Friends, how are you?
It’s beginning to seem like autumn is a distinct possibility even here in the toasty Triangle. Perhaps I might wear those sweaters tucked away in the closet. Perhaps I might not break into a sweat walking to the mailbox at the end of the drive. What do you think? Is pumpkin spice in your future? Fall leaves and frosty breath? All possible?
Seasonal transitions are often a time of reflection for me.
My reflection, to state the obvious, is that this year has been enormously so much.
My own writing practice is ever evolving and changes from day to day. I’m churning out more work, but it’s shorter in length, written for different mediums; it is more collaborative in nature, but often, deeply private solo writing that I will show to no one else but me.
Much of my work in 2020 is new work for a new time in my life when everything seems especially up for grabs and precarious and precious. I’m working with new people in new ways in new roles, and there’s so much unprecedented EVERYTHING in my life. So much that is never-before-experienced.
And, much of my work in 2020 is me revisiting my old writing from years ago – writing that feels ancient from decades past! I scan that old text, asking myself, “Can I mine some treasure from those words or plant them like seeds I’d secretly squirreled away? Will I discover old language that has somehow richly composted in the notebooks under my bed? Maybe I can add to that fertile mess and grow something entirely different?”
What has your work been this year? New and old?
Have you revisited your writing from years before? Do you remember being that person? Do those ‘old’ words still apply and seem relevant to this ‘new’ you?
Today, I’d like to share a blog post that I wrote in March 2014 titled Conversations like Coffee. You’ll see it below. I discovered it recently during a bout of writer’s block.
Six + years ago, my life was very different. Almost unrecognizable in many ways. Like an echo from across the sea. However, although I don’t remember writing this blog post, and don’t remember the specific incidents that I reference, I find that much of what I wrote then, I am experiencing now.
2020 me is experiencing strong conversations, deep listening, and messy human connections just like 2014 me did. All of these experiences are worthwhile and essential for my growth and for our growth as a community. All of these experiences are challenging and nourishing and press on my tender heart too.
So, take a trip back in time with me below. Perhaps my old words will resonate with you now.
Be well and safe. I hope you are holding steady. Write when you can.
Conversations Like Coffee
March 17, 2014
“Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
My brain got stretched this week, and it was uncomfortable. My head ached. I felt exhausted every night from the extra hard thinking I was doing — from trying to keep up with the conversations, the connections, the leaps of thinking and the much-too-muchness of all people have to offer. Sheesh, people! People and their words! On Thursday night, I cried. Then I mopped my face with a tissue and went straight to bed so I could be well-rested for the more that the next day would bring. More uncomfortable brain-stretching, more conversation, more connections, more much-too-muchness of all people have to offer.
It was a week of deep conversations every single day. Even the conversations that were brief, were taxing for my imagination and my equilibrium:
In conversation with my daughter, I pointed out the rain drops on the car’s windshield, and she explained that “rain drops are made of souls.”
In conversation with a group, a participant suggested that ‘the sky would teach me everything if I really looked at it several times a day.’
In a conversation with friends, we talked about the nets we build and do not build to catch each other when we fall. We talked about the far-reaching life-altering decisions that we make as a result of our connectedness to others.
I had lengthy, far-ranging conversations about illness, legacies, writing, poetry, death, theatre, politics, race, religion, parenting, poverty, libraries, pornography, and life. I made small talk that wasn’t small talk about parodies, calendars, brunches, rock bands, cat food, human food, dreams, real estate, bodies, television, laundry, coloring books, and more, and more, and more. These were conversations face-to-face, over the phone, and via the interwebs — a communications assault on all fronts.
I found myself dropped in conversations that were so unexpected they took my breath away. How did I get here? People surprised me with the size of their hearts, their intellects, their compassion, their blind spots. It was a week full of conversations laced with yearning and unsettledness. It was a week of seeking peace and seeking solutions where there were none. It was a week of reaching out for human connection with laughter and joy, with anger and frustration, with wonder, with confusion, with words, words, and more words…and some tears.
Human beings being human beings.
And I was so grateful. I am so grateful for all of those conversations. I am so eager for more because this was a week that left me vibrating and overwhelmed by the people I encountered. I felt literally impressed — pressed into — by the energy of humanity in a way that made me feel alive and exhausted by the possibilities and the mysteries and the answers on the horizon.
It was a highly caffeinated week.
Even though I love it, it is really scary for me to talk with people. Even though I want to, it’s really scariest for me to have high-wire conversations about the deep stuff of life with all those emotions along for the ride. God forbid I say something stupid or rude and have someone dislike me. God forbid I offend someone. What if someone gets angry? God forbid I have nothing interesting or comforting to say. What if I don’t have an answer when someone is looking to me for an answer? What if this conversation ‘gets out of control’?!
People are messy and the words that we use to communicate with each other can be confusing and frustrating and distracting. Conversations are incredibly inefficient — they take a lot of time. And who has time for anything these days? Sheesh, just send me an email. Sheesh, just get to the point. Just tell me what you want me to do. Many words = many opportunities for misunderstanding. And so much of what we are trying to convey is heart-stuff, laden with emotions and history and hopes that we can barely articulate to ourselves let alone another person.
Talking with people….it’s so much work.
For me, right now I think the work is worth it.
Yes, I think the work is worth it. I’m hanging in there (until I just need a break! until I just need to rest!) thru the hard messy stuff to keep talking. I want to. What do you think?
Real conversations — sincere attempts at connection and a commitment to vulnerability and understanding — we gotta have them to grow as individuals and as a community. Conversations build the (metaphorical) nets and bridges that we need to hold our society together. Conversations lead to commitments and actions that make change. Conversations light a fire under our butts, and help us re-examine our assumptions about responsibility and preconceived ideas of what other people think. Conversations tear down walls, and expose shoddy arguments and lies. Conversations reinforce connection and the idea that we live together on this planet. Of course, conversations lead to great art too.
I am grateful for the talking-talking-talking that makes my head hurt and keeps me awake at night like strong coffee. I am grateful for the seekers and bridge-builders who move thru my life with the curiosity and openness and respect that make these conversations possible. They drop keys/clues/crumbs into my lap that open ideas and connections I wouldn’t have access to otherwise. This is one way I learn about the world.
I am grateful that people allow me to speak and that they allow me to listen. (Yeah, cuz the listening is as important as the talking.)
Let’s keep talking. Let’s keep listening.
Let’s keep hanging in there, even we when need to pass the tissues all around, even when we question whether we should have had that fourth cup of coffee-like conversation.