Highs and Lows of Communal Living

Living on a commune is fantastic. Or it sucks. It just depends on the day, I guess. Or my mood. Or my roommate’s mood. Or the mood of any of the other 60 people living under the same roof as me. Just before I moved here to do my DTS, I was really lonely. You can read more about that here. So I went from that state to my situation now, where I’m eating, sleeping, and breathing community. It’s a lot harder than it sounds. Boundaries are crossed a LOT. And then questions come up: should I have those kinds of boundaries? Is that my American upbringing pressuring me to protect my personal space and freedom? For example, say I walk into a room with a plate with two slices of pizza on it. Instantly I will be surrounded by 3 to 7 people, asking me where I got the pizza, what kind is it, does it taste good? All of these questions are leading to the inevitable, “Can I have some?” And what do you say, when you’re “family”? “Get your own damn pizza,” doesn’t go over very well at Lewis House. Then there was that time (um, 2 days ago) when I was sitting at my laptop in the office with my lunch plate next to me. A random guy whom I only met a couple weeks ago walks up and takes a huge bite out of the apple!
My response: “Did you seriously just do that?”
Him: “Oh, I thought that was Tina’s!”
Me: “Um, still.”
Then there’s the fact that everyone’s cleanliness affects your own. On the weekends, we have to wash our own dishes instead of having them washed by a rotating team of our peers. So on the weekends, most people can’t be bothered with using a plate for their toast. Almost every table is covered in crumbs, jam, and peanutbutter. Oh, and spilled milk because we don’t own paper towels here. God forbid you grab a rag from the cleaning closet ten meters away.
Then there’s the “how are you” factor. When someone walks by and asks how I am, I usually give an honest response. If I’m doing fine, I’ll say fine. Same for tired, hungry, good, and great. But what’s frustrating is when I respond, “Fine” and the questioner gets all concerned, “Just fine? What’s wrong?” I do not understand this, people. If I say “fantastic!” all the time, what do I say when I’m actually having a fantastic day? And if I’m around these people 24/7, guess what? I’m not going to be doing fantastic all the time. I’m not a Stepford wife kind of Christian…I have blah moments, silly moments, serious, angry, excited, happy, cranky, sad, whatever.
Okay, thats enough of a rant. There are totally great things about communal living. I love that if I AM having a bad day, there are people there to listen and love me and make me some tea or give me a hug or paint me a picture or do a number of other sweet things to express that they care. And if I have great news, I have dozens of people to celebrate with me, even if it’s just over a Hanukkah card I got in the mail. There’s always something going on, so it’s hard to be bored (note: I didn’t say impossible). Doing mundane things like cleaning up after a commissioning service can become a crazy dance party. People notice little changes you make, like wearing your hair off your face or a shirt you forgot you brought from home. If you can’t go to sleep because you’ve got too much on your mind or are just plain sad, you can crawl off your bunk and go a few doors down to be listened to and prayed for and comforted until you feel ready to go to bed.

Yeah, Lewis House is a community of savages. But it’s also a community of people who love.


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