Living in Community: Part 2

My energy is such right now that I have to dribble this out onto the page. I debated holding it in for the past few hours, but I can't sit still with my emotion- it's making me feel like I might burst and then collapse in on myself. It's moments like these that I'm grateful for this outlet.

The past year has been intense, to say the least. Those of you who know me well have the details, but for those that don't: In early October we decided to open our home and our lives to some of our dearest friends, who were also our partners in so many ways. We had the same goals, the same morals, the same energy and drive. We were both farming, loved each others' kids, the list ran on… At some point we started joking about just merging our lives together, and then later it became a reality. It was a daring move, but one we were interested in taking for the reasons I sited last year. We already had our good friend Lindsay and her son living with us, so this brought our clan to a whopping 10 people- 5 adults and 5 children. After we all moved in, I walked into a door and gave myself a mild concussion. That day my life was seriously altered. I developed pretty serious post-concussive syndrome, and I have spent the rest of the year slowly but surely regaining my health. (A detail: I have since found out that the concussion was only part of the problem. The other part was my getting hit by a minivan while walking several years back. The combination is part of what made my recovery difficult.)

I spent the whole winter in a fog- but it was a productive winter none the less. We grew our business and tested our endurance. We really grew into a family. There's just no other word for it. We had our growing pains as a group- from simply learning to communicate with each other to practical issues like cleaning and parenting. We also have all had our moment on the stage dealing with our own character defects… now we were accountable to the whole group and it brought to light our shortcomings in a scary but ultimately positive way. It was not easy, but we stuck with it and it had it's very real and awesome rewards. Our house, in my perception, just grew in love. We became known around town as the "Yodlishes" (a merging of our last name and theirs) and we talked seriously about what we were hoping to gain from this partnership. We began to talk about the group as a real organism, one with growing to do and a future. We often used the word "marriage" in our discussions on how to approach our commitment- although we were always a platonic group who were decidedly monogamous in our marriages. This group was more about manifesting the values we held by starting a really intimate community- one that was about living in a more natural and intentional way, with many hands and a commitment to each others growth and well being.

We started discussing plans to move to the land. We knew that our unconventional goals were going to require us to be flexible and creative, but we had vision, we had commitment, and so we knew it was going to work out if we wanted it too. Jeff and I started to work our own numbers to figure out how to build a house that could accommodate our new family without leaving us in financial ruin if something were to happen due to unforeseen circumstances. We discussed the risks and the investment that we were going to be incurring as a result of our decision to commit to these people. It was scary, and also really really good. It continued to open us up to each other, to experience a greater depth of intimacy and trust.

Then came the farm this past spring. I was slowly emerging from my brain injured fog, and Jeff saw an ad for a hoop house for sale. We didn't have a great plan yet. We were still working on two urban farms and our land is too wooded to be a good spot for a hoop at this point. And yet, we held out some glimmer of hope that whoever was selling this thing would also be open to letting us use the land they were leaving. We made a visit to the farmer, and everything came together. We made a verbal agreement to buy the farm and all its assets, which included the lease to the land. We started to work the land in good faith, and our full-fledged farm was born. We worked really hard, we learned a ton, and we really came together as a group. It was actually really awesome for a while. Then, some shit happened. I really don't think it wise to go into all the details, but the end story is: we found out later in the game, after all our crops were planted, that the deal had been corrupt from the start. Essentially we were getting scammed. When we tried to find an equitable solution and get ourselves out, we found ourselves getting screwed over by this farmer. We found allies in the land owner and the neighbors, but it didn't stop this person from taking money from us, reselling equipment that we'd already technically bought, and ultimately destroying a large portion of our crops out of what I can only guess to be spite. It was awful, and we felt really foolish. Thankfully, as a group we came together again in a big way, and we met with a lawyer, we prepared ourselves, and we secured a new farm site in record time. We worked to get this farm prepped for the fall and following spring, and we qualified easily for a large grant to fund a new hoop house.


(Note: I don't really know why I'm adding pictures of corn. I just loved them this year, and I can't seem to write a post without including images. So here they are.)

