On life, stories, community, and speaking up in spite of it all

I thought as much.

It’s been nearly TWO YEARS since I wrote a blog post. Two YEARS!!! Hello, dear readers, I’ve missed you!

I’d likely, under other circumstances, spend a paragraph or two explaining myself, telling you all about those two years, and why life became so insanely busy that I neglected the hobby that most closely aligns with my passions–writing, stories, people–but in all honesty, they are not all stories I am at liberty to tell.

There were three. All together. None really related, except by the common thread of my integral involvement, and by the fact that, by the end of each Friday I found myself collapsing into bed with nothing more than a deep desire to clean my kitchen and hibernate from the world. It was okay. Everything resolved, as things do, and I’m only reminded now of how crazy those two years really were by the fact of this newly-discovered sense of life, purpose, vision, that was buried under the bedclothes of my mind.

I learned a lot. You tend to learn a lot in those crucible times, and a lot of it I’m still unpacking, sifting through, figuring out the deeper truths, and the bits I just got kinda wrong.

You know sometimes it’s hard to tell the truths from the bits you got wrong? When you actually and honestly and truly believe that Milwaukee is a state of the USA, or that Elvis IS alive and living in the basement of Coles Supermarket…but that’s another story.

But the thing…the number one thing I learned in this season, the thing I feel like I’m only just beginning to unpack, is the importance of Community.

I HAD IT WRONG, ALL THESE YEARS.

Community is where it’s at. More than achieving goals in life, more than dreams, vision, career…more than clean kitchens or boxes ticked. Other people…and our proximity to them. Working together, through the good times and the crazy times. Finding people to be real with, and being real with them. Getting angry with people–and letting them get angry with you–and still being okay. Speaking up, even when I’m scared of what I have to say.

This is my journey.

It’s been harder than I’d like to admit.

This isn’t a particularly inspiring blog post. I’ve been wanting to find some gold nugget, something really pithy to share, to launch back into blogging with some kind of…I don’t know…purpose! meaning! but not today. And I guess that’s the point really, as well. It’s not about achievement, doing the best, kicking all the goals or going home defeated. It’s about showing up, regardless.

This is me, showing up, regardless.

My goal for now is to start blogging again. Regardless of what I have–or haven’t got–to say. Because…people. Because community. Because…speaking up.

My friend Gill was here last week, who astounds me in her incredible ability to build and grow community around her (no she hasn’t written a book about it yet…I’m watching and taking notes from the sidelines). As she went, she hugged me and said, “Keep communicating!”

I’m sure blogging isn’t exactly what she meant…but those two words ran deep.

So here you go, dear reader. My thanks to those who bore with me in the Great Silence, and my promise to…the world in general…to speak up. Not speak up for myself, because I have anything in particular to say, but because I’ve learned, these two years, that when I speak, when I tell my stories, I give other people around me permission to speak and to tell their stories also.

Your story matters, my friend. YOU matter. You deserve community as much as anybody, and your words deserve to be listened to as much as anybody else’s do.

When I hit “publish” on this, and “share”, it’s not for my own glory and self-justification. It’s to help remind YOU, wherever you’re at, that it doesn’t matter whether you think you’ve got anything valid to say or not, your words still matter.

I’ll be back next Saturday, hopefully being a bit braver than I’ve been today.

I’ll see you then…

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On Being Heard

I jammed my fingers in a cafe door in town the other day. Not in the way that you close the door on them and you say “ouch” and give them a bit of a shake until the blood flows back into them, I mean I grabbed hold of a door jamb for support for ten seconds, just as the big glass monstrosity of a door swung shut again. I’d grabbed the hinge side. The door wanted to be where my fingers were, and my fingers weren’t much of a match for stopping them.

(image from http://www.fingersafe.com.au. This is not me, obviously!)

The point is, it hurt. A lot. I managed to put down the thing coffee I was holding and reach across myself to push the door open again enough to extricate my fingers. I said “ouch”, or some variation thereof.

Here’s the other point: nobody, not one person in that coffee shop, nor anyone walking outside, noticed. This is understandable; my body was shielding the view from the people behind me, the person for whom the door had opened had already walked away, I was on my own, waiting for someone. People in coffee shops make remarks like “ouch” all the time, if they spill a dash of coffee on themselves, if they bang their toe, if they bite an ulcer on the side of their mouths. In hindsight I wouldn’t expect anybody to jump up and demand to know whether I was okay. I moved back to my chair, careful not to grab the door jamb this time, and sat down.

I didn’t take a photo, although I probably should have, because there were craters in three of my fingers a full half-centimetre deep, and although the skin hadn’t been broken it had been pushed down to the level of the bone. I held them up to the level of my face, partly to see them, half-wanting to catch the eye of someone, to debrief, to say “look at my fingers!” but nobody looked. I wanted to say “OUCH” again, loudly, but it was after the fact, and it wasn’t like there was anybody there who cared enough for me to say it to. I sat in my seat and watched the people and held my poor fingers against my hot coffee to soothe them, and waited.

