I’m taking a bit of break from the drama in my life. I wanted to say thank you for all the supportive comments on my last post. I wanted to clarify: it’s not that my blog was “found out”, because as I said, I gave the URL to certain (very select) people. What was so hard was to realize that people reading this, people who know me, could take my words, uttered in dark and vulnerable moments, and use them as weapons against me. Maybe I am naive or lucky that that has never happened to me before, but it was a terrible shock when it did. I’m still deciding if or how I will censure myself in this space. Knowing that my words might someday be used against me will make it different, for sure. I will need to think long and hard about what I write here, and I probably won’t be as honest as I once was, though I will strive to say what I feel needs to be said. I guess only time will tell how this space will change, how I myself has changed.
All of this, and a post I read recently, have me thinking about this community, and the expectations assumed within it. I looked up the definition of community as I was pondering this; the one I felt most accurately represented what we have here was this:
a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists. (from dictionary.com)
Is that all, then, that makes us a community, our common characteristic? Or is there something more, some else we expect from others because they share that common characteristic with us?
I realized I was so completely taken aback by having my words used against me because I do have an expectation that the people in this community will understand what I’m going through, or at least suspend judgment when they don’t understand. I also expect they will not use my words to harm me but will instead try to support me by relaying their own experiences or just simple words of encouragement. I expect they will try to console me or, when necessary, gently guide me towards another way of seeing things.
Of course the person who did the opposite with my words is not someone in this community. She is a part of a different community to which I also belong. It’s clear to me now that I can never invite someone from other communities in my life to this space (I still can’t quite fathom why I thought I could before, I guess I’m just incredibly naive). It is inappropriate for them to read what I write here because they most likely can’t understand, and there is a chance they will be angered or worse by what I say.
It has never been more clear to me what I expect of the people in this community, at least one aspect of what I expect. I expect understanding, validation and support. Not in all things, mind you, but when possible. And I expect that if those are not available, people will click away and not hurt me when I’m most vulnerable. I know I hold myself to the same expectations and hope I have done that for others, just as they have done that for me.
Of course, one of the strange things about this community is that eventually your place it in can change. Of course you are always a part of the community (or many people always feel they belong) just by having endured IF and/or loss, but once you are pregnant and/or have living children, you almost move into a community within the community. And the reality is that once you’ve “crossed that divide”–as some have described it–you are no longer so easily perceived “as being distinct in some respect, from the rest of the larger society.” Of course, many people still feel distinct, but it’s not so easily recognized by others, and therefore perhaps more easily ignored by the person themselves (I know that for many this is absolutely not the case).
When members of the community make this move, either out of the community or to a place within the greater community, it can be very hard for those who are “left behind.” I think we all believe that people give the support and congratulations that they can muster, but for some it is just too difficult. Some, despite waiting to be there for others in their time of triumph, simply cannot.
So we find ourselves in this strange predicament. We come here to be supported and understood, but eventually, for most of us, there comes a time when our joy causes hurt to others, when they must step away from us, at least for a time, to protect themselves. What do we owe each other when this happens? We come together in this community to escape the judgment of the real world, for others to understand when we need to step away to save ourselves. But if we’re allowed to step away whenever we need to, can the community survive?
The post I read recently suggest that maybe it can’t. The author believes that we do owe each other congratulations, that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to turn away when others need our support in joy, instead of struggle.
I may be in the minority here, but I do think the same obligation exists in the ALI community. You might not be able to read the pregnancy post all the way through. You might only be able to muster a quick comment that says “congratulations” or “great news”, and then that might be it for awhile. But I do think you need to do that. Not on every blog you read. But the ones where you’ve been commenting regularly, the ones whose authors stop by your blog regularly too. In short, the people you’d want congratulating you, if you were first.
I found this post to be interesting; I don’t think I’ve ever read a similar insistence on another blog. I’m not saying I disagree with what she’s saying, I’m just pointing out that I haven’t seen it said similarly elsewhere (and that is not to assume it hasn’t been said, only that I haven’t read it). Generally the consensus seems to be, do what you need to do to survive, to stay whole; we come here because the rest of the world has those expectations of us, but here we understand.
I realize after my recent ordeal that I cherish greatly the safe haven this community affords me, that I literally NEED a place where I can say that my cousin’s pregnancy announcement stings without being berated as selfish or jealous. That understanding and suspension of judgment is why I write, why I feel safe to disclose the darker parts of myself, the parts I’m not proud of. I wonder if it’s asking too much to also require congratulations when things go my way. I can get those congratulation in the real world, I can share that joy with everybody, I don’t need this special sanctuary to revel in a pregnancy. And I don’t know if it’s fair of me to ask others who are struggling to follow me when my journey is difficult for them to bear. Basically, if I can only expect one of the two, unwavering support in my darker moments, or congratulations when I reach my goals, I’d prefer the former, because I can’t get that anywhere else.
Communities are made up of people, held together by relationships and when that is the case, there will always be toes stepped on and feelings hurt. I’ve had my fair share of that these days. But the wonderful thing about this community is there is always someone ready to follow you on your journey, wherever that might currently be taking you. Some might need to step away but others will take their place. As long as we have someone on the sidelines, supporting us and cheering us on, I think that should be enough.
I will continue to support those that I feel able to support, and I will step away when I need to step away. My guiding principal will always be, what would I want this specific person to do for me if our situations were reversed? I hope I don’t offend anyone irrevocably and that I find it in my heart to forgive those who unwittingly hurt me.
What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you believe the defining understanding of this community is that you do what you need to do? Or do we owe each other more than that?