I AM THRU YOU, SO I
I’ve just finished packing up 7(ish) years of life. The majority of my 20s, post uni and pre any serious responsibility on what we might classify as the ‘normal adult life’ trajectory — (but then, what is that really anyway?!).
During that time I’ve had the privilege of living with the most creative and eclectic group of human beings imaginagble. Initially all starting off as strangers, each have profoundly and generously shown me what it looks like to love whole-heartedly and well in their own unique way, and as such, who I’m now pleased to call family, as well as friends.
We’ve shared what must be 100s of meals round a table, celebrated countless birthdays (close to 50) and drunk God knows how many bottles of wine. Between us we’ve had incredible highs and successes; new jobs, travels, dates, degrees, creative ops and weddings — as well as tangible pain that bubbled up in our lives; parents’ divorce, law suits, breakups, unemployemnt, death, and chronic illness. In all of those moments, we gradually learnt what was needed in those situations and what was not, and perhaps sometimes in hindsight.
Normally it’s just presence. Indeed, by committing to ‘being in the room’ so to speak, we find real resonance in relation to one another. It is the gift (of the ‘I am’, us) to be able to acknowledge the other first (the ‘you’) in the picture, that we find ourselves in the truest sense of our being (the ‘I’), according to David Steindl-Rast.
So to keep things short and snappy, here’s a few practical things I’ve learnt living in community with others:
- Be your silly self. Community living does not let you away with things — it’s stats; there are just more eyes to observe and pick up your eccentricities. Ultimately you’re going to be seen, we’re all a bit weird, so the sooner you get comfortable about that and let it out, the better. (For example, it’s been noted and sometimes with frustration, that I bring back random ‘found’ objects all the time and place them in obscure places in our flat— no surprise that I now work in a museum)…
- Cry often, laugh a lot. Life will throw some joys and some painful curve balls, so lean in and communicate all the above— do both regularly and together.
- Always have a jar of pesto pasta in your cupboard. As the majority of us were/are freelance creatives, we sometimes had well paying jobs and sometimes we didn’t. Co-op pesto goes a long way & there’s an abundance of yellow labels in Waitrose on a Sunday evening.
- Mice are cute but not welcome.
- Don’t label food, but do replace things like Claire’s almond butter.
- Eat regualry together. Another food one… and important. I think the best moments happened round the table, with delicious food and good wine. We’ve had the most difficult and hilarious conversations here, and ones that will be remembered for life, and for the most wonderful reasons.
- Make a cleaning rota. It may not always be adhered to but it will inflict a healthy sense of peer pressure that ultimately facilitates the optimim environment for humane living with multiple people.
- Create communal creative spaces. Spontaneously we did this in various contexts throughout the years... 4-part harmonies in stairwells to a post-it wall in the bathroom. Creating and recording these ventures are also valuable and am now realising, having found many of our outcomes recently whilst packing, are precious memories of collective imaginations weaving together.
- Invest in a projector. Group movie nights are best seen LARGE (especially back to back LOTR or re-runs of Celebrity Catchphrase).
- Finally and probabaly most importantly, work out how people feel loved the most and max it out big time. Somtimes it’s spending quality time, giving encouraging words, thoughtful presents — whatever it is; a hug, a cuppa or box of coco pops— do it. These actions create safe spaces that make home sweet home.
I could keep going, but I’m deliriously tired from packing and it’s only Monday. So that’s it — like the last episode of friends — ‘an the end of an era!’ As I’m sitting, surrounded by boxes, my heart feels heavy with gratitude; as well as a bitter-sweet pang of sadness knowing this chapter is drawing to a close. Like anything that’s good and of value, it requires investment. It also requires risk. A risk to connect without holding back - for fear of hurt or disappointment - not an easy task in the fluidity of London life.
However friendships are something deep and true and leave a beautiful mark under the surface — one, that if done well, lasts a lifetime. As David Steindl-Rast again puts so gently and wisely when addressing how to live life well and with others:
‘Time is one opportunity after another,
Hope is openness for surprise,
Love is a wholehearted YES to limitless belonging…’