A Thread So Strong


Ever feel so cranky you want to get as far away from yourself as possible? Ever look at the headlines and burst into tears?

Thinking of people I’ve come to adore and care deeply about, from Queensland to Kuala Lumpur to Canada, from Tokyo to Amsterdam to the Galilee, from Zululand to Tanzania to London, from Sea to Shining Sea. When I woke up from an afternoon nap today and saw the news about a suicide attack in the Istanbul airport, this was my first thought. I looked up at Mani, who was reading next to me, and told her how my heart is filled with people all over the world. Good people.

Really, really good people.

Which begs the question: Who are these other people, the ones I clearly don’t know — or at least don’t know I know? Those who intend to do harm. Those who hate. Those who intend to kill. Whether they are operating alone or as part of unimaginably organized forces, how can I keep from writing words like “other people” and “they” when I have no faces, no names, no understanding of what this is? It is that foreign to me.

Tears sprang up. My cycle is coming close, I reminded myself. Always a crash, however short-lived, before I bleed. And the weekend, the gorgeous weekend with seven women spanning three generations writing and sharing and being vulnerable, being gloriously, wonderfully human — showing up, armor melting, snot-and-tears crying of what one writer called “healing tears,” and so much laughter, so much kindness — this weekend of unfurling was like heart tenderizer, leaving me that much softer and more available to my own aches and unresolved questions.

For the past two days, I’ve been hibernating a bit: A uniform of yoga pants and one of my favorite UmberDove t-shirts (which I splashed bleach on yesterday during a kitchen cleaning fit but refuse to throw away because I love it too much), coffee and chocolate after a few weeks off sugar, and barely leaving the house except for a short evening stroll into the softest summer air and a quick drive to the corner store for a gallon of whole milk when we ran out tonight.

Hibernating for a few days in late June seems like just the thing — especially tonight, when suddenly the world became too much and I couldn’t quite feel my place in the family of things, as Mary Oliver writes in “Wild Geese.”

My place must be this simple. Yours, too. Here we are, wherever here is. Wherever “is” is and wherever “are” is. Here we are, no matter what atrocities occurred today. So many really, really good people are being at this very moment. And I’m beyond being concerned with whether that sounds Pollyanna-ish because it’s so phenomenally true and it’s me at my most naked. It’s the water I will swim in all summer, it’s the leaves I’ll crunch and kick and rake and jump in in the fall, it’s what will keep me warm when winter comes, and it’s the miracle of next year’s blossoms borne from this year’s compost.

“I’m a connection junkie.” This is what one of the retreat participants shared during our introductions Friday night. And I knew exactly what she meant.

For years and years, for all those years I knew what it felt like on the inside of me but struggled to translate and find its external application in the world, there was one clear knowing that never wavered: I wanted to connect with people, lots of people, people all over the world, with my writing.

And in the coming true of this, I find my place. I have my little snit and cry and I shake off my shit mood in a hot shower. I strip down to seen here in words, then in real life as I climb into bed with a wife who’s as invested in me shining brightly as I am in her radiance. Thankfully, she also thinks my crankiness is adorable. I mean, how fucking lucky is that?

The mood will pass, this much I know. But the connections we have — the really, really good people all over the world who are kind, who are just living life, not a one of us having things “more figured out” than another, coming together to connect, to open up, to write and practice and show up and not have to be good enough because we were born good enough — it’s this that saves me from the worst of myself, time and again. And while the connections themselves may also be impermanent, there is a thread so strong I swear you can probably see it from space that binds us to each other.

If you’re ever shaky, reach for it and give it a tug. I’ll do everything I can to tug back. Each word, each of your voices and faces and names — a touchstone, smooth or faceted, opaque or transparent — is precious to me.

5 thoughts on “A Thread So Strong

  1. wildchild47 says:

    Can there be anything more than “connections?”

    Everything else, all the sidelights, the accompanying dishes, the treats and surprises, they add a certain spice and flavour, but ultimately, it’s about being able to reach others, if not literally able to look them in the eyes because of distance, space, place, time, then at least, to be able to resonate, reach within, and share without – because in the midst of chaos – and life is constant chaos where we try to anchor ourselves in some way – we need, now, more than ever – to be real, honest, open.

    Beautiful post :)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dana says:

    Oh, I am relate to this Jena, as a fellow connection junkie and heartbroken over the world’s seeming heartlessness despite my own Pollyanna-ish hope that there are as many good as bad, and, well, hopefully lots more. I love the metaphor of the thread. Thank goodness for it. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. alysesweeney says:

    Another gorgeous post, Jena!

    One of these days I’m going to join your unfurling retreat.

    I’m sitting on my patio about to empty some of my anxiety into my notebook. My son (14) was accepted today to the Portland Timbers youth soccer academy. He’ll be living there (somewhere) and going to school (I researched the public schools today) and my husband and I will visit him about 10 days a month. It’s a phenomenal opportunity for him, and what he’s been working toward. Now that it’s happened, the reality is setting in.

    Thanks for listening. It feels good to share–and give you a taste of another home life, as I feel fortunate to know many delicious details of yours. 😊

    And though I’m not quite sure when I’ll get to MA, as our travel will now revolve around OR for these high school years, know that I’m with you in spirit. I love reading the glorious experience your participants are having, and I love watching your writing community grow. It connects me to my own community and the powerful effects of communal writing. I’ve just added a monthly daytime salon to the 2 monthly evening salons and today I began organizing my notes around the new 10-part series that begins in September. How lucky are we to be able to do what we do!!

    Omg, a gorgeous indigo blue hummingbird just dropped in and stared at me for a spell! These in-your-face encounters always frighten me a bit (will it peck at my eye?) but also exhilarate me. 😜

    Lots of love, Alyse 🍃


    Liked by 1 person


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