I haven’t blogged since July 2020. Entangled in the mire of madness of public opinion, I no longer wanted to blog or put myself “out there” on social media. So many voices spouting their opinions, no faces to gauge the legitimacy or substance of their words. I went into hibernation hoping to wake up in a new spring of hope for humanity.
Two years later and my hope for humanity is considerably diminished. The time away has given me plenty of pause to consider my part in humanity. Who I am, what I want, where I wish to go, and who I want beside me on that path. I’ve decided to start blogging again and I hope this continues past this one post.
Lately, there have been reoccurring themes of community and socialization popping up in my life. Everyone, expert and layperson alike can agree on the importance of community. We all need to feel connected to others. I’m not sure anyone will completely disagree that humans are social creatures.
Yet, there is one area where I have a bone to pick.
I’ll get back to that meaty bone in just one moment. Bear with me.
Staring out at my garden, saturated in rain, I felt my body relax. Checkpoints in my garden still there, each one increasing my sense of ease. Roses, three about to bloom. Such relief as this is my oldest mini rose bush and it was all but decimated earlier this summer by bean beetles. Mullein stalks. Quite a gruesome sight, all wilted and brown but equally impressive is their height. I stare at them wondering how and when I will use them as winter torches. Black eyed Susans. They are everywhere. I need to dig them up and relocate them to the side of my house and I’m worried whether I’ll damage the hollyhocks growing in their midst.
I. AM. AT. PEACE.
I. FEEL. CONNECTED.
Who would argue that it isn’t important to get out into nature? Nearly every mental health post and expert advocates for going out into nature as a way to cope with stress. Right up there, next to the importance of socializing and engaging in your community. Yet, they are separate talking points. I’ll get back to this.
Tell me to get into nature. Sure, yes, no problem. Sounds great. Easy Peasy. Simple as opening a window and taking a deep breath, or standing barefoot outside, or checking the mail across the street, or eating outside for lunch. I think we sometimes forget that nature includes all elements. I’d go so far to say that if you’re limited in ways to spend in nature, you could have a bath or shower. Even just splashing water on your face can help. Water is nature too.
Tell me to socialize. Unease. What do you mean by socialize? Immediately I feel pressure and judgment. I feel panic to perform. I feel shame and guilt for not doing it right, or not wanting to do it at all. Socializing feels like it has secret rules that I can’t quite live up to, even if I knew the rules. It feels like an accusation, as if it is something I haven’t done right before I’ve even started trying.
Tell me about community. I feel excluded. I am at the edges, fraying from my own sense of self. I often don’t see my place within the whole, and sometimes I just don’t want to. Other times, my voice just gets lost, or talked over, or ignored all together. Or I become mute and cannot find the words that don’t materialize past thought. Sometimes my voice is loud and clear, and sends out ripples where people stop and stare and I wonder what imaginary line I’ve crossed. An agreed upon line by a group of others that does not include me. And on rare occasion, people see value in what I have to say. I engage in hopes of the latter.
And so, I have a visceral reaction to the words “socialization” and “community”. Interactions, obligations, the people-y world outside my home, often feels toxic. As if what is a vital, much needed nectar for others is somehow a poison for me.
I cannot deny that I crave connection and a place where I can be myself with likeminded people. I am not anti-social.
Staring out at the trees (I see you Basswood, Maple, and Sumac), and the many plants I know by sight and not by name, I feel companionship in a way I do not with people.
There it is, my bone to pick.
My community is made up of plant people, stone people, wind people, water people, and sure yeah, animal people too, which occasionally includes human. Although, I prefer cats. I can feel reinvigorated after a walk in the woods (what’s left of it), a swim in the pool, or even after a brief moment peering up at the stars in the midst of winter. I have engaged with my world and I did not feel alone.
On occasion, I walk with others in the woods and we have a nice time. It’s good to catch up and share thoughts. I notice I tend to overlook nature when I’m focusing on the conversation. Sometimes afterwards, I even feel a bit of regret that I wasn’t paying attention to the part I enjoy most on walks. The walk doesn’t quite fill me up (No offence if I’ve taken a nature walk with you). Afterwards, I have to undo all the tension that built up from human exposure. The processing of what was said, what wasn’t said, what was felt, what was implied, what was inferred, what was uncomfortable, what was pleasant, and what lingers as afterthought. It weighs on me. Yet, this is the community and socialization that comes so highly recommended to me.
All the people concerned about my well-being will agree that I need community and socialization as well as time in nature, but never quite make the connection that being in nature for me is community. It is where I socialize best and with the least harm to my self. Why is this not enough? Why is nature interaction not seen as equal to human interaction? I will acknowledge I contradict myself in one way, as humans themselves are nature. Since most of us humans perceive ourselves as something separate and elevated from the rest of nature, I think it’s safe to say I can mention the two as distinct for the sake of my argument.
In my search for my own humanity over the past two or so years, I’m having an increasing awareness of how much my humanness is a fraction of my nature, and that I do not have to limit myself to a life structured around acceptable forms of socialization or culture. My associations and meeting places do not need to be two legged, or four walled, or spoken in words, or made of plaster.
And when I do show up, not out of obligation but of interest, you can be sure it’s because I am connecting to your true nature. I’m not really interested in anything less.