What’s Real (take two)

poppies_four.jpg

poppies at the magic hour

This piece fell into my lap this morning (I wrote it a couple of years ago) and I am amazed at how relevant it still feels… I wanted to share it with you.

Where the heck have I been? Some of you have been asking me this lately, sending sweet little emails like, Are you okay? Or, Your blog sounds, I don’t know, different.

Mostly, what I have been doing for the last several months is searching for what’s real in my life, what nourishes me most, what grounds me most powerfully in the tangible now of my life. I have been pruning, trimming, whittling away at what what no longer serves me, taking stock of all the blessings, choosing powerfully and intentionally what I want to keep.

Only some of this was self-inflicted. Sometimes the universal pruning shears come out and you are the unsuspecting, naked, bony tree shivering in the wind. The process can be painful, but I now see how essential it is for growth. Letting go of what no longer nourishes us leaves room for new fruit and stronger roots.

I am grateful for it, if not a little disarmed by the process. Growth can feel violent, like that line in Rumi’s Guesthouse about the crowd of sorrows: Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
In the wake of my clearing, I had the sense that my energy was too far-flung, dispersed in too many places, that I had been tending too many things I couldn’t touch and that I was out of balance in some fundamental way. I realized I needed to bring my focus in closer and tend things much nearer to home. And when I say this, I mean really close to home, like my actual home, my family, my neighbors, my body, my heart, my community right here in Berkeley. I had to look hard at what’s most real and true in my life.

And of course, how do you reconcile being a blogger, surfing Facebook, emailing, texting, phoning, twittering when you are on a quest to ground yourself in what is real in your life? How do these things fit in? and what am I giving up by spending countless hours online checking emails and blogs and weather reports and celebrity gossip columns? What am I not creating in my life as a result of all of the life force I give to my “friends” in cyberspace?
And this is where it gets tricky to talk about.

I have a lot of friends in cyberspace. I know you do too. We love them! They are like us! They are kindred spirits. They are creative, they care about what we care about. We wish they were in our hometown. Sometimes we graduate to phone friendships and these connections deepen even more. Still more rare and wonderful is when we get to meet them in person and confirm, Yes! you are real! and you are even better in real life. These are incredible blessings.

And yet, I realized that part of that far flung feeling was due to how many of my friendships were far from home. At least for a while, I needed to anchor myself in the realness of people I could serve tea to, whose kids I could watch, who could brave Ikea with me or help me rearrange my furniture. I put a very unofficial call out to the universe, a prayer that went something like this: Ground me in what’s real. Help me find a community here. Help me feel connected in a new way.

And very soon after that, some magical things started to happen. My upstairs neighbor asked if I’d like to cook with her every Tuesday night. We started going to the park in the evenings with Ben and getting to know all the dogs: Chuy, Fat Boy, Eddy… New friendships found me, other moms living merely blocks away. I noticed how often my neighbors just hung out outside waiting for a glimpse of someone to connect with, or to usher Ben into their house to play the guitar or pet their dog. It’s not as if I didn’t have these things before, but my attention was not there, I was not ready to appreciate them.

Some of the brightest spots in my week lately have been the nights when Holly and I cook or Wednesday nights when we watch Lost on our neighbor’s tv (we got rid of ours a while back) This sense of community is giving my heart stronger ground to stand on and a new place from which to create my life. It feels very basic, very elemental, this sharing of meals and borrowing bread crumbs. This I have never had this.

The other day, a new mom friend and her two year old were at my house playing. As we walked up I introduced her to my neighbors on both sides who happen to be outside their houses. A few minutes later, Holly knocked on the door to borrow our car for the last items in our recipe for the evening, Christina wheeled up with her baby in a stroller to see if we wanted to go to the park and Matt peeked his head out from our home office. Surrounded in that moment by literally ten people I adored, I could finally see it: I had built a community. These were the people in my neighborhood.

How do you find community? And how do you create balance between your online community and your actual life?

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Hi, I’m Andrea

On this blog you’ll be learning with me how to use our voices, share our creative superpowers and live life in full color.

As an artist, photographer, life coach + mentor, I’m redefining what it means to be a SUPERHERO — ‘cause in my world, it’s got nothing to do with capes, spandex or sidekicks and everything to do with tenderness, intuition & baby steps of bravery.

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17 Comments

  1. beth

    “Letting go of what no longer nourishes us leaves room for new fruit and stronger roots.”~ thank you for this wisdom. I so needed this right at this moment.
    I always appreciate what you share online and I look forward to our time together in class. Until then I hope you have time to enjoy what’s in front of you. I’ll be trying to do that as well.
    Best,
    beth

    Reply
  2. LauraC

    I think that’s why I’ve always wanted my blog to stay “small.” I have time for only so many things in my life. If I spend too much time with my online community, I neglect my “real” community who is there when I need them.
    I will say though, that as a first time mom to twins, I NEVER got to leave my house so I needed the online community a lot more. Now as my kids are older, I need to be WITH people. No more wishing I was with people but instead, with two crying babies.
    Good for you!
    And PS going on vacation next week and coming home to your class is going to be the greatest.

