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

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The Personal

This past week has been intensely bittersweet: the bitter of making goodbyes to very dear friends; the sweet of their company reminding me of the joy of such friendships. To set off on a journey entails goodbyes, even if they are temporary, and I have always been one to be the last guest at the party…For one truth in my life is this: my friendships are cherished, and being a part of the ordinariness and dailiness of people’s lives is a gift.

Me, and my imaginary friend came into being as a way to share the unfolding of my life with friends near and far, real and imagined, old and new. We live in times where those we love don’t always reside in geographic proximity, and the nurturing of relationships at a distance takes some care. Of course we want to hear of joys and sorrows, big events, and momentous occasions, but we also want to hear of the ordinary things, thoughtful moments, a thousand little things about those we care for. It is this very thing that we seek out in social media, though it seems to be rather a fashion to deride said mediums. Cute cat videos, selfies, and pictures of dinner are scoffed at as trivialities and time wasters, though I believe nothing could be further from the truth.

I don’t think many of us pretend that what we blog or share has earth-shaking significance: that is hardly the point. The point is that we are sharing – and that act of sharing is powerful, and connects us to people. I cannot imagine anything more likely to change our lives, our communities, our world, than this connection. The very idea of a democracy, as an example, is one in which we collectively engage in the question of how we shall live, as a society, and the more we are connected to the inner truths of other’s lives, the better able we are to truly engage in the democratic process. Maybe that’s a big leap for you, my imaginary friend – from a parade of selfies to the democratic process, though the evidence of how social media is changing our politics and political process is clear and unequivocal.

I had the privilege, also this week, of speaking with six different women about “The Dress”, last week’s blog post, and I am grateful for those conversations, some with women I know well and others I am only acquainted with. Each told her particular story of her own dress and its significance, and these were moving and deeply profound stories. The sharing of my simple story inspired much deeper sharing from others, and I can only be inspired in turn by beautiful insight into six different lives.

There is much more I could write, I once wrote a thesis on this theme, in fact, but I think I will leave you with a selfie, just for fun and provocation. The Belle Jar had a great post on selfies, also this week, and you might enjoy her take on the phenomenon, linked here. Do you recollect the proudly proclaimed slogan of second-wave feminism, “the personal is political”? Yes, yes it is.

Selfie

Will You Be My Imaginary Friend?

My rather cool blogger friend Teenage Introvert nominated me for an award, which is fun, and I thank him. This award has rules; however, let me say at the outset that I am changing the rules of this game –  because I can  🙂

Up first, 11 random facts about me.

Me, my imaginary cat friend, and her imaginary friend

Me, my imaginary cat friend, and her imaginary friend

My nickname is moo, short for lovesick moo…the story is long. If I were a crayon, I would be scarlet. I believe in love, in magic, and in Santa Claus. I love a cowboy. I like vanilla – oh, real Tahitian vanilla beans, oh yes, oh yes – better than chocolate. I have an imaginary friend. I love the zest, and spice, and adventures of life, although – I am a homebody kind of person; the best adventures happen, I think, when you see your own familiar world in a new way. I adore people who jump into things with arms and hearts wide open. To dance, to play, to sing, to make a friend – to do anything, really, with enthusiasm and curiosity for what is to come expresses a joi de vivre that often seems lacking in our world. I am rather quiet, and enjoy my solitude very much. This makes it both thrilling and frightening to love a cowboy…the fine tension between love and fear tells me my heart is growing a size or two.

And next, the questions that were posed to me by Teenage Introvert.

 Name your earliest memory.

My dad, reading aloud to me from “The Cat In The Hat”.

Let’s spice things up. What is your favourite meal from a restaurant?

I love authentic Thai food, but especially any red curry dish.

 Which sense do you like the most? Why?

All of our senses work together, of course, to create the savoury, simmering stew pot of our lives…but the one I could not do without would be touch. To be held, by someone who loves me. All others fade in comparison.

What was your ideal vision for your blog?

My vision for my blog, was, and is, to have a community of friends who engage with me in its creation.

 How well do you deal with your emotions?

I try to express myself, always, in ways that are true to what I am feeling – my deepest inner feelings. It is easy to be flip, or funny, or sarcastic, especially when it is uncomfortable to be vulnerable…This is courage, I believe, of the highest kind – to express yourself honestly and openly, with care for the feelings of others, and with grace. It is a courage I am still learning.

 Would you rather…kill your best friend, or have your best friend kill you?

If a friend were to assist me to die at my request, that would be a blessed thing. If I were to help a friend to die as they wished, I believe that might be the ultimate gift of grace and love.

 What was your most vivid dream/nightmare?

My dreams, and my occasional nightmares, are always vivid and impressionistic. They feel rather like finger painting.

 Do you like where you live?

I love where I live, which is an extraordinarily beautiful place where many of my friends also live. Never the less, I am ready to move on, because other loves call to me.

 What was your first experience on a social network/forum like?

My experiences on social networks of all kinds have been simply amazing. I enjoy the easy give and take of ‘virtual’ friends, and have been privileged to meet many of them in person. There is something about the intimacy of the written/visual that illuminates people’s hearts quite well, I think.

 What’s your main past-time hobby?

Reading and writing are the activities I spend the most time on, because this is what I love to do…but these always have to be balanced with hiking, canoeing, riding, biking…always, time to play outside.

 How do you feel about this nomination?

I think the nomination is great fun, although strictly speaking it doesn’t apply. I’m enjoying participating in the spirit of the thing!

 Now, according to the rules (!), I am going to pose 11 questions, although I shall not nominate anybody. This is a time-consuming exercise, and many of us are pressed for time…So let me say this: you might simply ask yourself these questions, and answer them in your own mind. You might blog this game, and do let me know if so! You might, if you are really courageous, choose to answer the questions in comments…which I would love! Participate in a way that feels comfortable to you.

11 Questions to my imaginary friends:

 Who, and what do you love?

Why?

Do you have an imaginary friend?

Kisses, or hugs?

What does integrity mean to you?

What makes you fearful?

Can you taste colours?

Besides love, what makes your heart sing and makes you jump for joy?

Vanilla, or chocolate?

What makes you curious?

Will you be my imaginary friend?

 Ah, thanks for reading, lovely people. Love and friendship ask us to share in ways that are not always comfortable…If we are honest, we must acknowledge that our singing hearts and joyful jumping are sometimes restrained because of that very discomfort. Yet, love and joy are the perfume of life…I am so pleased, my imaginary friend, that I can tell you anything, anything at all.

The essence, I think, the essence and essential spirit of participating in this exercise is to share something of ourselves, to share and thus to invite the sharing of others…for it must go both ways. Sharing is a word that has been much overused, but one need not be profoundly philosophical, reveal one’s innermost secrets,  disclose one’s greatest embarrassment, to share oneself. The simple and the ordinary, the daily ritual, the spark that lights up the face…these are all pieces of ourselves that will let others be our friends. We cannot have friends unless we can be friends …and we must make more friends, for our world so desperately requires it. Our world needs us to know each other a little better, to banish the judgements of first impressions, to share our joys and sorrows, to move beyond the superficial and strangled and straightened … streaming from the lake of desire,  into the river of playful imagining, and washing down to the sea of joyful possibilities…

I hope you will be my imaginary friend, and just so, the possibilities are limitless.