A couple of weeks ago, I was hanging out in a coffee shop in Southern California. I was in town to see my sister and have blues guitar played for me on command whilst sipping wine. (My favorite people are talented & generous; in return, I am grateful and doting.)
I had just posted this on Instagram. I got a text from a friend: “How is your heart?”
A minute later, she was calling me. She asked if I was in a place where I could talk, and if I’d be willing to just listen to her for a few minutes. I stepped out into the shade of a palm tree, put in my earbuds and took a few deep breaths. “Okay,” I said. “I’m here. I’m ready.”
• • •
When I first met Amanda, we were working at a non-profit counseling at-risk youth in one of the poorest communities in Southern California. I helped train her. We went to lunch on her first day to a burrito shop, where she promptly pulled out a Ziplock baggie containing pizza. (My kind of weird.) I ate my burrito, she ate her pizza, and over the course of an hour, she told me about how her father had passed suddenly away earlier that year. I told her about losing my nephew in a horrible car accident when I was 12.
That was it. She’s been one of my best friends for the last seven years.
I swear a lot, and she’s devoutly Catholic. (The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but you get the idea.) On the outside, Amanda and I do not seem to be the same. But, as we came to discover, our insides are made of very similar things. Amanda is committed to Truth as if her life depends on it, and it’s the hard truths she loves most: the ones about herself.
So, our conversation that day as I sat under a palm tree was like that: my darling friend asking me to hear her be true about herself. True in acknowledging the way, despite her best intentions, the impacts of being human-to-human are not always easy, or pleasant. She offered me one of maybe a handful of genuine, holding-nothing-back apologies I’ve ever heard in my life.
I felt nothing for her but love. Pure, honest-to-goodness, you-could-light-my-hair-on-fire-and-punch-me-in-the-boob-and-I’d-still-love-you love. There is nothing more worthy of love than an open heart.
• • •
My most core value is vulnerability, and right along side it is honesty. These are not actions. Vulnerability requires a swinging door of a heart wherein we see and allow ourselves to be seen for all we are, all we are not, and all we don’t know we are & are not. This is why vulnerability is linked with Honesty: first and always with the Self. It requires stepping aside from the personality-supporting mechanisms of doctrine, belief, conditioned responses and entire universes constructed in support of who we build ourselves into being, for the pure-hearted purpose of opening our arms a little wider, softening our eyes to gaze on that which we behold with more compassion, often — and especially — with ourselves.
Amanda was the first person to identify for me agape: love that is in service, that asks nothing in return, that is satisfied in itself, in experiencing its very nature as love itself. And as we sat in her Kia sipping Arnold Palmers in the parking lot of our shitty non-profit building, she held my hand while I cried, unwrapping the gift of this understanding, this sudden light-filled recognition that I’d experienced the very purest of Love’s many forms: God-love moving through me, cracking me open to my own capacity to accept, hold, see — this eternal thing moving around in my limited human body, in service of other limited humans, this Earth, all doing our best and not one of us with any less of a capacity to know this God-love we are made of and that makes us, makes Universes, and really, is just asking for a little of our time, our attention, so that it can know itself through us.
She gave me language for a quality of open-heartedness that, when I described it to her, I knew had finally made me human.
• • •
A few minutes ago, she sent me a text message that said, “Thank you for accepting me the way that I am,” and I just smiled and thought, You have no idea.