Years ago I read a profoundly insightful book, Women Who Run with The Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It is a book that interprets fairy tales and myths from the point of view of women's struggle to seek authenticity. Being on a hero's journey, such a book provides a helpful signpost.
Many of the interpretations in the book really struck home for me, but the one that had the greatest impact was the interpretation of The Ugly Duckling. In fact, the interpretation was so core to my own struggle that I cried when I read it and felt so heartbroken that I could barely get through the chapter. The theme was "finding your pack."
After I read it, I began to realize my whole life has been a journey to find my family of swans. I do have my biological family, but we do not have shared values, and as I become more authentic in who I am, this has become ever more apparent. I have hidden who I am to "appear" to fit in, but I cannot hide it anymore. It is time to bravely fly with my swan family rather than remain a cowering ugly duckling.
I have always wanted to be of service. For much of my life I wanted to be a psychologist, but life always got in the way of finishing college. Then I did service in volunteer work like and . Each experience was very fulfilling, but none held my attention. Once I finished my particular journey on those paths, I moved on.
The other thing I was seeking in life was a sense of community. I felt so isolated in Van Nuys. I had experiences of belonging at a job and then with a parent group at an elementary school my daughter attended, but they were short-lived. However, I learned how beautiful it feels to belong, to know your place, and to be with people who are responsive to who you are.
Some time ago I began to attend the Thursday night semimonthly PPCC meetings at the library. From the start I felt an immediate kinship to the Council Board. There was a warmth and love in that room, and I felt a sense of belonging. Not all the issues they discuss interest me; in fact, most don't. Often I can't follow the discussions as they are very technical or filled with legal jargon. However, what brings me back is the vibe of the group. They may disagree or conflict, but the one value they share is that they love this community dearly.
I have no desire to join the Community Council. How effective would I be if I don't understand their discussions? However, I enjoy coming to watch and to serve as a witness to their evolution. I also feel they are welcoming to me and happy that I exhibit an interest in what they do by showing up. It's good for them to have the public come, because it makes them feel relevant in that it is the community they serve. And, trust me, they are relevant. They get things done, and they provide support when community members feel powerless to the powers that be. PPCC is a smart group of people who care, and if truth be told--I love them.
After coming month after month to their meetings, I have discovered they are my family of swans; and what's more, I feel wonderful support from them in my own community service endeavors. It makes no difference to them that my service is not directly related to Community Council, so long as it betters the community. Love in action for the community is their bottom line.
These are my values, combining the two things I have always sought: community and service--a perfect blend of my passions. I love putting an idea into action by painting a broad, brush stroke on an expansive canvas like a community. I love working with a diverse group of people from different religions and political affiliations. I love finding common ground to unify divisions.
At long last I have found my family of swans. I wish PPCC had more meetings each month, because I would love to be with them as often as I can. I am so happy when I'm with them and feel ever more confident that my values are worthwhile in a world that so much emphasizes individualism over community. There is room for each, and it seems to me that a perfect balance of both makes for a good and meaningful life.
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