Finding “My People”

I heard a podcast recently in which two best-selling authors were talking about chemistry – the intuitive sense that this person or those people are “my people.” Partly because I’m a raging extrovert, partly because a big part of my life’s calling is relationships and partly because I believe life with others is what the whole spiritual journey is about, I think finding “my people” is one of the essential components to wholeness and joy.

Of course, “my people” is a fluid category, which is why you probably aren’t still friends with your high school buddies (at least in the same way) or married to the first girl you went out with. As life ebbs and flows, today’s “my people” often turn into “used to be my people.” That’s just an inevitable part of the journey.

I heard an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love and presenter of one of my favorite TED talks) and she was talking about meeting fans and how 20 people may say to her at a book signing, “your book changed my life.” For whatever reason, though, the 21st connects at a deep, soul level, and the compliment reduces her to tears. (And the 22nd is so creepy that she wants to call over security, even though they said the exact same words as the others.) Whatever is going on there, it’s about connecting with “my people.”

And so, earlier this week, a friend and I were talking about “my people” and asking, how do you know when you’ve met “my people”?

The first thing we came to is that we usually just know within minutes. It’s something about eye contact, pheromones, “energy,” or “the vibe.” I heard someone say that it’s stupid to commit to a long first date (dinner AND a show), because you usually know in the time it takes to consume one drink whether someone is “my people.” I’ve met people and in the space of a single conversation moved to the deep stuff. And I’ve also journeyed with people for years and, while I may like them, value them, respect them, think the world of them, they just aren’t “my people.” We can’t be “my people” with everyone.

The next step, my friend and I decided, is that we test the premise. Addie Zierman, in her book When We Were on Fire, talks about how she uses swearing as a way to ascertain whether someone (particularly in the Christian subculture) is “my people” (a strategy I also frequently employ). If I see them wince, I know they aren’t.

But I test it in other ways as well. I name my favorite things: books, movies, hobbies, tastes and wait to see their reaction. They don’t need to share all my interests, but generally “my people” have a degree of overlap or at least empathy. I throw out an idea, a viewpoint, an opinion and see if it’s shared, valued or reciprocated.

And then we start to descend the vulnerability spiral, choosing to share more intimate things, building intimacy, going deeper with each other. I share a struggle, a temptation, a vice, a failure and I wait to see what happens. “My people” respond in kind. They share their junk, they’re vulnerable with me in the same way I was with them.

This is what Brene Brown is talking about in Daring Greatly when she talks about mutual vulnerability and connectivity:

“When it comes to vulnerability, connectivity means sharing our stories with people who have earned the right to hear them – people with whom we’ve cultivated relationships that can bear the weight of our story. Is there trust? Is there mutual empathy? Is there reciprocal sharing? Can we ask for what we need? These are the crucial connection questions.”

But I guess it also works in reverse as well. Sometimes it’s working the other way, where people who used to be “my people” are becoming less so. And it’s not necessarily just about them, sometimes it’s about us and our journey and our circumstances, and in those times we’re working the other direction. We’re sharing less than we used to, establishing a new, shallower depth of intimacy, finding new “my people” to go deeper with, and that’s okay too.

Anyway, here’s the point of this whole post: I hope you’re finding “my people.” I hope your journey is one of being open to new experiences of “my people,” because part of the spiritual journey of growing upward and inward is the experience of doing so with others. With “my people.”

When the iPhone Breaks

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This is what happens when you drop your phone on a tile floor in front of your hotel in California just a couple of hours after getting off your plane.

This is what happens when you walk 15 minutes from where you’re staying to the Apple Store, and you meet with the “genius” (really hate calling them that) and they tell you they can fix the screen that, for the last couple of days, has been shedding glass shards into your thumb.

This is what happens when you walk to lunch at Umami Burger in northwest LA with nothing in your pocket but your wallet. No friends to meet. No Kindle. Nothing to do, no one to talk to.

This is what happens when you sit at the outside patio alone for the 45 minutes it takes to order and eat lunch.

What happens is at first you feel a little uncomfortable and self-conscious. You think, “oh no, what am I going to do for the next hour without checking my Twitter feed?” What you do is start by controlling the hyperventilating that starts when you realize no one in the world knows where you are right at this moment or how to get ahold of you.

What happens is you start settle into it a little bit. You try desperately to engage the waiter in conversation, but he’s busy (even though there’s only one couple at one other table) and you can tell he’s only being as polite as he thinks his tip necessitates. You try not to eavesdrop. Or, truth be told, you eavesdrop, but the conversation is about sales targets and new markets and you grow tired of it in minutes.

What happens is you notice how perfect the temperature is in LA all the time. You notice the trill of some unidentified bird. You notice the procession of late model cars gently navigating the speed bumps just beyond the railing of the outdoor patio. You notice the condensation gathering on your beer and you take the time to taste each of the four sauces the waiter places on the table.

What happens is you start to think about stuff. You think about all the ideas that have been bouncing around your head for the last couple of days. You think about exhilarating conversations that you’ve had with friends and strangers over burritos, beers and asparagus fries in a cool beach town restaurant.

What happens is you ask the hostess for a pen and you take the placemat and you start to write. You start writing what’s in your head. You remember quotations, themes, ideas. Even without consulting all the notes you took during the 2-day conference, you remember the things that really struck a chord, deep inside of you:

“I love you Charles.”

“We’re exchanging our souls for Candy Crush.”

“Planet!!”

“People who want to ‘keep you accountable’ are TOXIC”

“At some point you need to step across the threshold.”

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What happens is you you write down all the stuff that will be the headlines when you get home to debrief with your wife. What happens is that when your friend asks you – the day after you get back while you’re cooking together in the kitchen – “how was your conference?” you’re ready with the soundbites, you have an answer that’s been thought-through and distilled.

[Listen, I’m as plugged in as everyone else, and this isn’t meant to be a soap box. But we’ve got a problem when culturally we don’t do this anymore. We don’t give ourselves space to stop and think, to process, to distill, to summarize, to connect the dots. Blaise Pascal, in Pensees said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” I tend to think he was right. When I get alone and get quiet, things get much more clear than they are in the flotsam and jetsam of daily life.]

This is what happens when lunch is over: you pay the bill, walk back to the Apple Store, pick up your phone and get back online.

Sigh.

Igniting our Deep: Quotable

I wrote a post earlier this week about getting in touch with our creative spaces and sharing those with others so that we might call out the depths of the beauty that resides in them. And then, this morning, I was finishing the last couple chapters of Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now and I came across this beautiful gem:

“…nondual people will see things in their wholeness and call forth the same unity in others, simply by being who they are. Wholeness (head, heart, and body, all present and positive) can see and call forth wholeness in others. This is why it is so pleasant to be around whole and holy people.

“simply being who we are”… and somehow that makes us pleasant to be around. Yes.