By the time my friend came I had tears streaming down my face. I held up my hand and said, probably sounding as pathetic as I looked, “I jammed my fingers!” She was, of course, brilliant. She was sympathetic in the way that I needed, she got me some ice and some tissues to wipe my face, and she sat with me and asked “what happened?!” It helped. Simply by her presence and her willingness to listen she helped enormously. I hadn’t realised how much tension I’d been holding in my body since the incident until I felt it dissipate. The fact that someone acknowledged my experience helped me to move on.

(My fingers are fine, by the way. They are a little sore if I touch the place where they were jammed, but otherwise no injury at all. I’m very glad it wasn’t a child or an elderly person that it happened to though).

My fingers aren’t that much of a big deal, but it made me think a lot about the difference it made for me to be heard. It made me think about the stories of older people who lived through trauma (especially the sexual abuse stories) as young people, and told no-one, or who weren’t believed. It made me think of returned soldiers, especially those struggling to find their place in life again, and the stories they can’t talk about and how it affects them. It made me think about the times in my own life when I’ve shared a story, or not been able to share a story, or a thought, or a feeling, or a niggling doubt.

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/fd/Meeting_On_The_Wall%2C_Essaouira_%285258780850%29.jpg/1024px-Meeting_On_The_Wall%2C_Essaouira_%285258780850%29.jpg(Meeting on the Wall, from Wikimedia commons)

We were made to listen, and to be listened to. This is the basis of friendship, of community, of family, I think. We were made to speak, and designed to be heard.

Who are you listening to today? What is it that you need to tell?

Loving people is a stupid idea

Love is dumb.

There. I’ve said it. Surely we have better things to do, like look after ourselves and our own. Makes me kind of wish we were like cats, or lions or something, you know: had babies, grew them up, killed animals, ate them, made babies, moved on, died. You don’t see cats getting all emotional because they wanted to share their kibble with the neighbour’s cat and the neighbour’s cat said no. You don’t see cats caring about much at all, actually.

Some people are like that. We can all, if the truth be told, be like that. We’re all selfish, demanding creatures who love salty food and warm beds and someone who shares the couch and lets us do our own things. It’s considered normal, and considered The Way Things Are.

That’s the way it was for me, really. Until some crazy lady did a Rachel Stewart number on me, and helped me when I’d fallen over in the middle of the race.

Rachel Who?

I don’t know if Rachel Stewart remembers the grade five athletics carnival. I don’t know if the friend she stopped for just before the end of the 100m sprint to help back to her feet again remembers the grade five athletics carnival either, but I do know that those two women, nearly thirty years later, are still friends. She stopped. Rachel Stewart was our fastest runner, and she stopped before the end to help her friend that was down. That’s love. That’s when you know that Rachel Stewart knew what meant more than some poxy ribbon on a pin.
That’s what love is.

She didn’t need to. Nobody needs to do a Rachel. In fact, Rachel Stewart didn’t need to do a Rachel, and when she did it it was Dumb dumb de dumb dumb, and she lost the race.

And once upon a time that crazy woman who did a Rachel on me knew what it meant as well. I drove her crazy. A few times. I probably put her through hell and back a few times as well, and I even did the famous SDCU* on her and decided that I’d stuffed things up so badly I could never ever love anybody again.

We do that. We all do that. We turn to our Rachel Stewarts and give them the finger and then we beat them in the next race and not think about it till it’s too late and we can only hope to God they might forgive us, and then we swear we’re never ever going to race again, poxy ribbon or no.

Tell you what, I’m glad that once upon a time God did a Rachel Stewart number on me. He did all right. And that’s the only reason I’m back lining up for the race at the moment.I’m back there on the old New Norfolk oval staring down the white lines on the grass and eyeing off the sports teacher holding the ribbon, and just a bit worried that that starter gun is a real one.

I’m going to run.
I’m looking at the people who are racing with me. None of us are that great, or that pretty, or that cool any more. And none of us are ever going to make the Olympics.
but together we’re running this race we call life, and this time I know, because I will always remember the ones who stopped for me, that no matter which one of us falls, I’M gonna be the one this time to stop and do a Rachel.

Care to join me?

*Super-dooper cock-up. See the last blog post.

Uh. Oh.

I learned a hard lesson yesterday. And, to make matters weirder, I learned it right here.

Yes, you learn things about yourself when blogging. And, unfortunately, you learn them in publc. Actually, I think learning things in public is my destiny. And no, I’m not particularly happy about that, but I’ve tried the other way and it doesn’t seem to work.

Here’s what I learned:

Just coz you can write pretty doesn’t mean that you make sense.

Sometimes you still need to WAIT before you send.

Or talk.

Or make big decisions based on what you think is true..

 

But do you know the even better bit of that lesson?

There’s forgiveness. And grace. And mercy. And favour. And love. And we can move on and forgive ourselves and not think that we’re the stupidest people that ever set foot on the planet, and we’re not sixteen any more, so instead of our friends thinking “Ewww, how on earth did she manage to do something so STUPID?” they’re thinking “Oh man. I do that too.”

And…here’s another lesson that I’m learning right here, right now, today, on my own blog:

That is WHY some of us are destined to learn and fail and grow and make mistakes in public. It helps all the people who want so much to stay private to know that they’re not alone. And that, my friend, is what it’s all about.