…I learned that I want to go next year, and that I thought of the folks there in Portland the whole weekend. But that is not the take-away message. It’s not even the take-away message that it needed to have been closer (it didn’t) or less expensive (it needn’t) or anything else like that.
The take-away message is this: I spent the weekend thinking about the acupuncture clinic where I work, and why it is in the health it is in right now, and why I am in the health I am in right now, and how both can be better, and how the two are related, and how one cannot be stronger without the other being stronger… And then Monday there was Lisa’s keynote lecture right there on the CAN home page, addressing that very thing much cleaner and better than I did in my busy little red-haired head. The message? That community clinics do not function in a vacuum. We don’t function, or struggle, or wonder, or persevere alone. We are not islands, though there are days, of course, when that’s the very thought that comes to mind. All across the country and indeed across the world, community acupuncture clinics are working within a framework, a belief system that is shared, and thus the problem that one has? Another has had too. Just last week. Or will have next week. And that’s not a bad thing. That’s how a collective works, how problems are solved, how most can experience the same success as another.
I’ve been through an interesting experience at CCA. I was strong, healthy, financially stable…and the clinic was too. Personal stuff started leaking out of my life, taking up an awful lot, and then even more of my “heart energy” as Lisa says, and the clinic started to slide. I had no room in my head – my body, yes, but my head? Completely full. And the clinic began to be a place I went to work. A place I longed to come home from. The strong, happy, crazy-growing clinic that the community had poured it’s heart into became a quiet, empty place, waiting to be filled. CCA never struck me as lonely, even through the long winter; more like it was waiting through a pregnant pause. Like it’s heart-keeper had stepped out, and indeed I had. Slowly, slowly I came to – and like the near-dead plant someone brought to me, the clinic did too. The new punk settled in and sunk her teeth into her work. I shook out the cobwebs from between my ears and grappled with policies and volunteers, physical plant issues and advertising. We began to rebuild as a group: patients, punks, staff, clinic. We grew together like vines through a chain-link fence. CCA is raising it’s head and standing on it’s own again. Every day that I can show up and be present and make room in my heart and head for what’s happening in the clinic is a day that CCA pops out one more leaf, one more blossom – and it’s the same when Kim (CCA co-punk) or reception staff or corner-of-the-room-anchoring patients show up ready to roll. And I have found our story written in the words of the keynote speech on the very front page of CAN’s website.
Another thing I learned by not going? I learned that in the world of CA, it doesn’t matter if you go or not. CA friends called me to ask me one more time to go last week – and friends called me when they returned home to give me the lowdown, the rundown, the play by play and the need-to-know info. There’s no judgment, no us and them, no haves (got to go) and have-nots (didn’t go). The party is always more fun if we all can go – but we’re all part of the scheme even if we can’t. If like me you weren’t able to go, or didn’t want to go, or whatever – don’t feel that there is an “in” crowd now, and you aren’t part of it. Haven’t you caught on yet? If you’re involved in any way with CA in this country, you ARE the in crowd! You want to help provide acupuncture to as many people as possible at a price most can afford? There’s a place for you and me at the table, CANference-goer or not.
I learned a lot of other stuff too – not least of which was that not having a video of myself singing karaoke on YouTube is really, really cool – but the things I mentioned above jumped out and grabbed me right away. Next year, when I go – or whenever I go – I will be so happy to remember that either way, go or not go, it's all good. There's no closely guarded secret that only inductees will know. No hidden voting, no creepy no-one-knows financial crisis behind the scenes that we'd only know about by being there. What happened at the CANference ended up on the front page of the website within hours. That was so awesome for those of us not there singing kumbaya. We sing in spirit. But no, I'm not posting that on YouTube either.