“When one of us is hungry, we’re all hungry.”
~ Beryl Bender Birch
Disclaimer: this is the first installment in a two-parter. Mostly because this is a topic that I feel passionately about so I want the freedom to run with it, without making your eyes blur with all this text, dear reader.
I talk a lot about self-care. It’s the homework I give clients and advice I give friends (and myself): take care of yourself.
You can’t take care of anyone if you’re not first taking care of yourself. Simple advice, I know, but man it’s hard to follow. Harder than one would think. But lately, I’ve been thinking about self-care in community.
Some of the greatest activities that I pursue in the name of self-care involve more feet than my own traipsing through these beautiful mountains, more hearts than my own exploring meaning and more voices than mine sharing experiences and teachings.
Some of my most important modes of self-care directly rely on community, directly rely on others to be a part of it with me. The self-care that comes from allowing myself to be met, to be seen—to stop holding so tightly to my guarding and let someone else in.
As much as the body-worker in me wants to tell you about stretching and icing and letting your body rest when it needs to, the human in me wants to tell you that having a beer with a friend is also self-care. So is dancing, so is playing pool, so is going camping with a good group of people.
When we engage with others, and namely with community, we are reminded that we are not alone. We know that while we may be suffering or struggling with self-judgment or mending a broken heart or getting to know longing and desire, or reveling in joy and abundance, so is everyone else. My suffering might not look like yours, but let me tell you honey, suffering is suffering. Joy is joy. And for me to know that I am not alone both in my suffering and my joy does more to mend this heart of mine than a bath and a glass of wine (although they do come pretty close).
Beyond that knowledge is the feeling of being met in whatever state we’re in. Connecting to others gives us an opportunity to be met, to be seen, to allow someone else to meet us as we are—and it lets us know that wherever we are is okay. Connection, authentic heartfelt connection, can mitigate shame.
So community is where I focus.
Community gives us mirrors, for better or worse (worse is sometimes even more helpful, in my opinion). It puts us in touch with our humanity—it helps us to connect with that part of us that is universal—universally longing and singing and desiring and celebrating and loving. Universally aching. Universally wishing that something were different. Universally appreciating what we do have in our lives.
But it’s not always easy to find community that is safe, where you feel held and loved and supported. This evasiveness is why we need community even more.
We need community because we need it; everyone needs it. I try to not stand on my soapbox and make broad generalizations, but this is one I feel completely comfortable with—everyone needs community. Because the fact of the matter is, we can’t go it alone.
Life’s too hard. And I would venture to guess that it’s too hard because we’re not supposed to go it alone.
Alicia Banister swims in the sea of bodyworkers in Boulder, Colorado as a CranioSacral and Massage Therapist. She is not very good at sleeping late or cutting in a straight line. But she is really good at regularly feeding her dog, being in the woods, cooking, laughing loudly and often and making mistakes. She regularly marvels at the human body and the breadth of its inherent healing capacity, as well as the fantastic beings that inhabit those bodies. She makes it a practice to let life humble her as often as possible. And to remember to have a sense of humor about it all. You can find her ramblings at reflectionsmassage.wordpress.com and reflectionsmassage.com.
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Editor: Lara Chassin