The current background image on my phone is a fairly crappy photo of a lit candle.
See? Crappy. No Instagram filter is going to make this into a Pinterest-worthy image.
But of course, there’s more to the story, the thousand (or thousands of thousands) words behind the image, the narrative always in progress. I snapped that sub-optimal photograph at the end of a conversation with a good friend, a conversation in which we shared some of our deeper hopes and fears, in which we met each other and talked about the ways in which we’re vulnerable, the ways in which we’re trying to embrace difficulties and learn from them, even when that learning hurts. Even when it’s raw. We talked about noticing, and breathing, of sitting with certain feelings and also gathering the strength to delve into them in all their messy, visceral glory. We spoke of diving into the wreckage and the muck and coming up with, well, wreckage and muck, and what you do with that? We interpreted dreams.
And then she asked me — as though I were doing her any sort of favour — to indulge her in a small ritual.
“I’m a visual thinker,” she said, closing her eyes and rubbing them as though to bring the image into words, “and through all of this, the visual I’m getting from you is of light: of this small, strong, bright light at your very core that is going to deepen and grow.”
And she fetched a candle, and some matches and a candle holder, and lit the flame. And we watched it for a while, that little flame, until we had to go.
“I wish there were a way that you could take it with you,” she said, gesturing toward the candle.
And I took out my phone (the phone I had been carefully ignoring in favour of being present in the flesh-and-blood conversation) and took a picture of that lit candle. And I set the photo as my phone’s backdrop, so that every time I look at it, I am reminded of light and strength, friendship and kindness, warmth and care.
So. On the one hand we have a series of intense, real-time events and emotions. On the other, recordings of them, images of them, their digitized interpretations. Does it cheapen the moment, make it any less real, to carry a memento of it on the cold metal interface of my smart phone? Or does that flickering candle as my backdrop humanize my digital experience, make it more compassionate? Are the two mutually exclusive?
I’m asking these questions for a reason. I’m doing it all wrong, because I should have told you this at the very top of this post (but hopefully its title clued you in), when you were still interested in reading it, that I have a new project in the works:
In fact, that’s the title of our book-in-the-works:
Read more in our call for submissions. We’d love to hear from you. We want your stories, be they about romance, mental health, creativity, family, addiction, identity, money, politics — or something else altogether. Your stories can happy, sad, or bittersweet. The only thing we ask is that they be true and that they not be previously published.
We’d love for you to spread the word about this project. We have an informal lineup of some fantastic bloggers and writers contributing their stories to this project (really, that lineup gives me so much joy — these are some of the best and most insightful wordsmiths I know of and I am beyond honoured that they are interested in being part of this), and we’re looking for additional contributors to complete the book.
(Also, I can’t imagine how you wouldn’t know of Elan Morgan, but she’s a dear friend who has come into my world precisely because of blogging and the Internet (oh, and she designed this website). She’s also a pretty much perfect example of the ways in which people can build meaning and communities online and off — and I couldn’t imagine a better partner in this project.)
So. I am, at my core, good and bright and safe and warm. I’ve got my light — in all its backlit, pixelated, sweet glory. And you, if you’re a writer and blogger with something to say about this topic, may just have your work cut out for you. We look forward to hearing from you.