Recently I found myself in a discussion with friends where my words evoked a response that left me feeling 11 blocks from the intersection of Heard and Understood. “Meh…“, I thought, and let it go.
Yesterday while talking with a friend a red-headed man came up and randomly commented about us both being redheads. I couldn’t be bothered so I blew him off. He chided me in that he was merely socializing. Global Warming had not yet occurred in my heart so I’m sure he felt misunderstood … no matter that his drink was likely a smidge stronger than mine.
Late the other night, I visited a friend in the hospital. It was a last-minute text. The need was urgent, so I went. It was a moment to connect, to invite Heaven into her room, to comfort. Yet late at night, in a sub-zero, sterile hospital room, there is nothing that says, “Stay a while. Take off your jacket and put up your feet. How’s your family?” But because I’d chosen to be there I ignored the atmosphere and played the love card that was in my heart.
The contrast of these moments is vivid to me. And we only have moments, even soundbites by which an interaction is sealed into our minds. We can choose to connect or disconnect, and it’s often our sense of person hood that guides us. We can choose to remain emotionally available or check out. Our culture stick checks us, “They’re not worth your time, Samantha. You have other things to focus on.” But truthfully, there’s nothing that says, “I cherish human life” more than appreciating what we have with someone right in front of us. Living with our walls down makes us vul.ner.ab.le to rejection ever and anon. But no matter what my failure rate is, or how often I take a bruising for being misunderstood I want to master the art of really seeing people, and embracing their words for what they are.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ― C.S. Lewis,
Got to get back to running the world from my sofa …
I remember when I was growing up, my Dad would show us stuff. He was intent on teaching us to identify trees and plants, like Morrel mushrooms, Bittersweet and Sumac. Of course he taught us useful stuff too, how to back up a truck with a trailer; how to drive a boat; how to collect sap and make Maple Syrup and, best of all, how to fish. Although my growing up years are mostly wrapped in nostalgia and I have few opportunities to exercise those skills, what I actually learned was this: I am limitless in my ability to learn a skill and do it. Dad taught us to be learners, and to not be afraid to try new things.
One year Dad decided to build a cabin on the back edge of our property. Dad was neither a builder nor an architect but he and my lovely, artist-in-residence Mom put their skills together. With the help of generous builder-type friends, the tiny, humble building came together. At the time the cabin served as the best fort and doll house a girl could ask for! We loved it! With it’s steeply-sloped corrugated roof, woodstove and dry sink, the cabin stood on stilts and overlooked the trout stream that ran through our property. My friends and I would traipse around in the woods and slosh in the creek for hours at a time.
It wasn’t until I was well into my adult years that I learned the strain that building the cabin placed on our family. Apparently it wasn’t the most fiscally responsible undertaking, nor was the building designed to withstand 25 years of rugged weather. My Dad has been gone for some time now, and yet the cabin stands perhaps as a tribute to his tremendous influence on our lives.
Talk is cheap and we spout ideas of who we are and what we’ll one day become. The fact is, we are not who we say we are. We are what we do.
Dad didn’t leave behind a cabin. He left behind a legacy of attempts to show us how important we were to him, how deeply he cared and how much he wanted us to love the things he loved.
Plain and simple, Dad wasn’t great at communicating. I still wonder about who he really was, and why he called me Scout.
But I know he loved me.
And I’m not afraid to try stuff.
Not too long ago I had the inexpressable joy of attending a party and running into a former romantic interest … together with his new fiance. Ah! What have I done, and whom have I angered in order to gain such an opportunity?
As this Unrequited Love made his way around my friend’s home, glad-handing old friends and schmoozing strangers, I couldn’t help but wonder how I had once been so enamored with him, so enthralled by his charm. Not that he was unclean, but he reminded me of Pigpen, the Charles Schulz cartoon character as he wandered around, leaving a billowing trail of unresolved conflicts and unfinished conversations in his wake. As I headed into the kitchen, it certainly felt like I was the one with a terrible headcold and a dearth of dateable men. It certainly felt like I was acutely alone, and not quite able to hide the extra ten pounds of fluff that has accompanied me this past year. I poured myself some lemonade and snarled at the yummy looking treats on the dessert table…certainly they’d been my companions far too often during the cold winter evenings. When another acquaintance walked up and asked the inevitable question, I clutched with disbelief. “So, are you seeing anyone?”, she asked. So this is how it feels! Thus far I’d only read about these perilous peaks of awkwardness. Since she wanted to tell about her own dating life more than she really wanted to know about mine, I listened meekly and later, excused myself and headed for home.
One of my favorite authors, Ann Kiemel, said this many years ago, “We all have a place of stretch in our lives. It’s what makes us strong. Rich people have troubled children, and poor people have healthy marriages and brilliant kids. It’s what makes us long for God with our whole being.”
And so I’ve given you a glimpse of one such place in my life but I would add this to Ann’s comment…we often do not realize that we are the ones who are rich. The truth is that we all suffer a private battle of some sort. Our failing is not that we are faced with situations that cut us to the quick. Rather it’s in believing that we are somehow poverty-stricken, and unable to do anything about them. Each one of us has so much in our lives that is rich and good and beautiful, things to make us laugh and love and hope.
“Don’t let your longing slay your appetite for living.” — Elizabeth Elliot
I’d just exited the freeway, and was driving down the little highway leading to my sister’s home. I was looking forward to seeing everyone, and knew that we’d laugh, share stories and Thanksgiving dinner as soon as I arrived. I had a few moments of quiet ponderings yet, and I looked out across the horizon.
The afternoon sun shone across the plowed fields, with a few head of cattle here and there noshing on the leftover cornstalks. It’s not unusual to see a good-sized train making its way across the country, and I’ll recognize cargo from San Franscisco Bay. Where is he headed? I passed the beaver pond with its piles and piles of wood heaps. Marshy waters, tired cat-tails and yellowed prairie grasses stood in the stillness. I didn’t stop but I let the peacefulness of the sight wash over me.
Some gals dream about the future, and want things to be just so. They find deep satisfaction in planning how it’s all going to go. She’ll wear the red dress with her black heels, and have her hair up. And there are men who will be satisfied when they get that shelving unit installed or the spare bedroom carpeted. Some girls insist on roses but why won’t a daisy do? I’m kind of funny, I guess. I don’t know if it’s because I need to learn to dream or if I so absolutely live in my moments.
The hubbub of my days is consumed with my search for a bit of something for my spirit to nibble on. A strawberry sunrise while in a traffic jam…how else do you get strawberry jam? Snowflakes…just because. Napping with my cats in the sunshine. Seeing the look in a friend’s eye when you have shared with one another, deeply from the heart.
Beauty, yes. Or is it life?