I was student council president when I was 16 because I thought it would look good on my college resume and I loved to play the Game of School. I quickly discovered it was really difficult to get teenagers to do anything. I believe it fostered my love of being on stage, wearing strange hats, and doing anything I can to get people to listen to important messages that make our communities healthier.
Part of being the most entertaining leader of the last frontier (not an easy job next to Sarah Palin and Don Young) was decorating for graduation. If this was not done well, our class would answer to the seniors who were experiencing the celebration of the longest accomplishment of their lives.
What I'm saying is I felt a lot of pressure that embarrassing dance moves wouldn't help.
The day of the ceremony I had all the decorations there, people ready to set it up, and pizza I had promised to get them there. I dispersed the troops around the auditorium, but one of them stayed in front of me holding a bag of balloons. It was then I realized I had no helium. Where does helium even come from? Party planner was not listed on my job description as StuCo President (Novice Entertainer).
I imagined the seniors walking across a stage lined with drooping balloons, as if we were saying their future was weak and lifeless. Ouch. I am a resilient woman, though, so I figured out I could simply go to the party store or Safeway and get a tank. No problem.
When I say the party store, I mean THE party store because when you live in a small town in Alaska, there are limited options. THE party store didn't have THE helium tank available and neither did THE Safeway. I imagined a group of freshly graduated teens cutting off the strings of limp balloons and hitting me with the inanimate rubber for failing. I was out of ideas.
With some super-heroine entrance came Deb. Deb was a woman who had been in my life longer than I had memory, but her child was not involved in this project. The important thing about her at that moment was that she cared about my well-being/success, she thought of me, and she saw me as capable and loving, even though it was probably that at 16 I had never considered my relationship with her once.
This week I got to talk to Deb. It has been years since we have spoken and she shared about her life, her family, asked about my happiness, told me she felt proud of me, and bought my book. I remembered through this interaction that our influence is vast and humans connect and care together for much longer than we often feel.
As I felt the sweet support of reconnecting with Deb, I received an email from Mark Manson, who is my favorite blogger and best-selling author. I had reached out to him and asked advice about publishing deals and he responded less than 24 hours later with encouragement and action. Even a person whom we admire (okay, I was fangirling) from the distance of a best-selling list could show up to support us at any moment. I was talking about Mark when I received his email, which means we were both thinking of each other at the same moments, and that kind of connection with those we have never met is the perfect example of the power of humanity and care.
At graduation that year long ago, Deb showed up to support the community, found out I didn't think through my noble gas needs, and saved me from the imaginary public flogging. I believe she found a helium tank from THE Helly Hansen store, where scuba divers stored their equipment, found someone with a key and delivered the tank that saved my gas (get it), as well as the beauty of the ceremony.
Holidays can feel lonely and if you are like me, you have experienced some full of family where you felt invisible and unloved, some alone on the couch eating stale Fritos and salsa, and some at non-relative's homes feeling slightly uncomfortable.
Here are some reminders as we head into the season:
There is no right or wrong way to celebrate or not celebrate any day of the year
People you haven't spoken to in years think of you (Deb)
People you don't even know yet support you (Mark)
You think of and love people who don't always feel loved (you can remind them anytime!)
People think of and love you when you don't feel loved
You are important
Change will certainly happen, is not avoidable, and it can hurt
Your feelings are not facts, but they are real
Sometimes when you have had painful experiences or you miss someone special who used to be around the table, holidays can be difficult. You could be having a marvelous time and still feel emotional because it is a change from the dysfunctional family experience of the past, even. You could be feeling alone, but I promise while your feeling is real, the fact is you are not alone. I will be going through my entire email list, client list, and subscribers and thinking about you if you need proof.
Here is a list of people you think of that probably think of you, also: the barista at the coffee shop, your sixth grade teacher, the homeless person you bought a sandwich for the other day, the Uber driver who also loves YouTube videos about cheetahs, your sixth grade student, the driver who stopped at a red light next to you and saw you rapping with loud hand gestures, your dentist, and your dentist's receptionist.
Cheers to whatever human experience you are having this season and may it serve you to reach an outcome of love when complete (or it isn't completed yet).
I love you,
p.s. You know how good it feels to be remembered?
Tell your dentist's receptionist (and everyone) that you thought of them during this season. Spread the fact that we are not alone.