One Question To Ask When the Going Gets Tough

On my first day of kindergarten, my mom gave me some advice.

She told me what her mother told her on the first day of school: when you walk through the doors, don’t worry about making friends. Just focus on finding the girl who looks even more upset about all this than you do. Go over to her and say hello. Smile. Then, you’ll have a friend.

My five-year-old-self was incredulous. Could it be that simple? With a little prompting, I gave it a shot. I walked up to a weeping girl and said, “Hi, I’m Caroline. What’s your name?”

With that, I made my first school friend. It was a serendipitous choice, since she was (is) an excellent visual artist. Back then, I could barely cut in a straight line — OK, that’s still true! — so she’d help me with arts and crafts. She didn’t like to write, so I’d help her with compositions. We saw each other through.

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Cross Everything Else Off Your List, Leaving Just This.

Screenshot from 2013-11-14 17:06:27

Photo: Brian A. Taylor Photography. Used with permission.

Dear friends,

The weather outside is frightful, so I’m glad to be here in my writing room. I’m also glad that we have central heating this winter. Happiness really is the small things, like not having to wear a hat in the house.

And this reminds me of another story … a story of what the holiday season is really all about. It’s a story of four girls backpacking through Europe. It’s one of my favorites, because I was one of those girls.

Now, I could tell you a lot of dramatic stories about that trip. I could tell you about the time we were (politely) thrown off a train in Pamplona, two weeks after the running of the bulls. I could tell you about how we slept in a public park, how two American soldiers stood guard over us.

But the story I want to tell is a quiet one.

***

We were riding an overnight train from Spain to Monaco, or Monaco to Italy. (We did this often, to save money.) We were tired – we were backpacking, so we were always tired – but it was one of those nights. A night in which the world is edged in magic, and you want to stay awake and see it all.

Years later, ear-to-ear.

Even so, we knew we needed rest. So my friend Sarah took out her Discman – this was in the days of Discmans! – and put on a Norah Jones CD.

She handed me an earbud, and we listened in one ear each. We had to position ourselves carefully so that the cord would reach across the bunk beds, but we managed it.

An odd configuration, true, but it was utterly peaceful, listening to those lullabies. It was one of those times when – all of the sudden and seemingly out of nowhere – you find yourself thinking, I will remember this for the rest of my life.

I can’t remember much of the magnificent interior of St. Peter’s Basilica, but I can clearly picture that Discman of Sarah’s. It was bright yellow and black, like a bumble bee. That’s memory for you. You can’t reason with it. It just goes ahead remembering what it loves.

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Six years after that trip, I fell in love and got married. When I did, I asked my friend Allison to sing “Come Away with Me,” at the wedding. And when she did, I heard everything come together.

I heard that old Discman playing in the past, Allison’s lovely voice resonating in the present, and a promise illuminating the future: Come away with me and I’ll never stop loving you.

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Honestly, I think what we want most this time of year is as simple as one friend handing another an earbud, as ancient as making a promise to love. We don’t really want more gifts and events and hassle and running around. We just want to share our best music with one another.

We just want to experience beauty together, to hear a sweet voice telling us that everything will be all right. We just want to fall asleep with the knowledge that – even if we’re apart for much of the year – for this one night, we’re traveling on together.

So that’s what I wish for you this holiday. Not glamor and glitz or everything on your list. Just shared music.

And when the music fades, I wish for you …

the silence at the heart of a holy night.

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What are you enjoying about this season?

Share your story in the comments section below!

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The Momastery Guest Post (Seriously, Bring Champagne)

On set of AWCC’s video trailer, 2013

This is a big day.

A break out the kazoos, call a babysitter and uncork the champagne!!! kind of day. (Or it would be if I had kazoos. Or children. Or champagne on hand … )

Today, I have a post live on Momastery. Momastery, created by Glennon Melton, “is where we practice living bigger, bolder, and truer on this earth. Where we remember what we already know: We can do hard things, love wins, and we belong to each other.”

How do Momastery readers (“Monkees”) do this? Through sharing stories, telling truths, and helping others. A recent Momastery Love Flash Mob raised over $120,000 for families in need … in 10 hours.

When I tried to explain this whole ‘guest post on Momastery’ thing to my Mom, I said, “You play tennis. It’s your thing. You’ve been playing for years, because you love it. One day, you walk out onto your humble, everyday court, and Martina Navratilova walks over and says, “Hi! I got your invitation, and I saw you play. I love your style. Want to rally?”

After which you hyperventilate, because things like that don’t happen in real life … except when they do. G (aka Martina), thank you for inviting me to be a part of the beautiful community you’ve created.

Writing this post broke my heart, and made me whole. It’s hard to share it, because it’s so personal, and it’s easy to share it, because it’s not about me. It’s about a beautiful friend I was privileged to know and will always, always miss.

The post is live here: What We Have Left: A Letter

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GREETINGS, fellow Monkees!

Welcome to A Wish Come Clear, where we share stories to help each other find meaning in our most challenging relationships. We’re all about choosing love, losing fear, and finding home in one another.

As such, I’d like to invite you to receive posts via email and two FREE digital books, Your Creed of Care: How to Dig for Treasure in People (Without Getting Buried Alive) AND Love’s Subversive Stance: Ground Yourself & Grow in Relationship.

Your Creed of Care contains 50+ pages of true stories about balancing the responsibilities of caring for another with caring for yourself. Love’s Subversive Stance is a 90+ page collection of stories centered on this question: in caring for others, how can we become more fully ourselves?

I hope you’ll enjoy both. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go acquire some kazoos.

Love,

Caroline

Announcing: A New Documentary (Hula Skirts Ahead)

Dear friends,

It’s Tuesday afternoon, and I’m camped out in the guest room of my dear friends’ home. I’ve been traveling for two weeks, from an Alabama lake house to a Pittsburgh conference center and everywhere in between. There are plenty of stories to be told, but today, I’d like to share a short documentary with you.

Longtime A Wish Come Clear readers may recall a mention or two of this film; it’s been in process for two years. In 2011, Edwin Mah — an American University professor and independent filmmaker — wrote to me and asked if I’d be willing to share stories on screen. Saying yes was a leap of faith. (Isn’t it always?)

Longtime readers may recall my 2012 post about the filming process. In that post, I wrote that being filmed for a documentary is a peculiar exercise … and as I’ve learned, watching a documentary featuring oneself and one’s family is even more surreal. (On that note: I’m so thankful to Edwin for his excellent work, and to my family for their willingness to participate in this project.)

My hope is that you — fellow siblings and families — will see something of yourselves here. My hope is that you will be encouraged to show up for one another, to show up for your life.

The film is entitled My Brother. It’s just over 14 minutes long, and it’s about the process of finding meaning and beauty within challenging relationships. If that’s not sufficient motivation: I sport several completely embarrassing outfits and hairstyles along the way. There really are hula skirts. Enough said.

Enjoy!

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What did you think of the film? Join the conversation in the comments!

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