But I just had to get that out there! Sometimes you need to take things to the extreme to notice that something is off. Few days ago I was sitting in a small lounge full of people coming and going. They were sharing their frustrations and other burning emotions with the whole room and drifting out again. I had stubbornly decided that I will not get out until I have answered a message that had been waiting to be replied for days, and since this was the only room with working wifi for that day, I didn’t have any calmer options to be in.
The people coming and going are my community family. We have amazing support from each other and abundance of about anything except private space. We have seen each other crash over and over again and there is no taboos here. Plenty of difficult topics that cause conflicts, yes, but it’s hard to keep something as untouched as a taboo when we share our everyday lives so tightly.
As I was sitting in the lounge trying to get my head together I started to feel really bad. I have felt drained by social situations before but then I have left to a calmer place and restored my energy. Now I was just observing how does this feel in my body. It felt terrible, like head ache and nausea that comes from sitting in a cigarette smelling car for too long. The worst part is that it’s impossible to focus and think what is good for me right now because the brain is constantly poked with different triggers and leaves me with so thick fog that it’s like somebody has directed the gas from the exhaust pipe inside from the car window.
I wrote the message to an end, I have no idea what I ended up scribbling on it. Then I went to my room and just laid in the dark, in confusion. I went through what people had felt the need to share, and the expressions on their faces. Nobody seemed energised and content. Some had laughter in their expressions, but most carried their part of some collective frustration of not being heard and seen enough to get their needs met. The thing about living in a community is that what ever is going on, is in one way or another touching all of us. We all carry each others energy, and often we can pick up emotions that are actually not ours to begin with (I’m not sure if any energy is ever ‘ours’ though). When there is no private space to deal with your own state, the only option left is often to vent it out on someone or everyone in the common spaces. I have seen over and over again how a person comes here in quite a present and grounded state, and after a while has totally lost the direction of who they are and what they want to do.
People drift to the kitchen or lounge and mumble “I don’t… I don’t know what I should do. Everything is just off today… ” and then I hear them desperately chasing a story to explain themselves what exactly happened that caused this off-the-flow state. Others notice this as an invitation to share what ever is off in their day, except that it wasn’t an invitation, there never was any invitation. The need to be heard and seen is just so big that the lack of interest is ignored and so it goes on to more and more people tagging along complaining about their day, not knowing what to do about it.
This happens everywhere, not just in communities, and that’s why I’m writing about it. The percentage of people who have the communication skills and the energy to be the listener that cuts this repetitive monologue is much smaller than the people who need the listener. Listeners burn out and learn to withdraw to protect their energy resources. It is nobody’s duty to listen, but the favour these people do to the whole community is massive, because it’s often the only thing that protects our balance from drifting to complete dissatisfaction and frustration of the whole community at once. As I was listening and observing in the lounge, it became obvious that the things people felt upset about have gained such big proportions because we get so involved here. That happens when we forget to take our space. I realised how often I have jumped on to this collective being upset about something , without making a conscious choice if I want to care. I haven’t taken a moment to feel, does it serve me to get upset out of principal that we don’t order anymore peanut butter? And now, the more I see others do it, the further away I drift from it, and the easier it becomes to notice. I can just shut up. It doesn’t take my suffering away, but it stops the anxiety of needing to change how things are.
This is amazing. I really want to point this out to people, but I know that they can also hear the irritation from my voice if I say “How about being quiet? Just give it a try! Be quiet, see how that works out for you.” Because with all honesty, even though it helps to be quiet myself, I still get drained from listening to their complaints. It’s for a reason that the term energy vampires has evolved. When something is said with irritation it has much smaller chance of getting into understanding, specially for someone who is just in the middle of a sentence explaining their drama to everyone. Personally, I don’t take it very well either, when someone who is tired of hearing my drama without consent tells me to get empowered and fix my own problems. I don’t care that it’s true, it’s the listening I was going for. I just often forget to ask, do you have the energy to listen to me right now?
We all need listening, but specially in the chronic lack of being heard it can be the worst kind of torture to be exposed to constant meaningless chatter. When a community can’t get past this phase it feels like it’s stuck in some kind of eternal teenage. As hard as it is, it’s vital to take a step back and think if there is any way we could provide ourselves the listening that we need. The best way to listen is to stay quiet and let everything be. It’s a wonderful feeling to choose to shut up.