I was a pretty social kid. I never got anxiety before meeting new people, and rarely passed up an opportunity to be with others. People gave me energy. Belonging was important to me.
Then I grew up, and belonging to groups of people got messy.
See, the thing about communities is they shape us. This is good and bad. It got bad for me when I became wholly shaped from without, and lost the ability to grow from within. I didn't have enough self-awareness to challenge the image being created for me. I say "image" and I mean a facade—a shadow of myself. My "identity" is my true self, and it was eventually swallowed by an image. So, I withdrew.
I imagine my identity like a stone on the shore. The shore is where I've rested for a few years reclaiming my shape, even all it's rough and jagged parts. I've avoided the water and its relentless current, to be still and learn the sound of my own voice. I've chosen isolation or interaction with a very intimate circle, and abandoned everything else.
Lately, it's gotten lonely. I feel disconnected.
I shared these feelings with my dad. While I was growing up, he and my mom were always in a small group. When one would end, they would join another. Always a group of couples/parents who met consistently week after week to talk about life and how to live better.
It sounds messy. My dad assured me that it was.
It also sounds healthy. He assured me that it was for them.
He attributes a healthier marriage and better parenting to it. He attributes a sense of belonging, encouragement, accountability, and humanness to it.
When I listen to him, I feel the ache in my chest. That's what I want. That's what I miss. Even the messy parts.
I don't think I'm meant to stay on the shore forever. I think I'm ready to roll down to the place where the water meets the earth, and let the tide wash over me a bit. With a better understanding of self, I'd like to surrender a bit of control. Eventually, I want to submerge myself in the waters of community again and give this whole collaborative shaping from within and without another go.
Maybe I'll try a small group. Maybe it will be uncomfortable. Probably. There are a multitude of fears that come up, but I want to roll down and meet the water anyway.