We’re excited about our guest post today. Here’s a bit about the writer and then her piece in its entirety:
Catherine Woodiwiss writes on faith, policy, and culture; co-runs a design platform; compulsively joins or builds community networks around shared interests and values; and plays music whenever possible. A chronic “Yes, And”-er, she tells us she is also a huge fan of SPACIOUS, and we’re grateful for that.
For someone who loves conversation, spontaneity, and learning people’s stories as much as I do, I play my own cards fairly close to the chest. I’ll open up to just about anyone, but only when and if opportunities for real connection present themselves. In the catalogue of possible conversational anxieties, misinterpretation scares me the most. Being a bundle of walking contradictions myself, that often seems a real risk.
So it’s been an interesting social experiment, living increasingly out and about in the midst of a long recovery from an accident, with no front teeth and walking with a cane. I’m blessed by friends, a partner, colleagues and collaborators who have rapidly, graciously recalibrated to assess me by what I say or build or write or sing, not for how I look — or, better, had no need to recalibrate at all.
With friends like these, who needs self-consciousness? I’ve had the distinctly luxurious blessing of being able to forget that anything is unusual. When I do interact with strangers, a pre-emptive smile helps. Most people take the cue and don’t mention it. It’s become a fun little game — I hold a very public secret, but I know no one is going to ask me about it. People know something’s up without me having to tell them; and I don’t have to say anything I don’t want to say. All very nice and controlled and safe.
On the other hand, as someone who craves intimacy with others, it’s also lonely and disorienting.
Nevertheless I was comfortably ensconced in my normal cocoon of privacy the other morning when I got a jolt of SPACIOUS in action.
He asked me right away. I’d just clambered into the cab with my cane, clumsily whacking a few things in the process, when he asked how I was feeling. “How did you get hurt?”
It was a curiosity quickened beyond politeness. He was genuinely interested. I told him. To my surprise, he moaned — the kind of moan only a survivor can make, and any other survivor will recognize. He recently lost his father in a car accident, he told me. Tearing up, he thanked God profusely and loudly for my survival, enough times to make up for all the days I’d forgotten to do so.
“You are living. Don’t get too worried about anything else. I had to say goodbye. You didn’t.” I agreed. I knew this.
“Don’t get caught up in ‘why me’ or ‘why am I alive, what does this mean.’” He was getting emphatic, urgent. I listened closer.
“That’s all heavy. It’s so heavy. Be joyful. You are alive, that’s all you can think about right now. Thank God you are alive.”
I started to wonder how I lucked into an interaction with a stranger who not only asked but understood; and if he was speaking to himself as much as to me. Our conversation was tinged with a relief that bordered on joy.
As we pulled up to my house, he gave me his personal number and told me to call him as a friend for a free lift anywhere, anytime. “Anytime. Please let me do this.”
My social boundaries usually result from anxiety that if I reach out, s/he/they will exclude me, hurt me, let me down. My rational self asks, “Do you really think that will happen?” My risk-averse self says, “I don’t want to find out.”
What I love about the SPACIOUS model for life is its insistence that we acknowledge our social boundaries, yet learn to ignore them. SPACIOUS asks us to consider seeing each other as fellow members of the same community, one which invites us to blithely step over our comfort-lines into the richness of surprise communion. When we learn to ask, we also learn we can tell.
I haven’t called “my driver” yet. I have every reason to think his offer was genuine, even that it would be an equal kindness to him to take him up on it. But I’m more comfortable passively marking his kindness than testing if it will hold.
His offer is a SPACIOUS challenge to me: be courageous enough to find out.