According to the Love Project’s big, fat master plan, September was The Month of Seeing. All month I focused on making the most of my day-to-day interactions with strangers. In stores, in restaurants, at Starbucks and the library, I made eye contact. I smiled. I engaged people in conversation, asking questions, listening to their answers, sharing little bits of myself. More than once, I walked away laughing. Far from cool and apathetic, I found people were friendly, warm and funny.
I loved September, but the moment that touched me most didn’t happen with a stranger. It happened with my closest friend and soul sister, JB, who I’ve known and loved for more than two decades.
She’d sent me the link to a post by Martha Beck because it resonated with her and she thought I’d like it too. I did. It was about yearning, and how yearning can be a good thing or it can be a debilitating thing, and there are ways of handling it so that you can take advantage of the positive aspects and avoid the negative ones. You should read it at some point because it’s smart and insightful, but this post isn’t about that post. This post is about what happened next.
I’d written about three paragraphs in response to JB, all about what Martha’s piece meant to me, how I might be able to use it, where I thought I might already be doing it. Between paragraphs 3 and 4, I paused to consider the word “yearning”; it’s not one I use a lot. And then, on an impulse, I deleted my whole reply and instead wrote one simple sentence that was more deeply true and heartfelt than anything else I’d written. I said, “I would love to hear about what you yearn for.”
She replied, “That just made me cry.”
And that, more than any of the other sweet interactions I had in September made it clear to me. We all want to be seen. All of us. And most of the time, we feel like we aren’t, really. We tell people things, our truths, our fears, and they immediately slip into fix-it mode or defense mode or (as I did) let-me-tell-you-all-about-me mode. It happens so often that when someone says, from the heart, “tell me more,” it’s enough to break us open a little.
It’s beautiful and disorienting and more powerful than we can know when we say the words. And I think it’s there, in the cracks that breaking open causes, in the light that falls through them and the way it makes us, at once, terribly vulnerable and newly brave… I think maybe that’s where the best love of all happens.