Processing BlissDom. No one post is going to sum up the whole of my experience at BlissDom ’12.
I generally process pain before I process life and – well, BLISS – because pain clamors loudest for attention. I spent the weekend functioning around it, and I needed to acknowledge it yesterday. I wanted to share it because I knew it wasn’t only for me. Your responses to yesterday’s post have blown me away – THANK YOU. I’ve met many of you who commented in real life (some of you at BlissDom!), and I need you to know I wasn’t directing that post at anyone in particular.
Last weekend, I encountered pieces of myself and others that I didn’t understand and couldn’t control. Staying alive meant that I needed to embrace those things, let go of my ability to arrange the situation to suit me, and hold pain and hope together.
For the first time in my life, I accepted that I needed to be alone sometimes in order to keep my heart open. There was nothing stopping me from changing tables except my tears and humiliation. I chose to stay, to feel that, and to let it open my heart. No one forced me to leave the concert on Friday night. I chose to leave because I needed to remember something I couldn’t share with anyone.
I realized that I EXISTED, whether anyone noticed me or not, and I didn’t have to apologize for that. I could BE what I needed to be, and so could everyone else.
After a slow Saturday morning and breakfast in my room, I put my smile on, talked with people, tried to engage their worlds, inviting relationship beyond my Community Leader badge. I attended a session, took time to meet the conference sponsors, gabbed with a photographer about equipment. At the closing keynote, I joined a table with people I’d met, but still I was alone.
As I wandered out into the hallway after the keynote, I ran into someone I’d been smiling at all weekend. As far as people-watching went, she was a favorite. She was alive, excited, and very much in whatever moment she was in. I stopped to talk, and the conversation turned to our weekend experience.
Suddenly, I was hearing myself say how I present well on the outside, but inside, I am falling apart. I was explaining how being a community leader in my first year at BlissDom set me apart from others who were attending for the first time, while I was already set apart from other community leaders who knew one another already. I told her I knew most of my trouble was that I’d just come by myself – if I’d come with someone else, things might have been different.
Then, to my surprise, I was hearing about other women who felt the same way, women who had been able to admit it to one another, to let down their guard and connect with one another. I left the conversation with an invitation to join them, returned to my room – and then went back out.
We women have so much trouble engaging with one another because we delineate an “outside” and an “inside” crowd. Women on the “inside” encourage one another to reach “outside” and bring other women in. Women on the “outside” resent women on the “inside” because they don’t feel included.
But that kind of thinking – however unconscious it may be – only serves to create boundaries. People – and women in particular – desperately need to meet other people where they are. We need to be people, not “inside” or “outside.”
Owning my awkwardness, introversion, and pain finally opened the door to relationship – both at BlissDom and in Monday’s post. It wasn’t my friendliness or my position as a community leader. It wasn’t a natural (HA!) ability to interact easily with others. It was me, being me, meeting others who were being them, right where we were.
My next – and final – post about BlissDom will be about the best moments, the ones that will probably stay with me forever. And the people I DID meet, who changed my life and made the whole weekend worth the experience. A good story keeps you suspended, saves the best for last, right?