"There is an organic affinity between joyousness and tenderness, and their companionship in the saintly life need in no way occasion surprise." William James
One of the most striking human experiences is witnessing the reunion and embrace of people who have not seen one another in a while. To see two people emote that euphoric joy of connection is nothing short of awe-inspiring, and serves to remind us what makes so special ... connection. Two people in proximity, both physically and emotionally, having forged and continuing to reaffirm, invest, and reciprocate with one another. It’s one of the simplest and yet most complex of human relationships. Constantly we are searching, yearning, wanting connection to feel seen, heard, and valued - and to be able to do the same for others. What a gift it is to be able to recognize, validate, and celebrate the humanity of another. There’s something deeply profound of connecting with someone who is willing, able, and readily returns that energy. Building those relationships though, entails putting ourselves out there, trusting others with who we are, and being present with them. Less, and less it seems we make those substantive connections with others. Connectivity may be a dying art, but one that remains the lifeblood of the human experience.
Community can be something we find, but it can also be of our own creation. Sometimes we stumble upon it. We're going about our lives, and suddenly we're bonding over a shared experience, identity, idea, etc. Momentarily we look around, and we realize that we are quite literally in the process of forging a relationship. That awareness though is crucial, without it - we may never take the time to properly cultivate that connection. Connections must be sustained. There has to be effort, energy, and thought put in. Without the intentionality, relationships often wither - depending on the strength of the foundation they were built upon. Community we create already comes with the initial investment we made. Continually deposits have to be made if we want our returns to multiply. That's reaching out, checking in, saying hello, visiting, setting up hangouts, and following through with it all. Every single time we extend a symbolic hand to someone else, that us sowing into our relationship with other people. When we accept those hands that's where something special happens. All the postulating gets grounded in reality - two or more people with an affinity for one another.
We have to let people into our lives. Especially when we've had other relationships fizzle out, fall by the wayside, or end poorly, the apprehension to open ourselves up to new people can be challenging. We cannot live in isolation. We cannot exist without others. We are not meant to just be. When we block out the world, we don't just avoid the bad, we miss out on the good as well. We have to take the risk in experiencing some of the not so great to get the chance of wonder. Instead of being guarded constantly, we have to be vulnerable in some ways so that others can learn about us, and us them. We have to let ourselves be known if we actually want people to know us. Trust has to cost us something. We have to give part of ourselves, our comfort, our peace in order to gain someone else. We have to believe that people are worth it; that they are worthwhile; that they are worthy of the morsel of ourselves that we offer them in return for the same - a portion of themselves. More often than not, we find that people are also just searching, as warily as we are, for connection. Trust is a gift, one we are promising to do our best to honor people, their stories, and their truths, while holding our own.
It's not enough to love, like, or have affection for people in our hearts. We have to show it. We have to put it into practice. We have to prove it repeatedly. We have to demonstrate care towards those that matter to us, consistently. It's not just grand gestures, but the pattern that speaks to who we are, and who we are specifically to those we're choosing repeatedly. We have to understand that each and every person we know experiences us differently. Our relationships are all distinct from one another. We can be phenomenal to some, but abysmal in others. How are people supposed to know how we feel about them or what they meant to us unless we tell and show them? We can never do it enough. Showing up. Being there, and then actually doing just that. That's the proof. That's where it's real. That's indisputable fact and not just lip service. As much as we are able, we have to get explicit in continually showing up for others, and letting others show up for us.
There's nothing like being in an affinity space. In a society that normalizes some and ostracizes others, it's powerful to be in a place where people are sharing your identities and/or have similar experiences. There's this ease that comes with it. We kind of just get to be - whole, unfiltered, and unapologetic. Building community around a shared experience, particularly when that experience can be one of hardship, injustice, and oppression has a unique authenticity to it. Somehow it seems real is a different way. People feel close to one another, stories resonate, and it's almost like catching up with someone who has been moving with you your whole life. It's this wave of relief that someone else truly understands and empathizes with you. The humor is the same, the things that irk you, and all the moments where you wondered if it was just you - there's nothing quite like it. Affinity spaces are important particularly for healing, revitalizing, and repurposing before reentering the world. It's a much needed respite from the simultaneous invisibility and hypervisibility thrust upon us. Sometimes people just need to be with people they connect with differently; and that's okay. Respecting that, recognizing it, and celebrating it - that matters.