I have recently been thinking a lot about the dual notions of aloneness and community
… and the act of yearning for both.
… and wondering if we have to choose: Can we be alone in community? Can we be in community when we are alone?
Being alone and being in community are both states of physical being and mind:
I can be physically alone. I can feel alone when I am physically with others.
I can be physically in community with others. I can feel in community when I am physically alone.
I spent 3 hours yesterday watching the Boston Marathon, up close to the runners at Mile 20 on the course that passes near my home. The temperature was high and so was the sun. I saw all the runners as individuals running their own personal races, many of them struggling. I also saw them as an enormous community of runners pulling its mass along with the energy of the one shared goal: to make it to the finish line. If you have never watched a marathon, I recommend it. It is sheer physical courage and spiritual determination in action. Each of these runners was alone but each of these runners was part of a glorious and pulsing community.
I have started doing yoga as a way to feel strong and also try to quiet my mind, if only for 30 minutes a day. At first, I was doing a class with 20-30 other people. I loved the teacher and I felt a kindred-ness with the other people in the room, on their individual mats. But it turns out that I am better when I am physically alone doing yoga. No distractions. More cognitive space. I have found a yoga series online where the teacher refers to the greater community that is doing yoga together as they follow her videos. In other words, each of us is doing our own yoga following her YouTube channel but together we make up a community of people doing her yoga. I like this. I also know this to be true because my sister-in-law actually put me on to this yoga series and I know that she and several of her other friends are also on that same yoga channel every day. So we are each alone on our mats in our respective homes, doing yoga, together.
And this is exactly what we are building with Courageous Parents Network. Each of us is by ourselves, at home, or in the car or the hospital with our family, the personal demands of our lives, our worries, our nagging decisions; but we are also in community with all of the other members and participants in the Network, including the people in the CPN videos, the people who contribute to the blog, and the people in CPN’s private community discussion Forum. This is what we mean by “You Are Not Alone.” Two weeks ago, we hosted our first live discussion group on the Forum, about palliative care. Sarah Casey, Emerson’s mom, was the lead guest, and she answered questions about her experience. I was there too, as were several other moms from around the country. We weren’t a big group but it was a rich conversation. I asked Sarah afterwards if she had enjoyed doing it, and she said Yes. She appreciates that the Courageous Parents Network videos and podcasts and blogs allows parents to be alone as they listen to the perspectives of other parents; and on that night, she really appreciated that the live discussion allowed her to be actively in community with other parents like her, while in the privacy of her own home.
If you have not already, we hope you will join the Community to participate in the discussion forum. We’ll let you know the date of our next live-event, and in the meantime you can post questions, share observations, and hear from others like yourself.
And coming later this week, we have a blog from another mom who talks about how she has found community for her daughter’s rare disease, and has used this in turn to help others who are coming behind.
So to answer my own question: I don’t think we have to choose. We are alone and in community at the same time. Whatever it is we yearn for in that moment – aloneness or community — we can find it, because it’s already there.