Tuesday, July 25, 2006


This is completely out of character. I was perusing my dear Mrs. Hammer's blog and feeling the need for some whimsy, clicked the Tarot card link. I thoroughly expected to get something gloomy.

You Are The Sun

You represent the best of life - vitality, success, and and truth.
You tend to have a strong, centered, balanced personality.
Inspiration and discovery are your fortes. You are very mentally strong.
A talented mind, you tend to excel at math, philosophy, and music.

Your fortune:

As well as you have done in the past, the future is going to be filled with more success.
A new creative project is coming your way. Feed it, and it will grow into something huge.
Great riches, recognition, prosperity, or happiness is coming your way.
And it's possible that a fantastic vacation, or a new baby, is coming sooner than you think.

Well, I'll take any pick-me-ups at this point...
But I probably won't put any more of this silly kind of thing here.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Though I've mentioned that I haven't been well here, it had been my plan to avoid discussing my health. I simply didn't want to get sidetracked from my musings on the subjects for which I created this blog. Little did I know that it wouldn't be OT, as they say in i-land. (off-topic, that is.)

I've been suffering from an array of neurological symptoms - physical and cognitive. After nearly a year of testing and one hospitalization, most of the practioners involved were inching closer and closer to telling me that I had MS. I've spent the better part of the year coming to terms with that possibility. About a month ago, another possibility was presented to me. It was suggested that I do some more tests just to rule it out. I did the tests, but really didn't think seriously about what a postive result would mean. Much less 4 positives.

It looks like I don't have MS. I should be pushing out a big, "Phew!" But what I do have is actually more life shattering for me. I have toxic levels of 4 heavy metals.

Okay, so I started a treatment to pull these metals out of my body. So far, so good. No big deal. Except that the common sources for these 4 metals are pigments and mordants for textiles. I'm absorbing them through my skin which is more toxic than ingesting them. Apparently, my liver isn't flushing them out of my system. Most livers do. Is there a reason my liver doesn't? I don't know. Frankly, I lost the ability to take in information once the doc said, "you need to find a different outlet for your creativity." Having only met me once before, he has no idea of the profundity of that directive.

This isn't simply an outlet for my creativity. It's the basis of my livelihood. My life's vision is infused with it. More than that, it has been a spiritual and healing practice. The beauty and symbolism of color has been a fundamental piece of that work. My chosen modality for healing has been killing me.

I'm sure there are adjustments I can make so that I can still knit. I'm not ready to think about that (post ideas and resources on our forum, not here, thank you.) Right now, I'm in a bit of a spiritual crisis. And the one thing that I usually pick up to work through that is toxic to me. (I did start working on a natural alpaca piece, so I know it's not totally lost) Really, I can't work in my own store. I can't touch the vast majority of the yarns and I don't think it will be condusive to sales if I walk around with rubber gloves on.

The business is in a fragile state of transition and I need to attend to my own health. As each day goes by since this diagnosis was given to me, I realize that I need to take a break. I have to focus on getting undyed sheets and how I'm going to replace furniture, rugs, towels, etc. I need to give my body some energy to recover. (I do hope treatment will mean the end of the tingling and burning in my extremities!)

I need to figure out how Circles can survive while I make sure that I do, too.

I need to come to terms with what my choice of passion has done to me. I have followed my heart and it has taken me here. I need to go deep down for some visions of how to assimilate all of this and set out on a new path forward.

I still need to cry. Why haven't I cried?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Battered. Cake anyone?

It's been a while since I've written here. I last spoke of doing; not reflecting. There has been some doing. A lot of that doing is hobbled by my personal health. Still, things are moving.

Yet, without doing some amount of reflecting, I can lose the wide-angle sight of what is meaningful while I focus my narrow lens on the tasks at hand. I suppose I need to find a balance. Losing sight means flying blind. Flying blind means running into things or being blindsided. A wise bird adjusts her focal lens before she's battered beyond recovery.

Obviously, I've been blindsided. I'm chugging along with my not-so-little to do list, in the not-so-abundant hours that I'm even functional when I am slapped upside the head with the reality that I have neglected to see the next growing pains in the community staring me right in the face.

Community is an abstract thing. It's difficult to pinpoint what each of us mean by 'community.' Or to articulate exactly what we expect community to provide for us. Or us it.

Still, we have, in the past two and half years, created community at Circles. There have been many expressions of appreciation for the space to come to, the technical and creative knitting and life support, and the social connections that enrich our lives. I believe, that at the heart of this is that word 'connections". What seems to make people feel like we are a community is the complex networks of connections: both within ourselves, amongst ourselves and through ourselves to the greater world.

If creating community is about connections, then the antithesis, the destruction of community, is about disconnecting. If what people appreciate is the connection, how do they feel if they perceive the connection is severed?

Periodically, we have members of our community who become indisposed for one reason or another: they might have had a baby, or surgery, or are recovering from an injury or an emotional trauma. We miss these people during the time that they can't come to Circles. But, as we're a large enough group that the absence of one person may not be noted without dramatically diminishing our enjoyment of the community, the person who is missing may have lost all physical contact with the community. Relatively, the loss is far more profound for the individual who can't come.

