The Art of Togetherness

Recently, I drove to Atlanta for the wedding of one of my dearest friends. We met in college, and had an almost immediate, unshakeable bond. Have you ever had that happen to you? You meet someone and feel as though something in them has always been a partof your life? Those are the friendships that matter most to me. Deep rooted, honest, sincere. Have you ever thought about how rare they are? And how inexplicably important it is to have those people in your life? The past few years have been such a huge learning experience for me, and if there is one lesson that stands out above the rest it is the importance of a solid community. While sitting at Chipotle a few months ago, I happened to read this short essay by Barbara Kingsolver on my cup* about community. It mattered to me on a very deep level. This is what she said:

TWO-MINUTE CHEER FOR THE HOME TEAM
by BARBARA KINGSOLVER

The ancient human social construct that once was common in this land was called community. We lived among our villagers, depending on them for what we needed. If we had a problem, we did not discuss it over the phone with someone in Mumbai. We went to a neighbor. We acquired food from farmers. We listened to music in groups, in churches or on front porches. We danced. We participated. Even when there was no money in it. Community is our native state. You play hardest for a hometown crowd. You become your best self. You know joy. This is not a guess, there is evidence. The scholars who study social well-being can put it on charts and graphs.

The happiest people are the ones with the most community.

In the last 30 years our material wealth has increased in this country, but our self-described happiness has steadily declined. Elsewhere, the people who consider themselves very happy are not in the very poorest nations, as you might guess, nor in the very richest. The winners are Mexico, Ireland, Puerto Rico, the kinds of places we identify with extended family, noisy villages, a lot of dancing. The happiest people are the ones with the most community.

—-

The problem I have encountered over the past few years, however, is that there are people who view the occasional smile, chat, or text as all that is necessary to form said communities. Affection rarely dips beneath that surface-level. Why do we do this? Is it perhaps a product–as many would say–of the digital age? We can easily hide and connect behind a computer screen, but throw us face to face with another human being and we lack the ability to truly connect? Is that it? I know that many would say this–particularly those apt to blame my generation for whining and refusing to take ownership for our actions. And it can be said that, yes for some that might be the case. I don’t have an answer. What I can say, however, is that some of the friends that I connected with at the wedding were people that I have not physically seen in years. We have neither text messaged nor facebooked and yet the moment we were near one another we fell immediately into the paces of yesteryear. Truly enjoying the presence of the other. As I drove home that Sunday afternoon my heart was light, but the closer I drew to the town I’d called home for the past few years I felt an ever growing sadness. A bit like Eeyore’s rain cloud, really. This feeling was something I had only fleetingly witnessed here. I was a part of what many would call a community, but it was never that for me. To me it was a place where one went through the motions, but never actually felt anything. These friends I’d left behind me were people who saw my heart in every circumstance. They allowed me to be wholly myself–never judged and fully loved. They may be were scattered like the wind, but can I tell you how immediately the flew together when a friend of ours tragically died in the fall? I was amazed. I am still amazed. Driving away from them left me with a pang of emptiness that will not be re-filled until we are together again. They are my family. My community. My home. I am not trying to down play the many wonderful people that I have met in the past few years. I have found a few incredible friends that I know will be a part of my heart always. I think what I am trying to say here is that if you are reading this and you cannot relate–if you cannot understand what it feels like to find your heart in a solid group of individuals, please seek them out? Find your own community. You’ll know it when you meet it–and do not let them go. Write them letters. Send them cards. Call them when you can. Your community, like mine, might be scattered like the wind, but it is ever a part of you and it matters so very much. Being around people who know, love, and care for you is part of what makes life so beautiful.

If you haven’t found it already, I am here hoping that you find it soon.

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Look Closely: The Art of Silence

“Silence is sometimes the best answer.” -Dalai Lama XIV

The world is loud.

We run around proclaiming this or that–desperate to be heard.

