Sometimes living in a community can almost seem a bigger hassle than it’s worth. “These people are driving me CRAZY,” I think. “Why does JVC insist on us sharing so much.” If community meetings to decide the purchase of just about anything weren’t enough to force frustration through my chest like a poorly aimed olympic javelin, I feel like I’m constantly being chastened or just chipped away at.
And then, I stop being such a whiner and take some time to realize what’s really going on here.
I’m going to share something with you that you may find shocking, and I want you to brace yourself for potentially devastating news. Deep steady breath. I am not perfect. It’s ok, it’s ok. Deep down in your heart, you knew this. You did. I, of course, have been keenly aware of this detail. In a family that’s not exactly known for it’s compliments, it’s hard not to internalize such truths. Add to that some obvious mistakes and heart aches and, oh wow, yeah, my flaws have been made quite clear to me.
I try to work on my problems, aided by a sometimes painful self-awareness of how irritating I have the capacity to be. Living in community has made me realize that not only do our faults have the capability to wreak havoc on other people, but even the way in which we attempt to recondition ourselves.
Allow me to explain.
In my family and then during college, I have been surrounded by people who felt little to no qualms in telling you ways in which you need to improve. I could take myself like a rock, with all my qualities and detriments and drop that large bulky hulk right out in the open, where the community of my loved ones would chip away at flaws until the rock became something smoother. This is also how I have become used to making decisions. Throw out an idea with force because you will have to defend it against the other ideas being thrown out with equal or greater force. I have come to appreciate and even love this method of communication. It presents a challenge to overcome and a way to strengthen yourself and your ideas through vigorous discourse.
It does not work here.
What I view as throwing out an idea, keeping ready to debate (maybe a little too enthusiastically…it’s something I’ll probably always have to keep in check) and defend this idea, deciding which chisels will help improve it and which will break it entirely, what I see as a marvelous way to share opinions and knowledge doesn’t work if no one else is hurling rocks. If I’m the only big clunky boulder getting thrown into the arena, then I just flatten anyone who wants to share ideas in a different manner. I’m suddenly a steamroller. Other people aren’t rocks anymore, they are names in the cement. Guess what doesn’t stand up very well to steamrollers? I mean, besides anything.
If my shifting metaphors is confusing to you, imagine me, trying to best find a way to nurture dialectic conversations and sharing of ideas and, more importantly, wants within our little community out here on the prairie. I don’t want to be a steamroller, but I’m not so good at writing my name in cement. It takes time, and learning. I will be honest with you, good people of the internet. I want my community mates to feel comfortable around me and I want all of us to reach a consensus in a congenial manner that proves beneficial to everyone in the house. But you know what, sometimes I want what I want. I believe the best method of attaining all of this is to be honest about what I want and why I want it to my community members, but in a low-key manner than perhaps I have been using. Let’s use the obviously made up example of me wanting the community to buy a pony. In the boulder tossing method of making decisions, I would explain why it would be beneficial to own a pony and several explanations of how a pony would be wonderful and use all the arguments I could muster. I would then expect people to counter argue as best they could. Cement approach: “I would like to buy a pony. I think it would be nice. What do you guys think?” There still remains an exchange of ideas, but it’s just less…competitive. Instead of expecting feedback to be thrown at me instantly, I can ask what others feel and think about suggestions. I’m sure a lot of people interact this way everyday without giving it much thought, but it’s all incredibly new to me.