Dana VanderLugt | Teacher & Writer

Walking each other home

by | Jun 29, 2016 | On living, On Writing | 11 comments

“We’re all just walking each other home.” — Ram Dass

Nestled back in the corner of my basement storage room are boxes of letters.  Letters my cousin and I wrote back and forth weekly as children. Letters from camp counselors and cabin mates with whom I promised to never lose touch. Letters from my grandma (probably stained with homesick tears) sent to me in Switzerland when I was working as an au pair after college.

I rarely open the boxes. I rarely pull out a letter to read. It’s just enough to know they are there. It’s enough to know the words are safe and available if I’d need them.

I’m a collector — not of stuff, so much — but of words and images. I fill my walls with books and pictures. I refuse to throw away old notes, tattered bookmarks, or elementary school yearbooks. A bedside box is filled with years of half-full notebooks and journals. I take pictures almost compulsively. I nearly made it to the car with a box of old CDs to donate, but found myself sneaking back into the house to hide them in the closet in the spare bedroom instead.

Since I was a small child and started my first scrapbook, I’ve had a longing within me to capture moments, to find some way for language to explain the unexplainable, to find a way to pluck and store an ounce of time before it keeps drifting away. I desperately want to make sense of the world around me — to give it some order by paying closer attention, by attempting to catalog its events.

While I could research and name dozens of the ills and slipperiness of social media and our technological age, one of the gifts is the collective story we tell. It’s the logging and sharing of moments, the articles friends post that I never would have found, the images that connect me to places I’m not, and it’s the way it helps to keep a log of our own lives, too.

I’ve been struggling with writing for a public audience for awhile. Because while I’m a sharer, I want my motives to be good ones. It’s easy for me to become a little too aware of who’s reading. A little too addicted to feedback. A little scared of what’s okay to put out there.

But I want to step out in grace here in this space, stumbling toward grace, really. I want to share and write with you, not for your approval, but to try to name and understand our experiences because our stories are a little less overwhelming when we’re telling them together. My friend, Theresa, says the biggest compliment you can get as writer is someone saying, “Me too.” And isn’t a room of whispered “me too’s” stronger and more powerful than applause? At a writing conference I recently attended, Shauna Niequist said she writes, “As an offering, not a performance.” And that’s what I want, too. Performing is scary, an offering for a community — an authentic one — is imperfect and broken, but fun. Compassion beats comparison and mercy beats scrutiny.  

I love the landscape of vocabulary and images that surround us, and I want to keep writing and showing up, not because it’s easy or it makes sense, but because it’s one of the best ways I know to keep walking each other home.

longing within me with tractor

 

11 Comments

  1. Theresa

    Me too!

    Reply
    • dvanderl

      Thanks for letting me steal your line (and being a friend and teacher to me).

      Reply
    • Sara E

      Love love love this

      Reply
  2. Brandi Van Houten

    I’m already on your every word and excited about traversing your landscape. Count me in for a “me too.”
    So, so we’ll written, friend.

    Reply
    • dvanderl

      Thanks, neighbor!

      Reply
  3. Michelle Moliterno

    Love it Dana!!!! I still have some of our notes from high school! Such good times!!!

    Reply
    • dvanderl

      It’s crazy to go back and “see” our younger selves, isn’t it? It’s a good reminder for me as a teacher and mom. Thankful for all those notes and long phone calls we shared!

      Reply
  4. AJ Dilling

    Me too. Very beautiful and I love to read your beautiful, heartfelt writing.

    Reply
    • dvanderl

      Feel the same about you! The way you show up and speak up inspires me.

      Reply
  5. Laurie Blackwell

    …the landscape of vocabulary… lovely! Just keep writing, just keep writing. Laurie B

    Reply
  6. Elizabeth

    Love this, Dana! I always enjoy (and generally echo) your thoughts!!

    Reply

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