We want our voices to matter-and they do, but we are missing something terribly important. There is a time for us to be loud–to proclaim passionately what we believe. A time to stand up against what is wrong, to declare what is beautiful. A time to offer words of love, of support, of encouragement, but twice as often as we speak we should be silent. We should listen. How can we ever understand if we never pause to listen? How can we ever see if we never take a moment to observe? How will we ever learn if we do not take the time to silently be taught? In a time filled with the loud voices–of facebook posts, tweets, and youtube channels, I wonder how much we actually hear? Are we simply waiting for our turn to speak or are we listening, truly listening to all that is happening around us.

I want to learn the art of silence. To be a listening ear rather than a condemning mouth and to speak only when it is truly necessary. Do you ever notice how easy it is for people to yell behind a mask? We will spout founts of “knowledge” hidden behind anonymous tags and clever guises, but the moment we are asked to shed the mask and speak face to face with another human being we crumble. We are silent out of fear, but are we really listening? How often are we left speechless by the beauty in the world and the absolute sorrow as well? What do we say to the people in war torn countries grieving the loss of loved ones or the people of Nepal completely devastated by a horrific earthquake?  

Our words are not enough.

All we can do is sit in stunned appreciation of the beauty of nature or sit in broken silence with those who are grieving and whose hearts are shattered and broken. I hope that in time I can move beyond this desire to always have a voice. I hope that as I grow I will be passionate and loud about the things that matter: kindness, chivalry, love and in the darker places of my heart I will learn to be silent and seek understanding before speaking because there is so much to be heard in the silence of one’s heart

Sometimes silence is the best answer.

Sometimes words just are not enough.

Look Closely: Why I had faith in Birdman

I am not an actor.

I am not a director or a screenplay writer.

I am not a producer and I do not have any form of expertise that should make you listen to me on the subject of film, really. I say this not to discredit myself, however, because what I am is something beautiful. What I am is a reader. A person who loves story and spends most of her days lost within them. And for this reason I am also a person who seeks out excellent stories in every form of entertainment and so I am a lover of movies. My earliest childhood memory is of sitting in a theater watching Aladdin steal a loaf of bread and being chased by the palace guards! Movies briefly transport their viewers to another world, and the best movies also tell excellent stories. They leave their viewers changed in ways similar to that of a great book.

It should come as little surprise then that I also like the Academy Awards. I find most awards shows to be a bit too subjective for me. The Grammys undoubtedly would introduce me to fantastic music, but music taste is so varied that even if I appreciate a song for its musical merit I might not go back and listen to it again. I’ll stick with Mumford and Sons and be happy. With movies, however, I have never known a great film to not leave a strong impression on a viewer—even if it is a negative one! Every year I have attempted to watch at least a few of the best picture nominations and settle on the one that I like best. If I am wrong, I will seek out the best picture winner and I am rarely disappointed. I might not love the film. It doesn’t always go down on my list of favorites, but I have never disliked or regretted watching it.

This year I decided to be as unbiased as I possibly could be. I printed out the ballot for this year’s Academy Awards and I made it my goal to watch them all. If this had been any other year I probably would have only seen The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything. The others would have slipped passed me and I would have watched the awards confidently expecting a win from either of them. Isn’t that the normal way of things? I have to say that I hope to repeat this goal—though it’s a bit pricey!—next year because I was pleasantly surprised by the movies that I watched! American Sniper left me a bit somber. PTSD is a very real struggle and I think it is easily overlooked and downplayed. Selma inspired my desire for change—Gryffindors love a good cause to fight for! Whiplash left me uneasy, but for all of the best reasons. I was glued to the screen! What a fantastic story. Boyhood made me nostalgic. The Theory of Everything showed me so much about the nature of love, and The Imitation Game both broke my heart and inspired my spirit. I will not say that I adored every film. There were a few that after watching them I thought, “This was okay.” After Birdman, however, my thought was, “Well this is going to win.” It was not my hands down favorite film—that was The Imitation Game, but I am very biased. The reason I thought Birdman would win was because it played out like a well written short story—fittingly so. Think about your life as a film. Trying to fit the entirety of a person’s life into a few hours can be beautifully done, but it will, in my opinion, lack the complexity of a film written with a particular message in mind. Why? Because ironically enough life is far too complex to fit into such a small box. Movies like The Imitation Game try to cover the wide berth of a human life. They cover so much of what happens in a few years and when you think about your life for a single year it would be filled with so many little nuances that are important. They shape you. They make you who you are, and if you made a film of them it has the potential to be beautiful. Would you call it cohesive, though? Would you call it even remotely concise? I would not, and I think that matters a bit in a film. Most of the nominated movies this year focused on extraordinary people. They made for beautiful films that drove home important messages of acceptance and standing for what one believes in, and I think that is wonderful. I hope we always have movies with such strong messages. The difference with Birdman was simply that it held true to its messages, presented them in a beautifully cohesive way, and though it left a bit of ambiguity in its wake even that was far less broad than what is left when tackling the unanswered questions of a person’s life. For this reason alone I was confident that Birdman would win

