Spending time with 13 other people over the weekend recently challenged me to the point that I felt like I was tottering around like a giant toddler, unable to find my balance in this unfamiliar world. I have spent a lot of time alone, staring down the loneliness monster, as I called it. I felt so intensely alone at times, I ached from it, felt I would collapse from the overwhelming pain of it. Now that pain has gone, and I find that being alone can be sweet again. I’ve enjoyed walking the streets of Valencia, finding cafes to drink coffee and work in, I’ve hired a bike and cycled through the beautiful garden of Jardin del Turia to the port and the beach.
The story of the lovely garden from what I’ve read is one of people working together – both to provoke action by the Francoist government to do something about the River Turia which flooded in 1949 and then again in 1957. After the river was diverted, it was people working together who also managed to block plans to turn the emptied riverbed into a motorway and instead create a beautiful park, which at all times day is full of people walking, cycling, running, playing games, or sitting on benches talking.
Finding myself in such a big group, having to be present in some way was therefor quite a challenge. I know that I am changed by my experiences and I know that even if I were able to meet Mark again now, we may seem unfamiliar to each other. I know for sure that he would be surprised by the person I am becoming, I imagine too that he would be pleased and cheer me on to go further, deeper into this journey. It does seem true, though, that you are in danger of idealising yourself if you only focus on the person you find yourself to be in the solitude of your home.
I’m a bit all over the place with this, because it’s new conceptually. But I used to think that I was OK that on my own, that other people ruined it. Now I realise that I need others to understand myself fully. Some of the feedback I get might not be true, of course – some of it is from voices of old telling me I’m foolish, I’ve got nothing to offer. I know in myself now that it isn’t true – I respect myself in a way that I haven’t before because I know that I am resilient, formidable in the face of devastation, that I have been down a pit and been able to cling onto life and claw my way out. I have much to give, but I have to find new ways of being, new ways of connecting with people if I am going to open up those flows.
I still have fears, anxieties, insecurities. I’m still not entirely sure that everyone there thought I was fabulous. But the thing is, I care less about the impact I have on them, because I have a deeper knowledge that I am indeed a person of value, with something to give. That comes with responsibility, because I need to contribute to creating a space where there is trust between me and others, where people are given space to explore who they are, make mistakes, maybe even offend others with their trying, but to do so knowing that it’s OK, that people love them and will lean in to the process rather than back off, even the more so when people make mistakes.
There must be practical understanding that can be brought to this process of people coming together, people who know about group dynamics, about effective communication, about flow in conversation, about deep listening, rather than just waiting for someone speaking to end so I can have my turn. Methods for giving voice to all, for allowing wisdom and knowledge to lead the process, not just the person with the strongest will, loudest voice, the most insistent manner. Opening up space that we share together rather than just inhabiting it as ones or twos.