I sat around a fire last night and listened to peoples stories of greatest connection with someone through their art — of a feeling of being seen, or seeing one another.
We talked about what makes a great performance not just ones ability to play music, but to be connected and in feeling with the people around them.
I’ve seen Van Morrison drive his car to the stage of the Edmonton Folk Music festival, not say hello or goodbye and leave before his last song was over because he was so afraid of people — he didn’t touch me, in a way so many greats have in music or poetry or art.
One woman shared an experience she had at Bruce Springsteen.
He came on stage and said, “Are you ready to be transformed?” and she kind of rolled her eyes a little.
After a few hours of Bruce hurtling his body trustingly into the hands of people and touching them with not just his music but his whole being, she was shouting, “I’m TRANSFORMED!”
We decided amongst ourselves that the key to strong art that creates a space for connection between someone in the audience or reading a book is feeling, being present and connected to the world around.
I thought of all the incredible moments of connection I have had.
As an author who shares slabs of her heart with the world for a living, there are many that showed up in my heart as people shared around the fire.
I received an email in November a year ago, a few months after a friend of mine committed suicide.
I shared my grief for months.
I couldn’t share or write anything else.
While in that energy and that pain, I attracted people who were hurting.
I attracted people in my inbox who were living in the same body as I was processing — they could feel me through my writing and because of this it felt safe to reach out.
A woman wrote me an email late one night saying she had tried committing suicide and was going to try again.
I collapsed in my studio in Victoria and rang my rock, Mark Groves and said, “I need you to be my rock” and he said, “I’ve got you. I’ve got you. I’ve got you” as I collapsed in tears and tried to figure out what to say or do.
For so much of my life I believed I could save people, and I now know that we don’t save people, they save themselves.
I wasn’t strong enough in my grief to support his woman, or qualified to do so — I was in my grief. I am a poet, not a psychologist.
I knew that what I could do was love this woman, and let her know she had a place in this world.
I wrote a post online asking the thousands of readers to send this woman strength and love and words of encouragement.
There were hundreds and hundreds of comments from people.
395 people loved this woman, and saw her that night.
“Stay with us…this World is better with you in it.”
“I’ve battled it myself, am still battling it, but it does get better. It’s a long, hard road, but the future is worth it. You just have to hang on.”
“Just don’t quit today. It’s just one day. When you get to tomorrow, that’s just one day too. If it’s so bad you don’t care about the future then stop worrying about the future. Focus on not giving up right now. Each day you don’t give up gives you time. Sometimes it takes time for the fog to clear, or for the weight to lift. Sometimes you can’t force a situation to change. You can’t force yourself to be happy. Sometimes all you can do is just be. Just exist. Time will pass anyway. Just don’t quit today.”
“I was there. I get you. Things can be different. I’m happy every day I’m still here.”
“I hear you, I see you, I love you.”
“Anonymous, please don’t let go now. You are worthy, and valued. Hang in there.”
“If you read this- you’ve got a friend in Michigan. Keep fighting. It gets better, I promise. Sending you all my love.”
“I know you are tired. Tired of feeling so heavy. It takes amazing strength and courage to wake up every day and do it again. There is a Universe of love waiting to share her light with you. Let a little in today and know that we are here. Xoxo. From a Mom that cares.”
“You are cared about and you are loved. Even though you may not feel it now, it’s true. My father took his life because he felt hopeless and lost. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish he were here. Your family and friends feel the same for you…. Even if you don’t see it now. You are loved and treasured.”
“You are an absolute miracle”
“You are NOT alone. As crazy as it sounds there are people in this world that don’t know you but care about you. Keep giving life a chance.”
“Anonymous Girl, I hope you wake this morning.”
“There is a part of you that wants to stay. Let that part of you make deals with your other parts that want to leave. One more day. One more day. Make a safety plan. Your friends and family (though not necessarily all of them) can be your supports. Make a list. Tell them what you need from them. When things get really bad, call them. One more day. You are worthy of love and belonging.”
“We talk about this in our house. We are not strangers to grief. We get it. You are not alone. Our arms are around you.”
“Loving so hard for you dear stranger! We love you, we are here for you. I promise.”
“You are strong enough for life’s weaknesses. Keep breathing. Keep going.”
“Dont give in”
“Please know that you are wanted and needed here. Please stay. You are loved and so special. There are people who adore you and people who haven’t met you yet who will adore you. Hold on to us and these words.”
People offered to jump on the phone with said woman. They told her she wasn’t alone. They shared their own stories of being suicidal. They told her how much they loved her and how badly they wanted her to live on beside them.
I watched them overflow and pour over onto the screen and the next morning with tears in my eyes.
I sent her the link to the post and told her she was loved and supported.
She wrote me back and said she not only read but wrote down every single comment on a piece of paper.
That was one of the most beautiful moments of connection that I have had as a writer.
I felt as if every single person who showed up and loved that woman was a fire fly of bright light that in my grief, I also needed.
It was a reminder that no matter how deeply we love somebody, and no matter if 1 or 1000 voices yell tall to the mountains that it wasn’t my fault–I’m not sure the same thing would of made a difference for my friend who choose to stop living.
We cannot keep peoples hearts beating, but we can love them madly and deeply.
It was a reminder that this little buzzing screen that so many of us pour our hours and minutes into, has strength and force and meaning.
Thank you to everybody who heard and headed the call for support that night — I love you.