As the size of the community grows, the gap between the loss the group feels versus the loss that the individual feels only grows. As social creatures, we crave connectedness. Connectedness is the opposite of loneliness. There is no loneliness more painful than feeling lonely when there are people all around you.

How can you feel lonely with people all around you? (You don't really have to ask, do you?) Imagine sitting in a room full of people. They are conversing and enjoying themselves. You, meanwhile, are on the verge of tears. No one notices.

A friend told me the perfect comment for this situation: "Uh, hello, just pretend that I'm here. Okay?"

I had this experience recently. I sat quietly amongst a group feeling painfully sad and on the verge of tears. They didn't notice. I left the room for a bit and came back composed. Well, for a while anyway.

But this wasn't the blindsided part. I was blindsided by the realization that someone else in the community was experiencing this type of loneliness on a constant basis within the community. And then felt like a non-entity when she couldn't be at Circles and no-one was reaching out to her. The resulting despair was insufferable. I hadn't paid enough attention to how much she was suffering. It took a 'flap', as she called it, for me to refocus and see the forest for the trees.

If I've experienced it and she's experiencing it, we're probably not the only ones. How often is this happening for people? If its happening when people are here, how connected are people feeling when they can't be here? How can we prevent, or at least minimize this? How much do we care?

That's at the bottom of it: how much do we care? We, the community. But the community is comprised of individuals. Unless a critical mass of individuals cares (through actions), then we don't have a rich enough network of connections to keep the community cohesive. I can't manifest enough caring alone to buoy hundreds of people.

The work has to be both on the community level and on the individual level. The actions have to manifest in two directions: each individual has to express her needs - which are different than feelings - to the community and the community has to proactively check in about individual needs and be willing to take action when possible.

So, what have I done? Did I express my needs during that conversation that had me nearly in tears? No. I had an internal dialogue that was in turns self-deprecating, then resentful. I could write an impressive list of my emotional history that would detail all the psychology for why I sat there so passively waiting for someone to notice. But the bottom line is that I only extended my own suffering and imbued the room with that energy. I only affirmed that my historical experience was the only possible experience.

Or as I learned in the film "What the Bleep Do We Know", I might have been feeding an chemical addiction to a particular emotion or set of emotions.

I'm struggling, because my health is exacerbating my personal weaknesses, to feel useful and to have faith that I will achieve success in my little business experiment. Self-doubt is gnawing at the trees of my soul to build a dam across the river of my spirit. I needed a neon sign that said, "Ego failure in process. Need ICU."

What if I had said, "Pretend I'm here?" Or something more direct like, "I need a lot reassurance today?" The result certainly wouldn't have been worse than the prolonged agony I wallowed in. At a minimum, if I didn't get a satisfactory response, I would then know exactly the status of our relationship and could make some choices about that. But perhaps, just perhaps, those people weren't trying to abandon me. Perhaps they were simply caught up in their experience. Perhaps they would have even done something like, oh, I don't know, honor my feelings once they were known. Even help me feel better. I wouldn't want to risk that.

The point is, this tricky business of community, with its complex network of connections has far too many energy centers at any one time to expect that our emotional needs will get noticed in the cacophony if we don't speak up. If I don't believe that my needs are important enough to vocalize, why should I expect anyone else to think they're important? Simultaneously, it can be disheartening to feel that noone is connecting to you enough to notice your needs without you articulating it verbally, which can be intimidating within a group. So, the reach has to be in both directions.

We each have to be willing to risk the vulnerability of public disclosure. Reach out for help. And the group has to exercise self-preservation by paying attention to and offering a hand.

Do the individuals in our community value the community experience enough to explore what it needs to do for self-preservation? How can we proactively make sure that we aren't missing the fact that someone is feeling hurt? How can we help someone who feels disenfranshised become re-enfranchised? What are the limits of our capacity for this? How do we balance the need to attend to people with the need to simply have a safe place to get away from a world of people 'needing' us so that we can relax and enjoy ourselves?

As the hostess of this community, I need to ask, "When does the responsibility for community cohesion move beyond me?" I need more people to commit to community cohesion.

I submit this theory: that thriving communities have explicit paths for conflict resolution.

Oh! There it is. The dreaded word. Conflict. Or is the dreaded word 'confrontation.' Well, no matter. They both start with 'c.' And they both seem to put the fear of death into a room full of people faster than an open vial of the black plague. (Yeah, yeah, these days it's the bird flu.)

But there you have it. When people walk into a room, inevitably conflicts arrive with them. The more people and the more often they congregate, the exponentially more potential for conflict. So, to be a community, we have to accept that reality and figure out what to do with it. I believe conflict resolution channels and pro-active outreach are called for.

That's a lot to ask of a bunch of folks that just came to sit down and knit. Will they rise to the challenge and share the burden?

We'll see. I'll have to review in a few months how I'm feeling about hosting a community. Right now I'm feeling battered. Anybody want to help make cake out of this mess?