Photo: The bush burns, the tree beams, the grass holds up the falling masses. The farmhouse is warm and stands proud among it all, watching another season come and go.
I’ve been sitting with my Quiet Thoughts all week. They came on in three moments and have stuck with me.
The first came with The Uncles on Monday, sitting with them at my favorite little breakfast spot where I’m often huddled in a corner writing or editing. The waitresses all know me, I’ve got a favorite item to order… and I sat there sharing little this and thats about the space and the town. They asked me about the preschool and the kindergarten choices I’ve gotta make next year. I expressed how little I’m looking forward to walking into new spaces, meeting new people and establishing myself in a social group all over again. It makes me anxious and I feel like I’ve only just found my place in the school community I’m in.
Uncle: “Yeah, but you’ll be fine. You’re so outgoing and friendly. It’ll be great. What are you even worried about?”
Me: “Well, being the introvert that I am–”
[uproarious laughter from both of them]
Uncle: “You’re an introvert? Who told you that?”
Me: “Actually, believe it or not, I am. I’m in my own head all the time. I know I present like an extrovert in certain moments, but I’ve actually–”
Uncle: “I can’t even hear that. That’s not even true.”
It’s a funny thing, sharing. You find yourself comfortable and open, so you forget that you’re vulnerable and you put out a little piece of yourself without even thinking about it. Here are two men who have supported me and have watched me grow. I talk to them about stuff I don’t talk to my mom about and often hear about family stuff from them that mom would never tell me because it’s “generational” stuff the “kids” don’t need to know. In other words, I thought these two “got” me. I gave an unabridged answer to a question that I get a lot and usually deeply edit for other audiences. And we couldn’t even get to the meat of it because of this seemingly small, yet important detail. Their reaction to it was seemingly benign and yet significant.
It was a perfect prelude to the second source of my Quiet Thoughts. Standing at my kitchen island while I started dinner, The Uncles sat with pumpkin bread and tea, peppering me with questions. Then came the obligatory “when are you going back to work?” It was more in the form of: “When the boys start school, do you think you’ll go back to the charter schools?” I had an easy answer for that one: “No.”
“But what are you going to do with yourself, then?”
I told them the truth. “I have a lot of options, I’m making sure to make contacts as I go… but to be honest, I really love writing. I write a lot, I’ve submitted a few times. It’s a slog, but I am really giving it a solid effort. I’d really like to make a go at it.” It’s the first time I’ve actually said this to anyone other than my husband, my sister and three very close friends. I’ve got doubts enough myself and don’t need to take on anyone else’s. But these two, my favorite uncles, they’ll get it…
Silence. Nothing. Little boys came in and ran around for a while. I appeased them with a cookie or something. Then we picked back up as if the words were never spoken.
“If there aren’t any charter schools around here, do you think there is a private school that you’d work for?”
It’s funny, Dear Reader, to write this down now. The scene played out and breezed along without much reaction on my part. Dinner was made, boys acted a fool, uncles prattled on… but there was a seed for my Quiet Thoughts there. It’s not the lack of affirmation or expression of support. I don’t need that. It would have been nice, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I think my Quiet Thoughts are about how little I was heard in both moments, the ratio of sharing to actually listening. I don’t know what they got out of my two tellings, but clearly whatever they got wasn’t deemed important enough for a second glance.
Some of us choose to share a lot, while others very little. I’ve found great appreciation for the act of sharing, especially because I live in a world of very shallow relationships and even more shallow conversation. When a person chooses to stop and share, to give a little bit instead of just cruising through the usual small talk, I do my best to honor it. Stories, long and short, are important to me. It is a supreme disservice when the exchange is stymied: by falling on ears that only selectively hear or when shared with another who has no intention of sharing alike.
So when my friend took me on that nature hike on Wednesday morning, choosing to share a special place that she and her sons enjoy, I honored the time by listening and spending time looking for the same beauty that I know she sees. It wasn’t a hard thing to do, the setting downright magical. But at the end of it, as she was saying for the fourth time how much my boys would love it, I sorta stopped and wondered out loud, “do I really want to bring them here? They’ll be such a pain and then…”
“It can still be yours. You can bring them here and it can still be yours. They don’t have to come with you every time.”
I love truth and wisdom. Hers were the answer to the Quiet Thoughts I’d taken to the trail with me. That place, as it is hers, can also be mine, can also be theirs: it can be shared and sacred at the same time, providing something to all parties in different ways, at different times, for different reasons. It can be walked into, walked out of, and interpreted differently every time, yet it is and will always be. So too can be my passions and my story: I can write, I can mother, I can learn, I can grow and I can try, somehow, to transform in this time of my life. I can invite people into the spaces of my passions and pursuits, but they will still be mine, no matter what words are spoken or left unspoken. These are my spaces, trails I’m forging in the forest of my life.
On this chilly day in late October, I hope you are reminded of something that is deep and true, warming you from the inside out. I hope it is wisdom that you can share with someone else, but only after you listen to their story a while. I wish you opportunity to walk in your sacred spaces a while, chasing your passions and pursuits without worry of criticism or admonishment. I hope you share a bit of yourself with someone else, allowing your openness and vulnerability to encourage others to do the same. I wish you time over something hot and steaming: broth created with care, clear and robust, warming the throat and the stomach with goodness. Or perhaps an apple crisp, sweet with sugar and cinnamon, served with hazelnut coffee or a favorite tea. I wish you a walk among the falling leaves, wrapped in something heavy and yet finely made. I wish you sunshine still strong enough to warm your skin and a wistful memory of a season now past. Above all, I wish you time with someone who honors the story you tell and their quiet reminder that you are loved and that your story matters. The life that you live, the tasks you perform and the dreams you chase are seen, known and admired. Even if no one tells you so, it’s true. So keep going.
Until Monday, take care.