Friday, December 21, 2007

When Is It Time to Let Go?

My wife, Ma'ikwe Ludwig, has been trying to start an intentional community in Albuquerque the last four years. We got married last April and the understanding throughout has been that she was committed to being in NM (in addition to her community aspirations and the friends she's attempting this with, the other parents of her two kids live there, and that's where her job connections are concentrated). This winter though, after her fourth attempt at establishing a cmty went down the tubes, she's letting go of Albuquerque and plans to move to Dancing Rabbit this spring. While DR is only three miles from my home at Sandhill Farm—which is orders of magnitude better than her living in another time zone—it was a gut-wrenching decision for her to make.

My response to this news is complex. While there is no question in my mind about her commitment to cmty or her commitment to our partnership, I am unsure of her commitment to DR as a home, and am unsure of whether she's through trying to start a cmty. Thus I'm unsure how excited to get about the prospect of my wife moving next door, because I'm unsure how long it will last and I don't want my heart to be broken.
There are still a number of powerful questions to answer before I'm convinced that Ma'ikwe will be in northeast MIssouri to stay: 
—How will Jibran (her 10-year-old son) fare splitting time between his mother in MO and his father in NM?
—How will Ma'ikwe make a living? While Ma'ikwe has been successful in many areas of her life, manifesting economic abundance has, so far, not been among them. While the cost of living in northeast MO is quite low, so are the prospects for making a living (two sides of the same coin). While I've no question about her ability to get by, where will the money come for building a home, discretionary travel, and Jibran's education?
—Ma'ikwe has been living in cmty for the last 10 years, yet that's included four places and she's never lasted longer in any of them than her tenure in Albuquerque. Why will DR be different?
—Finally, does she still have the cmty founding bug in her?

In my 30+ years as a cmty networker I've become personally acquainted with untold numbers of people with aspirations to start a cmty. Some were dreamers with no practical idea of what they were getting into; some had no social skills and you knew from the get-go that their ship would never leave the dock; some had no money and clung to the naive expectation that the world would provide (because, in their view, their concept was so strong and their intent so pure); some had the people and no land; some had the reverse… and a select few had enough savvy and experience to have a really solid chance. Ma'ikwe was among this last group and I respected her choice to start a cmty in Albuquerque—even though I mostly try to dissuade people from the attempt (it is so much easier to get one's cmty needs met by joining a cmty than starting one).
There's a paradox about the Communities Movement's need to have people start new cmties and the difficulties of succeeding. It is not for the faint of heart. Yet cmty is needed everywhere and the world is unquestionably better off with 50 solid groups of 20 people than a single vibrant cmty of 1000. We need choices and widespread models of how to live together cooperatively; not just a few isolated examples. So there's the networker part of me that doesn't want Ma'ikwe to give up on starting a cmty (even while there's the husband part of me that does).
As much as anything, Ma'ikwe is an organizer (and a good one, too). It's no small part of why we're together, and we both know she's in this world to do stuff, even though it's not always clear just what that should be. In the end, I think her satisfaction with making a home at DR will come down to whether Ma'ikwe will find it a sufficient base for social change work. The ultimate question will be whether she can make her greatest contribution to a more positive, cooperative world by living at DR. And that's a question that can't reasonably be answered before the attempt. Luckily, when signing up for this marriage, I didn't check the box marked "uncomplicated."


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear that Ma'ikwe's efforts in Albuquerque didn't work out. I have family in Albuquerque and it's a very special place for me. I wish her the best of luck at Dancing Rabbit.

Ma'ikwe Ludwig said...

Hi Steve!

Thanks for your well-wishes.

The good news is that there is still a lot of really interesting stuff happening on the block my group chose. It isn't quite what I want and I'm sure it doesn't look much like what any of us thoguht, but it is none-the-less a rich and nurturing environment for many. I trust that we dropped a positive pebble into the Albuquerque waters (well, such as they are :) and that it will continue to ripple out in a good way.

Meanwhile, life moves on! I have a new article on my website about the group breaking up and my letting go of the founder identity:

Take care! Hope to cross paths with you again.
Maikwe (aka "The Wife")