The children went back to school in Kansas City this morning. Little people lined the corners with their mothers and fathers and their cool little back packs, as they waited for the bus. It feels like Autumn here already, and it is only the middle of August.
Oh how I remember the panic I felt when I went to the first day of school, every year I went for 19 years. I was showing up and probably showing off again, and both felt really forced. I was scared, but I couldn’t admit that, let alone show it. I still remember the first day of Elementary School when I was crying as I held my hand over my chest and tried to recite the Pledge of Allegiance between sniffles. I thought that was what brave looked like. Stiff; stifled emotions, and a patriotic symbol to remind me to stand in line.
Fast forward about 23 years and I now celebrate the Autumns. Not just because I am not in school anymore; they were the easiest years of my life, in a way. Someone else was always telling me what to do, and that structure felt comfortable. When it was gone, I floundered creating a new one, for many years. Those were also the height of my drinking days, too.
I love Autumn because I love the smell of leaves. I love the cool mornings after the blistering summer heat. And, I love this Autumn because I feel a sense of community and connection in my life like never before. It feels alive and expansive too, and very real because I have created it and allowed it to grow up around me.
There is something very beautiful and very powerful in shared vulnerability; it creates a container of energy for transformation. I have found that community in recovery and I simply could not have grown up with out it. I wouldn’t want to, and that is precisely the difference. I choose to participate in these communities. They feed and nourish me, and hold me accountable too. For my radiance, not just my mistakes.
Saturday night reflected the brilliance of a gem of a community that I live among, as people came together to celebrate the leader and now CEO of the Healing House‘s 9th year of sobriety. There were over 100 people in the room and all of them were touched or transformed by this woman’s presence in their life. I was invited to share, and asked the women present to give a 1 minute story of how this happened for them. Fifteen people came to the microphone that evening, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. Our stories were so very different in detail because we were radically different people. But, something singularly powerful united us, and that was grace, and the love of this women that had reached out to us at our most vulnerable moment, and invited us “home.” That is what we say when you arrive at the Healing House; “Welcome Home.” It takes a while to really feel that welcome, and that place, but the ones that recover, sure do.
When I was moving on after about 11 months of living there, my friend cornered me, after I made that announcement in a House meeting. She told me to come back, because it was so very special there. “Not everybody has something like this in their life, MaryAnn. Cherish it.”
And, I do.
Unity is about the change in perspective to realize that even though we are different, there is something at our core that is beautiful, regardless of where we have been or what we have done. It is about collaboration and compromise, collective growth, and individuation too.
I have more than one of these communities in my life and they hold me, even as they allow me to change, and move on.
Freedom is born in community too, because we are seen for who we truly are.
The following story really moved me this week. I thank J. Kim Wright of Cutting Edge Law for sharing it.