The Art of Asking
Amanda Palmer’s 2013 TedTalk is titled, The Art of Asking. She’s become a kind of authority on the value of vulnerability and trusting people…trusting Life. Her journey started by collecting change on street corners as the “Eight Foot Bride,” experiencing small but profound human exchanges, with strangers.
Many passers by did not appreciate the value of her career choice, nor the art she was cultivating: asking and receiving.
Asking makes us vulnerable. Most of us feel (and fear) the truth of this. I have expended a great deal of energy avoiding that particular vulnerability in my life. “No thanks, I can manage on my own” has been a kind of badge of honor pinned to my chest, pinching my heart and preventing the very depth of connection I crave. I have always been pleased to help others, but receiving help was like asking a fish to walk.
Nearly a year ago something changed. It was sometime last fall that an image emerged in me of lightening my load, putting most of my belongings in storage, and letting Life show me my next step from a position of greater “freedom”—from a place where I would have the ability to respond swiftly to whatever arose, without all the considerations that my home (with its bills and contractual agreements) and domestic partnership presented.
This wasn’t a step I took lightly…but I had no idea of the magnitude of my decision—all the ways this one choice would ripple through and alter my life experience.
The deep teaching I was about to be given was how to give and receive fearlessly. To ask without shame and trust that Life will always provide a net if I am truly open to being caught.
But at first I thought this was another do-it-myself job. I imagined I might house-sit for a friend for a while, but I fully expected to rely on Airbnb for the majority of my stays in the unknown. I’d pay my way and do it solo. That’s how I did things.
Then I watched Amanda Palmer’s TedTalk. Her story of couch surfing and crowd surfing—of falling into the arms of strangers—had a palpable effect on me. I had no idea what my fall would look like or who would catch me, but over the next weeks and months, each step would become clear in its time...
First step: Share this longing with my partner and begin unwinding our shared abode. No small task, and we continue to work through the implications of this leap I was compelled to take.
Second step: Get very vulnerable and send out a request for support…sharing my vision and asking my friends and acquaintances for places to stay, for what I guessed would be about two or three months.
Third step: Watch. Witness the fear, or confusion, or sometimes pity in people’s eyes as I share my intention of self-styled "homelessness." Watch who responds to my request and who doesn’t. Watch what arises in me in either case.
Fourth step: Wait to see what opportunities present themselves.
Fifth step: Respond to those opportunities.
I now have a wealth of repeated, direct experience that what Amanda Palmer says in her TedTalk is true: “When we really see each other, we want to help each other.”
I write to you, dear reader, from the middle of September—the fifth month of my adventure.
This grand experiment has been radically different than I’d imagined. I’m now sleeping in my 13th bed since May 1st...and counting. While this much change and uncertainty has stirred up many bouts of emotional turbulence, my predominate experience over these many months is nothing short of magical.
I find that as I keep asking and opening to "being caught," my trust increases, as does my community of friends—and the depth of connection we share. And in receiving, I am simultaneously giving…that mind-blowing little insight is worthy of a post of its own.
Of course I am still knee deep in my learning, but I can say a few things with confidence…
One: It’s true that I have never felt more free in my life. Yet I am immensely humbled to also find that I have never felt more interconnected with and reliant upon others…upon the entire web of Life.
Two: Vulnerability breeds connection.
Three: Connection creates magic.