Steam hissed from the espresso machine as the barista made our order. Two mismatched coffee mugs warmed our hands after tossing our spare change into the tip jar. Our metal chairs screeched on the vinyl floor as we pulled our legs underneath the wildly painted wooden table. And with forearms rested, our chests rose with a deep breath as we make eye contact for the first time. We were once strangers, now acquaintances and soon dear friends. It is only you and I with the sounds of an acoustic guitar playing on the small coffee shop stage and conversational murmurs coming from other tables.
Yet, in reality, I wish we could meet face-to-face. A simple handshake or a warm smile will help us to recognize how human we both are as we exchange our narratives for the first time. It is, with a sad realization, narratives shared null of a prior relationship is often met with suspect, anger or contempt. And understandably so due to counterfeit storylines of reality television, news programming and social media bombarding our everyday lives. Still, honest narratives are powerful, need to be shared and met with both compassion and empathy. A telling of our story allows the listener to draw near to us like a newborn resting on her father’s bare chest feeling his loving heartbeat towards her. Even more, questions need to be welcomed like a child curious about their surroundings. Sincere inquiries allow us to grow deeper as each person - both the storyteller and listener - come to a new greater understanding of themselves and the other.
So here, over our fictional cups of coffee, is my story. I do not claim my story as the storyline journeyed by many others, if any at all. Blatant steadfast remarks of particular life topics like the ones within my personal narrative have caused greater harm than good. So please do not use this story as a weapon of ‘sole truth’ to knock down others.
For those wrestling with spiritual questions. I honor and respect your journey. Sleepless nights are long, difficult, cold and may seem without hope. And at times, you may wonder if the new mercy that comes with the morning will ever come. Do know that it will. I don’t know when, but the morning will come.
For those with a mental health diagnosis. I honor and respect your journey, too. If you are suicidal, please go to your nearest emergency room or call 800-273-8255. You are not alone. If you are anxious, depressed, manic, or whatever it may be, please seek counsel if the weight seems too much. Speak out. Shame has no place.
For those wrestling with or landed on a particular side of sexual issues. I also honor and respect your journey. Sexual brokenness can be the hardest to discuss and met with heated debate. LGBT+, divorce, pornography, infidelity, sexually transmitted diseases, victim of sexual violence - whatever it is, you are not alone. You are heard.
There are hundreds of other life circumstances not mentioned with a thousand or more combinations with those above to making each of our stories. And whatever that combination may be. I honor and respect your personal narrative. Not everyone will land on the same side of every topic. And you may have to pull your cards closer to your chest for not everyone to see. You have a right to set boundaries out of respect and safety for yourself. Just know, even if we don’t show each other all of our cards, you are still loved no matter what set of cards you’ve given or played.
Thank you for joining me in listening to my story. May it spark conversation, bring redemption or encourage you within your own journey.