I have a sock problem. It’s not a very interesting one. I lose my socks, then I steal socks from everyone else in the house, and then I lose their socks. My husband bought me sixteen pairs of plain white sports socks over the summer. I currently have exactly none in my sock drawer.
As someone generally unable to do the fashion thing, more often than not I’ll simply find two socks of similar length and wear them as a pair. Both have stripes? Totally go together! After all, socks exist merely to keep my feet warm and happy, right?
I have a harder time with other things not matching. The big things. I want to believe that on a basic level, we long not just to be loved, but to be able to feel love, to care with passion and courage in a way that makes us open to hurt and still full of strength. I want to believe that that love brings us beyond self and into the realm of community. I want to believe that compassion can be learned by anyone, at any point in life, because no matter how much I want to believe we’ve all been given the support we need to grow into compassionate people, I know many of us haven’t yet.
I believe in science and statistics and the need to understand trends and demographics and history. But, and I know I’m repeating myself here, I think stories teach us in ways that are essential to being human. Sometimes because they expose the points we all share, but sometimes because they don’t. Because they ask us to step past the edges of our safe zones of identity and comfort. Reading is one way to do so, but voice…hearing those stories told to us…that lights the fire for our campfire selves to gather around.
I think about stories fairly often, unsurprisingly. I recently went to see First Man, largely because the part of me that still wants to be an astronaut cannot pass by anything with rockets. I have a lot of thoughts about it. It’s a beautiful, rather haunting film. One of the things that struck me, though, is the infinite number of narratives available around the Apollo missions. The Right Stuff, Hidden Figures, First Man…let’s throw Apollo Thirteen in there too–each shifts our vision, sometimes slightly, sometimes in major ways.
That’s the same with every event. That’s the same if you and I chat about childhood memories, or if world leaders meet. When we speak, we are telling our own stories, whether we realize it or not. They have shaped the lens through which we view everything. We may learn something by sharing them, or the act may simply be a shield to protect our view from anything that threatens it. When we listen, though, truly listen…that is something altogether different.
A few weeks ago I went to a local story slam, where the area finalists told their stories to compete for an annual Best Of trophy. The winner, using every part of himself, shared watching his father try to recover after sinking into a depression and losing his physical health. It moved me deeply, and has become one of those bits of life that I carry in a bundle with me, everywhere I go.
It also reminded me to listen to The Moth more. This weekend, while scrubbing all things kitchen, I listened to these two stories, which have also joined my bundle. Neither are easy. In fact, both are brutal in their own ways. I think both rest in that liminal space, at least for me; the space where our choice is to close our hearts or open them further to the world. So, I’m sharing the links here, with the reminder that they are quite painful in different ways.
Loving Grace (Warning: while War is fairly upfront about its content, Loving Grace is about experiencing an unbearable choice, not simply pregnancy and love.)
One last thing. Dear ones, at least those of you in the U.S., we have an election on Tuesday. There are a thousand things I would like to say to you, including, of course, a plea to vote how I would have you vote. I won’t. We don’t know each other in that way. I’m happy to share my campfire with you. I’d love for us learn in its circle. I’d like to do that through shared voices, though, and not in a way that that alienates any of us.
Instead, let me say this. I believe we all must vote. More than that, we all must vote for the following reason: I believe that, despite everything, our votes hold the power to create a better future for everyone. All of us. No one, anywhere, left behind. Dream big, and I’ll dream with you.