excuse for vulnerability

Last week, on a whim born out of caffeine and restlessness, I created an event on my calendar and added 6 close LGBTQ+ friends to it who, for a variety of reasons, I felt would gel. The event description read as follows:

This is a standing weekly invite to chat with some queeeeer folks. Some of you know each other. Some of you don’t at all! It just seemed like a great excuse to continue connecting fellow awesome LGBTQ+ folks in my life during this strange time. 

– I’ll send out a zoom link 5-10 min before the call starts. 
– There’s no pressure to join– come when you can and stay for however long. 
– We’ll chat for at least an hour but might go on longer. I will likely cap it at 2 hours because I will need dinner by then 😀 
– There is no real agenda but I do have a long list of questions that we can always pull from. 

P.S.  I may cancel some weeks as needed thanks to my fun friend, Anxiety. 

After sending, a rush of excitement washed over me. Questions to ask came quickly to mind and I caught myself day dreaming thinking about so many loved ones existing together from afar.

Why did I wait so long to bring these people together when the technology has existed for years? I only ever imagined these folks gathering for a funeral or a wedding or something absolutely drastic. Instead this strange time opened up this excuse for vulnerability and connection. I love this dear excuse so much.

Yesterday, panic hit me. What if no one gets along? What if it’s incredibly awkward? What if someone says something mean? What if we have weird power dynamics where a few people spend most of the time talking while others are silent? Late at night, I scribbled down thoughts into my phone. This is where my experience with work is weirdly helpful. What are my hopes for the call? What are my fears? How can I put guidelines in place so my hopes come true? I called a dear friend to panic alongside someone else yesterday (an important activity nowadays) and we agreed that it wouldn’t be “too intense” of me to send an email with the ideas I have.

Guidelines: This is a version 1 aka additions/edits welcomed by the crew

There’s never any pressure to join this call or forced participation if you do join except for the beginning/end. Hop off whenever you need to.

We’ll abide by emotional consent by leaving room for, asking about, sharing, and respecting boundaries.

Keep in mind the idea of both stepping up to share and stepping out to give others the chance to do so. Stepping up doesn’t need to mean sharing—it could be asking a question. Stepping out can mean you nod in agreement rather than jump in.

We won’t go longer than 2 hours (this is for the introverts in the house).

Avoid distractions as best as you can and be present (close tabs, don’t stare at your phone, etc). Being present doesn’t mean you need to be an in  ~awesome~ headspace though. These are weird, tough times and let’s be here for it all.

This is a closed call meaning additional human companions/partners/friends need to find their own. Blame me if anyone gets mad. Furry friends are always welcome though and encouraged to participate.

Agenda:

Start: “Red, Yellow, Green” check-in + sharing “what’s new” in your world. I’ll explain the colors on the call.

Middle: Lots of questions, lots of answers—feel free to bring a topic/question/idea to chat about!

End: Each person will share something they are thankful for/feeling positive about.

Email sent. I started today and immediately reached for a redbull (I have an emergency supply for days I need caffeine). As the hours closed in to the time of our call, I found myself nearly shaking with nerves. I spun up the zoom, sent the link, and waited. The same friend I panicked with the day prior thankfully joined early. We laughed nervously and soon other folks joined. There were 5 of us total with two folks who were invited skipping this round.

It was lovely. It was a dream. It was a lovely dream come true. I reveled in hearing stories anew from friends I’ve known for years as they got to know new folks. It was fascinating to hear how folks described times in their lives. It was amazing to hear someone I’ve known since I was 4 years old ask a question of someone I just met 1.5 years ago. This meeting of the minds felt powerful and sacred. With each passing moment, everything felt easy as momentum grew. Suddenly, weird connections were made—two friends both LOVE puns and two find they both naturally love to “play” even as adults (especially as adults). I audibly exclaimed, “YES!” too many times to count as I could see the connections being built. I couldn’t contain my joy.

These are the moments I want to carry forward and create more of. In calling my panic buddy afterwards, I laughingly made an analogy to cooking. To explain, I joke sometimes that with enough butter, rosemary, and garlic just about anything will taste good. It’s a spin off of my mom’s love of flour, sugar, and butter. In all of my anxiety about this, I forgot that it’s hard to create a bad experience with such good, authentic humans. They are the butter, rosemary, and garlic. God I am so lucky. Even if this is the only gathering we have and no one ever shows up again, I’ll move through this isolation period knowing what purpose it’s served in my life. It’s woken me up to more creative connections and to not wait for excuses to take risks in bringing folks together. I don’t need an excuse anymore.

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