It was a tumultuous summer and a very humbling experience overall. Getting scammed and losing hours and hours of work left us a little weary and we started to talk about getting back to our roots and focusing more on fun and learning and homesteading and sharing our surplus rather than striving for a specific result just yet. The farm dust started to settle, and we were looking forward to spending quiet winter days together with crafts and kids and (mostly) simple day jobs. We had a photo shoot coming up this weekend to finally get some pictures together, as a family. Last week Jeff and I were talking about creating a living will. We decided that the best people to entrust our children to (were some tragedy to hit and take us from them) would be Bri and Brett, since they love our kids deeply and already take care of them. I guess you kind of get the picture about the nature and depth of this relationship. The plans for the winter were to get the house fixed up and on the market, and then we hoped by spring we could start the move out to the land and all be out there together next summer.

That brings us up to the present. Yesterday, Bri and Brett sat us down and said they thought they needed to get their own place. They sited a need to reevaluate their own family's identity, and that they needed some independence to work through some of their own issues. When we challenged them to not be hasty and to try other avenues first, we only got silence. We spent the rest of the day and night an anxious mess, and this morning I was confronted with their final decision. They are leaving, and they won't tell us why. They only say "It's the best thing". There were no warning signs, and we've been given no opportunity to work with them to make things better or more workable for them within our commitment to each other as a group.

The implications of this decision are great. It alters all our lives irrevocably. From our day to day life, to our shared business, to more practical issues (like the fact that Jeff and I got rid of all sorts of furniture and stupid details like that). This means I won't live with their two children, who I have come to love very deeply. It means that the three remaining kids in the house will be without their friends (practically siblings) and their other "mama" and "papa". All of us who will remain in the house are very confused and angry, and we just don't understand what's happening to us. That said, I love Bri and Brett fiercely, and I sincerely want them to do what is best for them. I just don't know why that translates to this, or how I can recover from what, frankly, feels like a deep betrayal of trust. I am grateful that we didn't go so far as to start the house building process before they chose to bail.

I'm grappling with really complex feelings today. My chest and throat ache from the grief I feel right now. I feel somewhat foolish to be so blindsided by this. I'm angry at myself. How could I have protected myself and my family from this? Should we have known this would happen? Despite all that, I'm comforted by feelings of love and strength in my Jeff (and in Lindsay). We have continued to live in a way that is authentic and brave, and I want to remember to give myself credit for that. We knew all along that whenever you invite more love into your life you ultimately have more to lose. I don't want to be hardened, and I don't want to forget that it's always worth it. I do still believe that. I will just be stronger and wiser at the end of the day, surely. Today, though, I just feel weak and devastated.

I want to invoke the power of one of my very favorite quotes:

"I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance, to live so that which came to me as seed goes to the next as blossom, that which comes to me as blossom goes on as fruit." (Dawna Markova)

*I want to acknowledge the awkward nature of this post. We have lots of mutual friends and I in no way want to influence any opinions on the situation. Heck, I'm not even sure about my own opinions about it. I just feel I need a place to honestly explore this new phase of my life, and to reflect on and make sense of the last one. I do feel I owe somewhat of an explanation to those who would wonder what happened to our household- especially since we've shared our journey so openly, and since this situation will likely influence what happens in the future. This is a simpler way for me to share what's going on. I also want to acknowledge my need for support during this transition, and my need to be honest and forthcoming about what's going on with me and why. This place has always been a way for me to openly explore what's happening in my life, and I'm going to continue to do that as tactfully as I can.

Gracie
Gracie

Latest posts by Gracie (see all)

Comments (31)

  1. brigittefires

    I’m sorry to hear that there’s sadness for all of you. I wish I had some sort of inspiring or comforting thing I could say to you. All I can say is, transition is always hard, but it will all settle out in the end. If there’s one thing that can be said about you, you will make the best of it.

    *hugs*

    Reply
    1. poppleshatesyou

      Heather took took the words right out of my head. *hugs*

      Reply
      1. Gracie (Post author)

        Love to both of you. I know that you two are there for me even far away! <3

        Reply
  2. muirichinnahali

    <3 That has to be so confusing and difficult. We're exploring the idea of a similar living arrangement and I admit this is also a very real fear of mine going into it.

