Conflict is a gift. It is inevitable in cohousing and any group. It points to where the weak points are and gives you an opportunity to fix it. Of course, no group is perfect, but if you listen, you can make it better.
Where I lived, they won’t let any negative word in. Little problems get ignored – mice in the common house (who grow a bigger nest). Big problems linger with tension as no one speaks up and if someone does (me), they get scapegoated instead of dealing with the real (important) issue.
Yesterday, with a mediator, they had the opportunity to look in the mirror. Obviously something is wrong with a mass exodus of families. I always know what countries in the world are in trouble by who my immigrant students are (I teach English as a Second Language). I’ve had students for years from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala and then started getting more and more from the Congo. People leave when they don’t feel safe. Why else would you leave your home? I know I wanted to leave when Trump got into office but it never got that unsafe, yet my kids each had a Canada box filled with toys so we could throw it in the car and drive off if I felt the moment had been crossed.
I shouldn’t be surprised that they shrugged it off. Life goes on. People leave. Yes, people leave cohousing but when many feel beat up on all sides of a conflict, then something is very wrong. They seemed more upset with the way people are leaving – secretly buying other houses and slowly moving out. They were also concerned about how work commitments would get done with people pulling away yet still staying on campus for months.
Wow. Now, I only heard everything second hand but it reminded me how unsettled I felt for months before the big blow up. One family moved in that were right up my alley. Really crunchy and hippy and they had an amazing vision for the community. That we would hold heart circles, or something like that, and talk and share and express our feelings. That we would be such an open, caring environment. I loved it but my gut said that most wouldn’t be into that. I was right. That family left two months later (so jealous they were renters) and were victims in the big blow up.
And when the big blow up occurred I was crying all the time. The first day when I was in shock. I expected everyone to wrap their arms around certain families and help the situation. Instead those families were pissed and made everyone turn against me instead of looking at the concerns. So, I was crying outside of one neighbor’s porch and she and another neighbor just stood there. I thought that was odd. Another time I was in another crying jag and that neighbor listened but maybe had to go or something and said they had to go and we’d have coffee soon – which never happened. One neighbor was sweet and went in for a hug (now I do understand covid but no one had ever followed protocols since it began) but later threw me under the bus and felt right at home at the mediator meeting where the whole thing was talking about what I did and how I reacted by crying instead of the roots of the problem. There was one neighbor who was super sweet and leaned in and touched my arm when I cried.
That’s not the only sign of a caring community but it was when I felt this is not what I wanted. I just thought everyone was lazy for not dealing with problems. Yet, seeing how so many people felt worn down by all of it, I see it as dangerous. As uncaring. Like nothing matters. Your needs, words, and concerns don’t matter.
One neighbor loves to pretend to be a robot and chase the children. The kids love it. Play Robot they say. Now I see that the whole place (okay there are a few exceptions) is full of robots. Maybe that’s the way to survive. Stay shallow. Sure, it’s a neighborhood where you see each other in the common areas and talk and sit on porches together. But if you want to survive in this cohousing neighborhood, you better leave your human needs behind.