in which there is always room at the table

This weekend so so so many people tried to get in contact! (Hi, y’all!) I’m very grateful to have heard from all of you, but I wanted to take a quick moment to do a little housekeeping and make sure that I didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings—- Sam and I informally observe a sort of secular Sabbath, so if you tried to reach me on Friday and you didn’t hear back until today, I’m not avoiding you, we just try to keep my weekends for family unless we’re at a show. Sometimes I’ll slip some work in on a Saturday, but I’ve been in retreat for the last few months, so I’ll admit this weekend took me rather by surprise. Complicating things, Hugo needed an urgent- care vet visit this morning, so I’m a little bit behind in responding to everything- again, it’s not you, it’s definitely us. (He’s completely fine, btw: just a little over- exertion.) Years of government work and geographic separation have led us to be somewhat odd about our family time.

Okay, housekeeping handled. Back to our regularly scheduled event:

This Monday past- Release Day, we’re calling it in the house- was all a bit of a lovely blur. After I’d done my announcements and a little bit of promotional work (and some dancing), I took my good friend Lindsey’s advice and left the house for a bit to treat myself. Her actual advice was to go out for a nice dinner that night, but Sam was at work and I was full of busy, fizzy energy, so I took the spirit of the thing to heart, hopped into my car and took a long drive out into the country to clear my head, aiming for a hot dog stand out in the sticks. (I know, I know. That’s not my idea of a nice dinner either, but it was the first perfect day in weeks and I had a craving.)

Windows down, music up, I was thinking how solidly good the feeling of completion is, that dust- my- hands- off sensation of a job well done, especially after several months of effort. We enjoy hard work specifically for this feeling; more of that “dinner before dessert” business, right?

There’s a satisfaction finishing up a job; it makes a body feel helpful and useful. From that space, I began to wonder how different things might be if everyone felt more useful, overall. Not just in their work, but in all ways; what would it mean if we all felt necessary, essential to our families, our communities, to the world? Not in a self- inflated, egotistical way- we all know that guy- but simple and grounded: you have skills, you are a unique presence, and those things are valued.

What a warming thought. I’ve known folk who manage to make the people around them feel this way- that’s a true gift, one of those rare talents you really notice when you find it. I think of those people very warmly; even when I’ve only known them in passing, they leave deep impressions. One of my grandmothers used to tell me the mark of gentility was going out of one’s way to make those around you feel at ease without compromising yourself, and while I don’t truck much with the precise concept of gentility these days, I know what she was getting at and heartily endorse the sentiment. I want to be that person; I’m not that girl yet, but it’s a damned good goal to have.

We all want to be seen, really seen, accepted, and wanted. That need lies at the core of so many of our drives and right in the center of Maslow’s hierarchy; it sits, I think, in the heart of our selves. I think of the opportunities I’ve passed up just out of the fear of rejection (and there we go with fear again), and I can begin to understand how important this desire to be accepted, wanted, and welcomed really is.

I’ve spent a fair portion of my life not expecting to be welcomed in spaces; it is my trained default. I don’t feel badly about that—- it’s been so useful, teaching me to enter an environment respectfully, to learn the rules without intruding, and to observe keenly. It’s taught me how to be almost invisible, a very useful skill indeed, and how to blend. Most importantly of all, it has taught me gratitude beyond measure when I am welcomed into a good space, and I can’t quantify that: gratitude has been my salvation.

I think about that a lot these days, warmly: all those open arms past, all those welcomes, all that extension of goodwill behind me and what an enormous difference it made—- in my life, and then further, as it sort of snowballed down the line. Those folks- the people with what my grandmother would call gentility– they weren’t only being welcoming in just that moment, after all, even the people I’ve known in passing. They were showing me how I wanted to live. They were helping me figure out how to heal old, broken bits. These people taught me how to see myself, really see who I am and smile, and how important that is to do for others.

I wish I could say I had the equanimity to manage that mindset with the constancy I’ve seen in others; I can’t, though: I get caught up in traffic and politics and pain and gossip and really, any of it, but I’m trying not to beat myself up over it as much these days, because that isn’t very productive and beating myself up is pretty much the inverse of well, all of it, right? Yeah. Right. Exactly right.

I try, though, and it’s in the trying that the work happens. In truth, none of us are maintaining that perfect equanimity. As long as we are out there, meeting one another, opening our arms and trying, looking each other in the eye and saying Oh, good, you are finally here, come in, come in; there is room for everyone at the table, the work is being done, and isn’t that what matters? Sure, we could play cool and pretend we’ve never felt alone, or we could get a little vulnerable, lean in and make everyone feel welcome; we don’t all need to sit at the same table, but we’re all for damn sure in the same lunchroom, if you know what I mean, so really, we might as well, in the end. Besides, sharing your lunch is better, anyway—- but that’s a different post entirely.

Who always made you feel seen? Welcomed? Safe and wanted? I want to hear your stories of love and acceptance; it seems like a damned fine thing to collect in the comments. this week. I’ll give as good as I get, Scout’s honor. Let’s share.

Speaking of sharing: now that I’ve survived my first week as a Craftsy instructor (and it’s completely fine!), I wanted give a little back to folks, too. Here’s a half- price link to my class for my readers, with my love and gratitude for all the support. 

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  One thought on “in which there is always room at the table

  1. April 25, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    I don’t know if this story really qualifies, but I want to put it out into the universe.

    I can remember as far back as when I was 10-years-old and my father had just passed away. Myself and my family were getting ready for his wake. I fought and screamed because everyone wanted me to wear a dress and I loudly exclaimed, “But boys get to wear pants so why can’t I?!” That’s my first memory of questioning my gender. As I started getting older I began to feel more uncomfortable in my own body.

