“No wonder I have been so slow, I thought. All this while I have been a weaver without wool, a ship without the sea. Yet now look where I sail.”
-Madeline Miller, Circe
Maybe we become ourselves when we fit into our community. We weave when we find our wool.
When I was younger I wanted to do it all myself. I wanted to lock myself in a room and be brilliant, incandescent, all by myself, so that the windows and the little gap under the door lit up with light. Independent, I thought. Self-sufficient. When I tried to live out that idea, when I tried to cut myself off and go on alone, I would move a little way toward something interesting and then lose steam. I wasn’t sure why, but I thought I’d soon learn the trick of maintaining my momentum. I was pretty sure that people were most themselves when they were separated from everything else, and so free from any influence.
These days, I tend to think the opposite is true. I think we’re most ourselves when we’re in touch with things. R. W. Emerson talks about how hard it is to find the right words, until you’re talking to a friend, and then all the words are there; I think it’s hard to find thoughts, to find possibilities, to find worlds until you’re sharing with something you listen to, care about and respect.
Then again, maybe both viewpoints have their place. Dr. Gordon Neufeld says an individual must differentiate themselves before integrating into a community. Is that behind what I’m seeing here?
Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe the sail needs to be itself, separate, before it can fill with the wind–but once it is itself, it needs that wind to move it. Maybe we need to lean back, and then lean in. I still seem to need my hours alone. Once I’ve had them, I seem to be more me because of all of you. I think more and discover more in responding to you. I don’t want my own locked cave (maybe I never did), but I’m glad for my quiet walks, glad for the trees I move through, and glad for the friends my steps always bring me back to in the end.
Sometimes I need to gather myself up, but once I do, I want to set off into our shared sea.