She put her hand on my shoulder and said, "I hear you. I've felt that too."
And I knew, in the core of my core, she meant it.
As we stood there in our sweaty workout clothes, with tiny little people swarming the playground, I felt her solidarity. My breathing slowed and my shoulders released. I could feel my inner self strengthen as I began to realize that I wasn't alone; this dear friend created space for me to let down my guard and feel safe to unload my stuff. I hadn't realized that I'd been feeling defensive, always ready for someone to critique my feelings or perspective. I didn't realize it until I was with someone who felt so safe that I could just bring myself.
Some of us, if we're fortunate, have our "people."
You know, the ones you call when you don't know who else to call? They are the folks who will have the tough conversations with you; the brave souls willing to engage all the questions, not just the easy ones.
These are the people who love you when you're put together and love you just as gently and fiercely when life has fallen apart. They simply love.
It's easy though, in this frantic world of ours, to forget that when we have those sweet people we are truly blessed. Often they don't hold our hearts perfectly, but they sure do show up for the holding anyway. What a gift.
And then there's those of us who drift.
We feel unmoored and unanchored. We hide our stories and our faces because it's too vulnerable to let ourselves be seen.
I've been there too.
I've had great chunks of life where I felt disconnected and outside of the circle. Everyone else seemingly invited to a party and I never got the RSVP. In those times my understanding of love was so performance based that allowing folks to know my real heart frightened me.
Where do we start when we're those people?
Where do we go when relational hurt marks us?
I find that to create change, we have to challenge ourselves with this question, what am I willing to risk?
Am I willing to risk some discomfort to have a greater sense of being known?
Am I willing to risk messiness so that I may go to the parts of my heart that I can't travel to alone?
Shauna Niequist speaks to this idea beautifully in her book Cold Tangerines:
All of us step into this risky business, the work of being known and loved. It can be scary and hard and beautiful.
And just when when my cynic heart wonders if I can't do this alone, wonders if maybe I can't be independent, isolated and self reliant...I realize I don't want to be. Because the value of being known and seen and loved in spite of and because of who I am is worth it.
Every hour, every day, every year I learn this: we are better together than we could ever be alone.
How about you? What have you had to risk to find your people?