Sorry, Wachowski Brothers: reality is prettier than the virtual world.
Like literally every blog post I have read from people who attended Story this past week, I'm still in the process of unpacking it all, trying to balance my heart and my head with what the presenters said to challenge, inspire, motivate, and validate me. And to be honest, this is my fifth attempt to write down my thoughts and feelings about the conference. That's how much the darn thing has messed me up (but in a good way).
And while the ways my head has been transformed are important, it's the people I hugged who are etched indelibly onto my heart that stand out more. And in the spirit of this transformation, I want to share this motley cast of characters - and then live out the story of my life instead of just writing it about it.
After all, my lawyer told me love does. It acts. So expect some action soon.
Although Alise thinks I'm the second coming of Michael Landon, the reality is I'm just her friend. And friends do. Whatever, whenever, we simply do. I was more than paid back in hugs, smiles, and snarky jokes (as a "burnus") for whatever minor act of kindness I performed.
As always, Darrel is like the Kevin Bacon of these meetings: he's always less than six degrees of connection from everyone. The fact he deigns my writings to be of value is humbling, inspiring and challenging to me to be better, and he honors me by calling me friend. Add into the mix that Ally is almost always by his side, supporting his words while standing firm in the strength of her own, and you've got the picture of an ideal, equal partnership in every iteration of the term. It's obvious they're still newlyweds. (Just kidding, guys...)
Had I known Tony Alicia when I was living in Miami, he would have been the single reason I would have driven to Ft. Lauderdale on a regular basis. Genuinely warm, ridiculously gifted as a speaker and writer, and married to the funniest person in Florida (hi, Katie), he's like me. If I had hair. And an iota of his abilities. And was mature. And not the color of styrofoam. So basically, we're nothing alike, but he's someone I hope to get to know better in the coming weeks.
Ed is a brother-in-arms on three fronts: he's a writer, a stay-at-home dad, and one of only about half a dozen people whom I have ever allowed the use of my iPhone out of my direct line of sight. Ed possesses the single most gentle, warm, and inviting personality I have ever encountered at a quasi-Christian conference. Ed's the kind of guy I need in my life: he's friendly, but not afraid to ask the hard, direct questions - the ones designed to challenge and build you up, not deflate you and tear you down. And since we have each others' cell numbers, my dream is that we can exchange valued information between us: he gives me writing advice, and I help him navigate the murky waters of not completely losing your marbles as a stay at home parent.
There's Kristen, whom I want - no; NEED - to speak to more. Whose story (and age) parallels parts of my own, and whose idea of a "Bible study" made me do a full-on fist pump in the air when I heard about it.
There's Addie, whose gentle voice and enlightening smile gave me strength to stay awake when all I wanted to at times was sleep. I wanted to hear the words behind that smile, and learn from what she would share.
There's Tammy, my sister Whovian, who was literally everywhere over the course of these days. Everywhere. I couldn't turn around without seeing her, and the times when I didn't, I regretted missing another opportunity to laugh with her.
There's Katie. My fellow quipper and dropper of dry wit. We probably came darn close to bugging people by how snarky we were (with situations, with each other...) but we bonded so tight and so fast, it was as if we'd known each other for years already. That, my friends, is the essence of friendship. - oh, and "tag."
There's Emily. She's apparently trying to relocate me and Ashley to Chicago. And if I were able to hang around with her and her husband, I would gladly make the migration north and into another time zone. I could not have imagined a better dinner companion.
There's Bethany and Matthew, the Dynamic Duo of Awesomeness. And hospitality. And cab rides. Maybe it was the fact I knew where Judson University is, but I've never gotten a warmer embrace and a warmer welcome from "strangers" before. Double date. Soon.
There's Caris. Elora. Jennifer. Danielle. Leanne. Krisi. Dianna (dare you to ask her about "manly milk"). Kristin.
People who, when they used to show up on my Twitter feed, I wondered what deep insights they had to share that I could scan, snicker at, and then get on with doing whatever it was I was doing.
Now they're family, one and all, and their words don't just make me make smirk, they help me to heal. They help me smile with a smile that gladly creates laugh lines on my face. A smile that speaks to a bond, a love, a moment of beauty captured in a blink of an eye. A smile that is more joyful than social.
And the story, as they say, isn't over yet...