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Field Notes 2 - CCW

meerajay's picture

I came into CCW this morning in the midst of a really rough week, so I probably wasn't entering that space in the ideal mindset. The moment I came in, though, Jessica noticed that I seemed a little nervous and immidiately asked me what was happening, and I was really frank and honest with her. She told me that I had a choice of what I wanted to do today, and that I could do whatever made me feel safest/most comfortable. I ended up working with Ronnie again from last week, and we continued on with the project that we had left off with earlier. I felt really in tun with her mood today, and I think she was in tune with mine too. At one point, she was repeatedly dropping the needle and I could see her beginning to get frustrated. But it became clear that she had taught herself how to deal with those emotions - not necessarily repress them, but to feel them as they were coming and cope with them. Her frustration at being unable to thread a needle is absolutely valid, and it's also something she must deal with constantly. As she began to get frustrated, I would say, "do you need a moment?" and sometimes she decided to put the needle down and talk about something other than the project, or simply scream out her frustration. 

Working at CCW, I've noticed, has brought more compassion into my life. I feel it from people working there, from the artists, and from myself. I do not want to say that I have "benefited" from the experience because it is not all about me. I am there as a volunteer, working with the artists and for the center, not there to help myself, so I'm reluctant to say that. Still, I feel more than just compassionate for other folks - I feel a compassion for myself. I've been noticing how free the folks at CCW are with their feelings, and I am striving toward some level of that. There are times when I want to scream in frustration too, want to laugh at myself - and society, ridiculously, doesn't really allow that. There are no barriers to emotion like that at CCW, no denial that the pain and anger and frustration exists. You deal with it, and then you move on - you look to the future.

I've also been thinking a lot about building trust. Toward the end of the session, I worked with Lianne*, another one of the women. She was working with a project that had gotten accidentally knotted up with her nametag and lanyard, and clearly needed someone to un-knot it, as she was struggling. I came up and asked if she needed any help, and she was reluctant to let me help her. She wanted Jessica (the fiber arts teacher) to help, even though it was a relatively quick fix. I know that this trust could be built over time, but just wanted to make a note of it as it happened. 


alesnick's picture

I am struck by a possible connection between honesty and compassion here.  Your being honest about where you were entering seems to lead her to your sense of more self-compassion. So interesting!  What about normative academic spaces, by contrast (not to always make this move) seems to invite dishonesty, and thus self-alienation?

smalina's picture

I totally connect with these feelings about having more compassion for myself while I'm at the center--and this is on many levels, from caring less about what I'm wearing, to forgiving myself for occasionally checking out out of exhaustion. I think, in part, this has to do with the fact that the center was established on the very notion that we our unique experiences of humanity come first--before a need for productivity. The teachers don't care how fast artists are turning out pieces, they just want everyone to be comfortably and joyfully expressing themselves with their hands. If our emotional experience is what comes first, of course we are able to be more compassionate and patient and honest with each other and ourselves. I wonder, working off of TJ's question from several classes ago--is this way of being possible in other insitutions? Perhaps not, as society is organized now, since insitutions like schools are still forced to cater to a system that demands measurable productivity--but I certainly don't think it has to be. If anything, the center shows us how beneficial and possible it can be to reform our institutions to center around this compassion. 

glombaguzm's picture

I really loved reading this. The compassion you're describing really comes through your writing. It's really beautiful to read. I also really enjoyed reading about how *Ronnie works through her frustration. It reminds me of the mindfulness readings we've done—particularly what you mention about how "she had taught herself how to deal with those emotions - not necessarily repress them, but to feel them as they were coming and cope with them." But even when she screams in frustration; I could still see that being a therapeutic or mindful method. She is recognizing her anger and allowing herself to express it in a way that is not harmful. I think it's important to allow ourselves to validate our frustration and anger.