    In 8th grade (I was 13-years-old) I told my school counselor that I wanted to start my freshman year of high school using a male name and pronouns. She connected me with a theatre teacher who I still keep in touch with who happens to be gay. He was the first person to truly accept me for my real self. He was there when I had been bullied, picked up, and beaten up.

    Through out my teenage years I had teachers who were there for me and supported me even though I was a giant pain in the ass to deal with. However, my life at home was very different. My mom kept thinking oh it’s just a phase and you’ll grow out of it. Wrong. At the age of 19, the night before my first testosterone injection, she and I got into a huge fight and I was almost kicked out of my home.

    It’s taken her a long time to come around to me being her son, but now she supports me unconditionally. She even came to my pre-op doctor appointments with me. She has been super interested in the work I’m doing with local gender non-binary youth.

    So. Yeah. To finally have a loving, safe home is spectacular. I don’t have to be someone I’m not. I can live authentically and thrive in my real identity.

    And there’s so much more to this story but I’ve already written you a novel.

    • May 1, 2016 at 1:51 pm

      I’m so sorry that your transition started out that way; just being a queer teenager is hard enough. Theater (and the arts in general) seems like it’s always been a safe space for those of us who need somewhere to go, right? How wonderful that you’re returning the gesture and working with kids yourself now. ❤

  2. April 25, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    I got your class!! So excited.

    • May 2, 2016 at 1:27 pm

      Awww, thanks love! I hope you have fun!

  3. CJ
    April 25, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    Not to sound like an ass kisser but one of my favorite welcoming memories is you. 🙂 I was just starting my chronic illness journey as I was discovering your yarns & to see/read someone who was doing what I loved while dealing with a lot of the same stuff I was going through was so helpful. And yes damnit, inspiring. I got to meet you & Sam at a Stitches South event and I was SO NERVOUS. But you just gave me a big hug and received my praise so sweetly. It meant a lot to me and I am glad you are such a welcoming person IRL & online! 💗

    • May 2, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      I can’t tell you how much that means to me, CJ. There are so many wonderful, random, people who have been good to me over the years, folks who had nothing to gain from it, you know? I really revere those encounters and relationships. Any time I can remember them by making someone else feel the way they made me feel, I’m hitting this super- important, deep- down personal goal. Thank you for saying this, a lot. It really made my day. ❤

  4. April 26, 2016 at 10:57 am

    What a lovely piece!

    My Nana is one of those people who has a way of making everyone feel…profoundly welcome, I guess I’d call it. She can find something to talk about with anyone, and she makes it all seem so effortless. Maybe it’s because I have such a hard time talking to people and keeping conversations going smoothly myself, but watching her in action always impresses me so much. It’s not like she’s got a set formula that she uses for anyone she’s talking to, either. It’s more like she’s just…open. Not no-filters open, but just eminently approachable and kind. She accepts everyone just as they are and can find something good to say about just about anyone.

    • May 2, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      Oh, I think I know what you mean! There are people who are just natural interviewers; they know how to draw a person in and tease out the most interesting stories without any apparent effort. Whenever I see someone who can do this it really does seem like a mixture of genuine interest in folks and honest goodwill— such a wonderful and wholesome combination. You’re so lucky to have her in your life!

  5. April 26, 2016 at 11:50 am

    I am intrigued by the Secular Sabbath. I do celebrate my faith as a solitary practice but the weekend of unplugging, centering, grounding, it’s an interesting idea.

    I went to 12 schools in 11 years. I’ve moved over 40 times. My home life was tumultuous. I’ve been told so many times I wasn’t doing enough, good enough, working to my “potential”, etc. We didn’t have pets, too many moves. I made friends and then we left them behind. I made new ones, etc., yada, yada. By 11th grade, the final school, I had stopped trying.

    10/14/1989 my safe place came into my life with a gaze across a room of medieval dancers. The people in the room made me feel welcome. The person across the room has given me unconditional love for almost 27 years.

    My safe place is laying with my head on Wesley’s chest, listening to his heart beat. If my anxiety spirals out of control that is one of my coping mechanisms. I can feel my heart slowing down from the internal panic, getting into sync with his, my breathing becoming deeper, and my mind calms. If the anxiety is from the shifting spine just the calming down of being there with him sometimes is enough for the muscles to relax enough to shift back where they belong.

    I would like to be better at doing my safe place from within my own self and maybe with time I can achieve that. I’ve been able to do it before and I’m going to work at being able to do it again.

    As you say… life is a journey and trying is good.

    • May 2, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      The effort is everything, right?

      I really enjoy our secular Sabbaths. We reserve this time for us- our long rambles in the woods, text wars with The Kids, playing with the dogs, personal art, lazing about in bed and trying to figure out how we’d fix the world if only someone would let us run things.

      We’ve always been a little greedy about our time off together- messy shiftwork schedules, deployments, that sort of thing will do that to a couple- but there’s something about giving it a *name* that makes it seem a little more special. When Kiddo was little, Sam would frequently work nights, so we’d have “Family Night” on Fridays: we’d do a special activity together (just the two of us), followed by a trip to the local bookstore (one book a piece), then grab takeout to eat with Sam at his workplace for his dinner break. Seems like normal family stuff, but because it had a title, it turned into this Sacred Thing- a tradition, and that’s what our secular Sabbaths are evolving into as well.

      It makes me happy; I want that dedicated space in our lives, and having a tiny bit of structure helps cement it in place. I can understand why most faiths create that room for devotion, home, and family: we need that.

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