September 24th, 2006


Guilt, responsibility, and remembering that there's some love out there for me

A Grove Organizer asked on Friday about his struggling Protogrove, and how he felt guilt at declining numbers, and was accepting responsibility for (paraphrasing) "letting it get this bad."

I thought about it over the weekend a lot. Mostly because I've been in a similar position recently. I have felt a lot of guilt when people have told me that they didn't want to be part of the Grove, and I've felt that I've let myself, my Grove, and the Kindred down.

The thing is, Groves go through these cycles. That doesn't make it any easier when someone you think of as family decides to leave (or just disappears) and won't tell you why, but it is the case. I have been so, so proud of this Grove, what it has and can do, the size it's grown to and fallen from, and the way it has worked together to do some great things.

I have never felt disappointment at a disaffiliation or non-renewal. I have on occasion not felt good enough, or trusted enough, or a myriad of other "not enoughs" that plague any good Senior Druid who really cares about his members and the Grove. I work hard to avoid pressuring a member into coming back, rejoining, or fretting over the decision, which is probably perceived as indifference, but it's really a strong interal feeling that a person needs to make up their own mind, in their heart, about their spirituality. Few people ask my advice, which I'm willing to give honestly: instead, they tell me (or don't and just disappear) that they're leaving the Grove, or taking a break. They don't want advice, they want support, and that's all I will ever give a member of my Grove.

And yes, even as they tell me this, I still think about them as a member of my Grove. I said it at Summerland during my Dedicant Consecration: A Grove is not a list written down at the ADF Office. A Grove is written upon your heart. That's what a Grove is to me: it is both more and less than what the ADF Office list says it is. Some names on that list are my Grove, and some are not. Some names that never appear or have not in years are part of my Grove. Some names have never been listed as ADF members. That's just the way it is with me: you cannot leave my Grove by striking your name off an electronic list, not can you join by asking someone else to be added.

Over the past year or two, I have realized that Three Cranes is not the answer to everyone's spirituality, no matter how much I want it to be. I have seen that I cannot and never will be able to read minds, so people who don't tell me about problems will never see those problems corrected, and that's okay. I've kicked myself for knowing that the Grove was not right for someone and not telling them that flat-out. I know that I can't control Grove splintering, or friendships that go awry for no good reason. I know I can't stop a breakup or hookup from hurting someone, and I can't pretend they didn't happen. I learned that malicious gossip is never self-contained.

This examination of my own guilt, by the way, is not an effort to make anyone else feel guilty. There is no guilt to be had. As I authored my response to the GO, though, I wanted to put my thoughts down in my journal, where I could find them again quickly and refer to them when those feelings started to creep back in, because I know they will: Groves grow and they shrink. That's the nature of them.

Of course, I still wish I could have some of those back, that we could be what people want and need in a Grove. But more, I wish I could have some of the sleepless nights back, the ones where I wondered what a person wasn't telling me, or how a change in bylaw wording will affect a specific member, or why exclusion occurs and how to heal the rifts that have been torn open.

But I also accept that I'll never get those nights back, and I'll probably not get the members back. And I accept that that's okay.

I admitted to the GO that low ritual turnout scares the hell out of me. Every person who leaves hurts me because I know I will miss them and I worry that they won't miss us (or worse, that we somehow hurt them or stunted their spiritual growth). That's not going to stop, and it's not their fault that I get hurt: it's mine. I care. I love this Grove. And that's not going to stop, either.

But I remember that I was guided to take up the job of Grove Organizer in order to be there *in the event* that someone was *interested* and wanted an outlet for their worship. The gods never said that people would come to my rituals or join my Grove, or that I wouldn't be the only person there some rites. They just told me to do it.

It's taken a long time to get here.

I just hope I can stay here.

*weak grin*