I keep a running list of ideas for blog posts. At the top of it lie three quotes which have struck me hard over the past months. They bring tears, desire and compassion. They make me think. They challenge me. One is from Hemingway, one is from a t-shirt, and one is from country music artists. In one way or another they all speak to humanity and they all speak to what is important. There is another thread through these ideas too; strong, smart, and incredibly talented and skilled women have brought them into my life. My life would be so much darker without them. They inspire me to be better.
My friend, sometimes colleague, and continual inspiration Kathryn brought Hemingway into my life again, if only for a sentence. “Write strong and hard about what hurts.” At some point she noted that she had used that passage as inspiration and direction. For so long, I have too; I just didn’t know it. What hurts is what I see. What hurts is what I want to put out there. All the unfinished, unstarted, and unrealized writing that I care about is about what hurts. The pieces are about society, they are about family, they are about love, they are about choices, people, dissonance. What hurts is what I write about: inadequacies, ego, heartbreak, kindness, and the list goes on. It is what I want to write about, it is what I strive for in each piece I put out to the world. It is what piles up, five for every posted one. Write clear and hard about what hurts; I have a third of it, now I wonder if I can get the clear and hard part.
I listen to country music because I can relate to it. Cars through cornfields, bonfires, high school sporting events, hard work, etc. It connects with the part of me that was and connects to the part of me that wants to be. It has so many angles: sometimes it makes me fearful and sad and shake my head; other times it brings me hope and joy and inspiration. The rampant sexism in country music, in the lyrics and industry, makes me fearful. It makes me sad. Yet the same lyrics take me back to high school, college, and family values. It forces me to hold these two things and recognize the systems I perpetuate(d). The next song playing though might be about acceptance and compassion. And those bring me hope, make me smile. In the summer of 2019 the thoughtful, real, talented, and caring people at NOLS Three Peaks Ranch introduced me to The Highwomen. “Everyone’s a little broken, but everyone belongs” from their song Crowded Table, consistently bubbles to the top of my thoughts. It isn’t the first country song to speak to acceptance, but it is the one that speaks to me right now. If only I could realize that it applies to me as well.
What we do, in every moment, has impact, positive or negative. We either build someone up or we take them apart. It is hard to be neutral in this world. The words we say, the clothes we wear, the eye contact we don’t make: it is all meaningful. We are a ripple; we are impactful. Even the smallest ripple can carve rock. My world shifted when Darcy started working in the office with me. “In a world where you can be anything, be kind” were the words on her t-shirt. Those words inspire me to be more empathetic. We have a choice in how we react and interact. It is simple to remember. It is easy to say. It isn’t always easy to do. Be kind; everyone has a story, multiple layers deep. Be kind; seek first to understand, then to be understood. Be kind. I struggle engaging with new people. I am shy. I am awkward. I don’t know how to interact socially with people I don’t know and even those I know casually. All this makes me appear aloof or stand-offish or uncaring. I struggle to feel acceptance and worthy of acceptance. I won’t say good bye to people not because I don’t care, but because I don’t think I am worth their time. And the cycle perpetuates itself. So I write. I have kind words in my head, in my heart. They are awkward to say, but easier to write. So I write. I share it to show my caring and my perception. My body and voice don’t always project kindness, but it is my desire that my writing always will. So I write. And hope that it doesn’t go unwritten and unread.
The thread that winds through all of it, one of kindness, acceptance, belonging, and love, is something that is important. It is what I want more of in my life and in the people that surround me. I long for these things and daily seek to find little ways to change my way of being. In Stranger at My Door, Brandi Carlisle sings about her fear: “nothing scares me more than the stranger at my door whom I fail to give shelter, time, and worth.” I can’t help but ask myself why not smile at someone, why not offer a hello, why not practice Loving Kindness? Maybe we reap what we sow. We all have pains, we all have history. I can’t carry everyone’s burden, but I can work to not add to them.
What hurts is the lack of compassion I see in the world. Yet I don’t want to write about what hurts in a way that points fingers. I want to write about what hurts in a way that elevates the opposite. I want to write about what hurts in a way that brings to light the things that heal and the things that feed love.