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Yeah, it was a real fear of mine too. That’s part of what makes me have a sense of bitterness, because I was pretty cautious and wanted to make sure all parties were being honest and careful with each other. Essentially I feel lied to- although I don’t think they meant to. For what it’s worth, I don’t regret it. We learned a lot, Jeff and I are super solid and great, and I will only be better for this experience. You have to make the decision that is right for you. Jeff and I knew this would be possible. Even in our house design we had some thoughts about keeping costs as low as possible for ourselves so we’d keep ourselves safe if things didn’t work out. So, protect yourself, for sure. But I look at our life and what’s happened, and I would do it again. I’m having trouble leaning into this pain I feel, and now I’m going to have to guard against toxic stuff like resentment, but I’m up for it. I hope you keep me in the loop and that I can be helpful on your journey. I think maybe the best thing is not to measure the success of your experience on an outcome, but more on other intangible things- love, growth, health, resilience, etc.

      Reply
      1. muirichinnahali

        Wise words here, and in other comments. Thank you. I hope you are able to work through the hurt and continue some sort of friendship with them in the future.

        Reply
  3. pithy_epigrams

    Heartbreak goes so far beyond romantic love. It hurts just as much. I’m so sorry you’re going through this, though as you said, when you love more, you risk losing more. I’m sending lots of positive thoughts your way.

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      This comment is so helpful to me. It’s so true. Thanks. <3

      Reply
  4. pagangoat

    Really sorry that you’re going through all of that, definitely good that it happened before you started actually moving/building on the land. It seems really difficult to maintain that kind of living situation for extended periods of time(just from my experiences/what I’ve seen or heard)at least nowadays and in our western culture. I hope you can all move past it and remain friends.

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      I definitely think you hit the nail on the head about it being hard in the context of this culture. When we would talk about the values and philosophy behind our choice, we would always come to that point- people these days see the option to live separately and to be as reliant on each other as they want. We think that’s the same reason for a lot of failed marriages. The commitment is born from total privilege, rather than from spiritual and practical needs like it used to be (I’m envisioning the whole concept of “tribe”). We were hoping to transcend some of that outside stuff, because we knew it wasn’t always going to feel great and we knew we’d have to work at it and that we’d have other options. I’m glad that the minute they felt tested we got to see what the group was really made of. It would have just been way worse the farther we went.

      Reply
  5. wolfteaparty

    Oh man, that sounds rough. Wishing you the best of luck.

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Thanks. <3

      Reply
  6. prophetsong

    I’m sorry things haven’t worked out the way you’d wanted. I’ve loved reading about your community family and have always been so inspired by the idea that such an arrangement could work in our modern world because I try believe that we as humans weren’t designed to do life in isolation.

    It’s hard to know how to respond without sounding trite but one of the messages I’ve always gotten from your posts is the sense if being able to adapt to what comes. Right now is painful and hard but I hope that there is even better things waiting for you on the other side and until then its ok to let yourself grieve what you’re losing x

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      You know, I hope that at some point I’ll be able to share and talk about some of the benefits of this way of life. I identified early in this grieving process that I don’t regret it at all, and I know I couldn’t have prevented this. So it just is what it is, and I now have a richer life for it. It was good, and now I just have to work through some pain. Thanks. 🙂

      Reply
  7. see_anotherside

    I’m really sorry that this has happened. You guys seemed like such a good unit with shared goals. It is a shame that you won’t be realising your dreams all together now, but I suppose some things aren’t meant to work out in the long run. You’re a wise and wonderful woman – you’ll get through this and make the best of your new situation.

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Thanks. All very true. I am accepting of this new phase and will move forward like always!

