Come in From the Cold

There’s a line in the Carrie Newcomer song, “Betty’s Diner,” that says, “Despair and hope sit face to face when you come in from the cold.” She’s talking about a gathering place where people from all walks of life arrive to accept nourishment and a kind word. They come looking for hope.

Ordinarily, I love gathering places, and parties, and networking events, but in the past couple of weeks, I’ve felt out of place at those get-togethers. Maybe it’s just me, but people lately seem so distracted, tired, self-interested, worried, (myself included), that more often than not, talk feels forced and hardly moves beyond chit chat.

In fact, I was conversing with a fellow artist the other day, someone I’d not met before. I was complimenting her work and, when she asked about it, explaining mine. She was kind and gracious, then suddenly said, “So friend me on Facebook, and we can connect.” Then she turned away.

I wanted to say, “But we could connect right now. I thought we were there for a second. We could put our hearts on our sleeves and have a meaningful conversation that might resonate with each of us for days. We could find something we have in common. We could bond over our children. We could become real friends, not Facebook friends.”

Artists live and work in the place where hope and despair co-exist. I think of all those long walks to the mailbox to retrieve yet another rejection letter for my writing, and how bad I felt. But on the way home, I’d say to myself, “Well, maybe tomorrow an acceptance will come.” And no one understood that pull between despair and hope better than my friends in my writing groups. In their presence, I found Betty’s Diner, a place where I didn’t have to be ashamed to fail and where I could share my wild dreams for success.

This morning, I met a writer friend at a coffeehouse. I was looking forward to telling her how excited I am about my new project, but also how confused I feel about how to launch it. And I wanted to ask about her new directions and if she felt she was on the right path. We didn’t try to solve each other’s problems, but we did offer observations and sympathetic smiles as we wrapped our hands around our teacups. I left feeling lighter and more hopeful than I have in days.

I know it’s easier after a long week of work to curl up on the couch and watch Netflix. I know it’s warmer to stay inside on a winter night and read a book. I know it seems less tiring to catch up with friends by scrolling Facebook rather than giving them a call. And I know many people are introverts and like to be alone. But ask yourself, do you really need a break or are you just hiding out, hoping despair won’t find you? Because it’s not possible to figure everything out on your own, and we weren’t meant to. And it’s not possible to keep distracting yourself from your worries in the hopes they’ll just go away for a bit. It’s far better to face your concerns, and far easier to do that with the support of friends.

In the line of the song, Carrie says, “when you come in from the cold.” In other words, we have to make the effort sometimes, no matter how tired, busy, or dismayed we may feel, to go where the warmth really is. And that is in the company of those who know us best, the family members and colleagues who don’t mind hearing about our despair, and are ready to cheer on our hopes. You can find that talking to an interesting stranger at a party, or having tea with a good friend. But do find it, now and again. Do come in from the cold.

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