“Love lifts us up where we belong…”
That’s the song I was humming the other day.
I had just listened to an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert and something she said echoed in the empty chamber where I thought I was thinking the exact same thing all on my own. Turns out the people I connect with most deeply agree with me, but sometimes we are just too afraid to say it. We have paper hearts that we’re terrified will be torn in half.
She was talking about those of us who continually beat ourselves up because we keep tripping over boxes of shit that we put in our own way. We have one drink too many (again), give up on projects when they have only just started (over and over again), find ourselves crying on the bathroom floor (way too often), and wonder why we can’t pull ourselves together (like “everyone else.”)
You see, there are these seemingly perfect people we all know. They are the ones who succeed in their careers and jump up the rungs of the ladders we fall off, usually on the first or second rung. They have the happy families, the impressive bank balances, the lack of addiction and other nervous conditions, minimal tears, and quite frankly, the people we keep trying to be.
But I’ve – well, seems like it’s we’ve – seen something on the other side of that shining blade. Very often these same people have a way of looking at “us” when we fail yet again. You know, that judgemental “I told you so” glare. Or worse, they give us the “you should have known better” speech. We’re afraid to tell them how we really feel because usually it makes us feel smaller. Worse. The scum we keep telling ourselves we are.
They usually aren’t the ones we call at 2am in the morning when we find ourselves hugging the toilet. Nope. We call the fellow toilet-hugger. The fucked-up one. We cry into our coffee together – sometimes because we’re back to day zero of our sobriety and last night’s wine still tastes like shame in our mouths – and they just fucking get it. They’ve been there and sometimes go back there, and we all just understand. It’s a primal connection to a tribe we were born into. I guess we are just wired differently, without insulation; these live copper beings that sometimes spark fantastic creativity, and other times ignite flames that consume us.
So Liz’s words were still bouncing around my mind and resonating with me when I walked into the thank-God-I-met-her Melinda Ferguson writing workshop this past Saturday. We swam in this gender-fluid lake of genius. Fucked-up genius for sure, but I felt right at home.
The room was ceiling high with brightly coloured balloons – the abused, addicted, mentally ill, grieving, homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, cross-dressing prostitutes, bipolars, depressives. Who happen to be tremendously creative, healing, honest, transparent, REAL people. Nobody judged the words that were revealed. We cried together. Laughed together. Resonated. Understood. We held hands invisibly and it was the imperfection that made us beautiful.
I felt something strange expand in my lungs as I breathed in the air of acceptance around me: Pride. I was damn proud to be one of “us,” and realised that there is no “them.” We are all human. Even the ones with everything together have demons. Maybe they are just unspoken.
Writing helps me be honest and there were many pages of raw truth that appeared on the page that day. I remembered the sound of my own voice and what it meant to actually listen to myself and not the criticism of others.
I felt connected to something bigger, something universal, something that everyone else in the room was connected to. Acceptance.
Just as I am. With all those boxes of shit all over the floor.
Today, two of the people I thought were incredibly close to perfect, with tremendous success in their business, sent newsletters out that were framed in complete honesty. They admitted that they also fell short of their own ideals. They were, in many ways, just like me. Us. There is no them. It’s all an illusion.
I felt such relief that the kinds of women I look up to most can be real and mess up too. They would take that 2am call with no judgement.
Of course, there will always be those on thrones that “tell us so” repeatedly, but you know what, they aren’t my people so their opinions don’t matter to me.
I have my tribe and we write. We sing about love that lifts us up.
I know the words.
So do you.