How can I possibly thank you? With what phrase can I articulate what it meant to me that you were there, hauling yourself up to those northern hinterlands, where traffic finally peters out and parking, for once, is excellent? Do you know what it means to me that you went out of your way to attend?
This particular Third Place Books is the venue where I once saw Michael Crichton, a favorite author of mine and whom, especially at a younger age, I couldn't get enough of. He was seated at a table signing books. I distinctly remember that of everyone in that long line waiting to speak with him, I was the only person he stood up for and shook hands with. I'll never know why, but in 2003 it meant the world to me, and today it still resonates. I wonder what it was about our brief exchange that compelled him to make it ever more special. Perhaps it was my age; as with so many events and films I've enthusiastically attended throughout my life, I was at least two decades younger than everyone else present.
It wasn't until after the high of my event was plateauing that the thought hit me: there were more people here tonight than there were for Michael Crichton.
What does that mean? Probably nothing. But things don't have to mean anything in order to be significant. They can simply be felt, and cherished for the small good things that they are. With respect to solely that night, let alone everything else, I'll count myself forever lucky for a multitude of reasons: the chance to share the stage with someone as vivacious, talented, inspiring and downright charming as the great Seattle Walk Report; that she was so easy to work with and chat (in front of a crowd!) with; that questions were asked, and thought-provoking ones at that; that Kalani dreamed up the idea of pairing us; that you came, you all (!!!); that my photo professors were there in the audience, whom I have not seen in ten plus years and who have been major, formative influences on me; that I managed to remember everything I wanted to say; that it was successfully filmed (stay tuned for a full-length video!).
Most of all, I'm thankful that people tolerate me for who I am. That the folks who are struggling through life, who are in a rush, who are unhappy– that they put up with me and let me be. I know the happiness of others can grate during periods of strife, and I try to be mindful of that. It's the only reason I don't burst into full, unexpurgatedly enthusiastic flower every second of the night. Don't rub it in, I tell myself. But also– don't pretend to be depressed just to make others comfortable. If I tried to fit in and placate them by matching their mood, I'd never know what is so easily and regularly true:
That people usually come around to reflecting your positive energy. Most people respond to genuine respect. I've angered more people in my life by belittling them than by being positive. I try for a positive energy that's respectful, that has a conscious awareness. That's present. This is my way of avoiding the offense of oblivious happiness.
But I can never reach everyone. I hope those others, the ones for whom compassion and goodwill appear to do nothing, take a moment to reflect amidst the clutter of modern life, and come to their own conclusions in time.
I wonder if they recognize that happiness is a choice, and that, perhaps like them, I've undergone hardships too awful to imagine. But what can you do but continue dancing? Choosing something healthy? One of the most valuable takeaways of reading Susanna's book, for me, was the question of worldviews. If our outlook is determined by what we focus on and how, and we have control over that, then it follows by simple logic that we can choose our outlook. One is hardly going to be less than truthful than another, and during the short time I'm alive I'm going to try for what I'm good at: highlighting the little things, the beautiful everyday proofs of goodness within ourselves and out in the world, for the sake of my soul and anyone else who's got a moment.
What moved me most about that night at Third Place was the dreamlike truth of sharing that stage and space with people who all respond to something similar.
Thank you for keeping that candle burning.
Above photos by Kalani Kapahua.