Community isn’t just a funny show on the TV

Living in community is hard.

It’s also engrossing, fulfilling, heartwarming, and at times, heart-breaking.

More than anything, living in community is a sure-fire way to be present at any given moment to your self-worth, your self-esteem, and self-sufficiency.

Living on top of each other — which is what you do when you live on a small kibbutz, at least — means you are every day faced with fitting in, belonging, needing, giving, taking, believing, doubting, judging, questioning, accepting, committing, avoiding.

Your heart just sits there in the front seat of a roller coaster ride.

Some days trekking slowly slowly to the top — excitement building. You can hardly breathe. Other days, a swift ride to the very bottom. You can hardly breathe.

But in a different kind of way.

Who chooses this life? This togetherness?

Who forfeits the privacy, the independence, the safe separate-ness of living in a large city or a large suburb with long driveways and electric garage door openers?

There are days when I want to run away to that large city; hide inside a dark suburban garage.

You can’t do that on kibbutz.

You can’t avoid the neighbor who insulted you.

Or the friend who disappointed you.

Or the child who bullied yours.

You can certainly try.

But as you cross paths time and again, each time reminded of the injury, the insult, the suffering, you have a choice to make.

Be with the suffering,

Or heal.

There’s no avoiding. Not for long, anyway.

There’s just choosing to suffer or choosing to heal.

Living in community is hard.

But no harder than life.

Living here, in community, is like living in a petri dish of evolution. Of social innovation. Of personal development.

Of love and compassion.

For yourself and for your neighbors.

And it’s hard some days.

Other days, though, miracles happen .. right before your very eyes.

 

Yin yang

It’s almost 6 months since we moved to Israel…and I’ll soon compose a contemplative look back at our transition to life here. But in the meantime, I’m doing eight loads of laundry in a crappy stackable washer/dryer set that’s shoved in too tight into our bathroom and it got me wondering…how is my life easier and harder compared to my life in the NJ suburbs?

I recently discovered this blog post at BrainPickings.org in which they feature a film of people discussing their “perfect city.” I loved watching what people had to say about their ideal community, and then thinking about my own answer, particularly since I have been so immersed in and focused on intentional community since we moved here.

The answer for me, if I’m offering the simple one, is “my ideal community would make my life feel easy.” Why? Because I find that the “easier” my life feels, the easier it is for me to give and receive. To love and be loved. To enjoy life. To live in the present. To smile. To breathe.

Why “feel” easy? Because, as you must know, there is no easy and hard. There’s only what you feel is easy and what you interpret as hard.

Now, of course, living in (or participating in)  intentional community isn’t always easy. Like life, living in a small, intentional community is give and take; sweet and sour; hot and cold; easy and hard. It’s our job to be mindful of the balance, no? 

Much of what makes my life feel easier here has to do with living in intentional community. I’m very present to that fact, and thankful for it, because it really counterbalances most of what makes my life seem harder here:

  • Bugs
  • Parasitic bugs that like to live in your hair
  • Critters
  • Poisonous critters
  • Critters that hang out on your ceiling while you’re sleeping
  • Critters that hang out on your porch waiting to bite you
  • Dirt
  • Dirt that somehow ends up in your dryer, despite going through a wash cycle
  • Dirt that won’t come out of your laundry…ever
  • Dust
  • Dust on your window screen, on your floors, car windows
  • Cleaning dust on a tri-weekly basis
  • Being far away from family and friends
  • Being far away from family and friends, and trying to find a good time to Skype with a 7-hour time difference
  • Food
  • Food-centric society
  • Food-centric society that loves the foods my kids are allergic to
  • Food-centric society that isn’t necessarily mindful about how said food leads to rotten teeth, poor behavior, and childhood obesity
  • Crappy appliances
  • Foreign germs
  • Language barriers
  • Bureacracy
  • Crazy drivers
  • And, in a nutshell, a society that cares little for clear order, rules, organization, structure, or advance notice

When I get aggravated about, annoyed with, or frustrated by the things that seem to make my life harder here, I try to remind myself of what makes my life feel easier:

  • Intentional community: Neighbors that want to get to know me, and do
  • Family-friendly community (and by community, I mean both specifically the “yishuv” of Hannaton, and Israeli society)
  • The sharing, caring, and intimacy that comes with living in small community
  • Open space
  • Open space filled with children my children’s ages
  • Mild weather
  • The beach
  • Less time in the car (walking the kids to preschool, the bus stop, etc.)
  • Family nearby
  • Shabbat
  • Shabbat dinners at my house (where your kids to entertain mine)
  • Shabbat dinners at your house (where my kids eat your food and you clean up after them)
  • English-speaking co-workers
  • English-speaking neighbors
  • Hebrew-speaking neighbors that are tolerant of my “Heeblish”
  • Minimalistic lifestyle
  • Yoga on my neighbbor’s rooftop

  • Letting go…

The list is much longer than this, I am sure. And could get a lot more detailed and specific. And perhaps it will…

I’d love to hear your thoughts on your “ideal community.” What about where you live makes your life easy or hard? If you could live anywhere, would you live where you do? And if not, where would you live?

Community

I’ve gotten a lot of feedback regarding my recent post on why I made Aliyah, particularly in response to the comments I made about community.

Some feedback came from my friends and neighbors in New Jersey who disagree that East Coasters don’t make time for community. (“Remember when I brought you that meal after you had Annabel!”)

Some came from old friends who congratulated me on my decision to make Aliyah, but challenged me on the notion that Israel is the only place to build community. (“You suggest that Israelis are just as busy as East Coasters, but you imply that the reason they have community is because they intentionally desire it, thus suggesting that east coasters do not.”)

Others were simply surprised that I live in Israel now. (“Well, that explains why your phone has been disconnected”.)

For the record, I do have community back in the States…and I’m so very grateful for the people I love there and who love me: My friends. My family. My synagogue. My kids’ schools. My book club. My moms’ groups. My colleagues. My clients. I’m a student of and a builder of communities. And, as I wrote previously, community is key to my sanity.

But, community is a word that is very much open to interpretation and evolution. As is the word “intention.” There is much to be written on the topic (which is why I created a category here called “Living in Community.”)

I do hope that all of you who have written me offline will consider reposting your comments on the blog itself because your input is one of the best parts about blogging.

I don’t blog to hear myself talk.

Ironically enough, I blog so I can build community here.

I share of myself so that, hopefully, I may engage you in a dialogue — one that will benefit both you and me. Personal blogs are a unique forum for writers; This isn’t fiction and I don’t have a team of thoughtful editors carefully proofreading each piece. (Oh, how I wish I did.) Some might say this is little more than a closely revised public journal entry on a very specific topic.

Where this veers from journaling is that I actually value your opinion, whether you agree with me or disagree, and do hope you might consider publicly sharing your thoughts with this community of readers. (It’s easy. You just leave a reply under “Leave A Reply” and click “Post.”)

There’s a good chance that by speaking up you’ll educate and inspire me (and others) in ways that can only happen by being part of a community.

The very basis of this blog is that I’m processing the Aliyah experience. I still have so very much to learn. I hope you will stay tuned to find out what happens next…and to continue to be part of the conversation.