Look Ma – no hands

photo by Renee Casterline

When I was a kid, we used to laugh and throw our hands up whenever the car whooshed down over a hill, and shout “Look Ma, no hands!”

Do you know what I mean? Can you feel the tingle in your belly?

Well, two days ago I read an amazing piece of writing by a very brave man and I feel something similar, except the tingling is in my heart. Chris Guillebeau has been writing good works and inspiring me for years. Under the Unseen Blue Sky in Sydney, Australia, his recent blog post that gives a portrait of a moment in time, is a raw, stripped down, vulnerable telling of how he feels and what life looks like for him in the gray land of depression.

It makes me think of showing up naked and unprepared for a presentation, not because it’s a bad dream but because that’s the truth of the moment – things just didn’t come together they way they should have. No makeup. No suit. No armor.

I’ve written to Chris to thank him for his courage, because here’s the thing: We need people telling it like it is. We need role models who say, this is me, this is true and I’m not going to try to pretty it up so it’s less painful, less scary. Brene Brown says that to live a wholehearted life one of the foundation stones is to allow yourself to be seen, to be vulnerable in the moments when that is most difficult.

Chris is doing that. He’s showing up, no hands. His life is teetering on and off the rails right now, and he’s not pretending otherwise. And he’s not pretending that he’s stoked at the idea that it will make him a better person. “And lest you forget,” he tells himself, “what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger, but first it will really try to kill you.”

At the same time, Chris is doing his work, he’s showing up in the world, he’s giving as much as he can. He’s holding space for what may come. He won’t sugar coat things for the sake of his audience, he won’t lie to us: “Sometimes you’re just going to be sad, and that’s okay. There’s not always a solution, and some things can’t be fixed,” he writes.

That’s a powerful guide rail for living with grief and loss. It’s a model I needed back in those early years after my mom passed away. It’s the permission to be wrecked, to not recover in a few months, that was the truth for me, whether I wanted it to be true or not.

Chris, who has long provided tools and guides for his audience, does it in this piece too. He gives the idea of “known truths” – those things that you know to be true, and only that. Not things that might be true, that you wish were true. Only those things you can name with certainty about yourself and the time of your life that you’re living in. It’s a wonderful tool for self care and self love, at any time.

Struggle and pain are part of our lives, despite any wishing that it could be otherwise. Platitudes and unrealistic expectations for stuffing it down, hiding it away, just aren’t helpful. Community, connection, being seen and embraced for just who you are and what you’re living – those are the balms that help us through. Those are the threads that bind us closer to each other.

Thank you, Chris Guillebeau, for being so brave and so gracious with your life.