Sunday, January 31, 2010

Where I Fall Short

I have been thinking about the community a lot the last couple of days. There has been a discussion at the Imps Yahoo Group about social status, cliques, and potentials of real or perceived inclusion and exclusion in the community. I have found myself feeling defensive when faced with the idea that anyone may feel excluded from our community or think that we are an exclusive club. I realize my defensiveness is based in sadness - heartbreak that there are people in our community experiencing isolation and loneliness, feelings that they don’t belong and that somehow they aren’t “enough” of one thing or too much of another to be included. I know those feelings too well, which is why I try so incredibly hard to create an atmosphere of acceptance while holding ourselves to standards of healthy interaction (we love you, we want to know you, but we do ask that you at least try to interact with us in a healthy, uplifting way; we'll help you back up when you fall down and hope you'll do the same for us).

We make big effort towards letting people know that our mission is to accept, embrace, and hold space for anyone and everyone who seeks a safe space for their healthy creative and sexual expression. We train our staff in inclusivity. We make decisions all the time that are based on principles of inclusivity rather than our own feelings about individuals and we ask others to do the same. It’s not easy, but it’s incredibly rewarding to watch people who are visibly struggling with insecurity and unconscious/unhealthy social behaviors integrate into the community because we seek out their light, we practice forgiveness, we are willing to risk awkwardness, and we are learning open and healthy communication together.

But the reality is that I can recognize all this and also recognize my own falling short of being an example of the openness I desire the community to practice. The thread about ageism and single older men being perceived as creeps makes me aware that I suffer from judgments about people that keep me from interacting with them. I also struggle with typical insecurities that I will not be liked or that no one is interested in what I have to say. And I struggle with light-hearted social interactions. What we call “small-talk” is an ability that I do not naturally possess in most situations. I am wired to talk about how I feel rather than what I think or what I do, which is usually a more honest and complicated conversation than most people want to have at a social event. So I struggle both with not knowing what to say to people when I have a chance to interact, and fearing that if I talk about what comes into my mind (heart) that they won’t want to interact with me. In most opportunities I have to start or continue a conversation, I choose to just stay quiet.

As I wonder about what contributes to a person’s perception that there is an exclusive clique(s) in the Imps community, I wonder what people perceive in me and my quiet. I know in high school, when I was painfully shy, some people thought I was snobby because I didn’t interact and that maybe I thought I was better than other people. Does my quiet make people think I’m not interested in them or think that I am better than them? Is this compounded by being at the center of the community as a Hostess? Any position of leadership is accompanied by some negative perceptions, whether deserved or not. I had a staff member tell me a few months ago that people are intimidated by us because of our position. I can’t comprehend being perceived as intimidating when I’m sitting here so damn afraid that you won’t like me, and yet I fear my quiet is much of what may make me intimidating.

I’ve realized that if I don’t give people a story, a context for my behavior, then they are going to make up their own story about me and what my actions mean. So here I am, telling you my story...that I am experiencing the same things that many of you are when you come to our events. I’m scared and I don’t really know how to be myself around you. I am fighting “to be nobody but myself.” I am learning how to express myself, what matters to me. Despite the quiet you see, what matters to me most is connecting with YOU. You have no idea how much I love you, how much I think about you, how much I want to witness the stories of your unfolding. My desire is to break free from the fear of being myself with you and in doing so, to help you break free from your fear, too. My desire is to create a space, a community, where everyone can absolutely be accepted for who they are from the moment they walk in the door. Is that an unrealistic Utopian dream? Maybe, but does that make it any less worth striving for?

“Wanting and desire are potent, and they lie latent, dormant, silenced for so long – sometimes our entire life. Other voices (religion, family of origin, partners, work, culture) tell us in no uncertain terms that to want or desire, is selfish, dangerous, and a huge set-up for disappointment. Those voices are lying. They are the voices that keep us from being ourselves; that keep us from being “nobody but myself.”

