I know that my mother suffered terribly from postpartum depression after giving birth to my brother Franz and me, yet she and my father weren’t finished. One day, Franz and I were being good and looking incredibly adorable, and it coerced my parents into having Jimmy.
‘You’re adorable’ moments
Right now, I’m on a silent retreat and honestly, I’m exhausted from the experience of living in a community.
However, I’m also having one of those “you’re adorable” moments. We yell at each other, we lean on each other, we’re sick, we’re up, we hate work, we’re down, our family situations aren’t what we want them to be, we’re excited over the success of a client, we worked together to pull out the carpet, plant the garden, clean the yard, but we don’t feel like cleaning the kitchen, we got angry, we had a fun day at the park, we avoided each other, we sat around and talked. Our seven roller-coaster personalities make community agonizingly hard and wonderfully fun.
In this silence, I can see most of my six roommates somewhere in the courtyard, and I realize how special and dynamic we are and how much I love them. Still, I can’t believe how different community is from what I expected it to be.
Not what I bargained for
Before I began my year in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC), I never bargained that community, spirituality, simplicity, and social justice (the four values of JVC) could be interpreted in so many different ways. In fact, it has taken me eight months and several cycles of grieving the failure of my expectations (which, by the way, I didn’t think I had) to accept these different ways that seven people follow four seemingly concrete, straightforward principles.
By the end of March, I had given up on my community, disgusted that it hadn’t happened the way I wanted it to. I found a more like-minded group of non-violent protesters and grass roots organizers to draw comfort from and identify with. In this time away, it occurred to me that I was the one resistant to community and too rigid by not allowing Clare, Curt, Chris, Matt, Matt, and Lizzie room to screw up, grow, and change as I expected them to allow me.
Back to the drawing board
I’m giving it another shot with a new attitude.
Community is hard because it is a slow process, not an instant success. Community is wonderful because it saves space, money, and resources. Community has taught me self-assertiveness, anger management, responsibility, compassion, and unselfishness. It forces thoughtful, talked-through relationships based on mutual respect, compassion, and kindness.
On my JVC application, I said community would give me the least trouble, and, right now, I’m laughing at myself. I should be exhausted, but I’m also thankful for the experience of my community and am happy I chose to come back for more.