How We Show Up: buy this book!
I think about the word “practice” and all that it means, especially in the context of writing, but also in the context of community. What does it mean to practice being in community with one another? Even without a global pandemic forcing us to stay in our homes, separated, community was an ideal and a concept that felt distant and thin in our super-scheduled lives.
Recently, and not coincidentally, I’ve read a few books that speak to our modern idea of connection and community. One that’s stood out is How We Show Up by Mia Birdsong. How We Show Up is a beautiful exploration of all the ways that people build relationships, from friends to family to neighbors to communities and beyond. Mia’s book weaves together personal stories from her own friends, family, and neighborhood with data to support her thesis that not only do we need each other, we need to re-discover how to need each other, and how to be there for each other. How to be vulnerable and honest, how to explore the truths of what we need, how to communicate those needs, to how to recognize others' needs and speak to those needs. How to show up-, in other words.
And I will say this: For more than a decade, and maybe closer to two, we've been told that "the internet" would bring us all closer together. The truth is the internet never was and never will be a panacea for a society built on the isolation and extraction that capitalism demands. The kinds of connections that are mediated by the internet are varied and can be deep and healing; I've experienced those and cherish them.
But we still live in bodies every day, and that means our relationships with other humans require us to stay curious about how we honor the connections and communication mediated by our bodies-- by eye contact, by the vast array of body languages, by the vast array of bodies.
Mia's book speaks to that contradiction of what we can actually get from our modern technologies, which is so much less than what we, as whole humans, need. Mia gets to the heart of the issue, naming so much of what we're missing in our bodies and souls, and then showing us how creative our spirits can become to fill each other's needs, as well as our own, over and over again, until we’ve built a practice of relationship-building that supports our communities and our own lives.
I think about practice in building community, and sometimes I feel overwhelmed. But then I remember Mia’s book, and realize that it’s possible, that community can arise in the most unpredictable ways to feed the hunger of our unpredictable souls, and that writing itself can nourish.