About a month ago, I happened to be scrolling through the blog of one of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist, and happened to notice that she was scheduled to speak at a neighboring Presbyterian Church. Amazingly, her speaking engagement fell on a day that was empty on the calendar. I quickly emailed the leadership of the Mothering Together event and asked if I could “infiltrate” for the day and sneak in to hear Shauna speak.
I have shared many of Shauna’s thoughts and quotes on the blog (here, here, here, and here, to refer back to a few…) and find that her books are classics for me. During my last book purge, I sold or gave away about 80% of my “collection”, but Shauna’s books were MUST SAVES and kept a prominent space on the shelf. In fact, I used some of my credit from selling the many books to purchase her newest, Bittersweet, for my mom for Mother’s Day.
In my packing frenzy last night and this morning, I managed to get both books in my bag, hoping to ask Shauna to sign them. One for me, and one for my mom. I also wrote her a little card too….I’m seriously such a geek-a-zoid fan. Well, I started saying silly things to my friend Val (who came with me to the event) and felt my pulse racing as I waited to meet Shauna and have her sign the books. And in the freak-out “I’M MEETING SOMEONE I ADMIRE AND AM SO INSPIRED BY” moment, I got confused on which book to have her sign. Cold Tangerines, the one I’ve post-it noted, dog eared and underlined and highlighted is addressed to my Mom and the new, crisp, clean copy of Bittersweet is addressed to me.
Classic Me. Deer in the Headlights. Anxiety Ridden. No eloquent words when needed…..Gulp.
Needless to say, she was so gracious, even agreeing to take a picture with me.
She read three excerpts from her upcoming book, Bread and Wine, “a collection of essays about life around the table, and the sacred and surprising things that happen when we open our homes and open our lives and connect with one another over food we’ve made with love and with our hands”. It won’t be out until the Spring of 2013, but the essays she shared today were so good!
There were many memorable moments today, but the centralizing message was based on the truth of Paul’s letter to the Romans, the reminder that Life is better TOGETHER. That we are called to choose honesty and truth telling vs. comparison, competition and isolation.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
One of the three excerpts she read was also recently shared on her blog (Safety Goggles) and today it brought tears to many eyes in the room. Please take a moment to click on the link and read it. It was a reminder that we must manage the complexity of Joy & Pain. As Paul said….to rejoice and to weep with one another. When we are experiencing times of joy, it is hard to know how to reach out to those in grief. And yet we are called to this as friends. Called to enter in, into tender, weak and fragile places, and walk alongside each other.
I realized how deeply grateful I am to have amazing circles of women in my life who provide these safety nets for me. I don’t think it’s irreverent to say that female friends are a key survival tool for parenthood. Obviously, your spouse is crucial; the most important partner in crime for the journey. But my women friends?!?! Well, it’s just different. Yesterday, I received an email from a friend I met in 2006–our friendship forged when put together in a dorm room for a retreat. The first night was a night of silence and we had JUST met and were told to be quiet for 12 hours! WHAT!?!? We broke the rules many times that weekend and I believe that forged our friendship. She wrote, “You are in the thick of it with parenting. You are in the most physically demanding time when you have to account for every second and care for every physical need – wipe that butt, make that lunch, read that bedtime book. It is so exhausting!” On Monday, I chatted with a friend of eighteen years, and was given the gift of twenty minutes of connection time. Over the phone connection, yes, but an oasis for me, nonetheless.
The lesson in all of this knee knocking, arm-pit sweating stage fright?!? To reach out. To share the truth of our experience with someone else, whether it be joy and celebration or deep sadness and grief. To push through the fear and cling to the reality of connection found in true vulnerability. I messed up today….Shauna’s signatures are inked permanently, incorrectly in my books. But what can you do but laugh, knowing that I pushed through my stage fright, entered in, messed up as I am, and was present. It was a reminder—may we all take Paul’s message to the Romans and delve into it head first…..to rejoice WITH those that rejoice. To mourn WITH those that mourn.
“Everybody has a home team: It’s the people you call when you get a flat tire or when something terrible happens. It’s the people who, near or far, know everything that’s wrong with you and love you anyways. These are the ones who tell you their secrets, who get themselves a glass of water without asking when they’re at your house. These are the people who cry when you cry. These are your people, your middle-of-the-night, no-matter-what people.”
― Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet