Tonight on NPR, there was a show on people being isolated. I loved a quote from it, "When hearts don't have a place to break, they become harder." The man's words brought to my mind a scene that happened last Tuesday at Playback. Dena had told a story about some of her kids not being willing to see her. We know Dena well, she has told many stories to us that have formed a larger story we treasure hearing. We know all the regular troupe members pretty well as we share with each other a lot of things most groups of friends never tell each other for years. It has formed us into a tight knit group. We are accustomed to tears. We share in our laughter.
After listening to Dena tell us her struggles, we played back her story. She cried. Crying turned to weeping, weeping turned to wailing, and an intimate moment even beyond our normal intimacy occurred. The six others of us walked over to Dena where she sat on the stool and wrapped our arms all around her. Held in the middle of our hug, Dena wept into our arms. From where I knelt in front of her, I could feel her tears falling on my skin. It was a real moment. A moment of genuine love and openness, of a naked soul unafraid to let us see her and the honor of getting that look at who she is.
We are rarely so honest with each other in our culture. We hide away our deepest thoughts and emotions in fear that those around us will not embrace us in our mess, in our pain, in our struggles. We are afraid of falling and finding there is no one there to catch us. We are afraid to find out what we ourselves fear, that we are indeed, in our truest selves, not worth knowing. And so we hide. People don't see who we truly are. We are even afraid to let ourselves see who we truly are. Our hearts don't have a place to break and we harden. But that night at Playback, I learned a different lesson in a very experiential, very physical way. When we take a risk, and share ourselves, wisely, with people who love us, they don't just see the mess. They don't dismiss us because we're in pain. They see the beautiful, the shining light, the immeasurable worth of our souls. They see us as we are - absolute love - and they move closer.
Holding Dena while she wept didn't repulse me one iota. Quite the opposite happened, I was deeply humbled to be entrusted with such an intimate moment with her soul and with the souls of our friends also surrounding us. The divine in me held the divine in her. And though we did not speak of God, it was a moment when we stood face to face with her, with him. Any time such raw love is freely given, we feel God's presence most keenly. We know we are standing on holy ground. It touches us, it wheels us around and shows us what real love is like. If I could give a gift to the world, I would give every person such a community where they feel so comfortable, that they can go in and share their real selves week after week. You don't have to have the story together or even understand it yourself. You just have to share it. The power of the story is beyond you. It touches you, moves through you and sets you free. The fact we deeply listen and honor each person's story is a huge part of that power. You feel heard. You feel that those deep places within you are in fact beautiful and worthy of being heard. Over time, I have learned that if I simply share something that's on my mind with someone I trust, that burden is lightened, even lifted. It normalizes me.
A large part of the power of pain is the fact we hide it away and are afraid of what it really looks like. If we pull it out, face it, bring it into the light, and share a hard or embarrassing thing with another person, we find it's not as awful as we thought it was. We might even be able to pick it up and start taking it apart to work through it. Seeing another looking at our pain and declaring it and us worth loving, we react as we would toward the warm sun, we turn our faces to the light and begin to agree, yes, perhaps we are loved and we begin to love ourselves.
Most of the time, it is hard to see God as we imagine God to be. But we are made of God. When we love on someone, God is there showing herself. When we hold someone in pain, God has wrapped them in his arms. When we deeply listen to someone else's story, God's ears are open. We can be that light, we are God's love. The experience in communing in that endless love gave me a glimpse of how much power really is in God's love and how much power there is in us. While we must let each person walk their own journey, we can each live as a light of love, a being of light reflecting back to them the light of who they are. We can encourage them to share their stories, we hold them with gentleness and grace, we look at them in divine love. We are the hands and feet of God and being so, we find this mystical force reflects back on ourselves, that the love we extended to the other came back and embraced us.
Thank you Dena and Salem Playback Theatre for giving me your blessing to post such an intimate moment between us. You are an amazing tribe.