My 2018 consisted of a bumpy recovery from a series of setbacks in 2017. When I say “setbacks,” I’m referring to various events, some personal, some external, that taken individually wouldn’t sound like much—but the last of those external events, coming late in the year, hit me like a gut punch and set off a full-blown existential crisis. I knew I needed to reflect mightily on what had led up to that in order to address it.
I realized that I had been responding to those setbacks by shutting off emotional connections in a misguided attempt at self-preservation. In 2018 I worked on reopening those. One concept I revisited in 2018 is that empathy is learned. For my part, I needed to re-learn empathy.
Not only are we to be in touch with the pain and brokenness of others, but we also have to face our own brokenness. It is through the cracks that the light comes in.1
I would not have mustered the courage to reveal those cracks without a rock-solid support network. You’ve no doubt already read the blog posts my colleagues Renee and Adam posted, so you know they’re the best people in the universe, along with the person to whom I arguably owe the most in life, Scott Dennis. And you undoubtedly know the Canvas Doc Team in the aggregate, but you need to know each of them by name: Erin Hallmark, Alli Foote, Allison Dilts, Cody Titmus, Nathan Atkinson, Danielle Jackson, Naomi Petty, Tami Booth, Emily Allen (and you can read more about each of them on the Community Team page). Thanks to these stellar individuals, I have a team on which to lean—and in the process, I learned that vulnerability begets strength. Strength comes through the connections we make. And those connections are sparked by our willingness to show vulnerability. Think about it: If you don’t express your need for help, how is someone going to know to help you? But if you ask for help, you might get assistance from an unlikely source, and forge connections you never imagined you could.
My 2018 mantra was “Always Buy The Ticket,” which is just another way of saying carpe diem. I went to at least 102 rock concerts last year, as well as a week-long yoga retreat, a five-day festival celebrating a revered musician, a second trip to Cuba: always buying the ticket.
And I am considerably stronger for the experience—mended cracks and all.
(h/t Danielle Jackson)
If you know me, you know I’m going to tie all of this back to the Canvas Community, because of course I am.
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.3
The Canvas Community performs the alchemy of transforming vulnerability into strength. People come here to throw their hands up and say, “I’m at my wits’ end; how do I [insert the thing].” And like magic, our wonderful, generous members wave their wands and contribute their solutions. Our person in need just got stronger; our collection of resources just gained a new artifact; and the interaction just made us all more cohesive. Win, win, and win.
Most people are having a really tough time.
They are almost always in more pain than you think they are.4
2 (That’s a footnote—not an exponent.) The shows I can remember attending: Jackson Browne, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Eagles, Mudpies, James Taylor, Petty Hearts, Brit Floyd, Roger McGuinn, Aussie Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Sweetheart of the Rodeo 50th Anniversary, Gov’t Mule.
3 Fred Rogers, Goodreads Quotes.
4 John Pavlovitz, Life is short. People are hurting. Don’t be a jerk.