Stay?

I fear the loneliness
seeping deeply into my heart
I want to run from it
it follows every time
I cry out
To silence
My eyes beg you not to go
my pleas fall on deaf ears
They always leave

I hope against hope
For the one who will stay.

Breathing

A weekend in action:
Yoga
Showering
Cleaning
Coffee
Crocheting
Driving
Bold Bean:
Reading
Writing
Singing
Driving
Crocheting
Watching (a movie?)
Sleeping
Waking
Coffee
Singing
Yoga
Showering
Crocheting
Writing
Reading
Sleeping

Look closely: what do you want?

I want to be clear.
I have no idea what I want
When I am asked I pause
Every time.
Perhaps there is a part of me that knows
I am confident in so many aspects of my life!
But there is one area
Just one
Where I fall short every time
I let fear cripple me
Fear of loss
Fear of rejection
Fear of so many things
I do not think I am enough or perhaps I think I am too much?
I hide my heart begin placid smiles
And friendship
I am an idiot.
Inside my heart races
It aches
It yearns
I am an idiot
And I don’t know how to change
I feel everything so deeply
But what I exude must be a passing indifference
For you to not see
For you to never see behind my mask

I want to be clear
I don’t know what I want

Enough

You’re enough. You’re enough. You’re enough.
You are enough.
Those little words somehow they’re changing us.
-Sleeping At Last, “You Are Enough”
Sometimes we go out searching for validation of self from other people.
We tweet, and Facebook, and Tumbl hoping that someone will like what we’ve said and provide us with a small modicum of “self-worth”.
What falls short in that mentality though is that we are looking for self-worth outside of our selves.
We will never find it there.
Ever.
It has to begin from within and when that happens…when something clicks within our hearts that says, “Oh, who I am is enough. Who cares if that guy (or girl) doesn’t see or like me? Who cares if the world doesn’t notice that I exist? What matters is that I care and believe that I am pretty great as I am now and as I am going to be later.”
I don’t think we hear that enough. Not from the world and certainly not from ourselves (or at least I know that I do not!)
Where does that true inner validation come from? Perhaps God. It is possible that there lies the purest and most true validation-that knowledge that the hands that created me cared and valued every piece of me—but I am also aware enough of the world to know that not everyone will see that. I also know that there is nothing I can say to convince you that what I believe is true.
I don’t have the power within me to change your heart, but I do have a voice to say that you, my friend, are worth so much more than you give yourself credit.
I have a voice to say that I hope for a small moment you allow yourself to believe that you’re wonderful as you truly are at your heart and that you will come alive to that version of yourself and not accept what the world deems “worthy.” The world doesn’t know you. Only you know you.
Please don’t accept less than that? And pray that I, too, will not forget as I am prone to doubt.

Kinder

“What is kinder—to believe the best of people and burden them with a nobility beyond their endurance—or to see them as they are, and accept it because it makes them comfortable?”

–Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

I have found that in my life this is one of the greatest questions I ask and am asked. I want to be better having known a person. I want people to be better having known me, but are we the judges of those changes that occur.

Do our actions influence the shift from forcing someone to unattainable nobility or stagnant comfort?

I am not sure.

Which is kinder?