“the most important thing to do is really listen.”
i am flying home tomorrow.
just writing that word,
brings a funny pressure to my throat
and water to my eyes.
six weeks away has been a very long time.
london is tremendous.
and sometimes, it can be hard to hear, here.
in eight days i've experienced:
the london underground
cab drivers with “the knowledge”
gordon’s wine bar
tate modern museum
st. paul’s cathedral
national portrait museum
royal albert hall
the london philharmonic
victoria & albert museum
columbia road flower market
and the super-politeness of englishmen & women.
but to be clear, this week has
been the easiest part of my trip.
doing too much.
forgetting to breathe.
forgetting to be patient.
forgetting to allow.
to my body.
expectations are sneaky bastards.
just when i thought i didn’t have any for london,
things stopped going the way
i expected them to.
there are 8.4 million people in this city.
(and i am an introvert who prefers quiet space)
the fantastic apartment i rented in trendy east london,
was also rather street-sound-loud, bare, & echo-y.
tiny bugs appeared on my bathroom floor.
the bed was hard.
my feet hurt.
my hips hurt.
i missed paris. i missed seattle.
early in the week
i met with a remarkable woman
for this project.
she inspired me.
and, the way i felt after meeting her
what i had expected.
it took me all week to sort it out in my mind,
even though i am pretty sure my heart knew right away.
she’s a writer for
a national newspaper,
an international magazine,
and british television comedy shows.
she has recently written publicly
(and extremely courageously)
about her past experience
with intimate partner abuse,
how she left,
how it affected her,
how it affects all of us.
and her piece
by a major international news outlet.
hundreds of people wrote to her
and thanked her
and told her
“it happened to me, too,” or
“it is happening to me, now.”
she is also a musician,
a velvety smooth vocalist
with a new album
that is being released
later this year.
she is also a single mum
with a vibrant, energetic, happy
three-year old girl.
she is also gorgeous,
both physically and in spirit,
with light that shines out
through her eyes
and her smile.
easy to connect with
she has big dreams that involve helping
disadvantaged children feel loved, and thrive.
and, she manages life with mental illness.
yes, mental illness.
she’s written publicly about this aspect of her life, too,
which is incredibly brave.
especially here in the u.k.,
of mental illness
is even worse than in the u.s.
once you go public about having it,
forget about ever getting a normal office/desk job here.
just forget it.
even if the truth is
you are managing your condition
and living your life beautifully
and producing more inspiring work,
and helping more people
than most who do not live with mental illness
but still, we do this.
we play keep-it-away-from-me.
alcoholics in remission,
so many more.
it’s fear, of course.
what can we do about it?
i don’t really know.
but this week
i stood twenty-five feet away from the entire
london philharmonic orchestra
in the opulence of the royal albert hall
with 6,000 others around me
who had all come
and to experience
of hearing something
live and real.
i closed my eyes near the end of gustav holst’s “the planets”
and thought how beautifully and magically the violins sounded
just like human voices
floating down from heaven,
as if angels were singing
at the outer edges of our solar system,
when i opened my eyes,
i saw the violins were not actually playing,
and that exquisite sound
gracing my ear drums and touching my heart
by human voices,
floating down to my ears
from the highest box in the hall
where they sang,
hidden from sight.
i think when we stop to really listen,
and trust what we know
in our hearts,
what is real.
i think when we are able to listen in this way to
someone who faces different challenges than we do
(rather than stigmatize)
what happens is
we meet with incredible potential
this, of course,
is what our world
to pretend like thriving means
always having a clear path,
all triumph and no defeat,
all pg life stories and no r-rated problems,
all manageable stresses and no unsolvable conditions.
all simple explanations and no complexities.
because that is just not how it is.
even the brilliant ones.
(oh, especially the brilliant ones)
stigma is fear-based,
but splendor lies in listening.
we just have to trust what our hearts feel,
because this is how we hear what is real.
just like my heart knew i was hearing angels,
and not violins.
thank you, london.
and until we meet again,
i will be listening.