There's a person who reads this newsletter and scoffs (but keeps reading).
I learned about him last week. Rather, I learned about his propensity to read and scoff (but keep reading).
It rattled me, briefly, knowing that someone I didn't even know was reading is reading what I write here, and scoffing at it...because I'm human, I doubt myself and fall prey to my deepest insecurities just like anyone else. And just like anyone else, I'm prone to forgetting what's my business (showing up here every Monday) and what's not my business (basically everything else—but especially how I'm perceived). I say 'briefly' because it wasn't long before my mental gymnastics yielded the thought: But he continues to read, week after week? And then: He continues to read, week after week.
See, it's that last bit that secretly (okay, so it's no secret now) delights me. The fact that he keeps reading, that he can't stop himself from seeking out my latest, perfectly imperfect missive on curiosity and play, shifting the habits that aren't serving us and reframing the situations and circumstances that, at first pass, seem hopeless.
He's still reading.
Early on in the writing of Weekly Findings, I decided that a way to get over my stage fright was to have one person in mind as I sat down to compose my message. Usually, it was my dear friend Hannah, with whom I've always had a really robust and fun email correspondence. I'd pretend it was just Hannah on the receiving end of my thoughts. And the thoughts would come easier.
Some months later, I'd sit down and imagine the reader-friend I've never met who hits 'reply' with regularity and shares bits of her life with me. I'd imagine her because she's brave, and because she, too, is trying to make meaning of this life.
These days, it really depends. Sometimes I'll entertain a question with a client and find that the very same topic surfaces in an email exchange with someone else (serendipity for the win), at which point I'll write for both of them as if over coffee and bear claws. Other times, I indulge myself and pretend I'm giving a TEDx talk to a bunch of friendly pillows I've lined up on the bed in our hotel room.
Point is, I've never imagined writing to a resistant reader, to someone who reads and scoffs (but keeps reading). I've never stopped to think what that kind of person most needs to hear. I've never considered where he's at in this experience of life, and why it is that he feels compelled to mock the very thing he seeks out every week, and how I might be someone who's capable of illumination, someone who asks enough questions that she's bound to land on the one right question from which a distinction will emerge for him. And he will be changed.
I'm willing to write to that reader. I'm willing to write for that possibility.
I'm also willing to accept that, in some cases, haters are really just haters. No more depth to it than that.
The name Helen is Greek for 'shining light.' Also, 'the bright one.' Likely from ‘ελενη (helene), which is 'torch' or 'corposant.'
I'm not Greek, but my being a Helen is no accident.
American poet Emma Lazarus wrote "The New Colossus" in 1883, to raise money for the construction of the pedestal of the State of Liberty. You know the sonnet, I'm sure you do. Still, here it is, resonating like chimes for me this morning:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Lifting my lamp to the reader who scoffs (you're always welcome here),
Notes from the week of July 24
+ Leslie Jamison's gorgeous book of essays, The Empathy Exams
+ Amy Leach's whimsical gold, Things That Are
+ clouds, but from above (on my flight to Charlottesville, VA)
+ my favorite crinkle cookies from Hot Cakes
+ an eraser shaped like sushi
+ the perfect tree-lined street in Waynesboro, VA
+ Hannah, Bonnie, & Olivia
+ Jacqui, Will, & Lincoln