Falling Apart Together

I was riding in the car with my family last weekend and my brother and I were playing around with the idea that commiserating with people is a bit like being “co-miserable”. The act of commiserating with friends when life feels like it is unravelling is a sure way to bond with people.

The stressful moments of dress rehearsals when things are going wrong before opening night.

Seventeen and eighteen year olds who have no idea how to survive their first round of midterms – but get through the allnighters together.

Friends who, due to serendipity or dumb luck, simultaneously go through seasons of grief or heartache and play the role of shoulder to cry on together.

These aren’t particularly easy things to go through, but when we survive them with the support and love of friends we are able to manage better. And sometimes even look on them as happier memories because we shared them with others.

There are some memories that I remember so fondly even though living through them was difficult. There was a day when I was living in Florida when all of the women I was living with were having a bad day. Homesickness, trouble with boys, school stress, the general grind of life; we were all going through our own issues, but we shared the feeling.

We gathered in the kitchen, it started with just a few of us talking while making dinner, but eventually all our roommates joined in. The six of us sat around the kitchen island on bar stools and chairs from the dining room table. We shared mac n cheese, cheesy mashed potatoes and our stories.

These were women who went from perfect strangers to close friends in a matter of months – but a lot of that bonding came from honesty and vulnerability with each other. It came from walking through life together and being able to say when we weren’t having a great day. It doesn’t need to be earth-shattering, but knowing you have permission to say “Can we go get Del’s and drive around listening to Sam Smith in your car?”

We often won’t have the power to fix the problems of the people we love – but we have the ability to show up and create space where it’s okay to not be okay. Where we can admit that life can be heavy sometimes. A place where we can fall apart together – and build each other back up. If that’s not community, I don’t know what is.

The courage to be vulnerable isn’t easy to summon, sometimes it’s 72 hours of a roommate-ship before you’re spilling your biggest secrets and sometimes it’s months of consistent Tuesday night bible studies before we share when we’re having a really bad day.

We build relationships differently with each person we meet, and whenever it feels like you’ve built that appropriate trust, having the courage to be honestly and authentically you is so invaluable.

Since that car ride with my brother I got coffee with a friend and we talked for nearly four hours. It was a beautiful and refreshing feeling to sit with someone and genuinely just share our struggles and triumphs of the recent months. Socially it’s maybe not that common to get so vulnerable with feelings in a coffee shop – but to me that is the heart of friendship; knowing there is space to be honest. Having people in your life who allow you to feel comfortable and supported enough to share the parts of you not everyone gets to see.

There are going to be times in life that things fall apart a bit and life feels like it is unravelling – things just happen and we don’t always have control. But having community makes those times easier.

Maybe it looks like getting Taco Bell in the middle of the night because you can’t sleep, maybe it’s honest phone calls, maybe it’s having the worst day ever and wandering around Target with smoothies, maybe it’s friend’s who come to your rescue as soon as they hear your terrible news, maybe it’s driving around listening to Sam Smith and venting about your feelings, maybe it’s tearing up over London Fogs after you admit to someone who cares that you’ve been having a hard few months – however you cope with the unravelling of life I hope you do it with friends, you can be co-miserable and look back on it later as something that wasn’t so bad.

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There’s Power In Love

I sped read through the new Bob Goff book while I was up at my cottage this weekend. It was that perfect type of cottage weather where you could manage a walk on the beach, but then it would be so chilly and you had the perfect excuse to curl up by the fire, drink multiple mugs of hot chocolate and eat a few Timbits (I’ve been indulging in a lot of Timbits since I got home from Florida) for the rest of the day.

Something that stuck out to me while I was reading Everybody Always was this anecdote about “filling up your bucket” he talked about. It actually comes from a children’s book that teaches the lesson of being kind to others, but what he wrote was “we will become in our lives what we put in our buckets”. He realized he needed to stop filling his Das with pride of impatience and really embody the values he wanted to become.

It got me thinking a lot about the areas in my own life where I know I need to step things up. I want to become more loving, more patient and understanding, more empathetic, more generous – and if I want to become that person I need to embody those things even when it feels difficult.


Something I learned from the experience of falling in love is that when you love someone is the feeling of our capacity to love just gets bigger because we didn’t know we could care about someone so much. I’ve heard parents talk about a similar feeling where you think you couldn’t love anything more than you love your partner and when you have a kid a whole new amount of love wells up in you.

It’s like love surprises us – when we thought we couldn’t love people anymore than we do we find out that we can. When you care about someone like that it’s easier to see the best in them. To be a little softer, or gentle, and forgiving. After all, love is patient and forgiving and kind – isn’t it?

When we realize more and more that we have a greater capacity to love than we ever imagined we can try to use it to not only love our significant others or our friends and families – but all the people in our lives that way.

