“Whatever we see in each other must be
the distance we’ve come in our lives
and all we’ve brought with us.” from “Clear Night at the End of the Twentieth Century” by Julia Kasdorf
If I could imagine my perfect night, it would involve a campfire, a guitar, good friends and new acquaintances and lots and lots of stories. There’s just something about listening to someone tell a story without interruption that makes me feel both charged and calm at the same time. For hours, I can sit with people and just hear the distance they’ve traveled and the things they’ve carried with them. I lose myself in their adventures that are new to me and put myself beside them on the parts of their journeys that coincide with mine. Those are the kinds of nights where all of me feels alive.
I’m not one for small talk. All the discussion about weather and “how are you” that polite society seems to require makes me cringe. It just feels so artificial, so trite, so superficial. I’d much rather get into a corner at a party and have someone tell me a poignant tale of his childhood cat and the way a paw came into his face or listen to her tell me the story of the first year of her marriage where she decided to stay with her husband – “He was going to be miserable with me.” These are the stories that shape us, the experiences that buoy us and scar us and, thereby, make us stronger and more beautiful. These are the stories I want to hear, and these are the stories I want to tell.
So much of our days is spent in what is superficial – Facebook status updates and tweets, coffee shop small talk, and brief voicemail messages. None of these things is bad in itself – in fact, these things often help keep us connected to one another so that we can have times when we go deep and true. But our culture runs the risk of making these superficial things more important than the real things. I’m trying to fight against that. I fail a lot – spending far too much time posting on Facebook mostly – but I’m trying, trying to be real, trying to tell the stories of what I’ve brought with me.
I am making it my work to be real in my words and in my stories, to tell deep stories as I can. I’m going to avoid small talk and the triteness of pretend relationship. Here’s to seeing what is real in each other, “the distance we’ve come” and “all we’ve brought with us.”