There is a certain feeling you get when you are around a person that is self-possessed and fully expressed. A person who is not arrogant or tightened inside, but open and fluid. They have a different energy about them, a softened look behind their eyes. They lack self-conscious defensiveness that others carry when afraid to be fully seen, fully themselves.
Photo Credit: Gardner Edmunds
I adore these people.
I think most of us do… they are the ones that make you feel instantly more at ease, safe in their presence to unwind a few notches and take a breath. They attract people like a light bulb surrounded by moths, clamoring to be near. Sometimes, they are hard to find. Most of us are wound up and covered in armor, desperate to be seen but not seen. We are busy trying to impress, trying to hide, trying to find the perfect balance of control that will make us not appear to be total asshats.
Last week, I was lucky enough to attend a party called Creative Cocktail Hour with a lovely friend, a local artist. Rick and I both adore Stefanie and her husband Carl, because they both have this light presence, and when they are together it is even more inspiring to witness.
We went to Creative Cocktail Hour with a friend of hers… both of them attend these monthly parties faithfully… It is a gathering of local artists and art-lovers at Real Art Ways, a space designed to showcase and support local art and the art community in Hartford.
I was scared.
My inner introvert shrinks like cojones in an ice bath at the thought of meeting and chit-chatting and mingling at a large party of “cool” people. People who probably know how to talk about art. I am not sure that unused Elementary Education degree I earned was going to come to my rescue when I needed to find an intelligent contribution to the small talk. Unless somebody wants to talk about making homemade playdough sculptures.
That scared, uptight, insecure voice inside me was worried about being seen as a scared, insecure, uptight gal in a sea of self-expression.
And that is exactly what happened… at first.
We were greeted at the door by a huge, barrel chested man named Tito, whom Stefanie and Greg hugged first. When I extended my hand in introduction, he swallowed me in a hug, declaring, “No one shakes hands here!” in a deep bellow. A tall thin man rode up on a bicycle with a spatula taped to the back end of his helmet and dismounted. He also hugged Tito, and then we all made our way into the building, passing an older couple in their late 60’s wearing hats made of disposable picnicware.
There was no visible commonality in this gathering. The variety of ages, clothing style, hair style, gender expression, sexual expression …was astonishing. It appeared that every kind of person from all walks of life had come out to hug and chat and dance. There was one golden thread of detectable similarity there, and after softening into the night I began to see it. I wanted to belong there too.
So I was baptized that night.
It was my second time being baptized, in fact.
The first was a religious affair… one of the most important moments of my life as an LDS child remains a gauzy, soupy memory I can’t quite access. But this I know: I was eight, I wore a white dress and people hugged me and shook my hand and told me how proud they were of me for making the only right decision there was to make… to be baptized by immersion for the remission of my sins. So I could belong. When I came up out of those waters, I emerged fully committed to do my best to become the person God wanted.
At Real Art Ways, I was baptized by immersion again.
Immersion in a scene filled with people who were all unapologetically themselves.
To be exposed and immersed in this unadulterated authenticity was not for the remission of my sins, but a remission of my armor. The crowd pulsed with this free energy, the acceptance of people as they are. Simple. In a gathering of people all devoted to becoming, every day, more freely self expressed, the beauty of humanity is a palpable force. It existed in the art on the walls, in the music the brass band was gifting to us, in the air that surrounded us. It entered me with each breath, and then right through the pores of my skin. I felt it move to open the hardest places inside me… this collective energy has one message:
You are supposed to Be exactly what you are.
The immersion will not be an experience I will soon forget. It was a moment of experiencing the possibility of being free from sin. And, I am coming to more fully understand what sin really is. Sin is the armor of self-protection we wear… to make ourselves appear formidable and fierce and brave. We put on this armor so that we can go out and be seen, without exposing our most tender places, without being vulnerable to the pain of rejection or loss.
We cover ourselves up and hide in the open so we do not have to hear the message we dread:
Be ashamed. You are not enough.
Stefanie, the friend who brought me, is less covered by this armor, and by being more freely expressed, more authentically her, I sense the safety in being me. I realize, where they gather, these people who are figuring out how to move through it and lay down the armor – love is less diluted. It is more easily accessed and felt… it is the golden thread that binds us. We ALL belong already, we just have to take off the protection and express who we are… and others will see that golden thread too.
Photo provided by Stefanie Marco, KiNDSPIN DESIGN
So go out and find those people, the ones that carry themselves with that spark of authentic presence. It is not hard to recognize the lightness they possess, their loving energy is more free to flow. Immerse yourself in their authentic lightness, in the generosity of spirit that surrounds them… in that spirit, there is no fear. Only love.
When I emerged from this second baptism, I came away not committed to becoming… that commitment is the sin. The armor.
I emerged more willing to Be.
Unapologetically, just as
Photo Credit: Gardner Edmunds