Today’s Women Rock Wednesday starts with a man.
But seriously, it does start with a man.
I was up north in Minocqua a month or so ago and chatting with a colleague I don’t see terribly often. Somehow, the topic turned to Harry Potter. I’m honesty not sure how. I swear I’d fess up if I recalled steering the conversation that direction, but I really don’t remember doing that. Regardless, we were talking about Harry Potter and the aforementioned colleague, Peter, told me about Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. A weekly podcast that takes you through the Harry Potter series, chapter by chapter, reading and discussing each through the lens of a specific theme and using various traditional spiritual practices to relate the reading and those themes to the world and our own lie.
I’d actually never listened to a podcast before, but audiobooks have completely changed my running experience, so it seemed like something I could get behind. Two things first…
- I had to figure out how to listen to a podcast. It was a little bit of a process that made me feel o-l-d and required that I admit to more than one person that I didn’t even know how to start, but I got there. The little purple Podcast icon is now on my iphone home page and I’ve got all of the Book 1 podcasts loaded.
- This felt like something I really didn’t want to do alone, but taking a children’s book that seriously isn’t something you can ask just anyone to do. Fortunately, I knew exactly who I wanted to do it with. Unfortunately… anxiety. And that brings me to the real meat of this story: Nicole. Yes, I did just call my friend meat. And she is a woman. Two strikes against this post already.
Nicole and I were both chemistry majors at Michigan Tech. I can count on one hand (literally) the other female chemistry majors I knew while I was there — Beth, Amanda, Shannon. And because other women were so few and far between in my classes, on campus, in the dorms, there was really something special about the bonds I forged with them while there. There was a familiarity, a safety, a kinship with those women that may or may not have been unique to Michigan Tech, but was definitely unique in my life to that point and I sincerely value those relationships.
I loved (and still love, honesty) those women. But I was desperately shy around Nicole while we were still in Houghton. She had this gorgeous, unruly, curly black hair that she wore with absolute abandon, while I was still busy working my way out of the over-gelled, wet poodle, ramen noodle look. She wore rocker jeans and funky t-shirts and chucks with everything. I never went anywhere or wore anything without a white, crew neck, men’s t-shirt underneath. She spoke up for what she believed in in class and on campus. I was busy trying to quietly figure out what I even believed in enough to speak up about. I put Nicole on a high pedestal and convinced myself I couldn’t reach her there.
Fortunately, Facebook emerged on the college scene circa 2005 and I was far more comfortable with virtual friendship than I was with the in-person kind. Nicole and I, like many other college classmates, became friends on Facebook and stayed that way after graduation as we went our separate ways — interstate moves, jobs and grad schools, marriages and more new states, quietly noting one another in our evolving Facebook feeds. So many times, though, there was overlap. Overlap in likes and dislikes, feelings about life milestones or political happenings, appreciation for four-legged creatures with fur and science, science, science. Curls and books. David Bowie and JK Rowling. It was too much to ignore, so we didn’t.
Nicole, from her pedestal on high, took the first big step when she sent me her actual phone number — allowing us to step outside of the Facebook world into the real one. And it was up to me to invite her, via that very real phone number, to do Harry Potter and the Sacred Text with me. I took a page out of Nicole’s Big Book of Bravery and did it. She said yes.
The first podcast was a revelation. The two moderators (hosts? what do you call a podcast star???) talked about spirituality and what it meant to view something as a sacred text – to love a work, feel at home with it, and to intentionally spend time with the words and their meaning in the context of our own lives. People have done this with a variety of texts for ages and ages – the bible, for example. So why not Harry Potter?
Why not, indeed?
I was enamored instantly and the week-long conversation that 30 minute podcast and single chapter of reading sparked between Nicole and I fed me in an incredibly profound way over that first week. We talked, also, at length about how quickly we wanted to go. The biggest part of me wanted to RUN, to devour it, take as much in as quickly as I possibly could. But a deeper, more rational part of me, convinced me that to savor it would be better. And as I listened to the second podcast on a walk with my pup in the sunshine this afternoon, I was so grateful for that decision. What I heard again moved my heart. I cannot wait to sit down with my book this evening and really reflect, using a version of the spiritual practice of lectio divina to fully engage with the text and my friend.
I learned in that first week that I am committed to authenticity. But as I think about this week’s theme of loneliness, I understand how terrified I was of authenticity for much of my life. I set myself up for loneliness by spending a lot of energy trying to fit in and worrying that I wouldn’t, rather than engaging others authentically and finding meaning in the relationships that resulted. That started to change in college to some extent, and even more so in graduate school, but only now is it something that I would consider intentional.
Perhaps that’s why now is exactly the right time for me to discover a real relationship with Nicole. Any sooner and I may have felt the need to purchase a pair of chucks, but she’d have seen right through it and I’d have blown everything. Or maybe not. But seriously, this woman rocks and now is definitely a good time!