I have a lot of practical thoughts on Viable Paradise, but I needed to get the emotional glurge out first.
The thing I’m learning about epiphanies is that they happen, and leave, and happen again.
The past week was a staggered set of such realizations, many-layered.
Realization the first:
learning never stops, no amount of understanding is complete, knowledge never sufficiently accumulates as to prevent the learner from needing more.
Weird though it be, this profoundly reassured me. Possibly my most heartwarming takeaway from Viable Paradise (right up there with having this new family, my new ka-tet): the amount of knowledge shared between the instructors themselves. No one came into any of the lectures with an absolute dominion over a topic. Even when the material wasn’t necessarily new, often the way it was presented gave me different perspectives.
I am grateful the instructors allowed me to record my sessions, because one of the other profound discoveries of the week for me: the amount of degradation in my auditory memory in recent years. It was shocking to me in some ways to see this so starkly outlined. Difficult, too, because no one likes to see themselves as impaired and it’s clear I’m struggling with this specific problem, AND I’m completely capable of coming up with a solution and asking for help when needed.
Certain elements of this week were a trial by fire for me; some of which I’m certain I failed, some of which I crossed without noticing I was on hot coals barefoot.
One of my other moments came along late Thursday evening, when I realized literally everyone was having at least one of the feelings that I was. It might be the Impostor Syndrome Kraken, perhaps? But every single person I spoke to around that time mentioned a deep fear they were more or less isolated from the rest of the group in some way. Fearing they talked too much, or no one liked their stuff, despite having reams of paper to the contrary. Even my roommates–two of the brightest individuals I know, period, full stop!–were wrangling the same kraken in a different shape. Once it was clear this feeling happened to just about everyone (yes, instructors too!), it was much easier to limit its grasp. And I hope, to some extent, it helped everyone else I talked to about this, because seriously, this was a talented group of people to cram into a single space. Not easy by any means.
I joked, going into this workshop, that the only thing I might cry about would be positive feedback. And I wasn’t wrong; this did happen, completely unexpectedly, after a very kind gesture from one of my one-on-one instructors on Wednesday afternoon. He read and commented on an additional story of mine, even after getting through the 8000 words of my workshop submission, and had a lot of useful advice and some unexpected compliments. When I tried to express a flustered kind of joy-distress-gratitude, he replied with “We are here for all of you.”
And I had to reframe a lot of my thinking, in that exact moment. I am accustomed to viewing myself as part of the all, that’s perfectly normal, but I struggle with being singled out – – even favorably. To have someone go out of their way for me, specifically, was sort of… I’m trying to sift out the words for that feeling.
The takeaway in that moment, for me, was small and important.
That all the stuff I deliberately minimize in order to shield my ego is being done a disservice. That being part of the all in “all of you” doesn’t prevent me from being an individual with needs, too. That I’m still learning but I’m always going to be that way, and that’s a good thing!
And that whatever the hell this story is that’s burning at the core of me isn’t stupid or unimportant, just in need of care and feeding and support that I haven’t allowed myself to give nor accept from others. I’m working on it.
This feels really clumsy, but I’m going with it.