There’s a game I do with all of my ropes groups… adults, kids, teachers, doctors, fellow guides, everyone. The people form a circle, and I bring out a huge box filled with huge wooden puzzle pieces. Each person grabs a piece and then the group puts the puzzle together. Sometimes, we do this several times, changing the rules with each turn. No talking this time. Boys are blindfolded. It’s an easy problem, and it’s always solved quickly.
The discussion afterwards can take much longer. Often we end up talking about it the rest of the day in-between other events and lunch and progress. There’s the obvious: everyone’s a piece of the puzzle. If someone opts out, it’s not complete. We all have a part to play, a purpose. And there’s the backseat question… the one that sits in your pocket and rides around for awhile:
What piece are you?
Are you a corner piece? Visible? Easily distinguishable and placed?
Maybe your a border piece. You’re known, you lead, but your in-line with others.
And maybe, just maybe, your in the middle. Somewhere… with the majority of the pieces. Perhaps there’s a funny angle that sets you apart… but, for the most part, you’re in the middle. Not easily seen. Literally in the thick of things. Important, but not on display.
Do you like your piece? Do you dream of being more? Of being less?
This is a common view for me.
I am the person you call when you need someone to follow you home because your brake lights don’t work. I’m the friend who rides along to a Phish concert and (safely) escort you home afterwards. I’m really decent on a tow strap. I can steer and brake and coast appropriately, keeping the lines taut but not too taught. Giving room, taking wide corners.
I’m an excellent motorcycle passenger with no plans to drive alone. I’m the backup singer with no desire to be a soloist. I LOVE to be up there on stage, but do not let the moment ride on me. I will melt.
I’m solid in the garage, but keep me away from under the hood. You need a crescent wrench? I can find that for you. A Phillips screwdriver? I know the difference. I can’t fix your car, but I can hand you the right tools.
I can belay you up a wall or tower or pole and talk you through hours of communication exercises, but it’s you who does the work. I’m just the guide.
I stand somewhere in the middle. Not in front, but not last. Not unnoticed, but not irreplaceable.
I am so very ok with that.
I spent a lot of time thinking I wasn’t. This world credits the stand-outs, the book deals, the loud stories, the extreme, the visible. We are taught to fight for the front, and we ache to be seen.
I realize now I have no desire to be seen.
I would, however, crawl on glass to be heard.
I spent so much time when I was younger sorting through feelings of wanting to be more… more something. I assumed, like anyone would, that I wanted be seen. I sought the part. The clothes. The job. The microphone. The followers.
I’ve had those chances to be in front. To be the corner piece. To be on the stage in the spotlight. And they all fell short of the thrill of speaking and being HEARD. Of writing and making sense. Of sharing and being found. Of being just BEYOND the glare of the spotlight.
My heart hurts when I look back at that girl who thought she wanted the wrong things. Who thought what she wanted wasn’t big enough, important enough, fancy enough. Aren’t you supposed to want everything? Say that you don’t and people assume you’re selling yourself short… that you don’t believe in yourself.
What that girl wanted- all she ever wanted- was to be heard. To tell the stories. To write true and honest and funny. And that, for her, is exactly the right thing.
It’s not always about believing in yourself, which can change day by day. It’s more about knowing yourself.
Anais Nin said, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
My view from here is busy with people and family and school and kids and friends. I am finally finding my voice. It just took a little practice and a little courage to start speaking out loud. I am holding steady in the middle.