How Do You Find Community AND Live a Courageous Life? by Amy DeRosia

CC photo by Greg Rakozy

The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we are defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable.
— Brene Brown

We want to belong and to be ourselves. These desires often get in the the way of each other. Our friends and family don't always understand or agree with our choices. And being courageous doesn't necessarily help you make friends. 

I've struggled to find a balance between these extremes.  But apparently this isn't the sort of thing you master. It's something we all have to continuously work on.

Brene Brown's new book, Rising Strong, talks about developing the awareness and resilience to make these types of decisions. We have to develop a new set of practices and habits. With some hard work, we're able to recognize what is most useful in a given situation.

Here are a few of my favorite takeaways from the book about this topic:

1. Vulnerability is extremely difficult but also the only way toward everything we want.

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable." -Brene Brown

2. Healthy relationships start with self-respect.

"....People learn how to treat us based on how they see us treat ourselves. If I don't put value on my work or my time,  neither will the person I am helping. Boundaries are a function of self-respect and self-love." -Brene Brown

3. We all need to find "our tribe" in order to be courageous- individuals or a group of people you can fully be yourself around. Making brave choices is not easy or painless. Having a support system while we get out of our comfort zone makes the successes meaningful and failures less difficult.

4. Continue to show up- even when you are afraid, ready to give up, or have failed. Reflect on what worked and what you want to do differently next time. The more you learn through experience, the more you grow.

How do you find community AND live an courageous life? Do you find one easier than the other?

Why Are We Fascinated by Each Others Stories? by Amy DeRosia

CC Photo by Dylan Lunder

A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is. You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate.
— Flannery O'Connor

I went to a live storytelling event called All Y'all last Friday night. The topic, "Omg" described as "personal encounters with faith, finding and losing God, and eye-opening encounters with the incomprehensible," made me a little unsure of how the night was going to go. God and religion can be a polarizing topic- especially around here.

The opposite of what I expected happened. Storytellers shared interesting experiences. Others listened with respect and openness. The venue was packed full of people and laughing and cheering and almost sacred, still moments.

I love events like All Y'all because they remind me that our stories matter. Tales that may not be covered by the media or noticed by most people. But that doesn't make them any less interesting or important. When we hear an ordinary, local person sharing a story with our accent and about familiar places, we see a bit of ourselves.

Over the past couple of years I've been curious about our identity as a city.  The answer has usually been distilled down into smaller, more simple pieces. Our collective story seems to be more about creating ways for people to share experiences with each other. 

Here are a few ways we can incorporate storytelling into our lives:

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
— Maya Angelou

Have the courage to share your own true stories.

Get on an actual stage if you can or sit across the table from a real person. Connection happens the most naturally in the same room. But there are many ways to tell stories- art, music, a photo, a project, or even social media.

So many people are shut up tight inside themselves like boxes, yet they would open up, unfold quite wonderfully, if only you were interested in them.
— Sylvia Plath

Listen to the stories of those around you-especially if they aren't similar to yours.

Social media often reminds us of how different we are than so many of the people around us. But it is easy to only spend time with people who look and think like us. When life experiences or belief systems don't match, there can be some uncomfortable moments. We can support each other despite our differences.

Allowing someone to share a real experience they've had and feel supported is an important skill to develop. We all deserve to feel seen and heard.

One of my favorite examples of this is Story Corps. This video made me want to go interview my grandmother immediately:

Devote yourself to your community around you. Devote yourself to creating something that gives purpose and meaning.
— Mitch Albom

Create opportunities for people to voice and experience each others stories.

If you have a venue or an idea, I want to encourage you to make the event happen. When you organize opportunities for connection, you are an artist. This could be a festival, art show, concert, dinner party, service project, or simply introducing friends to each other. 

We can also contribute by showing appreciation for these events and experiences we love. Ask if there is a way you can help.

All of us have stories worth sharing. When we listen to each other and create spaces of belonging, we can shape the world around us. 

What is a story that has inspired you lately? Let me know in the comments.

How Cultural Rituals Make Us Feel More Connected by Amy DeRosia

CC photo by Caitlin Regan

We find ourselves not independently of other people and institutions but through them. We never get to the bottom of ourselves alone.
— Robert Bellah

There is so much joy to be found in simple connections with a lot of different people in public spaces and groupsA major focus of belonging has been in deep, personal ways like best friends and significant others. But, we don’t always have time for more of those types of relationships.

Having more interactions where we don’t have to share all of the intimate details of our lives makes life easier. 

…we need close, intimate ties as well as steady ties that are broader and more casual, that don’t depend on deep conversation or intense sharing.
— Emily White

Participating in cultural traditions is a way to be a part of the larger community without too much effort. Our lives can feel so heavy. But, these types of environments let us forget stress we’re dealing with as individuals and enjoy the present. They help us to get out of our heads.

Festivals are a wonderful excuse to live in the moment, get out of the house, and be around people. One of my favorite times of year for this type of belonging in Louisiana is Mardi Gras. We celebrate with parades, have fancy and casual parties, eat, drink, and dance.

I look forward to the Krewe of Highland parade every year. This neighborhood parade feels like community. Everyone cooks out. Strangers talk to each other. All of the local Krewes participate along with families and friends who create small, homemade floats. The throws are usually pretty fun, even though I’ve never caught one of the coveted hot dogs.

This year I went to the official after party at Marilynn’s Place for the first time and had a blast. It was cold and rainy but everyone enjoyed themselves. We danced under tents or in ponchos in the rain, drank good Louisiana beer, and ate well.  All night I ran into old friends I hadn’t seen in years. It felt like a family reunion.

These kinds of moments of connection in a vast, broad sense have been some of my happiest. You feel grounded and alive. Everything seems a little lighter. Easy.

When we make time to participate in these types of rituals, our lives feel more lived in. Our experiences are made of ordinary days and moments. Traditions, rituals, and rites of passage give us a way to celebrate together. They give us excuses to leave our houses and our comfort zones, to show up, be a face in the crowd, have fun, and be exactly where we are.

The first step -especially for young people with energy and drive and talent but not money- the first step to controlling your world is to control your culture. To model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in. To write the books. Make the music. Shoot the films. Paint the art.
— Chuck Palahniuk

This type of belonging doesn’t have to happen only during festivals or city wide events. We can create our own culture.

One of my new, favorite examples is this guy who likes to start dance parties on trains.

We don’t have any trains here locally to start dance parties in. But, there are plenty of ways to create experiences for others to enjoy. By hosting events, making art, planning parties, or finding new ways to update old traditions, we find connection and enhance each others lives.

What are some of your favorite local traditions or cultural rituals? Have you ever created your own?