Fear. It is a tangible feeling. It tells the birds to take flight when creatures near their perches. It encourages the crayfish (or crawdads) to take a pinch at unassuming, soft human limbs intruding upon their humble homes. It is a survival mechanism running through all living things. Just as bringing the same-charged sides of magnets together creates a kind of tension that prevents contact between them, so, too, does fear faced with an unfamiliar obstacle. Often, caught in the center of that tension we only try to escape: we run. The first humans did, and we continue to embody the pattern. Why? To survive. To create an illusion of safety. I say illusion because in a Shamanic Breath Workshop I attended last year here at Dancing Rabbit Eco-village, the concept of safety was dissected and found to be an intellectual idea. This was difficult for me to wrap my mind around at the time, but this week I experienced firsthand how safety is simply a mind-induced survival tactic. Prairie here, with an update from Dancing Rabbit.
On Wednesday, exhausted from an eight-hour drive, my mom (Ange), little sister (Karina), and I arrived home after spending three weeks in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where my grandparents live and where I was born and raised up until last year. When we arrived, our home was warm and toasty thanks to Aurelia (one of our best friends) lighting a fire earlier in the day. The space we live in, like the other buildings here at Dancing Rabbit, doesn’t use a furnace but instead utilizes south-facing windows to allow in heat from the sun and a woodburning stove. I love sitting around a warm fireplace in the winter!
Speaking of winter, there is no snow right now! I heard about all these epic sledding parties happening at the village while I was away only to arrive to a few melting mounds and gentle sunshine. Even South Dakota, known for its biting winds and drowning snow this time of year, gifted me with hardly a sparkle. So much for sledding!
Though I missed the snow, winter is poking its head out at me in subtler ways. Every morning there is a fine layer of frost covering the landscape. The trees are standing tall and bare, and outside, like a cloud, my breath puffs frozen and white into the atmosphere. I say that I got cheated now but wait till it doesn’t stop snowing. I’ll be having some different words with Mother Nature then.
As the temperature drops so does the number of people milling about on-farm. Most are keeping snug and warm by their fires. Many are visiting family in various parts of the world. Still others use the off-season for business adventures such as harvesting and preparing cacao in Ecuador or selling Christmas trees in New York City. This all amounts to smaller community gatherings in general and currently, half as many people eating at the Thistledown kitchen co-op dinner table compared to last month. My family has eaten with this co-op for just over a year now and it will be different cooking for eight people instead of sixteen.
But I am noticing that this decrease in people numbers is paradoxically bringing an increase in abundance of exciting indoor activities. In fact, I had the pleasure to attend not one but two dance events in the last few days. One was a wacky party hosted by twelve-year-old Emma, the other a Five-Rhythms Dance hosted by Alyssa! My sister joined a group that braved the cold to watch a meteor shower. There are meditation groups I am considering attending. A weekly art evening has been set in motion. The Non-Violent Communication discussion circle I attend is selecting new reading material for the winter. And the Holiday Craft Fair is approaching. All of this is on top of the regular weekly potlucks, Writer’s Group, Women’s Circle, Open-Co Group and the various other meet-ups too numerous for me to keep track of! I am enjoying how the cold weather inspires the current village occupants to come closer together.
Now, for the nerve-wracking part of this article. Deep honesty alert! I have been putting off writing this article until the deadline is less than twelve hours away and I have concluded that this is because I am afraid of something. Fear is an interesting thing. For me, it is golden oak leaves tumbling restlessly within my stomach. I have heard others describe their fear as a knot in the gut or pressure behind the eyes, tension in the chest. It may be found in myriad places and, in my experience, with its own agenda, usually an attempt to get me to do something—like run away. Take the example of writing this piece. This is my second article and I know I can do it. At least some part of me does. But then I hear this other part of me that is somehow able to bypass my logical reasoning. It whispers little things about how the solar panels on the Common House are in full sun right now—a perfect opportunity to do that laundry . . . and a few random dishes are laying around that I could do . . . and what about sweeping up the kitchen and getting extra firewood?
I was practicing the careful art of procrastination and it was hard for me to ignore what I was doing—or rather what I wasn’t doing. But why was all of this happening in the first place?!
I have pinned perfectionism as the culprit. I don’t want to think of myself a perfectionist, but this week I discovered some of the tell-tale signs making their mark on the way I interact with my work. I have this little scrutinizer in my mind that doesn’t want me to stop editing and editing until there are simply no words left. To this perfectionist, nothing can end until it is perfect. In other words, nothing can even begin unless it is perfect. To this mini-perfectionistic me, it would be the end of the world if any work of mine was published and it wasn’t (you guessed it) perfect. This part of me was terrified of writing something that could be judged as “Wrong.”
The fear was easy for me to understand in retrospect. In the moment of being faced with this type of writing which I am very new to, a deadline, and knowing that whatever I write will be made public posed a challenge to the little perfectionist in me. I found some tension. I ran.
So, what is this article before you? Surely not a creation of Procrastinator-Perfectionist-Prairie? (Let’s not make that a permanent nickname for me. Pronounce too many “P” words and you’ll be spitting all over the place.)
To continue with the magnet analogy I used in the beginning, in addition to the conflicting ends, there will be the parts of the magnets that do fit together willingly. When I stopped trying to painfully put down “bad” sentence after “bad” sentence, I stopped trying to force the two like-pole ends of the magnets together after finally acknowledging that they didn’t want to meet. To say it plainly, I gave up. I moped around the village until I mentioned how I was feeling to Freddi, one of the newest residents at Dancing Rabbit and someone I already consider a dear friend. I wanted to overcome this fear and I was curious about her perspective on the topic. She shared her thoughts and support with me, and I felt connected, cared for. I love living in a place where support is just around the corner!
It took a little rotating, but I found where the magnets did want to touch. I just had to stop fighting the perfectionism. I accepted that it wouldn’t simply go away if I kept pushing at it. I had to let it exist within me. I had to accept it for what it was. I have heard the saying, “The only emotions are fear and love.” And maybe fear, in addition to keeping us alive, is the last, desperate message we can receive from ourselves that we need more love. I will be working on acknowledging this.
We all have a little perfectionist within us somewhere that shows up for something. But if there is one thing that is deeply sinking after the decade-and-a-half that I have been on this Earth, it’s that nothing can be perfect. It’s just not possible. There is no perfect beginning or end or in-between. There’s no “right place” to start. Just start! This village is a great example of how things don’t have to be perfect in the beginning in order to begin something. If the founders of Dancing Rabbit had waited until things were perfect to get this project moving I don’t think it would exist today. Neither would this article. So, thank you for taking the time to read it.
I will practice remembering that there is no “perfect” in anything, no way to perfectly please the perfectionist within, no “safe” place to get moving. If some yogis can stand on their hands knowing they could fall I can extend my definition of safe to beginning even when it does not at first appear perfect.