That instinct to see the best in a person? What if we extended that kind of care to everyone? That deliriously in love feeling that makes you wanna dance to work? Can we find that through loving our neighbours and coworkers and friends as generously as we love our significant others? I think we can. I believe when we learn what kind of love we are capable of we can try to extended that in all areas of our lives.


Another perfect thing to do on chilly cottage weekends? Wake up early to watch the Royal Wedding. I rolled out of bed at 6:55 just in time to catch the start of the ceremony (and as soon as it ended I took a 2 1/2 hour nap with my dog – an ideal Saturday morning if you ask me). The ceremony was beautiful but what has really stayed with me was the sermon made by Bishop Michael Curry. He spoke about love, about how the world could look when we act as if love is the way.

Curry said “There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalize it.” He spoke about how when we are loved it feels like something is right “when you are loved and you know it, when someone cares for you and you know it, when you love and you show it, it actually feels right.” 

Curry went on to say the reason it feels right when we are loved is because “We were made by a power of love. And our lives were meant and are meant to be lived in that love. That’s why we are here.” One of the first times I heard a Brené Brown TED Talk I remember her saying that the reason we are here is connection. I fully believe both of these things. We are here to connect with others and we are here to share love and be loved through those connections. 

The Bishop went on to encourage the congregation and views to imagine what our communities, countries, families, neighbourhoods and governments would be like when love was the way. He said that when love is the way “we actually treat each other, well, like we are actually family”. Sometimes I think it’s easy to get frustrated with people when they aren’t someone we know or we don’t know their story – but easy isn’t what we are here for and when you try to connect with people and be softer with them we can find ways to extend deep love into all areas of our lives.


I don’t usually give homework assignments, really you just reading to the end of one of my posts is great. But this week I will ask you one thing: think about the values you want to be remembered for – and then ask if you are filling your bucket with that thing. I’m going to work on being understanding and gracious and assuming the best about people, and that’s just the tip of my iceberg.

Think about how loving your friend, neighbour or showing kindness to a stranger really can change the world – There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it.

On Forgiveness

This past summer I read an extensive book list I was trying to get through – as the summer came to a close many of the books that once captivated my attention have fallen aside, half read. I guess that’s why they say you shouldn’t try to read eight books at a time. As I prepared to pack my life up into one tangerine suitcase and a black jansport a few weeks ago I tried to fly through the last few chapters of a handful of these books because they couldn’t all come to Florida with me.

Mercy

On of the books I was reading this summer was Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott. It was a little hard to get into, but she had some great lines about mercy, forgiveness, and grace. Sometimes when I’m offended or hurt by someone, in the position of needing to forgive, it’s helpful to have the reminder that:

  1. I’m not perfect and when I mess up I’m hopeful to get forgiveness so it’s important to forgive people when they mess up
  2. Forgiveness does more for you in terms of healing than holding a grudge.

In Hallelujah Anyway Anne Lamott writes; “Mercy is radical kindness. Mercy means offering or being offered aid in desperate straits. Mercy is not deserved. In involved absolving the unabsolvable, forgiving the unforgivable. Mercy brings us to the miracle of apology, given and accepted, to unashamed humility when we have erred or forgotten.”

Lamott suggests that the approach we can take to relationships and our lives is to be gracious at all time, forgiving as often as we can, and compassionate to the struggles and experiences of other. Compassion and empathy are key in relationships because it allows you to feel with others and understand them – added with grace when we mess up and they mess up you create a space for healthy relationships.

Forgiveness

One of the things I’ve learned about forgiveness in my twenty-two years of life is that it gives you freedom to let go of the pain that initially hurt you. The happiest place to live is when we can honour the pain we have endured and move on from it. And forgiveness gives us the freedom to do just that.

When we are still feeling sadness, anger and resentment it means we are holding on to things that hurt us, which is okay while we are processing and grieving.

Another book on my reading list this past year was Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown. She wrote about pain and said “Pain will subside only when we acknowledge it and care for it. Addressing it with love and compassion would take only a minuscule percentage of the energy it takes to fight it, but approaching pain head-on is terrifying. Most of us were not taught how to recognize pain, name it, and be with it” and that when we have been hurt and we are living in our pain “anger and hate are our go-to emotions.”

It is easy to feel angry or hateful, but it does not free you from how you are feeling and it does not let you live in a place to move forward with your life. New opportunities can not come when you are in that place. Learning from failure cannot happen in that place. Reconciliation and the restoration of relationships cannot happen in that place.

New Beginnings

When we are hurt we may be entitled to pain, justified in our hurt, and right to be angry – but it will hold us back from healing. As Brené writes “When we own our emotion, we can rebuild and find our way through the pain.”

