Come Out of Hiding: The Importance of Community
When you make a misstep, your community will have your back.
Last week, I posted — very much accidentally — a live video on my Facebook profile. It was meant for the Wild Heart Writer’s community, an online gathering place for past participants of Jeanette LeBlanc’s writing workshops, and was posted as a response to a particular challenge. When my entire news feed was filled with the lovely women from this community, my brain told me I was already there. So I went ahead and went “live,” and it wasn’t until my dear Tara “liked” the video that I realized I’d made a mistake.
I experienced a nearly foreign rush of complete alarm, a level of shock that didn’t subside for hours.
Despite taking the video down right away, I felt exposed, like I’d been found out. Apparently, I don’t leave my comfort zone much anymore.
Why is that?
Why did I have such a strong reaction, even though I was still only “in front of” a very limited number of people, all of whom I’m fairly certain would want only the best for me? Why would that feel like I was way out on a limb? Why was I so afraid to own my own words so thoroughly, even for just two minutes?
I think I’ve become a little bit used to anonymity.
I’ve never really known what I want to do with my life.
I thought that at some point, some sort of purpose would appear, that I would know it when I saw it. More than three decades in, I’ve had some seasons that felt very purposeful, but nothing has “stuck.” Nothing has provided that sort of long-term vision I kept thinking I would eventually find.
It makes me feel like a mistake.
I cling to the stories of people who were in their 40’s before they found their calling because it makes me feel like I have time. In the meantime, it’s been making me antsy and anxious, and that makes me want to hide. Makes me want to stay anonymous.
Here’s the thing: What if it’s not so much that I want to be anonymous to the world, as perhaps I’ve been trying to be anonymous to myself?
Maybe I edit, and polish, and decorate, as a way of running or hiding from myself. It’s not that I don’t want to own my words in front of you, I just don’t want to own them at all. They become too real when I own them. I worry about being misinterpreted or misunderstood.
Or worse, that I will be understood but that you won’t like what you see.
Words are powerful. They are active and dynamic, they have an energy all their own, and once they are shared, they belong to the fabric of the universe forever.
This is a beautiful thing for us writers, and it’s why we do what we do.But it’s also an incredibly weighty thing for day-to-day living when words can seem so cheap.
If we’re being honest, I wish I could be more edited in real life sometimes.
Not all the time — sometimes I love my ability to say what needs to be said when no one else wants to say it — but sometimes I have a small breakdown or say something I don’t really mean, or get a little snippy and wish I hadn’t, and I wish I could delete. Put something more winsome there. Something kinder and gentler, or more worthwhile.
I wish the real me weren’t such a messy chick.
Hiding, however, is not the answer.
I’m tempted to hide, but I deeply want to show up for my own life, and that means allowing myself to be seen.
The night I accidentally went live, I crumbled under the weight of so many eyes and ears being granted unintentional access to my words. I wasn’t able to hold space for myself in that moment, but it began a process by which I learned to breathe into the discomfort and allow my whole self to be known.
Growth does not come on the whisper of wishes. It comes, most often, with a certain amount of discomfort, and awkwardness and hard work. It comes with staying involved when we really want to fold.
I’ve heard people say that “real life” is paying bills, doing chores, running errands, and being responsible, but those are the things we do to enable real life. We do them out of love, to nurture and care for our loved ones.
Real life, though? Real life is love and connection and grace, family and friends, adventure and experience. I want to remember that I’ve chosen to engage with the world. This is where my real life lives.
Recently, I went out for ice cream with a friend. She’s so good to me and so good for me, but I know I need to get really honest with myself before I see her, because she wants the whole truth, as messy and raw as it is.
I try to clean it up a little, put some shine on it, and she sees right through that, with laser focus on the heart of the matter. She has hard-won wisdom, that one, and she delivers it with grace and gentleness. She won’t let me hide.
She refuses to let me play small. She tells me she thinks I’m reinventing myself.
Perhaps I am.
Slowly but surely, I’m getting more comfortable with the wide-open space of the unknown.
Instead of looking around for a space to hide, I’m stretching my limbs, pushing my boundaries. More and more, though, I’m so aware of how much I need community to bring me out of hiding.
I took my first real yoga class a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been doing yoga for years, but hidden, learning from DVDs and YouTube videos. I was afraid that the instructor would tell me I’ve been doing it all wrong, but it seems I’m just fine.
It felt so good to be watched over, called up, told I can be strong, told I’m allowed to rest, told to breathe, but all the while reminded to listen to my own body and heart, to decide for myself when I could push a little farther, and when I needed a moment to rest.
What a beautiful picture of community.
This is what community is for. We invite one another deeper into our stories.
We create safe space to try new things without worrying about how we look. We push each other to keep going, keep digging, keep speaking the truth. And then, on the days when the soul work overwhelms us, we remind one another to be gentle with ourselves, to care for ourselves, to rest when we need to.
I needed an intentional community to be the training wheels.
I needed that support to push the boundaries of my comfort zone so that I could become the woman who’s willing to put her words out there for God and everyone to see and hear.
I no longer panic over who may see or hear me, because I know that even if I do make a misstep, I have this community behind me who will have my back.
So, let’s come out of hiding.
Let’s be bold.
Let’s allow ourselves to be seen.
Let’s share our highest desires and our deepest truths and the things that make our hearts ache. Let’s dive into our stories, and love on those who are doing the same.