Today, I bring you another installment of Conversations with Ourselves, a series of posts in which every Thursday the author addresses the Past Self through the Present or vice versa (or sometimes totally not this, but something equally cool) concerning matters of Faith, specifically.
Today, I get to share with you from the wonderful Elora. Elora is a dear friend and we even share a publisher. Her book is out now, via Amazon, and I commend it to you with my highest recommendation. Elora has a unique ear for other people's stories. She'll get you talking, take what you say into the palm of her hand, and hold it close to the beat of her heart.
I saw her as I was walking down the street. The wind swept her blonde hair across her face and I could see the frustrated pull of her arm as she twisted the unruly strands into a ponytail.
Yep. It was her. Or...me? How do you explain that one?
We were about to cross paths. At first, I glanced toward the skyline, as if waiting for the bats to make their grand entrance at sunset. I guess I was trying to hide from her? I mean, it would be startling for anyone to see themselves older. I had a feeling I knew how she'd react to me: dark brunette hair, heavier, tattooed and pierced. I was a completely different person, yet the same.
She brushed up against me then and we exchanged glances, "oh! I'm so sorry," she muttered under her breath, her eyes wide with fear.
I smiled. "No worries."
She hesitated then, getting a closer look, "have we met?" she asked. Her eyebrows were bent in concentration and I could see the thoughts flying across her brain - embarrassment at forgetting a stranger, long lost friends, confusion...
"No. At least...not technically."
She tilted her head and studied me, "you just seem so familiar..." she said more to herself than for my benefit.
I nodded, "yes. I should hope so." And I looked at her then, really looked at her, and waited for realization to strike.
"Ohmigosh," she whispered. I smiled at the language choice, a little tamer than I would have chosen, and nodded when her hands went to her head in shock. She came closer, touched my tattoo, studied my hair, looked at my clothes, "I look so different." I could see the questions firing behind her eyes - what our life was like, what to expect, what I was doing..."What did mom say about the tattoo?!" I laugh.
"Well. She responded probably just like you think she would. But, it's okay. I'm 30, you know." Her breath caught and she glanced around, collecting her thoughts. I brought myself back to where she was - the fear, the expectations, the worry. I decided to let her off the hook.
"So, would you like to grab some coffee? Talk a little?"
Her eyes found mine and she smiled, "yeah. Although, I won't drink any coffee - I'm not much of a fan."
I laugh. "Oh yeah. Right. Well. Give that one time. Trust me."
It takes awhile for us to warm up to each other. It's weird, you know? When one person knows where the other has been - it makes for a one way conversation. She asks me simple questions at first - which makes sense, considering where she's at in life. She's comfortable. The conversation begins to grow awkward and I realize just how far I've come - just how far she has yet to go, and she whispers, "is there anything I should, um...know?"
I glance up at her from my americano. I wonder how much I should tell her. There's a lot of pain waiting in the next few years - a lot of buckling under, a lot of crashing, a lot of doubt and anger. There's also a lot of joy. A marriage, learning how to love, the birth of a mama's heart...
I decide to tell her nothing, but encourage her with one single phrase - "you need to know stories, the whole of a story and not just the good parts, are important."
She wrinkled her brow and shook her head slightly, "what?"
"Stories." I repeated, "they're really important to me - well - you. People's stories. Your story. Fictional stories. You need to remember the whole world runs on them. Feeds off them, even."
Her eyes flicker a little at my words and I can see the flame inside - small and almost nonexistent - the stories are quiet there. They've been pushed deep, I know, but they're coming and she needs to be ready.
She worries her lips and glances around, looking for a way to escape the awkwardness no doubt, "I don't know if I understand." She says as she returns her gaze back to my tattoo - the anatomical heart and crown with sparrows flying around it. I see the small, imperceptible wrinkle in her nose and I stifle a laugh. Yes. She has a long way.
I reach for her hand and she pulls it back, stuffing it in her lap and avoiding my eyes. I clear my throat and grab my purse. "Listen. I know it's weird. I know it doesn't make much sense. But there will come a moment where the white picket fence just won't cut it anymore, and the stories will be waiting. There? In that moment of darkness? You'll experience what it means to truly love and how your story is built specifically to reveal His glory in the hard spaces."
Her face twisted and I knew I was scaring her - knew her safe little world was crashing a bit around her at the thought of pain or hardship. I stood up and gave her one last smile, "please don't worry about me." I said, "you may get a little bruised these next few years, but you survive. Here's what's most beautiful, though." I lean and whisper in her ear, really wanting her to hear, "when the breaking comes, you're going to bloom."
And I turn and walk away, leaving her there with her Mexican coke and a journal. It's not until I walk out of the door that I see her pick up a pen and start to write.
Elora Ramirez is a storyteller who lives in Austin, Texas with her chef-husband Russell. A self-proclaimed story-theorist and champion of beauty, she works as a high school Instructional Coach during the day and writes by night. A couple years ago, in the middle of a creative dry spell , she found her purpose. In a room full of revolutionaries and ordinary radicals, she felt on fire. Tell my stories, she heard Someone say. And pictures flashed in her mind of those forgotten.
Since then, sheʼs made it her mission to carry the stage wherever she goes – listening for the whispers of stories time has erased. It was through this new direction she wrote her first novel, Come Alive. She writes candidly about her journey of healing and recovery – encouraging others, specifically women, to find beauty in brokenness and the strength of leaning into grace.