Adventuring is not a solo sport in my experience. We hear the stories of people, mostly men, conquering iconic features in the landscape. We hear about the men who have conquered Everest. We hear hardly, if ever about the others without whom, they would have never gotten there. The hero’s story goes that one man heeds the call of an adventure. Off he goes into the unknown to eventually face a crisis that will test his mettle. He is victorious in the face of this adversity and returns home a changed person – a hero. It’s not that these aren’t great stories, it’s just that I suspect they aren’t the full story in most cases. Stories that leave out important details can be misleading. They can make aspire to do things that were never possible in the first place and to feel like a failure when we aren’t able to achieve them.
If you’re going to adventure, you are going to need a community behind you. It’s not that you need the community to be entirely built and in place before you take the first step. You may have only a couple of people who think you should give your adventure a try. You may have no one. Don’t wait for them to take that first step. Often people will show up as you take those first steps. Maybe they have been watching from the sidelines to see if you take them. Maybe they weren’t aware of you until they noticed you were poised on the edge of an adventure, until you started moving. If you adventure they will come. They will be drawn from the wood work, by the energy of your forward motion. Often people want to be part of an adventure, even if they don’t want to go on it themselves.
So your community will grow around you as you go on your adventure, but there is another thing you need to know: If you want to be part of a community, you have to be open to receiving. Not just receiving in a superficial way like you might graciously receive a lovely housewarming gift. I mean receiving generosity that startles you with it’s enormity; generosity you may never be able to repay; generosity so embarrassingly large that you feel it clearly highlighting how much you are lacking.
This recently happened to me on a scale I had never experienced before. In August last year, our family moved from Australia to the US. Although we had visited the place we were moving to many times, we’d always been on vacation when were were there. How we would run our everyday lives in our new remote home, make a living and find the infrastructure we needed was unknown. We had made international moves before and they had been difficult. But this time, in the midst of a pandemic, our landing was a particularly turbulent one. It was hard to meet people because no one was gathering publicly or privately. It was difficult to find work, the real estate market was running away with people like a spooked horse and we were isolated in a new place. As the winter darkness set in the collective family mood plummeted.
One day a good friend called to check in on me. We were both going through major life changes and had been keeping closer tabs on each other. We talked about the turmoil in her life. She was leaving her partner of 20 years. Then she asked how I was going. I told her that I’d had a six-month contract that had not been extended as I had assumed it would. I was out of work and my husband was still looking for work. We’d had to move rentals before the lease with the first rental was over, causing us to rent two houses for two months with no income. She asked, “How much is the rent for the place you moved out of?” “Three-thousand dollars.” I answered. Without a pause she said, “I can send you six thousand dollars right now.” I sucked in my breath and was unable to say anything. Then she said, “It’s not a loan.”
I was stunned by her unhesitating, extremely generous offer. I felt her words physically thump into my chest and my eyes watered. Then I cried. One of the things that made this gift so extraordinary was the context of my friend’s life. She is not someone who has $6000 to spare, as far as I know. She grows a good proportion of her own food, lives in a cabin she and her partner restored from and uninhabitable state and for her annual vacation she drives from Maryland to Michigan with her parents to stay in their cabin for two weeks. She does these things partially because she likes them, but also because they keep costs down and allow her to be an artist, which doesn’t bring in a salary. When I finally found my voice again, I said, I couldn’t believe she would offer me money like that. She said, “Well, what’s it there for?”
Accepting this money made me feel ashamed, grateful and like I was part of something almost magical at the same time.
When you are scared and you have to ask for help you don’t feel entitled to, that you shouldn’t be asking for because you should have it all worked out and under control at this point in your life, but you don’t. You feel like it reveals gaping holes in your facade through which people can see the small scared, undeveloped parts of you. And when they say, “I can see how you’re hurting, let me help you.” and when you break down and accept their help and they then say, “Thank you for letting me be a part of this.” That’s when you are experiencing grace.
Take a moment. Divert you attention from your shame and notice, in the midst of the mess and pain that is currently your life, that there can be great beauty in your life – the sort you don’t come across when you have it all worked out and things are humming along. That’s when you know you are part of a community. You are home.