Hello, reader. What’s shakin’? I’ve been living in community in Oregon for four months now. Before, Ming and I lived in community in Las Vegas for seven years. We lived for a month at a permaculture farm in Ojai, California over the summer. I thought people were doing community for reasons like mine. Wow, I was wrong. There are all different reasons people live in community.
why I live in community
I believe in community as how humans are “supposed to live.” Supposed to is kinda weird, but I do believe we’re evolved for it. We turn out happier. We need other people.
Being isolated is depressing. Our bodies need togetherness, even an outlier introvert like me. It’s hard to make community work–we have to be honest, stay kind, collaborate, and come together with love despite our differences and our various traumas, agendas, values, and skills / lack of skills. But I want to try.
Some people are easy to get along with–some are very difficult. There’s huge variety of what people want, how we see the world, communication styles, how generous we are, how selfish.
But I don’t want to wall myself off from the world and suffer. I would rather suffer with others. Doing love, cooking for people, risking hugs, getting close, having conflict, and creating something new that never existed before.
I also have the reason of resisting capitalism. Community is better for sharing things and trust. Ming and I are anarchists. We can’t have our life centered on buying things and pretend it’s us against the world. We need multi-love, not just one another.
I’m in love with Ming, and I need him to have a good life. He’s way more social than I am. He needs people around and gets energy from being around people in a mostly chill way.
I get exhausted by people, and it’s hard for me to be social for more than two hours a day. But I want to live with Ming, so I need to find ways to be around people. I can’t isolate him–that would be horrible. That would be like being mean to a puppy.
Housemates / community members are not necessarily friends. Depends on how you define friends. They’re people who know your name, who you might do projects with, share goals with, and have conversations with. There will be frictions and sparks of various kinds. I keep my stress low and do my best to ride the waves kindly and with integrity.
I tend to only do friendship with people I seriously like. Being social is so exhausting for me that it’s only worth it to interact with people who I feel a deep connection with. I tend to go deep, which is my idea of fun.
But many people aren’t like that. They enjoy lighthearted connections and a few closer ones. For me the light hearted connections are pointless. So I feel myself den mothering and investing in the well-being of housemates in a way different from Ming’s style. That means I can get hurt more, but the way I love is my whole deal. So be it.
reasons people live in community
Other people are not like me. Some are motivated to live in community because they like to be king of their little kingdom. They get off on power and need somewhere to rule. That’s a sad one and has always confused me.
Some people want a homebase while they explore, somewhere to return to. That one reminds me of my relationship with Ming. I have this safe tenderness with Ming and Bunny, and can venture from there, taking risks in less safe situations. I like being part of a safe homebase for people who need to explore.
Receiving the benefits of community while keeping one foot in and one foot out is a thing I’ve noticed. Back when Ming and I lived in Las Vegas, two community members lived at Bartlett part time. They had a room at Bartlett with us, but they also lived elsewhere with family about half the week. So they always had somewhere else to go when things got stressful, or there were problems with the electricity or anything at all.
I remember feeling frustrated sometimes, that those community members could come and go with less investment, while Ming and I lived there full time, caring for the disabled elders who we were not on equal footing with. I could see the appeal of having two homes. But it felt unfair sometimes, that the everyday responsibility for caring for the people at that property was on me and Ming, by default.
When we left, it was mostly because the summer heat was killing me. But having 20 different types of responsibility and not signing up for all of them was exhausting, while being under-supported and under-acknowledged.
One of the disabled elders at Bartlett believed that Ming and I were the property caretakers, and we were doing a shitty job. We told him we were not, but there was no convincing him. We advocated for him, listened to him complain, cooked for him, gave him tylenol and other things he asked for, and we could never do enough. It’s hard to get worn down like that.
The power at this community where we live in Oregon is more equal. We’re all on the same footing, at least theoretically. Of course there are small inequities, but we can tell the truth here. What a relief.
I’m practicing being as real as I can while being kind and fair. It’s tiring when other people are less kind and fair. The situation of “I can treat these housemates however I feel like it, and they can’t abandon me” is one of the more fucked up reasons people live in community.
I’m learning about that as I live with as much integrity as I can. I’m learning all the time.
I’m fortunate to have the love of Ming, and I know how to be happy. Not everyone knows how to be happy. I’m sorry about that.