      Reply
  8. purerandomness

    Oh, Grace. It seems like this year has been filled with one hardship after another for you and your family.
    I’m terribly sorry. It’s hard to read about a friend going through difficult times– I wish that there was some way to reach out through the internet to give you a hug or make you a cup of tea and help you process all this.
    I know you are an incredibly strong woman. You see the world in ways many of us wish we could and you act to create a life that you feel is best for you and your family. I know that you will come through this, having learned what the universe wanted you to (albeit hurt and emotionally bruised), and that you will move on toward bigger and better things.
    Be gentle with yourself.

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      You know, it really has! But you’re right, I haven’t really seen those circumstances as being all bad or hard. But at this point I am weary. I wish I could have that cup of tea! 🙂

      Reply
  9. zenbaker

    Im sorry to hear this. Im sure there are some really good things coming up for you guys.

    *hug*

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Thank you.

      Reply
  10. Anonymous

    We feel so bad that you guys have to go through this major life change. We love you and want to support you in any way you need. It’s really painful to lose people and relationships that you love. We know how hard you tried to make this work and really admire you. J&J

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Thank you. Support really abounds. <3

      Reply
  11. decemberthirty

    What a shock it must have been to hear this from your friends. I’m so sorry that this happened. I know it’s hard, but you have so much strength and richness in your life that I know you’ll make new plans and continue to grow and develop, even if not in the ways you were expecting to. Sending some positive thoughts your way.

    P.S. The corn is, in fact, very beautiful. Thanks for sharing those photos.

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Thank you. Thanks for appreciating the photos, too. 😉

      Reply
  12. Anonymous

    Sorry to hear. Is it possible that although you’ll be living in different family units, you can still dream together, work together, and still be close friends?

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      I would love for everything to work out in such a way, but I’m not sure. One of the issues I personally have is in staying involved with them in any substantial way. If they can walk out on us without warning and cause such pain (they literally had only been thinking about going for 24 hours), what will keep them from doing that in our work? I think at this point, while I will work to heal and find my love for them again, it would be downright foolish of me to rely on them in any meaningful way. The whole nature of our relationship has changed, not by my choice. I do think that all could have been very possible if they had gone about this in a way that was more fair to the group and attested to some sense of honesty and obligation on their side. But they didn’t.

      Reply
  13. 3squares_a_day

    *hug*

    Many years ago we were the family that bailed. We weren’t living with the other family at that point, but we were looking for a place that would work for all of us and we had been talking and dreaming about it for a long time. My fears and sudden hesitance took a while to clarify in my mind enough that I could share them, but we just couldn’t go forward with a big flashing warning light going off in my head and heart. It was really difficult to talk to our dearest friends and tell them we couldn’t continue to pursue that dream.

    It’s been 10 years. We are still family with the other family, though it was hard for a while. Our kids are still like siblings, though some of them are grown! I wish the same for you and yours. <3

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      I appreciate hearing about your journey. My parents went through a similar thing, which I think I’ll write about today. I think what’s so difficult for me is that I took a lot of time to challenge these friends and get them to take the time to commit and be honest with us… I was the hesitant one in the group about getting so involved. It was a whole phase of our relationship, getting to that point of trust and commitment, and we were IN IT. So while I would never want them to do something that their heart tells them not to do, I am left with a lot of distrust and anger. This isn’t walking out before the “wedding”, this is leaving without any notice or effort afterwards. I’m comforted that Jeff and I still have our little family unit, but it doesn’t change the deep sense of loss I feel, and the confusion I feel about this going down without a process and with such intense consequences.

      Reply
  14. Anonymous

    First comment from me…

    I’ve never commented on your blog, but felt compelled to on this post.

    This has been an intense year for us indeed. We started with such a vision and all but our love for one another and our children remain. I am so thankful to have you and our kids as a rock in my life. It has taken several days for me to show any emotion but today is really hard. I am having the most trouble caring about their feelings now and just want to talk openly with you about how wonderful our life will be without them in it. I honestly could care less about tip toeing around and making this easy for them.

    I have the deepest love and respect for you.

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Re: First comment from me…

      Oh, my love. You are my family and my heart. We have built this life together, and we will keep doing just that. Despite any tragedy, I am always aware that I am a blessed woman. <3

      Reply
  15. Pingback: Living in Community: Part 3 – Polliwog Farm

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *