Connection in the Cracks

If I could give one gift to myself and all the people I love for the year of 2019, it would be connection.

A few days ago, my dear friend, Cindi, asked us to send her a word or sentence describing her husband, Len, in honor of his 60th. A lot of words came to mind, and I settled on “a man after God’s own heart” – or I could say “a couple after God’s own heart” when describing the 2 of them. I kept thinking about why I grabbed onto those words when I thought about them, and I think I’ve figured it out.

Len and Cindi are pretty amazing people. Most people would look at their lives and say, “Yeah – they are good people.” They probably didn’t spend too many days on God’s naughty list.:) But that’s not anything close to what I was thinking about.

When I go to their house, I always sleep well. I NEVER sleep well the first night I’m in any bed other than my own – except at the Woods’ house. It’s because I’m safe there. And I’m safe there because we are real. I described Len as a man after God’s own heart because of relationship. God is love, and God as three-in-one is relationship by essence, the ultimate definition of relationship. So in my book, a person who constantly seeks relationship, love, and connection is a person after God’s own heart.

Enlight174The best relationships are like a mountain. You keep climbing together, through all life’s challenges, over years of time, and the view just keeps getting better. Sometimes to get up a mountain, you have to climb a cliff. I’m not a good rock climber. Heights and upper body strength are not my thing, but I have done it enough to understand that the key to climbing a cliff is cracks in the rock.IMG_4601

Connections in friendships are like that – we connect in the cracks, the broken places. The cracks are the places where love has a way in. Vulnerability is the process of showing each other our cracks, scars, fears, and failures.  When we tell our stories and cry our tears together, we are shouting up the cliff face, “I’ve got you! You’re safely roped in, and your next foothold is about 2 feet to the left, 9 inches up.”

Our celebrity-drenched, social-media-driven society takes all those cliff faces and smooths them out. I LOVE all the Christmas cards I get every year, but I have to tell you – the filters just keep getting better. We show our smooth parts, our successes, who we want to be, who we think others want us to be, and often we leave no handholds for people to climb the mountain of friendship with us.

When we are struggling, there is a big temptation to cover it up with confidence and the veneer of achievement, but in doing that, we are shoving away the very people we need to connect with to help us in our struggle. What a vicious cycle!

I wrote an intimate song about connection after spending some time with a couple who met late in life and had no secrets about where they had come from. This is the kind of connection we want.

Scars

Completely uncovered, stripped down and unashamed

Unhindered affection in this sweet and strange late-life season

Not bothered by our yesterdays or scared of what’s to come

It’s just you and me darling – we’ve got love beyond all reason

C’mon and show me your scars now baby inside and out

Let me ease your darkened mind and lift up this burden of doubt

I’ll trace them with my little finger and fold them deep in my heart

It won’t erase our checkered past, but it’s a good place to start

You peel my layers slowly, with soft and tender care

My body worn and rounded I can safely bare

You don’t seem to mind – you need me a little bit broken

Old wounds begin to heal with deep mercy unspoken

So I’ll hold you tight with no desperation

And you’ll love me with wide open eyes

And we’ll walk this path together till the final fog

Laughing, grateful twilight lovers, you and I

Obviously, this involves romantic love, but I think that is beside the point. All lasting connections begin with love – love with eyes wide open for the friend or lover on vulnerable display. It’s knowing and being know. The lack of this is what is at the core of the political chaos, the spiritual divides, the loneliness that surrounds us.

I’m not sure what my exact steps will be when it comes to seeking and offering deeper connections this next year, but I am super excited about the views to come. If I get to any cool places, I’ll try to snap a photo and share it with you.:) I’m climbing alongside some precious friends these days.

And now… I’ll kick off the season of vulnerability by getting way out of my comfort zone and post the old, amateur, living-room MP3 of my song – if you’re interested. It’s not easy being vulnerable. I want to post the song sounding awesome, with a strong voice and better guitar skills. But alas, it’s a little cracked and weak in some spots, just like me, just as it should be.

“True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” ― Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

Grains of Sand

time

If your life was an hourglass, how full would it be? If my life were to extend to 78, I would still have half of my adult life left to live; many days I am optimistic about that prospect. But that confidence of continuance is being interrupted more and more – deaths of high school friends, aging parents, health concerns, tragic accidents.  Last week, I had a scary popping feeling in my head followed by nauseating pain and numbness of the left side of my face. Fortunately CT and MRI’s were all clear, but while I waited on results (and recovered from the whiplash from the car accident that occurred on the trip home from the hospital – yep), I allowed my mind to wander a little.  Not to the point of morbid obsession – let’s just call it a helpful, hopefully-midlife checkup.

Here is the question I wanted to answer: What would my loved ones know from me and about me if I dropped dead tomorrow? What particulars could they hold on to in confidence?

letters

I have tried to incorporate 2 New Year’s Intentions for 2015 (if I called them resolutions they would be doomed to failure). My goals are to increase the likelihood that my loved ones know how they are loved by me and that everyone I meet feels honored or recognized in some way. My first intention is to write letters. Lots of letters with real pen and paper, envelopes and stamps. I haven’t kept accurate count, but I think I’ve written about 30 letters so far. I often have thankful thoughts and affectionate feelings about people, so I decided to start writing it down. It’s been a deeply meaningful undertaking.

We tend to save our tributes to loved ones for funerals, so their tributes become a gift to ourselves instead of to them. What encouragement would we find if we “paid our respects”  to each other while we are still living?

My other intention is to pay more careful attention to the people in front of me – first my family (it is easy to half-listen to their stories and thoughts because I’m so busy taking care of them!),  grocery store employees, doctor’s office receptionists, neighbor kids, UPS delivery guys, teachers in car line, whoever. Sometimes I get a chance to engage them in a personal way. Other times it means real eye contact, acknowledging their unique humanity and our brief, particular intersection, no matter how small and short it may seem. It has been fascinating to watch how people react to someone looking at them, smiling, simply communicating, “I see you.”  Powerful stuff.

Whether or not I have the privilege to continue writing letters, paying attention, watching the birds, photographing the moon, or composing music, I want whatever days are left in my life to be more intentional. I hope that I still choose to meander at times, for the purpose of restoration and not just because I’m being lazy and inattentive. I also hope that my precious ones will know why I love them.

I would love to hear from you if you have found practices that help you be more connected. Leave me a comment.  I might copy you next year!