and then decides what feels true and right for her. She feels that there is no need to take care of either party and that it’s preferable to check in with her if there’s an issue rather than assume. She also said that if one of the couple is a closer friend to her, she’ll often let that person choose whether or not to invite the ex. She trusts herself to do what’s right for her.
Dealing with feuding couples is complicated. What if we decide to be completely open, invite both, and then the one we’re closest to bows out voluntarily? Maybe it’s best to trust our own intuition and take care of ourselves and what we would like to see. Or maybe we can leave it up to fate. Some people think caretaking is an insult to their intelligence, that it’s making decisions for them. Others appreciate it. Is it selfish to take care of ourselves? Is it our responsibility to take care of others? Is it caretaking or consideration? It seems like a fine line and it’s for each of us to answer it for ourselves. Understanding that everyone has different ideas can help us hold the Grace to be understanding, and forgiving.
Falling off the radar/Saying No
Many people are concerned that if they don’t say “Yes” to everything they’re invited to, that they’ll quit being invited. I think there is some truth to this, if we’re not around and no one hears from us, we end up falling off the radar. So, we’re going to have to do something about it.
First, we can be appreciative when we are invited. Thank the host and express the desire to be invited again. Don’t tell the host what we’re going to be doing instead, it might be taken as “this other event is better than your event”. RSVP, don’t let it go. Don’t be a “non-responder”. We’re sending the message the invitation is not valuable. We can RSVP as soon as we can so that if it is a limited event, the host can invite someone else. We can encourage people to keep inviting us.
If we’re going to pull back, let people know and make an effort to stay in some sort of contact. Email, Facebook, or call sometimes. Let people know that we still see ourselves as a part of the community and let them know when we’re ready to come back.
If we really pull back and stop contacting and then want to return to the community, know that it’ll take time to re-establish ourselves with our community and our friends. They might have taken it personally. When we return, we are in an interesting place and we will need to even more accepting, understanding, and patient.
Once upon a time there were three roommates, two of whom spent a lot of time hanging out together in the living room. The third, spent most of the time in the bedroom. The third was wishing that he was included, the other two wondering why he wasn’t with them. Learning experience: quit wondering and ask! Or just join in.
There was a very small party and the hostess was approached by someone who wasn’t invited and wanted to let her know that it was okay. That they didn’t have exclusion issues. Others came by after the fact to express delight in the good time it looked like everyone had at the party, without issues. For her it was an amazing gift.
Someone really wanted to go to a wedding but wasn’t invited. She asked if she could be on the list, was put on the list and both had a wonderful time.
Someone said that they see that while they allow others to see them, they don’t let them in. They are always alone, barricaded, and isolated, and it comes from within.
Someone talked about how coming to dance was a challenge, that it took everything they had and would dance alone. Then, they allowed themselves permission to open up energetically and the world changed.
One person said that they are an introvert and group socializing is challenging. It brings up kid-stuff issues and provides an opportunity for growth. You learn that you can work through it and end up with an open heart that knows that things can get messy and still be okay.
Dance gave her: heart blown open, a return to the body, full self-expression, acceptance, and non-judgment, all foundations of community.
Someone had great anxiety about being a host/hostess.
Someone felt very excluded due to breaking up with their partner, and wanted to be heard.
Someone had someone else tell them “I don’t know what my truth is”, when they approached them about being excluded.
It’s a complex subject, just as complex as the many individuals who struggle with it. The community isn’t a static thing, it’s based on individuals and we are all so different. It’s even more complex because of the size and nature of our community. Connection, friendship, community, it’s right there in front of us and sometimes also seem so far away. Is there a “best solution?” I don’t think so. Navigating a community is a part of being human. Know thyself, be true to thyself, communicate, and grow. Peace and love to you all.