    Reply
  3. shines

    The Dog Park started this same thing for me. It introduced me to my neighbours dogs, who introduced me to their owners, who introduced me to their children, who I introduced to my children. We now have a kids clothing exchange, kid/dog sitting, playdates and street parties.
    We have become anchors in the neighbourhood! It feels very intimate in one of the biggest cities in North America.

    Reply
  4. Shawna

    Everyone always says once you have children you’ll suddenly have loads of new friends from daycare, preschool, etc. That for sure didn’t happen to us. I don’t know if it’s because we never acted our age, never watched American Idol or any of those goofy reality shows so we couldn’t join in on those conversations, would rather wear a t-shirt & jeans with pigtails instead of a matronly Lands End outfit with perfectly done hair at afternoon school pickup but we just never clicked with any of the other parents. It made me sad for awhile and I became obsessed with trying to make friends with people who clearly didn’t want to be friends with us. About 6 months ago, I finally stopped trying! We pulled our daughter out of her private school because she was clearly unhappy there, too, and this beautiful thing happened – sort of what you’ve just experienced. We discovered that just a few doors down there was a family who has kids the same age as ours – and they moved in 9 years ago, just like us! And we’ve found this wonderful community that we were too blind to realize had been there the whole time because we were too busy trying to insert ourselves in a place that we clearly didn’t belong in.
    It’s amazing what happens when you stop trying and just… be.

    Reply
  5. {tinniegirl}

    I too am working through a process of growth and searching for what’s real at the moment. It has a lot of the same elements too, particularly around that notion of community and people, online and offline.
    The thing I’ve really noticed lately is that sometimes I fool myself into thinking that my online connections have depth and realness, when in actual fact many of them are quite superficial. Sure, there are some true connections there, but probably less than I had led myself to believe.
    I try to listen to my heart as best I can. At the moment it’s telling me to spend more time offline, to foster some new relationships that are budding at the moment and to be willing to let go of relationships that I’ve put a lot of energy into, but not received a lot back. So that’s what I’m doing.
    You always manage to articulate yourself so beautifully Andrea, and for this I’m grateful for online connections.

    Reply
  6. Lisa

    I just took a monthlong break from facebook (actually have a few days left), and it has been sooooo wonderful. I sensed how much energy was being drained, how much I used fb improperly (as a place to seek affirmation, as a place to compare myself to others and thus feel bad about myself). I decided I wanted to reclaim my time and focus: for my creative life, for myself, for my relationships–in person and on the phone and in letters. I’ve felt isolated and lonely at times but I have sat through those periods rather than distract myself from them. I have blissed out when I have come up with ideas, especially really outrageous ones. I have loved spending real quality time with myself, my dog, with the people I love. I know that now when I return to fb, I’m going to use it much more sparingly and much differently and that feels good. I can use it instead of having it use me. Thanks for sharing 🙂 namaste
    Lisa

    Reply
  7. janet

    This was SUCH a timely thing for me to read. I’ll tell you why really quickly and without editing – there’s only so much time in a nap!
    In January I was really aching for new friends and close relationships. I was jealous of people who seemed to have so many and I was getting hurt thinking that my friends were being uncaring towards me. Then I read this book about cleaning out your life (Throw Out 50 THings – it’s awesome) and realised that WOW – I had a huuuuge fear of being rejected if I tried to start new relationships or even just ask the friends I already had over/out to hang out more (some of my friends are very busy and turned me down when I’d ask them if they wanted to hang out on a particular day, and that totally deflated me instead of making me bounce back. ANyway.). So I threw out that fear and God gifted me with the BEST and most AMAZING idea for the women in our church and on our island. I have to admit now that the spark of this idea had been flickering away deep down in my heart since I read about you and your friends creating a love bomb for each other. I loved that idea so much and longed to be a part of it. So (long story, thanks for hanging in there) after throwing out my fear I started organising surprise parties for women just ’cause. They are called love bombs (I hope that’s ok). THey are to show them that they are loved and appreciated for who they are. And you know, the enthusiasm resonated so hard it shook the ground. People were getting soooo blessed and naturally out of all this, I made new and stronger friendships. so awesome, love love love.
    Now (it’s embarrassing to admit) I totally stalled on the next love bomb because I got a little hurt by someone, and instead of throwing out my fear again and stepping back into the space I should be, I totally retreated, spending time of fb looking for friendships there, started a blog (half a post only, I’m not called it that right now I had to admit)… I guess the lesson must be relearnt and re-receieved every day, and that as well as growing myself, I am growing a community for other women too. How kick-a is that!
    I hope that this comment doesn’t crash your blog with it’s mammoth size. Thank you for that seed of an idea that you planted all that time ago – it is affecting the lives of about 50 16-60 year old women on a little island off the coast of Australia. And it has affected me most of all xo

    Reply
  8. Michelle

    I have been on FB hiatus too – I am thinking (gasp) of making it all summer. It just feels very draining. Real life community is very important to me now – and this post was much needed. Living alone, after my divorce I have found being on my own freeing AND lonely! I think your post may have been the push I need to reach out to a few of the neighbors I see on my morning dog walks…..Thank you….

