the least of it
May 30, 2010 § 9 Comments
when i first joined the ngo to work in palestine, one of the questions that they asked me was: do you have a support community.
i answered honestly: yes. i had founded a community art space that had brought a mix of folks from our local community as well as out-of-towners together. vietnam vets, homeless, punks, hippies, preps, hipsters, college kids, dj’s, mc’s, performance poets, visual artists, musicians, etc. we were about multi media work, stretching the boundaries of what was expected and accepted in that conservative southern va town. it was fun work. it was, for better or worse, my community.
it wasnt until the end of my training that i realized that when they asked if i had a ‘support community’ they werent asking are there a group of people who love you and your work. who come to your shows. who donate art to your space. who hang show posters in restaurants in their spare time. who pass out flyers. who make sure to introduce you to artists they think you will dig.who let me use their internet or their shower. who believe in what you do.
they were asking if there were a group of folks who would send money every month to the organization. or at least off set some of the cost of my living, since my meager stipend was not going to cover my basic needs.
oh. well, im not sure if you caught the cadre of folks who i considered community, but for the most part these werent folks with extra cash. i mean i guess i could have asked someone to spange up 20 bucks, but frankly i would have rather they used that money to buy a few beers.
anything else but money, they didnt consider to be ‘real support’.
stranger still this was an organization that claimed to support communities under the threat of violence, but was adamant about not being an ‘aid organization’. we didnt give money. at all. we supported communities in other ways, through connecting them with other ngo’s, through acting as a liason betw the community and governments, by accompanying the community, by doing media work for/with the community, etc.
and this makes sense. often times what we have to offer is not money, but ourselves, our time, our energy, our bodies, our creativity, our love, our affirmations, our support.
sometimes money is the least of what is needed.
after january 2009, after we had been in israeli detention, what i most appreciated was the rare note or word of support, appreciation, and sharing with others of our experience. and what i least appreciated was the silence toward, or condemnation of what we had chosen to do.
what i learned was to support the work that i believed in by any means i had available. i learned how loudly silence speaks. i learned how a question like: do you think it was worth it? could be so damaging to relationships. and how a note like: may i share your story? or ‘those guards were so fucked up’ could be so supportive to a person just trying to get through the day/week/month/life.
what i also learned from that time and the months afterward was that i couldnt expect support. i couldnt expect people to give a damn. because hey, we all got issues, we all got shit we are going through. self-centeredness is a coping strategy that we were born with and is very difficult to outgrow. or at least i know that is true for me.
that support community i had a few years ago, i left in order to get away from the abusive ex. because frankly their support was based upon my silence and i couldnt afford to stay silent any longer.
and i made a commitment to myself that i would not endure abuse in order to have a support community again.
which probably means that the skills i have learned on how to support myself are going to come into pretty good use.
learning to mother myself is a lifetime process. and lucky for me i have a lifetime.