Choosing Curious

One of the most helpful tools I’ve had over the past month is curiosity. I know that it can be off-putting to say “why” all the time, but even if I don’t say “why” I’m still in the position of: what can I learn? What can I discover? What is the story that is hiding in this exchange? What is the true thing that is yet to be found here in this conversation? 

I know that I am smart. That I have had a whole lot of education and reading and learning and that I am fairly good at teaching and preaching and facilitation. And I also know that I do not know the details of this community. 

I’m working on it. I’m spending a lot of time in conversation. Curiosity is the position from which I am aiming to have all of my conversations. 

People really are interesting. Like. Really. And I’ve spent so much time in the recent past not being able to talk to new people. Or really any people. And so I’m getting a lot of people time in. 

It’s making this introvert learn some new limits. And finding new places for spending spoons. And dropping things that were spending ones that I didn’t realize I had to spare. 

But in this all, I’m staying curious. 

I mean, sure, soon I’m going to have to jump off the deep end of creating a project and writing seventy pages of theological ground work. (Maybe eighty, I’m not sure). 

One of the things that I find really curious about being this kind of curious—is that the way that someone tells you a story—tells you nearly as much about the storyteller as it does about the story. 

I’ve got a story I’ve heard seven times, and I have heard at least seven different versions of it. Sometimes even the same narrator will have a different narrative the next time around. 

I’d have missed it if I wasn’t so curious. 

I’m working at braiding all these stories together, so that I can see the picture as widely as possible. Of course, my own perspective will also have a bearing on how I hear and interpret the story, but that is one of the great things about being a storyteller… I get to tell the story anew, a new way, and shape the telling of it the next time around. 

And even then, I need to remember to be curious to hearing the way that the listener reflects the story back to me, so that I can keep learning. 

Curious. Even.  

Generating Nostalgia

Every so often I will listen to the radio so I can find new music. I usually listen in times of transition or in the summer, which is its own transition, or when I’m feeling impatient or hopeful.

And so this summer, as we moved and I’m driving the not-kid car, which doesn’t have a way to connect to my phone, I’m listening to the radio, because I want to hear something I can dance to. 

And this year, I was not disappointed. Sure, there are some songs on pop radio right now that are downright depressing in how they consider relationships and usefulness. But then there were two songs that caught me. I heard them at least a week apart. And then I realized, after looking up the second, that the first was from the same artist, from the same album, as well. I love finding songs this way.

This is how it happens. I listen to a song, and then I through listen the entire album (facilitated now by spotify), and the whole time I’m just grinning, listening to songs that are wholly new and hilarious and wonderful. And now I’ve got my favorite five songs, the theme music for the summer. 

Now any time I want to remember this summer—this time we moved to this house that we bought, this room I painted in cerulean blue, this time of beginning work after five years of caring for the kids, this time when I finally started my full connection work, this new new new feeling of being in the right place at the right time—I will be able to listen to these songs and know exactly how I felt right now. 

I am generating nostalgia in the moment.

I love new music for this.

I like the songs I’ve learned before, the songs I know by heart, but I also love learning new songs. Songs that surprise, that use elements of the past and sound wholly new and fill me with joy when I hear them. 

Give me new music every time. 

And the old. 

And let me hear them together, the new, the old, the familiar, the novel, the surprising, all of it.

Let me dance and sway and discover a new beat.

Because that’s what I want to do, is dance. Dance and find a rhythm in my body that echoes the beating of my heart and the pumping of my blood and lets me clap and stomp and move so I can remember I am alive. 

For the curious, these are the songs… Way Less Sad and Bang by AJR.

open ears

I have had more in person conversations with people outside of my family in the last week and a half than I have had over the last sixteen months. 

I truly believe that ministry is based on relationships, and I am doing my level best at practicing it. People love to share. People are hungry to tell you their story, even if it is the happy version of that story, because sometimes the telling of the story is also the crafting of it. But still. Listening matters. 

And I’m hearing the stories. 

I had a woman stop me in the grocery store and share with me for twenty minutes. I get this all the time. I am a sponge or magnet or glue for stories. I’m the heat signature for the tracking device. 

Its become so common that I get surprised when stories don’t overflow. When my norm is barely prompted outpouring of the deepest past and part of someone, when I encounter someone who is not eager to spill, I forget the prompts. What was easy becomes monumentally difficult. 

I’m remembering to stay curious. 

I’m reminding myself to stay curious. 

And in the midst of staying curious, to also allow and receive nuance, to hear the story behind the statement, to not fall into the trap of assuming that a single decision point is the defining part of the whole person in front of me. 

If only because I don’t want that done to me. 

I’m in this strange space of having five years of paid employment and ten years since I finished school… ten years of conversations deeply embedded in church without the performative or compensated part of it. 

And I wonder how that changes how I listen. I hope that the ten years have changed me. Rather, I know they have… I could go and read what I was writing right as I finished and see what changes have been wrought in my perspective. 

It makes me wonder what the next ten years will bring. What stories I have yet to hear. What heartbreak I have yet to sustain. What transition I have yet to navigate. 

