On Connecting To Strangers
The Sidewalk Talk Blog
I am someone who likes dancing with shadow stuff. I don’t just walk around with toothy smiles and like talking about love, positivity, and growth. I like knowing what makes us ache as humans. The positive and negative aspects feel authentic and more genuine to me.
But even for someone who likes dark stuff, the world feels increasingly intense and painful right now. It seems some new environmental catastrophe, the threat of war, or injustice emerges every day. I watch friends post things on social media and I see the desire to find some steady ground by hunting for a root cause, placing blame, taking the position as the righteous actor. I notice myself drift in and out of all of these places too. I feel less human and less humane in this casting about.
Last week I had the pleasure of speaking to Yemeni activist, writer, mom, deep feeler, lovely human, Atiaf Alwazir. She will be on the podcast in April. Be sure to follow to and listen along here so you get the update when she is live.
In our moment of connection, we stretched beyond the anguish and human atrocities going on in Yemen. And I was left feeling like I had come to afternoon tea with Atiaf as she described how the women dress up and gather every afternoon. I could smell the spices of the fish dish and could hear the laughter of friendship and mothering together. What happens, when we leave out joy, is we can no longer connect as people. We dehumanize when we are out of balance in our joy or despair.
Atiaf said, “You know Traci when wars and bad things happen, we cannot just talk about a place and a people as victims. We have to also hold joy and reverence too for their resilience and livelihood.”
I am reminded of a quote that goes something like this...I have to stretch my arms wide to my grief and my joy so I may embrace myself and others in hard times.
Don’t confuse what I am saying as advocating for a kind of bypassing “zoning out” kind of joy that is about avoiding taking action. We must act but hard to do if hopelessness has zapped us of all our energy.
Atiaf reminded me that there is another kind of joy - the joy of remembering that in great tragedy there is also great resilience and we need to feel into those positives in order to thrive in the negatives. She reminded me that even while I am an adept shadow dancer some days I can get too lost in my dark feelings when the world is burning.
Balancing our despair with “effective hope” is an act of protest in these dark times. We must stretch our arms for both our despair and hope. For when we don’t, we run the risk of perpetuating the disconnection that leads to these crises in the first place.
George Kinder will also be coming on the podcast soon and he invites us all, in his book, The Golden Civilisation, to start creating the space to have an effective conversation about the world we want to create. He encourages us to hold each other accountable for taking these action steps to start creating that world together. His is another version of balancing the negative.
For me, Sidewalk Talk was my way of finding that balance between my despair over gun violence, injustice, and police brutality. I could see how media reports turned people into caricatures rather than people and we were rushing to blame or be right. For me listening was rehumanizing and hopeful.
So if you are looking for a way to find balance in the chaos, come out and take up the practice of listening on the sidewalk with us. And if you cannot join us on the sidewalk, you can lean in, in other ways. Email firstname.lastname@example.org on how to be a Sidewalk Talk ambassador, start a chapter, or help our operations team. Let’s stretch wide our embrace.
I am a woman, therapist, wife, mom, friend, listener, and founder/leader of Sidewalk Talk. You can subscribe to my couples therapy list here.