My favourite coffee shop is always busy on Friday mornings. The quiet self-absorbed hum of weekdays is replaced by laptop-toting high-schoolers, mother and toddler pairings and friends catching up over a hot tea or craft coffee. The upshot, for this writer, being the requirement to sit in the performance space couches, or the communal table and give up the retreat into my mind for something better, for connection.
As I folded myself into the couch in the corner today, next to a pair of women catching up on their love lives, I tried to mind my own business. I opened my copy of Love Warrior, by the inimitable Glennon Doyle and started to read. Reading Glennon is like reading the inside of my own head, my reflections upon which will take up another post (or two). Reading Love Warrior in a crowded Friday-morning coffee shop is not conducive to quiet reflection, or, for that matter, even to dry eyes.
While my eyes were absorbing my inner teenage life narrative laid bare on the page for all to see, the sounds of my companions’ conversations washed over me… “I just want to get married” … “I’m 30, will I ever find someone?” … “Dating is THE WORST”…”Men just want to have sex, they don’t seem to want me!”. At this point, I am openly weeping, let it be known that I am an ugly crier, no single tear gently coursing down unwrinkled cheek here. No! I am the full works; swollen eyes, snot, and flushed snuffling frowning… hardly Friday-morning coffee shop material!
I meet my communal table-mate’s eye, and from I know not where, say,
“I just can’t sit here and listen to this, you are worth so much more than you think! I know I don’t know you, but please hear me! You don’t want to get married! You want to be seen! Marriage doesn’t necessarily mean being loved, but it can be the seal placed on a relationship of two who are fully seen and fully loved.”
Our conversation was brief. We don’t know each other. We didn’t arrange to meet up again, but the encounter stayed with me. It raised more questions than it answered. The stories of dates where within minutes, both parties have shuttered themselves up behind their own insecurities, the revelation that life is short following a cancer scare, the fear of being “left on the shelf”, while simultaneously seeing friends become increasingly trapped in controlling marriages, it was all too familiar. In five minutes of vulnerability, we three strangers connected more deeply than many long-term boyfriends had, so afraid are women to show their true selves for fear of rejection.
I wish I could have had a day to love on these young women, to share how much they are undervaluing themselves, to chip away at the years of hiding and insecurities and let them glimpse the other side of the curtain of expectations that demand we follow the rules, that we be small, quiet and uncomplicated. The Other Side, where women live large, loud, complex lives of abandon, where they follow their passions, serve their communities and the world is better because of them.
I want for you, lives lived out loud, lives of consuming passion for your world and for people who SEE you, and love you in all your wild, broken complexity. I hope we meet again, but in the meantime, I hope you seek out voices that free you, that give you wings. Voices like Glennon, and the incomparable Brené Brown, wonderful, flawed, gracious women like Jen Hatmaker, and artists with the gift of honesty and self-compassion like Amena Brown and Nichole Nordeman. I hope we meet again and share our stories, to encourage one another to live boldly in a world that wants us small but needs us to be large.
Grace and Peace,
Your Sister, Ally.