She confessed it while the two of us stood alone on the deck, away from the other writers, musicians and photographers at this retreat in Texas.
“I was a little nervous about coming here,” she said. “Because I thought y’all would be kind of weird.”
I laughed deep and long at hearing her confession, wondering if she had any idea how right she was.
Friend, I told her, Look at me. Look around you. We are all weird.
I looked down the shore, where an amateur photographer snapped a photo of a rock, of all things.
Earlier that morning, the man at the podium stuffed his hand into a Kermit puppet and made us cry while he sang of lovers and dreamers and me.
One night, three of us sat up until 1 a.m., laughing until our sides hurt, as we discussed quantum physics and the invention of the Internet. Who does this?
In the art studio, I watched as a businessman let his inner child play with paint and glue. I watched as he colored outside the lines. On purpose.
Some of you have asked me what I learned last week during my long weekend away at Laity Lodge in the Hill Country of Texas. And maybe you’d think I could answer that question with bullet points and a tidy set of tips on how to become a better writer.
It’s taken me a good week to process it all, and I have a hunch that I’ve more processing to do. But mostly, I guess, I’m relearning this: Most people are weirdos trapped in neatly-wrapped packages. We each have our own set of idiosyncrasies, insecurities and irregularities.
We are all exceptionally and beautifully odd. Praise Jesus.
Too often, I go into these sorts of things with my Inner Weird packed in the suitcase. Will they discover how peculiar I really am if I wear my purple nailpolish, or if I slip into my blinged-out wardrobe? Will I fit into their expectation of what a farm wife from Iowa really is? And do I talk like an adjunct journalism professor should talk? Will I sound wise, or amateurish? And will anybody care what I really think anyway?
Before I open my mouth, I size myself up against the others in the room and ask inwardly:
Am I smart enough? Talented enough? Good enough? Normal enough?
And if I pack away the facade and wear the Real Me, will they sit by me at dinner?
Yes, in fact, they will.
And if you stick around long enough, you might just find out that the tongue-tied person next to you is every bit as quirky as you. And she might just have a few of those same nagging insecurities doing battle with the You that you really are.
We are not a cookie-cutter people. We don’t live in neat boxes. One-size-fits-all doesn’t work.
Normal is out of fashion. Weird is the new black — or maybe it always has been, but still begging to be let loose. And I want to let loose.
In the middle of letting her fly free, we may find this splendid surprise: we belong.