How many more conversations I get to have. 

I am looking forward to listening and learning. 

In Threes

We did it again. We hit a triple major transition all at once and we are still in the middle of it.

Third time now, after ten years of marriage, and I’m counting the summer we got married as one of those super transitions. 

Something that has been going on this time around is the feeling that I’m behind. Behind what, I’m not quite sure. It feels like it is the end of the summer, somehow, and I have to keep reminding myself that it is still the beginning of July. I think it has some to do with missing the cadence of Annual Conference, and that mom and dad have been living with us since the beginning of june, so June was soooooo huge that it felt like the whole summer. It wasn’t. I still have all of July to get my feet under me before I have my third year intro to RiOM but it still… still feels full. 

I’m having to remind myself that it’s still beginning. That the expectations here are different than my last appointment. I’m learning the cadence and the feel and honestly I haven’t had my first sunday yet. 

Sunrise walks in the neighborhood

So in the remembering, I’ve been taking walks. I’ve been learning grocery stores (some of which I’ve shopped at before). I’ve been getting things set up in my house and figuring out what goes where and what is still packed and what I might end up storing in the guest room when my guests get their new house at the end of the month. 

I guess it’s made this transition weightier, because my dad retired and my parents are moving up to live in the same state as we are, an hour up the road. And so they are in the middle of a massive transition that is taking two months, essentially, because they don’t close on their house until the end of the month. 

It’s been good. Full. And good. 

This year is is going to feel so different than last year. I wonder in a few years if I will remember much about salisbury besides yoga, having shingles, and that blasted staircase. Good things happed there. I loved our creek in our back yard and our next door neighbor was wonderfully welcoming with her back yard. But half the time we lived there we were in the middle of lockdown. More strict than most of our neighbors because not enough of our neighbors were strict enough. 

So I think that’s part of why I’m so ready for this transition. I am ready to change. I want to change from what our last year and a half felt like. The memories of that house will fade, and we will learn in our new walls, with our new windows, and on our new porch, in our house that is nearly as old as my grandfather. 

And in the midst of the change we will learn our new church, and set new rhythms for our family where I am doing the work and my husband is caring for the kids. And we will celebrate that our kids play with our new neighbors. And the welcome continues. 

settling in to the new office

re-membering

Today is the seven year anniversary of our miscarriage of my first pregnancy. The loss is still there, but it’s not like I need a day off and flowers for it. (Not that a day off and flowers would be sufficient for grief and loss, but… it would be more than I got when I miscarried. Hunh. Anyway.)

trees on my walk

And here is the interesting thing about this anniversary this year. It’s also the last full day of my eldest born daughter’s first year of school. Calendars have layers upon layers upon layers. 

In the years to come I also want to remember last night. Because last night marked an incredible change and neither I nor the other person involved knew it for what it was. 

Last night I hugged someone who wasn’t a family member. 

For the first time since early march 2020, probably Sarah Howell the day I got my first tattoo, I hugged someone outside my family. 

And the main reason it happened is because I said I was moving. 

I was reflecting with a friend recently about how open or not we’ll be with people around us and hugging them. And I told her I was going to be very discerning… and I think that’s true, but I forgot that my discernment is not always what I expect it will be. 

But here is what it means to live in a place where half the time you lived there was during a pandemic. Your neighbors know you because you walk down their street every single day. They will know that you were the one who has the kids who started on your back and they moved to the stroller and now they can walk beside you.

But you won’t know your neighbor’s name because your mind is a sieve for names. But you will know them, and you’ll appreciate how the seasons change and how the porch is decorated for the holidays and how they care for their plants and keep their yard cute and inviting. You’ll remember a conversation you had with her over a year ago about how she retired from nearly 40 years of teaching but didn’t get to say goodbye to her last group of students because they all went into lockdown.

And you’ll stop on the evening walk when you’re by yourself before the sun sets but after the kids are in bed. You’ll say “oh I guess I should tell you that we’re gonna be moving” and she’s like “oh well then I guess we will miss you” and then she’ll ask about your neighbor who lives across the street from you and who they go to church together so they know that your neighbor has incredibly aggressive cancer and you didn’t know exactly what was going on because who knows how to talk about these things when you don’t exchange phone numbers when you arrive and you didn’t know that was what you would need to do because they’re just across the street surely you’ll have a conversation again, you can see into their kitchen from your bed and so she’ll say do you know about her and she’ll still be crying because she’s just said hello and she’s gotten to see her  friend and she’s been there and she still tender and so she will come to you and she will mutter “don’t worry I’m vaccinated” and she’ll pull you into a solid embrace.

A hug that lasts five or ten or twenty breaths. 

And she’ll go back to talking to her neighbors and her husband, and you don’t know her name. And it will occur to you as you begin to crack as you walk past the magnolia that you see every day that this was the first hug you’ve shared in fifteen months from someone who’s not in your family.

And you’re leaving in less than a month and this. All of this. Happens the night before the seventh anniversary of your miscarriage. 

And maybe the hug was just as much for you as is was for her. 

tattoos and why I’m ok sharing a hug again (tattoo by mallory blaylock)