Sam is a fellow Mum at my boys’ school. English is her second language, but I think it’s fair to say that Sam has a fairly good handle on the ins and outs of English. Three weeks into her brand new life here in New Zealand, Sam made the comment to me that ‘this flag debate. It is hot button topic, yes?’.
Yep. This ole flag business is indeed a hot button topic.
Sam’s English is just fine.
Anyway. Today at school drop off, which was more eventful than the norm because some fiddle fingers fidget managed to set off a fire alarm right before bell time so that all the doting parents who were either lingering over a final kiss on young Johnny’s cheek, or, those who were deep in conversation with another parent, were stuck on the school campus too.
I’m embracing the doting parent gig right now, so I was one of the stuck ones today. But so was my new friend Sam, so we chatted a bit while we stood on the top field and from a distance we watched the firefighters come and do their checks. Spring has sprung in these parts but someone needs to tell the wind to warm up a tad. Our conversation today began with the grumps over this stupid wind and the stupid coldness that just can’t seem to dissipate. Stupid stupid.
Then Sam mentioned something to me that has been burning away quietly in my brain for the whole day.
With a gentleness and earnestness, Sam said to me that she ‘always saw me with a calm face’.
Now I laughed that off straight away and assured her, that no, my face was not always calm and my voice does get louder on occasion and sometimes I do overreact and definitely do not display lovejoypeacepatiencekindnessgoodnessselfcontrol all the time. Nah. Not this chick. I then told Sam that even if my face looked calm, then certainly my heart wasn’t. And Mother to Mother. Friend to Friend. Sister to Sister. Sam got that. I didn’t need to find a simpler way to say it. I didn’t need to think fast and reach for synonyms that she may have come across before. She got it.
But after I had made sure I had put her straight, and after I had secretly high fived my kids in my head for being the amazing kids that they are, I kinda felt a little teeny bit crushed. I’m not one to wear my heart on my sleeve, but I also don’t ever want to appear to be someone that I’m not.
What you see is what you get. That’s healthy, right?
There’s this new hunger for people to be real and raw with each other. Which is great in my mind, but only sorta. It’s sorta good, but you can’t just spew your deep and meaningfuls to everyone, all of the time. Filters, people. Filters.
So how do you approach this whole being real with people about your life – all parts of your life; the good, and the great and the not so great, but come out of it all with your heart intact, trust still strong and intact, and your feelings validated?
One key I’ve only lately discovered is to listen for the right questions.
Sometimes in your group of friends you may get lucky with a friend who asks you the right questions. Actually they are sometimes the wrong questions, coz they may make you unexpectedly tear up or reveal more of yourself than you ever intended, but that means they were the right questions.
So listen for the right questions, and when you’ve got someone asking you the right questions, you know they are genuine. You know they are safe. You know you are safe. Because if someone is asking you the right questions, they are most likely listening to the answers to their questions. Your answers.
Anne Lamott says that she thinks that ‘closing down is safe, but really staying open and loving is safer, because we’re all connected to all that life and love’.
I’d like to one day be remembered as one who asked questions. Questions about the big stuff, but also questions about the little things, and all the in between things. And as I navigate through life I know it’s important to encourage others when things are going well, but when things aren’t good…..when life’s challenges come and stress nips at my ankles, like a persistent dog who doesn’t know that playtime is over and his drooly jowls that were once cute are now unwelcome at my ankles, then it’s ok to not have my calm face on. And then, it’s time to seek out those who ask the right questions.
That’s being real and raw.