Recognizing that everyone makes mistakes and hurts people’s feelings, including you, is okay. Part of the human experience is to feel hurt and sad and to learn to move past those feelings to create new moments for yourself and the people around you.

Yet another author from my summer reading list was the Canadian poet Rupi Kaur, one of my favourite poems she has written is short and simple but it illustrates what I’m saying concisely.

 you look at me and cry, everything hurts

I hold you and whisper, but everything can heal

I wrote about forgiveness this week because its is important to think about everyday, because little offences can throw off a whole day, and big fights can impact meaningful relationships. Sometimes we get hurt and sometimes we accidentally hurt others. But practicing grace and forgiveness gives us hope and space to navigate those things. To see the best in people, to hold onto relationships when it feels hard, to heal our hurt.

The newest book on my reading list these days is one I started recently called Love Lives Here by Maria Goff. She wrote something that stuck me when I read it this weekend, “It won’t be the fires that destroy our lives and our faith. It will be obsessing over not getting burned again that will”. I think it can be easy to get our backs up, worry about getting hurt and not want to let go of the pain from things that have burned us but trust me on this one: mercy and forgiveness let you off the hook to find beautiful new beginnings.

Redefining Strength

When you look up the word strong in the thesaurus you find words like bold, hard, forceful, tough, determined, rugged. We have different images that come to mind, there are the traditional archetypes – but I think it is important to think about strength broadly and the wide range of ways in which we can be strong.

Being Soft & Strong

Have you ever felt like you wanted to be something, or people wanted you to be something, and it was just now true to you? There is a Zooey Deschanel quote I love where she says

“Being tender and open is beautiful. As a woman, I feel continually shhh’ed. Too sensitive. Too mushy. Too wishy washy. Blah blah. Don’t let someone steal your tenderness. Don’t allow the coldness and fear of others tarnish your perfectly vulnerable beating heart. Nothing is more powerful than allowing yourself to truly be affected by things. Whether it’s a song, a stranger, a mountain, a rain drop, a tea kettle, an article, a sentence, a footstep, feel it all – look around you.”

I think it takes strength to be vulnerable, to be open to the world the way Deschanel describes and I think it’s a beautiful way to live. Sometimes I feel the way she describes in the quote – people wanting you to be tougher, colder, or edgy. But I know being true to myself means being soft and loving and looking for the best in people, the things that people sometimes call weak are actually beautiful qualities to posses.

Numbing

In the quote above Deschanel talks about allowing yourself to be affected by things and this is another important point I’ve been thinking about lately. It’s sometimes easier to feel nothing than to feel hard things. But the easy way out is generally speaking not the best. In a class about Trauma and Healing I took last year we talked about how people use different things to cope with stress, but if it gets out of hand we deal with the problem of addiction to escape hard feelings.

Brené Brown talks about numbing in her talk The Price of Invulnerability, about how our society has the most addicted, overweight, indebt adult cohort in history. Why? Because it’s easier to indulge in unhealthy habits than it is to face hard feelings.

And on some level its okay, if you’ve had a brutal day and you need to decompress or get your mind off things thats normal. But avoiding feelings is unhealthy. When we talk about feelings, emotional intelligence, all those good things, I am often aware of the people who think it’s silly, or not that important. I’ve had my share of people tell me going to school and learning to talk about feelings and conflict is “cute”. What if we all thought about how allowing yourself to feel your feelings is hard, facing things you don’t want to takes strength, and it’s not “cute” or “weak” to be emotional.

New Definitions of Strength 

I was talking on the phone the other day with my dear friend Clarice, and she told me she was proud of me for being brave and strong because of my kindness. Now kindness isn’t always perceived as strong, but I was so grateful for her words and I do think we can learn to define these “softer” or “warmer” qualities as strong too.

Last year I heard a sermon that suggested that the definition of love from 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, the one you’ve probably heard read at weddings, could be a character description of what we should strive for. Trying to be patient, kind, humble, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, trusting, and hopeful (to list a few). I love the idea that we could try to encapsulate love, that we could use all our energy and our actions to love others. 

Maybe leaning into pain, being enthusiastic or hopeful, forgiving others, being vulnerable and opening up to things that might hurt are all things that can be re-defined as strong. Maybe patience, kindness, humility, and letting go of grudges and – things that aren’t traditionally what we think of as strong – can be what we strive for. 

Today I’ll leave you with this: it’s okay to feel emotional, it’s okay to talk about your feelings and be open, and you don’t have to feel weak. The qualities that people are sometimes teased for, maybe called “soft”, are symptoms of a healthy person. So if you’re feeling weak, or you’re not as tough as people would like you to be, stay true to yourself and know that you’re able to redefine strength by being warm and vulnerable.