We often talk of going out to "find ourselves," referring to that mysterious self we all believe will bring us into balance, that thing we all believe we can find if we travel the world enough, read enough books and find enough of our secret places. Like Peter Pan we seek this part of ourselves as though it were our shadow and we are but a step behind. Some of us will seek gurus, some will travel the world, some will be more daring and dangerous, others will put pen to paper and write. All will act in some degree of folly, for we cannot see ourselves entirely, not ever.
We see a part of who we are, then we see the rest reflected in the people we meet and the stories we share.
A reflection is a curious thing; an image carved of both what we are as well as what is behind us. It is not simply a picture, not a static image, but a living impression upon a reflective surface such as water, glass or silver, all in themselves somewhat ethereal and magical materials. The trick about your reflection is to not pay too much attention to those things behind you, not if you are trying to truly see yourself. What is behind us can obscure who we are now, can shift our perception in an illusion of our lives and our hearts. It can rob us of our richness, our depth, our true strength and beauty if we look too much at what is behind us, and not at what is here and now.
I am as guilty as anyone of this view, this casting of eyes to what is behind me in my reflection and not to what is in this present moment. My mind, my heart, long for stories and so I am prone to gaze into the past for them within myself, while I look to the present for others. Nine months ago I set out to find myself and learned about this reflection, about the stories of one hundred others, then some more, but never sat to look at what was reflected back at me.
It is long past time. And so I sat on a Sunday, looking at my reflection cast back at me in the eyes of so many others as well as my own words. My eyes danced over words penned by my own hand, my mind swam in a sea of memories, comments and messages, emails, phone calls and texts all flew through my mind as I sat for just on more connection; my own.
Matt Hampton has the biggest heart, with the accompanying amazing depth for love but also an equal capacity for hurt. That's the trick of those with the biggest hearts really, their dual capacity. It reflects in his eyes when he looks at you, whether on the other side of a table or through a mirror, his eyes don't judge you. He sees you as amazing, he can filter away all of the trivial judgements about a person and tell you what their true essence is, that piece of beauty we all have and yet we think no one sees. Matt does.
Behind his crazy beard, sitting like a lion's mane of charcoals and gathering whites which he will tell you are wisdom, is the man in the KC ball cap with the loudest laugh in the room. He is your friend, even if you don't know it, spending hours in his head trying to find a way he can help you. Truth be told, it causes him pain, but he knows no other way to be. For all of the pomp, all of the intellectualism, Matt holds two truths in his heart. We are all beautiful and the world can be an amazing place, we just have to have the courage to let it.
Though a rough road exists behind him, it's not what is remarkable about him. To craft him of the trials in his past would be to do a disservice. The real wonder of Matt is not the pain he endured, but the heart that came out of it. He doesn't see the world in the same way many do. For him it is not a place of people running around like sheep, it's more colorful than that. A place of people with traits like animals, where angels wear blue jeans and t-shirts, where the truth to the meaning of life is found in the perfect piece of pie. His is a voice singing songs of heroes in an age where we listen more and more to the drone of the algorithm. Still he keeps singing.
It is the strength of Matt, but not the strength of a lion or a warrior, this strength is that of the ocean, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes it is peaceful, other times it is tumultuous, but it always knows that it is the ocean, that it is primal and the power within it can never be diminished, it is its nature to be strong, to be a force. It doesn't need to try. Matt knows he will be here before the storm, he will be here for the storm, and remain long after it has gone and burned out.
The hours rolled by as I spent time with this man who wants you to see how beautiful you all are right now, just as you are, while he struggles in his heart with the doubts about his own beauty. Time with him seems to slow, at least our perception of it does, and soon the sun has set and night is upon us. He would tell you that parting is not the final moment, but a jump into a new one. For him those moments are incredible, these conversations that you cannot recapture, that exist only in their given time. I ask the man in the mirror why he never took notes about his meetings, thinking it was his vanity showing through a bit. He looks back, this man with my own face, and tells me he would sooner trap a beautiful bird.
"Those moments deserve to run free, not to wear paper shackles because I was afraid to be present and whole in the moment."
There are many types of wisdom in the world, some born of triumph, others of tragedy, but all with lessons to teach from experience. Matt's comes from someplace more primal, something more natural, and so it appears as something he just does. He himself couldn't tell you how he does it, and that's part of the miraculousness about it. Matt sees you. Even looking into this mirror, he sees me. It is not his stories, those are just the medium he chooses. His real gift is the connection of his eyes to his heart, so he can see you with love and show you the part of yourself you think nobody can see.
It is his nature. Whatever road brought him here doesn't matter. He is here now and he sees you. He sees me. It's from there that he shapes the words to move your heart, from your inspiration and joy that he takes fulfillment and calls himself the richest of human beings. He is more than a writer, more than a storyteller, more than he knows.
The time comes for our time to end, and I step back from the mirror, from a moment with myself, and think about what is to come. I sought to find myself. I found a reflection, then I sat with it and had a chat. No, I didn't find myself, whatever that means, but I did catch up to where I am now, in the present.
The time has come to turn a page, to begin a new chapter. There are new paths to be walked, new people to meet and places in my life to see. There are even new bits of my reflection out there to find, as there are many of yours as well. I've loved this voyage, the stories that have been shared, the magic that has been discovered, the hearts that have been lifted and those remaining to be lifted still. Life is full of meetings and partings, and for now we shall part for a time, though you can always find me hear within these stories and one day soon, I will sit down and pen these words again to share new stories and new friends with all of you.
Until then the time has come for you to find you ball cap and your prayer beads, your pen and your journal, to conjure up your dinosaur question and cast aside your motives and your masks of strength. Find someone you've never met and sit with them. Share a walk and some stories. Discover their smiles, their cries, their favorite color, the thing they believe should never be on a pizza. Enjoy the sunshine, the parks, the beaches and the mountains. Find the perfect piece of pie, a miraculous cup of coffee, a new friend, or even love.
In the words of my childhood hero; "Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It's a good life, enjoy it."
Until the next story my friends...