From The Heart

I have been asked a lot, of late, about my very personal writing, and it strikes me that I have a bit to say about this…Well, here it is, my imaginary friend.

My background in writing is non-fiction and academic, although I did – and sometimes still do – write bad poetry. My first university English courses certainly emphasized formal, technical writing, in which the personal was distinctly frowned upon. I don’t recall this posing a problem at the time, but as the years went by and I became immersed in the world of business, my distress at the formulaic and superficial writing – of business in particular – became acute. These were also the years when such trite expressions as “Have a Nice Day” began to be repeated, ad nauseam, often mandated by head offices in the belief that this somehow constituted a customer care ethic. On one particularly poignant occasion, an overly squeaky, bubbling cashier caused a woman in the line ahead of me to burst into tears, and to tell the young woman she’d just come from a funeral and merely wanted to get home quickly…

Which caused a lot of deep thinking on my part. Why on earth would management insist on such rote phrases, instead of teaching a service ethic? The quiet distress of the woman in front of me was self-evident to all but the most clueless. As I began teaching and training people in the hospitality industry, I observed the same sort of mindless, faux-happy approach to people that sincerely bothered me. Surely an ethos of service entails a reading of the customer – whether a boisterous, happy crowd, a hungry family, a quiet couple looking for privacy. I studied marketing, and suffered through endless metric analysis of why the broadcast mediums were losing advertising share. I began a thesis on social media marketing and was influenced by Theodore Zeldin, who wrote of the dead language of business, and David Whyte, who wrote of the need for poetry in corporate life. And, of course, I pondered the spectacular rise of social media, from blogging to Facebook and everything in between.

Broadcast media suffer because the message is one way, and because often it is a specially banal sort of messaging. Social media, on the other hand, plays to the ability of people to respond, to query – and to create their own version of this-is-me…Mark Zuckerberg talks about sharing and its power to change the world, and all cynicism about corporate entities aside, this is a compelling view of a brave new world.

Whatever we share of ourselves, spoken or written, when it is true to our own self, is deeply moving and compelling for others. It does not signify that we share a cultural or political viewpoint, a country or system of governance, or language, even. What does signify is that we share those human values that are both universal, and also very particular…That we share love, and kindness, and the nurturing of children and families. That loss and grief is a part of life – that others have experienced it, as well as illness and pain and poverty, does not necessarily make it better – but it helps us understand that some things can be endured, while other things can be changed and eradicated. When we share a moment of recognition of pleasure in a cute kitten video – yes, I use the cliché purposefully – we are sharing something that transcends the human condition, even, and brings us into the nature of being and of life itself.

I cannot say it comes easily to me, this writing and speaking of the deeply personal. But I can say, at the end of the day, (another purposefully-used cliché) it is probably all that matters – for you and I to share some bit of ourselves. And laugh, or weep, or ponder intently –  merely smile, pose a question to ourselves, feel transcending joy, to be moved, or unsettled, or disturbed…To begin with love for self and our immediate others and to move from there. To make our hearts grow a size or two…this is what matters, I think. With love, from VivianLea.

From My He

Surface Porousity

“You are the world’s sweetest man”, I tell him, and he says, wryly: “you don’t know me.” And in at least one sense this is true; to know someone is the work of many years, and the list of things I do not know about him would fill a book.

I do not know if he likes to eat mangoes so fresh and ripe the juice runs down the chin. Nor do I know his favourite song, or his favourite movie, or some of the many tidbits others might find important. I don’t know if he likes to vacuum. I cannot read him like a book, he is much too complex. There has been a time or two when I absolutely did not know what to say to him, and I believe this is a first for me. Hmmmm, I do not know if he likes popcorn, and it is one of my favourite foods. Oh my god, I don’t even know his favourite colour.

But if what I don’t know would fill a book, what I do know would fill several volumes. His voice is beautiful, as are his eyes. I find myself mesmerized by the muscled curves of his arms and the hard work they represent. He values honesty, and he is very funny. He does not like rain. He thinks my earrings are fussy, and he teases me about my fetish for organic food. He likes cows. He looks at me clearly and directly, and I fall into his eyes. When he calls me by a tender name, I melt. He has an excellent memory; it seems few details escape him. He is playful. Meticulous in most ways, he can be careless when it suits the moment. He likes coffee. He is kind. He has integrity: not the superficial integrity of one who has never been tested, but the fine honourability of one who has weathered a few shit storms. He is endlessly patient with me. He is the man of my dreams, my imaginary friend.

So what does constitute ‘knowing’ someone? I do not know if that is ever really possible…At any rate, even my oldest friends and closest family members have the capacity to surprise me, not by acting out of character, but by the depths of character they reveal. Indeed, if we do not know character, we know nothing – but if kindness and honesty are immutable, character is not a set of fixed traits. Rather, it is how a being grows and stretches, how they meet life’s challenges…and more importantly, how they meet life’s possibilities.

Here is what I say to you, my love – I do not think I will ever come to the point of knowing you, and that is the highest compliment I can pay. In this context, a little surface porousity is in order….openness to the realms of other to discover, may it never end. This beautiful bracelet, renewed and burnished and made strong to be worn again and again…this is a lovely metaphor, I think. It is a different thing now than it was originally…a thing to be cherished. As you are.

Photo Jeffrey Herman, silversmith.

Photo Jeffrey Herman, silversmith.

photo and repair Jeffrey Herman, silversmith.

photo and repair Jeffrey Herman, silversmith.