Turns out this love letter was missed by its intended recipient last year, so I am running it again.
I awoke this morning with other plans of what to write about, and then I remembered the date. It is Michael Rowe’s birthday – the young man who had the set the trajectory of my own life’s path; the gay kid who decided to be my baby brother and, in defiance of social norms, demonstrate what love and acceptance can looks like. Nearly forty-one years ago, our unconventional friendship was born and although we don’t connect that often, it continues. On my birthday, he posted the loveliest of birthday wishes to my FB profile, letting the world know what a huge influence I have been in his life. His first novel borrows some of its energy from the tone of that friendship. I decide to return the favor and honor him on Facebook as well, though my post will be lost in a sea of others, I’m sure. If I didn’t know how important I am to him, I could feel insignificant amid his famous novelist friends and Hollywood pals. He became the writer I always wanted to be. I don’t know exactly what it was in him that made him so determined to “make it” but it never surprised me that he finally did. It is hard for me to gauge how famous he actually is at his point in time, particularly since we’ve been friends since 1973, but he is famous enough to have made it into Wikipedia.
This morning, I find myself thinking about how that friendship cemented my own life’s purpose. I was his babysitter. He was this awkward kid obsessed with gothic novels and horror stories. I fed his passions. I accepted him for who he was (still is!) and in some weird sort of way gave him permission to be who he wanted to be. Despite the fact that his parents were grateful for how close we were, in other ways they were mortified that this teenage girl seemed to be encouraging their son to ignore their plans for his future and inspiring him to listen to his own inner guidance. I held the space for him to figure out who that was. I let him know that whoever that was was okay.
These days, my work with the youth is providing that same space – the place of acceptance; the place of listening to guidance from within. I watch parents tell their kids to be practical. I tell them it’s better to be passionate. Playing it safe may provide a living, but it won’t provide a life. It may help you pay the bills but it won’t help you want to get out of bed in the morning. Yes, there are things each of us must do because the electricity isn’t kept on by good looks or being nice. You can’t pay the water bill with wishes. And you can’t rely on the good will of others forever. Eventually you need to figure out your own way. But if you want a life and not just an existence, you need to turn on the flame in your heart and allow it to ignite wild dreams that other people may not understand. You need to know that other people’s understanding isn’t necessary; listening to your soul’s yearning for express itself is. And although I am not a big Mac guru, I do love this quote from Apple founder, Steve Jobs:
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
― Steve Jobs
In a sense, this is what this blog is about for me – it’s my own personal effort to get over my attachment to invisibility, to allow myself to be one of the crazy ones defying conventions. In being so very naked, I am thumbing my nose at my own upbringing. No longer will I be who others tell me I should be. I mention God way too often for my own comfort level but that’s really only because I no longer worry about using the less offense term “Universe.” Michael is one of those who think I am at least a little quixotic (he may use a slightly less endearing term – bonkers comes to mind). That can’t matter to me any more. I am here to pierce limitations, imagine possibilities – to try and fail and try again, because no one realizes their full potential without dismal failure along the way. So I’m here to explore that.
In helping others become the person God intended them to me, I am claiming the same for myself. In a counseling session yesterday, I gently asked my client to notice how the two priorities he professed to desire were in direct opposition to one another. As always happens in those settings, I notice that the observation is as much for me as for him. Can I want to be seen and invisible simultaneously? Of course, I can want both things but having them both becomes problematic. Until I decide which is more important to me, I can’t really play full on in either arena.
So on this day when I pause to remember a gawky eleven-year old who determinedly staked his importance in my life by refusing to care if our relationship matched convention, I give thanks. Thanks that despite not really understanding me, he loves the goodness he sees in me. Thanks that he helped me forge an unorthodox relationship that proved my priority is love. Thanks that he showed me that love and acceptance transcend everything else. I am still becoming the person I am intended to be and now, 41 years later, I finally realize that my life’s purpose is to be for others what I was to him – a safe haven for figuring it all out. A place for all of us to open to the possibility of who and what we are meant to be.
So, I guess I’ve made my choice. I am okay with being seen. Are you?