“Mi rifiuto di vivere una vita senza di me.”
I think we’re all feeling like our lives have been turned upside down and put through the wringer, the minutes tic by at an anguishing pace, and at times I feel isolated from my own life. The one I made assumptions about, took for granted, compartmentalized when all was well and good.
Leave it to Sidney Sheldon to state the obvious, “nothing lasts forever.”
Ends up life is a gift, so here’s a present I’m claiming today, and I wanted to share it with you. It was bestowed upon me at the very beginning of the pandemic, when I naively signed up to participate in an Akimbo Workshop, hosted by Seth Godin for creative types, as in writers, artist, poets, musicians, craftspersons, and so forth.
It was a participatory sort of experience, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. Same with life.
We were encouraged to write daily, read and comment on the work posted by several thousand participants, from every corner of the globe. It was random mayhem at best. I would post a blog I was working on, or an answer to one of Seth’s annoying questions, some indiscriminate stranger would comment on my work, and I would go to their site, read and comment on their posts.
Looney calls this the circle jerk, please don’t ask me to explain, just know it’s a rude comment.
What was happening, unbeknownst to me, were all these unexpected authentic connections being made between random people who literally stumbled on each other’s work and became ensnared, yes, trapped if you will.
I admit I had my favorites and in a very short span of time we formed these budding communities. Imagine having a perfect stranger resonate, engage, and validate your work in ways you could never have imagined. It was the
shove push I needed to move forward with my work.
Simultaneously we were tortured with weekly questions by Seth concerning our niche, who we admired in our respective genres, why we write, what it means to honor your own voice, how not be a fraud, and “ship” our work daily.
Within weeks I found myself entrenched in a rigorous routine, a web of daily tasks that haunted me if I failed to write, read, and comment every single day for several hours.
Then the pandemic became a reality instead of an anomaly.
Now I was learning to teach remotely, live in isolation, and curiously Seth Godin invited us to form small communities within the workshop, this would be an additional commitment to meet on a weekly basis, and support one another.
If it smells like a tensile, looks like a tensile, acts like a tensile, chances are it’s a tensile.
You know me, I don’t like new relationships, I prefer to talk with people I have known for at least twenty years, or share some DNA, that is reason and rationality woven so tightly together they could tether a phobia indefinitely.
Seth selected leaders (not me, what a shock), you know the type, the cream that rises to the top sort of people, and in turn those leaders sent out invitations to a select few, and there I was, the bachelorette accepting a thorny rose.
On our first call I think I cried, or it could have been the second? I actually cried real tears (I blame Jeandre or was it Daniel?), I was washed away by the depth and perception of our discussions, the sincerity, the kindness, the bearing of each other, but the weird part was how good it felt to belong, as if castaways on Gilligan’s Island, we were in this together.
What the hell was happening here?
What happened was we found our people, Mary Ellen, Yijun, Luke, Daniel, Josh, Tasha, Leanne, Jeandre (who I thought was a woman but ends up being a man), and me. Roy Bennett says it doesn’t matter how many people you meet in your life; you just need the real ones who accept you for who you are and help you become who you should be. Snap. Snap.
Here’s the skinny on our team. Mary Ellen is the founder of the Well Within Workshop, using art as a facilitator for healing, while simultaneously working as a licensed clinical psychologist, she is a wife, mother, and grandmother, in addition to leading our team. Yijun is our youngest member, she is single, writes screenplays, vignettes, a memoirist with enormous passion and humor, and a professor. Luke is a writer, pastor, and coach who ministers to those imprisoned, he is a healer by nature, has a regular job in addition to his creative work, he is married and raising children. Daniel is an entrepreneur of the human spirit, he is preparing to publish a book on kindness, trust me, it’s going to change the world, he works as a business coach, is married with children. Josh is a craftsman, and I mean this in the most luxurious sort of way, his creativity is filtered through his work for clients who are restoring or renovating spaces, and he captures this with words, he is a husband and father. Tasha is a writer, producer, seeker, and justice warrior, she works to raise awareness around body image, and diligently co-parents her child. Leanne is a writer, speaker and facilitator who works with the change makers and change seekers within organizations, her listening skills are legendary, she is married with children. Jeandre is an inspiration, he writes and shares his thoughts about culture, traditions, and beliefs in a way that elevates a simple conversation into a sublime experience, he is married.
These are not just any people, we are the mighty Gecko’s, and together we’ve created a space where we all feel accepted, a place where you are not merely tolerated, you’re celebrated.
Do you know what that feels like?
Allen Watts says it best, “so it was, that I found a new self. I found myself among people who were not embarrassed to express their feelings, who were not ashamed to show warmth, exuberance and earthy joie de vivre (exuberant enjoyment of life).”
Mary Ellen has been hosting these clandestine meetings for months, they are a gift, and when I miss a call I feel malnourished.
That’s the long way around a short story, here’s the gift you’ve been patiently waiting for, or maybe I lost you six paragraphs back?
On our weekly call yesterday I start talking about my daughter’s wedding next month, how the immediate family is preparing to attend this much anticipated event in Boston, the logistics, the excitement, the frustrations of traveling during a pandemic. I told them about the dresses I ordered online, the visa bill that shut down my card, the dress I said yes to, the returns, the matching shoes, and the much needed Spanx (thank you COVID19). I threw in some issues involving remote learning, lesson plans, the end of the grading period. I know, suddenly I’m long winded, babbling endlessly about the grand babies, the internet, and the size of my bubble. Who knew?
No one rushes me, or looks bored, or irritated. It’s what heaven is going to be like.
Well, finally I mention the unmentionable, I haven’t been writing, not one word, and it feels like I’ve left a lot of things unprocessed, as if the experience of life has been rashly consumed, instead of savored like a good meal?
I feel their collective inhale…
This is when Mary Ellen pipes up and says as if she’s been waiting a lifetime to share these words, “Mi rifiuto di vivere una vita senza di me,” it’s Italian, it means I refuse to live a life without me.
I have to sit with that for a minute, I’m a slow processor, that’s why I like to write instead of talk. They gift me the time and space to figure it out and praise me when I finally do. I know, I know, kindness is strength unmasked.
Standing there naked and vulnerable before my fellow Gecko’s (well actually dressed, on a zoom call, but you get the gist) I realize my inability to appreciate the subtle textures, flavors, and senses of life when I fail to write. It’s that simple.
Mary Ellen nailed it, it’s as if I was living a life without me.
It started out as a weekly zoom call, but was succeeded by something far more valuable, kinship, and when built with kindness this ship is unsinkable.
I’m Living in the Gap, writing it out, savoring the moment.
- “Don’t you ever get the feeling that all your life is going by and you’re not taking advantage of it? Do you realize you’ve lived nearly half the time you have to live already?” Ernest Hemingway
- Geckos represent rebirth and life cycles, the circling of energy. They also symbolize there is always hope for rebuilding our own lives. Geckos symbolize energy and magic of the nature and the life in their purest form
- “Sometimes resilience arrives in the moment you discover your own unshakeable goodness.” Fr. Greg Boyle