We Are The Champions (Or Need To Be)
by Laura Taylor
I have this jumper-skirt combo that is a sucker for compliments. Last weekend while wearing it, I was literally stopped in the supermarket while clutching four tins of lentils by a seriously earnest teenager. The jumper has a big ol’ hole where I snagged it on my car door, the zip burst open on the dress underneath and the whole thing is held up by a belt I wrap around myself and some major safety pin handi-work. Whenever someone comments on it, I think if only they knew, that underneath this seemingly lush ensemble I’m literally held together by a safety pin. But that's it right? We've all got a couple of metaphorical safety pins, belts, and knotted knits holding us together and keeping us looking better than we probably deserve. Which brings me to this - the importance of knowing and being champions.
Which apparently is no mean feat. The average American has, wait for it, one close friend. One. One person to call when in crisis. One person they feel safe to share their vulnerabilities. The leading cause of people seeking counselling is loneliness, and I believe it! I’ve recommended my own counsellor to no less than 12 other people seeking help. It seems a strong, empathetic voice of reason is hard to find. We are in a loneliness crisis, heightened by the rise of individualism, sharing less and in return becoming increasingly isolated.
Timothy Keller writes on this that “to be fully known and truly loved is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” Now I get an absolute kick out of knowing that my friend wants a tofu bao and vege pad thai to share, or turning up to meet and seeing a coffee already sitting there waiting for me. Am I fully known and truly loved because my best friend knows I made the transition from flat white to filter coffee? Unfortunately not, but I do (maybe somewhat romantically) see these things as a symbol for the experience of a life shared with someone. That in the same way how over time spent in intimate relationship I have learnt that no matter the hour, my friend Christy will order a slice of chocolate tart, I also learnt that I can call her concussed and in tears and she will turn up with a stupidly long embrace and a take-away box of pasta.
I don’t know where or when it happened, but at some point I started to see the people around me differently. They became...soul people. In the space of their personhood, there is something so deep it almost breaks me. Have you had that? The people where my soul connects to yours and for a moment we realise the space between us is revered. Where the other can leave, where the ground can dissipate and they could be two blocks away or two continents, but between you it isn’t just a string of messenger blurbs but rather as Henri Nouwen says “from now on, wherever you go, or wherever I go, all the ground between us is holy ground”. Your love is carried by something greater. And it is so enriching. Their wins are my wins (enter here shine theory), in the same way their hurts are my hurts. And not in a co-dependent way, but in the sense that we have really committed to this community we have created. Journeying together in a way that individualism doesn't really leave space for. They are my champions, and I am absolutely theirs.
Because it takes a village right? I am deepening in the knowledge that the love that exists in me, in you, flows from the rivers of those that have poured into us unconditionally and relentlessly, even when I have stupidly wasted it and when the sun has scorched it bare. And lets be real, to be a champion and to be championed, takes something of you whether it be time, capacity, commitment - all things our burnout generation isn’t at liberty to spare. I love this quote by Teju Cole, “hope has nothing to do with mood or objective facts, but is rather a form of hospitality offered by those who are tired to those who are exhausted”. If you are tired, there is nothing more precious than someone who has been exhausted, helping someone walk the path of A to B. I have three women, all with adolescent kids of their own, who have championed and walked life with me for almost a decade and it has been such a gift, even if their greatest achievement is getting me to use rosehip oil.
So if you haven’t, find your soul people. Commit to your community. Become a champion and let yourself be championed, not out of a place of lack (unhealthy 2’s suss that out STAT) but because there is nothing more rewarding or human than to be fully known, and truly loved.