The rasp of a storyteller stood in her voice.
We sat side by side, pursing cups of tea between long fingers as we watched the fire spit and swallow the shards of gold & yellow.
She choice valiant adjectives like strands of pearls to place beside the man she loved, the man she had always loved. A man who picked up a hammer for the first time to feed the mouths of his children. A man who dropped dreams like gum drops to come to grips with the one in the mirror.
“Everything that he once did, the things he was known for, were stripped away. And he really had to learn who he was,” she said.
That’s what happens, I thought. When hardships strike and the ship rocks, that is what happens. When suddenly the accomplishments on paper cannot cradle you soundly across the night. When you realize, for the first time maybe, that they never could carry you. But they could distract you. And they could make you think that they were the things–the very, very things– to fill you like watering cans with goodness & value & worth in this world.
I walked away from the coziness of our tea date thanking the gods of conversation for bringing us together to talk & whisper over the deeper things in life.
I walked into the darkness of the roadside, to fumble with keys, and buckle myself in, and think a little longer about who I am in this world. And what parts of me have I wanted to shed like skin. And what inches & angles of me would I be proud to tell a slew of children about one day. The Ones Who Call Me a Word So Sacred as Mama.
I felt the whispers closing in around me, catching my breath with their conviction. Know who you are, know why that matters. All the whispers I have never stayed quiet long enough to hear when Facebook can give me my instant validation & Twitter can remind me that I am worthy of followers. No, I never hear the conviction when I go to sleep with knees still soggy from trudging in the Muds of Other People all day, the ones who assure me that I have weight in this world. That I matter. That I fit. That I won’t float away tomorrow.
We need to know who we are in all of this.
And maybe I am being too pushy in including you with my sentences but I know that I need to know who I am in all of this– not what I do, not who I know, not the recommendations beside my name or the accolades that stack like ornaments on the stronger elm branches. We need to be stronger than those things, fiercer in finding other things. We need to know who we are… and what that means to the world.
Like if tomorrow we are to drop anything we have ever done by the roadside. Like if tomorrow we are called to survive on who we actually are when the world stops watching. Like if tomorrow I will stroll right up to you and not think to ask, So What Do You Do? No, not that. But who the heck are you? And what does that mean to people? And does it make your stomach turn or are you grateful for that person in the mirror? And have you tried to change? And are you fixing things now? And what are you cluttering up your mouth with to keep from saying, “This is me. Broken, yes. Learning, yes. Trying, always. But this is me. And I wouldn’t want to slip into the skins of anyone else. Because there is a reason for me. Yes, there is a reason for me in this world.”
You see that last line? That is the hardest part. I am so sure of it. That is the hardest thing to declare in the whole of this world… that we think there is a reason to be alive in this world. That we believe there is a reason why we were created from dust & bones to bring something to this world that was not here before us.
You are called to be a brick.
When someone comes to you and asks about you, you are called to be a brick. In the knowing or the not knowing, it really does not matter. In the figuring or the finding or the falling or the failing, you are called to be the brick in the group. Not the walking resume. Not the one who hangs accomplishments in the air. But the brick who says louder than most that you don’t have it all figured out. That you will probably go to a rocking chair not having it all figured out. But that this life is real & fleshy for that reason. To fall a little. And get knocked on your face. And have dignity stripped. And have joy rush in. And that nothing in the span of this time on earth is perfect but you did not come here for perfection.
You came here just to fall & fail long enough and hard enough so that you could be the solid brick for when others fall on you & admit their failures to you.
And you are a layer of the foundation. An intricate layer of the foundation.
And you are a chunk, a building block of history that does not glean a repeat.
And you are solid. You are as as solid as my sureness that there is a mighty, mighty reason for you.