In her best-selling book, “Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life”, Glennon Doyle Melton recalls that she “became a writer in order to make connections with people without leaving [her] home.” “My dream,” she confides “was to write something that would resonate with others, but I didn’t want to have to get dressed. This is why so many introverts become writers, because we feel safer socializing in our pajamas without actual people around.” And so it was with me – the quintessential introvert. Don’t get me wrong. It’s never been easy to share my heart with others, even those I’m closest to, let alone to lay my soul bare for all the world to see, as I did with the publication of “Dear Ashley” and have since done almost daily through various social media; but it’s a heck of a lot easier to do it sitting at a keyboard in the solitude of my bedroom than it is (or was!) to think about doing it sitting across the table from another human being. Simply put, when it comes to sharing – and writing – my comfort zone has always been defined by the margins on an 8½” by 11” blank sheet of paper!
That is until July 10, 2015, when, mostly on faith and with a fair amount of trepidation, I boarded a Southwest Airlines’ flight to Denver, the first stop on an admittedly ambitious, 7 cities in 7 days cross-country adventure that I affectionately referred to as a “Social Media Road Trip”. The plan was to visit with three different people in each city, most of whom, up to that point, I had only met on social media. They included: several women in various stages of recovery from eating disorders, whose personal courage, advocacy work and writings I’ve come to greatly admire; the publisher of my book; two cancer survivors; a therapist (or 3); an author (or 4); and what I’d hoped would be a spoken word poet and a documentary filmmaker, who I only recently connected with, but whose spirits inspire me. I also planned to visit my son and my expecting-at-any-moment daughter-in-law and to re-connect with a few friends new and old, who I’d not seen in some time. Like a tourist in a foreign land, I had no idea what to expect, as, I’m sure was the case with those I was meeting. I came only with open arms, an open heart and a smile.
Those who knew me were quick to ask how I’d come up with the idea and why I was taking the trip. I knew the how, but the why was a lot less clear. The idea had its roots in a life-changing encounter that is the subject of an earlier post (http://tinyurl.com/m4sj28r). As for the why of it, maybe it stemmed from my desperate need for a break after 9 long years without a vacation. Maybe I sensed that there was a need among those on my short list, especially those who’ve been struggling of late to see the truth about themselves, that couldn’t be filled with 142 characters, and I was naïve enough to believe that I could offer something more tangible, more personal by showing up – a smile, a warm embrace, a non-judgmental ear, commingled tears, my commitment that I am there for them made manifest. Maybe I wanted to put a face with the hearts I’ve come to know over the past few years. Or maybe, I was the one in need, in need of knowing that I and my efforts to encourage and support matter, of companionship, of a few words of affirmation – of a deeper feeling of connectedness. Likely it was a combination of all of those things – and more.
In the end, it was a taxing week. One that left me physically and emotionally exhausted. But it also was a week I will never forget, of new friendships forged and “old” ones furthered, of laughter and tears, of shared heartaches and healing, of solitude and camaraderie – a week that left me with much to think about and, perhaps, one day, to write about. For now, suffice it to say that it seemed far from a coincidence that as my plane was on final approach to Miami International Airport on Day 7, I would be reading Glennon’s reflections on her own “coming out” adventure – a nationwide tour to promote “Carry On Warrior”. “I knew that folks were good before my tour,” she recalled. “But I’d never had a chance to look all that good in the eye before. That’s the thing about showing up, I guess. You get to look all the good in the eye and cry with the good and hug the good. And that changes you.” And that is what will forever be etched in my mind as well – the look and the feel of the good. Thank you to all who took the time to share a little piece of you with me.