2017 felt like an inordinately difficult year. Not your usual a-bit-of-bad-but-mostly-good year, but a truly, outrageously, you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me sort of year. One where you look back and think, “I’m not even going to attempt describing what happened this year, because nobody would believe it.”
Except, to be honest, I think they would.
Nearly everyone I’ve spoken to had a ghastly year. Tragedies, financial catastrophes, health traumas, personal crises, the works. Nearly every heart-to-heart conversation is peppered with, “Me too! Same here! So did we!”
And I think that’s the loveliest thing about heart-to-heart conversations, they remind us we’re not alone. There are other people who don’t know how they’re going to pay their power bill or if they’ll ever have real friends before they die or when they’re going to wake up without wanting to go straight back to bed again. There is inestimable comfort in feeling understood and loved, especially when circumstances make us feel thoroughly unlovable.
I’ve been smiling a lot this week, not because life is magically easy and perfect and all the hard of 2017 disappeared, but because I’m not alone in the hard.
When the hard comes, the easiest thing for me is to withdraw from people. I don’t want to be a burden or a bother, I don’t want to be the one needing help and extra attention, I don’t want to make anyone else’s life more difficult. It drives Bear crazy. “How can I help if I don’t know?” is his earnest refrain.
So I practice. I practice being vulnerable and real and honest. I practice sending a text message or making a phone call or tapping someone on the shoulder and asking that oh-so-scary question fraught with the possibility of rejection, “Can I talk to you?”
So, back to the whole smiling a lot this week. I’m smiling because over the holidays I reached out again, and people reached out to me, and through that brave reaching out, we comforted each other, we laughed through our tears, we found renewed courage to try again, and we felt understood and accepted as the beautiful messes that we are.
We reached out in our backyard, sitting under shade trees and trying not to melt in the sweltering, pre-storm summer heat as we talked about job changes and crazy kids and bugs devouring our gardens.
We reached out at the picnic table, clinking glasses of icy cold ginger wine as we discussed mothers in rest homes and lack of thigh gaps and fatigue from endless late nights and early mornings.
We talked at the kitchen table, crying together as we figured out how to navigate the depression of a family member, grieve the loss of a loved one, and make time for ourselves in the hurly-burly of life. Cherry-infused port wine calmed ruffled spirits and turned our sorrows into laughter as, once our burdens were shared, they became lighter and we could see the funny side again.
We shared our stories via email and text message, over cups of coffee and around the camp fire, and somehow, even though nothing had changed, everything had changed because we’d connected with people who care. And knowing that we matter to someone, well, that brings light to the darkest places.
I’m smiling too because connection not only brings comfort and light, it also brings inspiration.
All those talks gave me new ideas for food to make and books to read and art to make. I have lists of great movies and good music, day trips to take and cafes to try, new blogs to visit and seeds to plant.
All those ideas sent me on a mission of inspiration this week.
I’ve been spending so many happy hours down in the granny flat, parked in front of the fan, surrounded by books and magazines, markers and notepads.
It’s not a time for doing, it’s a time for filling up my imagination with good things: gorgeous pictures, creative blog posts, recipes and gardening tips and historical narratives.
I’m loving it so much, and feel deeply thankful for my loves who so wholeheartedly share their lives with me, and would be miffed if I didn’t share mine right back. xo