Acknowledging that we have desire(s) – that we want, is what awakens everything that makes us who we truly are, “nobody but myself.” It’s the best weapon in e. e. cumming’s fight and mine. I’m betting yours, as well...Have faith that what you want and desire is inspired, beautiful, powerful, and worthy. Have faith that your truest voice, your inside voice, is the one that the rest of us most need to hear.
Ronna Detrik

4 comments:

Winter said...

April,

God, don't you ever worry yourself over that dammed issue of status or exclusivity within the Imp community.

People who think it is clickish, or exclusive have very little time in as volunteers, program developments, or event coordination.

When people come together for a common cause there are deep bonds made. When each individual is deeply committed to realizing the cause/vision there is bond that is so special. Your vision is so perfect I could cry when reading it. A vision I once saw in a dream.

Its a rough road and it takes courage to stay on course, not let this kind of nonsense get to you.

People who put in dedicated time toward a common cause, especially without compensation, earn higher respect, naturally. It is not like the reason you are regarded with status and respect is because you wear Prada, lol.

There is nothing more precious than authenticity.

Finding ourself, being true to ourself as best we know, taking down the blinds that block our view of how beautiful others are is what this whole life trip is about.

I am not much for small talk either, once the weather has been mentioned, my mind is off contemplating the wonders of the universe and small talk conversation becomes a distant hum.

I am guarded at first and I am that way for as long as I need to be but once I feel comfortable people get to see me.

Never worry to much about this stuff. Nothing can be done about the age issue. It is not like you have a quota that needs to be met that includes so many young, middle and old. So many young that want old, and so many old that want young,with a few that just like to hook up with the same age...What? Same age!! lol

sorry, I couldn't resist.

The Imps are doing a good job. The vision and cause is a noble one and one day April it is gonna happen.

Differences will be embraced, and even cherished, everyone will be free to be, to find their self, to share their self without judgement, condemnation or consequence.

It is not Utopia, it is a place called Home.

I have the same dream and it is hard work just getting myself there. I commend you and respect your work.

Dave Berman said...

Thank you for sharing, April. I don't find you to be too quiet, or too loud, but just...you, a caring, supportive, accepting, encouraging, loving and non-judgmental (except toward yourself) human who sets a good example in words and action.

You are also very sensitive and empathic, and perhaps too easily influenced by the perceptions you have of what others may be thinking or feeling, or even directly articulating. Your presence (detached observation of your own ego) can help you choose to maintain whatever emotional states you want without ignoring or being too heavily swayed by others. This is a power you have already, as does each of us.

Peace and love,
Dave

Blue said...

Beautiful, wonderful April -- although I might be biased in my opinion, having shared time with you outside of the parties, I believe that your quiet is no match for the acceptance and welcoming energy of your frequent and breathtaking smiles.

And remember, while of course you play a significant role in the vibe of the Imps events, you can't take the weight of others' misconceptions (about "cliques") or ageism on your shoulders. In fact, I believe that your actions and energy do much to counteract these misconceptions instead.

I "feel you" on the small-talk issue. It's hard for me too. But instead of being a handicap, I think instead that you are blessed with the courage to talk about real issues and feelings rather than making mindless chit-chat. Maybe it makes a few uncomfortable, but I think it also inspires many others to be honest and open about their own feelings.

Thank you for this open and very honest self-examination of your feelings -- and the courage to share it publicly. I believe it will go far towards making others feel comfortable about sharing their own feelings and inviting productive discussions on sensitive topics.

Anonymous said...

Hey, this is Sean - It seemed to me that a lot of people are interpreting what I posted in a negative manner, as people typically have pretty negative connections to words like "status" and "cliques", whereas I view those concepts as more or less ever-present social structures, and its really cool that the Imps has this culture of both far-reaching acceptance(I know this when I wear pretty dresses and don't shave my legs) and status awarded for meaningful contributions.

Also I will make out with all of your old ladies. I will be a hero one cougar at a time.