    Reply
  9. Roberta Laliberte

    Wahh hahahha! First off, love the pic. Though blurry, I see the enthusiasm on your face. Hilarious! Now, I know exactly what you mean. The problem with social networking and blogging etc. is that somehow it quickly snowballs into something you never expected to take up so much time. The crazy thing is you really think you know these people but really you don’t. You wake up one day and realize you should have played with your kids instead of doing that post. One day, I rode my bike to the little store at the lake for some milk. There sat a mother “this is in a campground please keep in mind” with her 5 year old at the picnic table and her laptop! The store has young new owners, hip to the facebook/internet crowd and has free internet, “had I should say, they got rid of it he he”. The mother was arguing with her child that they had a deal if she got to facebook for a half hour he would get to play games for like 10 mins or something stupid like that! I felt like screaming at her “Did you come here to spend time with your kid or the poke your f’ing computer cause if it is the latter, GO HOME!” WELL…. when I went back 2 hours later for something else, guess who was still at the table! NO SHIT! I gave her the dirtiest look I could muster and rode off. These social networks, that at the right time can connect you to wonderful people that resonate with you and create lasting friendships, at the wrong times and in the wrong amounts can destroy lives. I am not exaggerating, you think mommy talking to a nice man on line is the only thing that can bust up a marriage, think again, and people are addicted to this stuff. I myself limit my surfing, socializing, perhaps to my detriment as maybe my online business would do better if I did but I don’t care. No amount of money is worth giving up real love and affection. Your computer sucks to cry on. It won’t help you with your dishes either.
    xo

    Reply
  10. beth

    Thank you so much for sharing What’s Real (take two). This is very pertinent to my life now. The scary transition of childhood to tween for my one and only. The scary transition of mama-me from wellness center/office to home office (couch really!) and an on-line office. The scary transition of ‘selling’ courses, mediations etc about energy healing on-line….
    Reading your beautiful piece, has brought my soul some comfort. 🙂 Thank you.
    ‘See’ you at the photo e-course.

    Reply
  11. nina

    I remember this post. It really resonated with me (still does). I practically had to be dragged kicking and screaming to a different part of the country that I never would have chosen for myself or my kids. I’ve been reluctant to establish roots because I keep thinking (hoping) we’ll be moving on, but all signs point to staying right here. I’m trying to make peace with it and tossed out my wish list to the universe — the biggest wish for connections here. I’m open, waiting…And I know it works, because it’s worked for me before. Nearly two decades ago I was burned out on dating, not wanting to play games, etc. So, I tossed out what I thought was an impossible challenge: “If I really need to be with someone, he’ll just have to show up on my doorstep because I’m done.” Then things started breaking at my rental house and I wound up marrying my landlord!

    Reply
  12. m

    I think it is a balance… I’ve actually become more connected to my city since I started tweeting more plugged in about what is going on and found fabulous offline groups to join via it. I think the trick is to pull back when it becomes all one thing.
    About a year ago I began to feel disconnected and made a concerted effort to meet people IRL and reconnect and I felt so much better

    Reply
  13. Tricia

    Noticing—when you said that all you had to do was stay present and notice what was already there, that I believe is the key to building anything. Sometimes it is easy to forget that the Universe is always giving, an abundant resource that will meet all of our needs. Especially when we are online a lot!
    A friend of mine was telling me about a beautiful metaphor from her east Asian heritage: she said that there is a belief that all kindred souls, or soul-partners, are connected by a red thread. It is up to us in our lifetime to untangle and not only find our soul friends, but to then keep those lines untangled (in our minds, hearts, or in real life) after we have met them. Even if it’s only for a brief moment and you never see that person again, keep that red thread untangled in your heart and be grateful that you met them once, or have them in your life everyday. Isn’t that lovely?

    Reply
  14. Kristen Fischer

    I’ve been feeling like that–disconnected. All my IRL friends are at least an hour away and hard to hang with. My online friends are great, but I want more. I know that my prayers will be answered when it’s right. Glad you found connections–so important!

    Reply
  15. Kate Pitner

    Thank you so much, Andrea! Your words absolute sing to me. I appreciate your honesty and the wonderful way you express your quest for community at home. :0)

    Reply
  16. wen

    I have always had both — some of my best friends are folks I met online back in the day and who live relatively nearby now. I think the key is creating space for kindred spirits wherever they live, and then making sure you are open to what is right there in front of you too. I find I meet lots of folks I wouldn’t ordinarily connect with just by being open to it, whether I am in Barcelona at a B&B or at home in Oakland. I have lots of friends within a couple hour drive, and I am currently relaxing into those who are right nearby as well…It is a good feeling. I am also the type that even if I don’t see you for a year, will be happy to go to coffee and pick right back up. So I have my friends I see often and those I love but only see in very occassionally. For me, a balanced life includes both. I don’t worry about online vs. offline — I love the Internet but just let my energy and interest dictate how much I post etc.

    Reply
  17. deb taylor

    Andrea….a powerful message for me today, this day. Thank you.

    Reply

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