In medias res is a latin phrase I learned in literature class in highschool. It means "into the middle of things." It's when the story plunges you into the the middle of things, of a battle, of a conflict, without having all the details, things are unfolding around you without context, you'll get the backstory later.
Once my friend Simone came early from Flordia to help throw a babyshower for Jenna. I wasn't ready. The house was still a mess. I had my work clothes on, my ugg boots and hoodie, my hair was a rat's nest, I gave her a hug and she asked, "how can I help?"
I put her to work on the little things on my to do list: tidying the kids shoes in our entry, updating the letterboard, assigning me a lipstick color so I could hastily transform into a consummate hostess.
I dumped my lipsticks out in front of her. The lipsticks were new, a gift, and I didn't know how to pick them, but Simone always had consummate makeup.
She considered each one carefully as I furiously scrubbed a pot.
"So, my skin is dark, obviously. So I like bolder colors, I think this one would work great with your dress and skin tone, but it might feel too bright for you since you're not used to wearing make-up."
"That'll work," I said, without really looking at the color she'd chosen.
"Thank you for just jumping into the middle of things here, Simone. You're a life-saver."
"That's what I love about this family," she said, "no matter how long I've been away, I can just jump right back in and catch up while in the middle of everything. It's sort of fun. It feels like I never left."
I put on the ruddy brown lipstick she'd picked for me, I pursed my lips and smushed the color around. I got some on my teeth. It was bold, it was called "russet potato" or something, I wouldn't have chosen it, but I couldn't change it now, in medias res, I had a party to throw and host. I quite liked it.
There isn't much time in my life right now where I can press pause on everything and focus on the people who are important to me. Most of my connection time comes in medias res. Often I have conversations with parentheses as I talk to my kids while trying to have a meaningful conversation with another adult or another child.
"I really think (Josie, get down) this is a great opportunity for you (Jo, I said GET DOWN)."
It's easy to get frustrated or feel diminished when you don't hold someone's full attention, or when this is the main way you communicate all the time, as it is for me most days. It's easy to jump to wrong conclusions.
Now when I plunge in medias res to someone else's life or incorporate someone into our special chaos, I think of Simone, who jumped into the flurry of activity with grace, willingness, and joy.
It was a mess, but it was a happy one.
In stoires, in medias res is thrilling because it's nonlinear. It's all action and you have to find out what happened and why, why are they fighting? Who is that? It's much more entertaining that way.
Having a conversation, a friendship, doesn't have to be over a calm cup of coffee with everything perfectly in order (though that is nice sometimes), real connection happens in medias res. Sometimes it's the only way I can have friends and marshal my unwieldy life at the same time. I'm strapped to a freight train, a real friend will walk in the door and tie themselves next to me and ask, "ok, what's next?"
Connection in medias res demands a few things: it demands presence, openness, and a real sense of whimsy. It demands seeing someone for who they are, where they're at, and joining them on the adventure there, even for a little bit.
It demands proudly wearing the bold lipstick.