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A few years ago there was a Kleenex commercial that I absolutely loved. The Kleenex spokesperson would be on some random street corner in some city, although I always imagined it to be New York, with a bright blue couch inviting people to have a seat and talk about life. Inevitability people would share, tear up, and need a Kleenex. Now I didn’t love the commercial for its sleek blue couch, or its sly tear jerker ways, it was the conversation. It was the providing space where people were to talk about who they were, are, and or hope to be, that made me smile.
As I walked back to my hotel from Macys the other night my heart was full of the kind of goodness that only comes with having had good conversation, sharing my heart, my recent fears, and the little bit of audacity I had to hope in the midst of challenging circumstances.
I was in DC for much of the week attending the National Mentoring Summit. My hotel was right downtown, three blocks from my second favorite museum, and mere blocks from my favorite shops like Anthropologie, Lou Lou Boutique, and Zara. Not to mention I was pretty much in foodie paradise, and to prove it, a friend in the DC area whom I had not seen in years decided we should meet at a delightful Dim Sum restaurant, Ping Pong, in Chinatown. Our stint at the restaurant was nothing short of 3 hours, and had schedules permitted I am sure we would have conversed even longer.
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Our conversation ping ponged from life at her newish job, and life at my newish job, the men were were or weren’t dating, our blessed mother’s, life on the other side of 29, and purpose. Purpose perhaps was my favorite part of the conversation. She shared how she’d arrived at hers and that while completely unexpected and unintended she was loving every part of it. I could tell. Her face lit up, as she reminded me of her previous life as an architect. I nodded in remembrance. When she shared the layoff happened when she was out of the country on vacation my jaw dropped. I did not remember that. She went back to school. I remembered that, and she was heading towards the social sciences. In fact post graduation she found a nice non profit gig. I remembered all that too. But then last year when the 200 plus girls were kidnapped in Nigeria she became angered, passionate and moved to action. I watched her action from a distance, in my own action of relocating.
She organized a protest in front of the Nigerian consulate. I nodded, recalling the vivid pictures capturing the protest. I never knew she was the woman behind organizing the 300 plus people, coordinating the timing of the protest in the US with protest in other cities nationally and internationally, designing, distributing, and covering the cost for the t-shirts for the protest. I had no clue she was fielding interviews with Fox and CNN to share why this issue was a huge issue and spoke to the corruption and lack of accountability within her Nigerian government. On camera is where she came up with the non profit she’s now running with two other women by night, as she keeps her 9-5 by day (for now)-Act for Accountability.
An interviewer asked for the name of the group and she said “We’re just here holding our government accountable. We will act for accountability.” And that’s how the name came to be.
Needless to say I was wowed. But that wasn’t all. She talked about her plan to launch into Act for Accountability full time and how excited she is even with funding challenges at the current time. She talked about how fulfilling this was for her and that it gave her the source of abundance she was convinced God meant for us to have. “Ok, your turn,” she said.
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I caught her up on my life and I didn’t hold anything back. Not even all of the energy I had been putting into what I knew was depression. “Well that’s good,” she said. Did she not hear me I wondered? I said I was exhausting myself not to get to the point where I gave way to not wanting to get out of bed, said “hell no” to hygiene, and could care less whether or not I got fired for simply not showing up to work and not calling out or letting anyone know. “I’ve been there.” she commented and reached for the crab filled dumpling.
So she did hear me. I sighed. Relieved mostly. I did not want to have to mentally shank her for feeding me some “It can’t be that bad look on the bright side the sun will come out tomorrow” Annie crap. Not that I wanted a pity party either. I mostly wanted to be seen and heard, acknowledged, because that was becoming less and less a part of my reality. I already knew things wouldn’t always be this way.
“What are you doing for you?”
I stared blankly at her. I wasn’t prepared for the question so I hadn’t prepped my answer. I fished for one and I managed to repeat how I was doing all I could to not succumb to a debilitating depression. Clearly that wasn’t good enough?
“But what are you doing to give you life. I noticed you weren’t blogging as much.” Gosh darn it. I noticed too.
I told her about keeping up with my travels, including a lovely look key weekend in San Francisco two weeks ago. I also knew that wasn’t the most sustainable way to take care of my either.
“You’re unhappy. I don’t blame you. So what are you going to do to get to that abundant life? Doesn’t sound like this is the end all be all for you. But in the meantime what’s the plan?”
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So, I told her about something that I’d started to dare to hope about and imagine when I was in San Francisco. She started to beam. As I talked about it I didn’t come up with one excuse, barrier, or challenge. Not because I didn’t think there wouldn’t be any, I simply didn’t care. What I’d dreamed up was the culmination of all that I knew myself to be and to have been made for.
“I like it. So what are you going to do this week to keep the momentum going?”
I could have sworn I was the one with counseling background. Nonetheless I told her my plans for the next month, being that the only travel intended would be to close on my house once sold; I would have plenty of time to devote to this. She even started brainstorm things for me to consider, online resources, etc.
“And have fun. What’s something fun you are going to do?”
I stalled again. There was the fun I had back in San Francisco. There was the fun I had a few days prior when a certain someone came to DC to visit. I clearly took too long to respond because she gave me the “Girl come on you have got to be doing something fun for yourself” face.
I told her about reading that was no work purposed, but maybe read because of work. I got that “Doesn’t count” look.
“Life’s too short to not have fun, to not be you, to not live Ahyana. You have got to let all this other stuff go and do what you know you were born to do and have fun.”
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We talked about funning this next month. Both agreeing that we could at least make room for something fun in the next four weeks. I totally agreed. She was thinking of trying speed dating. I am still thinking.
The evening wore on and we talked, laughed, ate, and drank until we had reached the time in our day we both knew we had to part ways. She to another engagement and me to Macy’s. Don’t judge me. Macy’s in a city like DC is far different than Macy’s in a place like Spokane. When I did get back to my hotel that night, I was already online looking up some of the things we brainstormed and my little flame of hope was fanned into sustenance.
Honestly, this conversation has been one of several in the past month and a half that has changed my life. It has been the words spoken to and by friends that have helped me in my fragility. It has been words spoken to the strength, life, and joy that these people have born witness to in me that have helped me to focus less on what is and what I can choose to create to rebuild to be. There is power in words, whether floating in our heads or spoken from my mouths. There is power in relationships. There is power in relationships that allow for the exchange of words in in the context of conversation as they can empower us to move even closer to the abundant life which we were indeed created to experience, regardless of the lack that may seem prevalent in our lives.
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Here’s my hope for you this week- experience the gift of conversation. Not an argument, debate, flirting, lecturing, teaching, or talking at or around. Real conversation. Maybe it’s not 3 hours in a restaurant or coffee shop, maybe it’s 30 minutes on a park bench, on the beach, or in bed. Take the chance to be vulnerable and share what’s really going on and what you want to be going on. Listen to what someone else has been working through and what they desire to be the end result. Be challenged by the questions about how you’re creating the change you want to see in your life and be bold enough to ask them what they are doing to create the change they want to see in their life. I’m certain you will both be the better for it. Happy Monday! xxoo