Guest Blogging

I am pleased as punch to be the guest blogger at approximately 8,000 words, Kit O’Connell’s blog, with an article I wrote recently — Embracing Conflict.

What really tickles me about writing this article, outside of the chance to express my feelings and experiences on a topic many of us shy from, is how meta it is. Kit’s a member of my choice family and I ask you to show me a family that hasn’t had conflict. We’ve had our share and I can say, from being there, that time can be the greatest tool you have when dealing with conflict, resentment and a host of uncomfortable feelings. I’m proud of us for getting through some unfortunate and often dramatic incidents and getting back to a place of mutual support and love.

Kit is the reason I have this blog. He’s hosting the site and he set it up for me. When I came to him and said “I want to start writing publicly, how does that work?”; he almost immediately got me started. I have enjoyed seeing him find his volunteer and artistic niche in the burn community (we do art but most of it is visual in some way. He found the place for his words and did an amazing job as Flipside’s Web Content lead, this year. I look forward to seeing what else he has up his sleeve.) He found an outlet for his voice and passed that along.

Salt Shakers by harlanh, on flickr.com

The gift of conflict is that once you’ve been through it, once you’ve handled it in a positive, constructive manner, is that now you know you *can*. That, for me, is very reassuring in any relationship. I was convinced, for the better part of a year, that I had lost a member of my family and that conviction was worse than the anger and resentment. When I finally calmed down enough to engage, it was scary but now I have the comfort of knowing that we’ve been through the fire and I trust we can go through it again. Conflict as comfort, like a reassuring hug. Reframing it that way has helped me immeasurably in my relationships.

 

“Not From Around These Parts”

Texas Bluebonnets by Gyesika Safety

Driving home from a friend’s beautiful wedding this past weekend, I got to ruminating on home and community and physical space.

I have felt displaced for much of my life. The feeling of attachment to a space (and the associated persona that comes with that) has always eluded me. I was born in Montreal but left when I was quite young, so I’m not really a Canadian. I was raised in California and spent 8 years living in Southern California but I was not born there, or in the States, and my parents were both raised outside of the US. I have never really felt like a Californian. I traveled extensively in my youth (Europe, Asia, Africa, North America) and have found comfort and solace in itchy feet because I don’t have that sense of returning home, once I’ve been gone. For many years, as an insecure adolescent, I obsessed over whether anyone would notice if I left.

Then I moved to Texas. A place with such deeply rooted identity with a physical space that being a native Texan is a source of personal identity for many people here. A place where the people identify with the history, the land, the ethic, the identity of the state. It seems that I had shot myself in the foot on finding that sense of home because I will never be a Texan.
I did not count on the immense power of Community and community. (“community” being more micro, the group of people who you are close to. “Community” being the larger social group that one’s community might be part of) Community that instills identity; community that gives freely of their time, resources and love. Community that has shaped my personal history and given me my story. One component of the wedding ceremony, that touched me, was when the bride and groom asked that the community take a vow to love and support them and their relationship. They recognized that community is what sustains us and they shared that realization with us. What an amazing gift.

There’s a bumper-sticker: “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as fast as I could!” That is not me. I was profoundly prejudiced against Texas: it’s ego, it’s people, it’s culture, before I moved. In the six years I’ve lived here, it’s gotten under my skin, I’ve breathed it’s air (and pollen, *achew*), it’s dirt has covered me and I’ve had it’s waters caress me. I’ve let the ego, the people and the culture in and that process has changed me. Some of the changes are obvious: I am no longer militantly anti-firearm, for instance. Others are more subtle. When I first moved here, I was dedicated to keeping my Californian clip of a speech pattern. As I have slowed down in this place, so has my speech (though I do not have drawl). I have always valued manners, I now value how manners can be used as a weapon. I’ve learned to become comfortable in my skin and I believe part of that stems from letting this place in and allowing Texas to become part of me.

I will never be a Texan. I will never be from around these parts. But at dusk, almost every day, I look to the Texas sky and my heart quivers and begins to sing a slow ballad of joy and peace. When I feel uprooted, I plant my feet in this soil and find my ground. My family is here. The family I found, all by myself. My children, my partner, hell, even my dog, are Texans. My community (and Community) is here and even as I am conscious that I am an interloper, an immigrant, an expat from wanderlust; I realize that this physical space, these people, the Community I found here; that is my home.