If there’s one thing I have learnt in building a transnational community of loved ones in partnership with my awesome soul mate, Sus, across three different cities and colonial states – it is this:
Community and family is best built one relationship at a time.
Not in large gatherings.
Not in giant parties (though they do help).
Not even in the fun community or family dinner hangouts (awesome and integral though they may be.)
Community – a family of our choosing – comprising blood and other blood members alike, truly is built one relationship at a time.
At least that’s how it seems to have worked best for Sus and I.
That relationship could be with a person who is either a good friend or family member or otherwise generic loved one to either of us, eventually becoming a friend and loved one to both of us. I think about the people in our lives; those whom we call our friends and loved ones; those whom we would fight for through thick and thin.
And they all happened, and continue to happen, one relationship at a time.
But it’s more than just the particular closeness that such a friendship can bring.
It’s about the person as well.
The relationship is likely always going to be a caring and nurturing one because we only develop close relationships with caring, nurturing people. It would also be primarily with people who would care for our non-human loved ones (in our case, the Brothers Cuteness, Faiz and Rumi – our two feline bffs/confidantes) with as much tenderness and gratitude as we do, because we can’t even imagine being in a relationship with people who have cruelty or callousness in their hearts.
Of course, with all these requirements of care and nurturing spirits in our loved ones, our community has tended to have a slightly higher proportion of women at any given point in time than men – though we do have some gentle spirited and kindhearted men whom we count among our loved ones.
(I apologize profusely for any problematic stereotypes I might be perpetuating here. I don’t know why, but the world over I have generally always felt safer in communities and families where women outnumber men, and the men that are there tend to be of the gentler, more caring type rather than the harder, masculine kind. From a very young age, this has been a core value of sorts and it seems to have followed me as Sus and I organically build our own family and community.)
The biggest reason why this community building works best one relationship at a time, as this musing has been harping on, is because it helps us really know a person, their life experiences, what makes them happy, and find ways to figure out love and friendship together.
(Indeed, there’s one big relationship coming our way, even already begun, with our soon-to-be little one currently growing in Sus’ belly.)
Building our community and family in this organic way affords us the ability to get to know one another in a deeper way, hold space for each other’s failings and peccadilloes, as well as each other’s pain and suffering. All, to the best of our ability. Nothing more and nothing less.
It also helps us celebrate the beauty and richness in one another. It gives us the time to truly understand one another, support one another, have each other’s backs when the going gets tough – but also be honest with one another, realize each other’s limitations and strengths, and help one another find a liberated sense of self.
We know it’s not perfect and it never will be. But we also know there’s a certain beauty to that imperfection.
The relationships that constitute the core of our community are likely to emerge from anywhere, aided by our openness to friendship and comradeship, but also guided by our sense of safety for one another.
We know we are far more likely to build these community relationships with people who fight against oppression within themselves and society as a whole – beautiful souls who see racism, sexism, gender violence, colonialism, and patriarchy as dehumanizing and evil at an organic level.
Not just intellectually or rationally or conveniently.
We also understand that there can be a variety of ways in which these relationships are sustained. Perhaps we see each other on a regular basis or it’s merely a weekly text, a monthly phone call, even a bi-annual hang out.
We don’t sweat the small stuff.
Who needs a rule book on how a loving relationship is to be sustained over the long term?
All in all, I’d say it’s a good practice to build community one relationship at a time.
It makes for a more liberated and healthy family.
‘Tis the fucking season after all.
In the midst of all the patriarchal religious dogma and glitzy commerce we have been and will continue enduring, here’s wishing you and your loved ones much joy and health.