With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things. ~ William Wordsworth
Sierra Club Daily Ray of Hope
Though, apparently, I look like one. Sometimes. From the side maybe. Or the back. Or in the pancake line.
I can’t tell you how many times it’s happened this trip. I was in a check-out line, or picking up pancakes at the griddle from the pancake chef, or walking into or out of a lady’s room and inevitably I got called sir or mistaken for a sir. A few examples, hilarious as they are. The woman walking into the restroom at the Wal-Mart in South Dakota who did a double take, sideways glancing at me, then at the restroom sign to make sure it was the women’s restroom she was walking into. The guy serving beignets at the art fair cart who asked, “what can I get you sir”, who then looked me fully in the face and started to sort of sputter. The time I was, once again, walking into a restroom at a gas station and a teen and her mother were sort of walking in tandem/following me in. The teen said to her Mom, “a guy just went into the restroom. Yes, mom, a man just went in.” I knew they were talking about me. I was just ahead of them. At first they didn’t even come in behind me, then they did, but didn’t go into a stall, even though one was available, until I came out, looked directly at them, smiled, and said hello. The mom said hi, then scowled at the teen. I guess they didn’t want to go into a stall next to a man, if a man was in there with them. Honestly, I don’t know why, I would. I mean, if I have to go, and there’s an open stall, I don’t care whose next to me, I’m going in. But then, I’m “the guy”, so maybe that changes my opinion about it.
I have a theory.
I don’t think we look at each other. Not really. Not in the eyes, not fully in the face. We glance sideways and nod or say hello or ask how people are doing, but we don’t really look. And because we don’t really look, we never truly see. I feel this way not just because I was repeatedly called a man this trip, until people really looked at me, realized I was a girl, and then hemmed and ha’d and pretended they hadn’t made that mistake, but because I’m a person who does look people in the eye. Unless I’m doing what I tell my honey to do occasionally which is, don’t make eye contact, don’t look at them, don’t engage. Those are special circumstances. Mostly both my honey and I look at people. I’ve always loved that about her, and I know she loves it about me. We are people who try to acknowledge other people. And the people we try to acknowledge usually like it; clerks in stores, people walking on the street, receptionists, homeless people, the list goes on and on. We look at people, both of us, but people don’t often look back, or at least they don’t initiate it. They look sideways or down or off somewhere over the shoulder. They don’t focus in, and in fact try not to.
Yeah, yeah… I wear boy shorts and t-shirts, my hair is really short, I probably even sort of walk like a guy, or not, I actually have no idea. But, I sound like a girl, unless it’s late into the night and I’ve been around a camp fire and the man voice comes out. I don’t think, when someone looks me fully in the face, they would ever wonder if I was a guy or a girl. I guess I could be wrong, but that’s what I’ve been told. Especially when I smile, which I’m doing most of the time. And all of this isn’t really the point. I don’t actually care about being called a guy, but I do sort of care about not being seen. Not being seen for who I am.
I wasn’t seen because people didn’t really look, not at first anyway. I had to work at it, say something to them, make them look me in the eyes, in the face, before they realized the mistake they’d made. I saw it play out on face after face, time after time. Fascinating.
It makes me sad that we feel the need to avoid each other, to not fully engage with our fellow humans. We try to keep ourselves separate, and what? Safe? Unencumbered? We try to stay in our own little bubbles.
Next time, when you’re out and about, do a little experiment. Look people in the eyes, smile at them, say hello, engage in some brief but witty repartee. SEE them. Let them SEE you. The world is brighter and fuller and more expansive if we let people in, if we open ourselves up. I feel this way, and it can’t only be me. Trust me, the people you acknowledge, that you look at, talk to, most of them will like it. Most of them will light up. And you will feel awesome, more connected, free.
But then again, do you really want to take advice from a dude? This dude. I don’t know….
I know, I know, there’s a lot of shit going on in the world. Yes, I said shit, I’m allowed to cuss once in a while. Sometimes no other word works. Seriously though, I’m not blind to all the stuff that’s not working. I know there are things that need fixing.
I think it’s easy to get caught up in what’s wrong. It’s so easy in fact that we don’t see what’s going right. What’s good. The conflict and hate and the things we dislike seem to take our attention. I’m not sure why that is. We get critical of, and complain about a myriad of things – family members and politicians and news programs and celebrities and an endless litany of stuff. The onslaught leaves us in a state of anxiety, anger, and helplessness. Is there another way?
Sometimes, I think it’s just a matter of perspective. Sometimes, all it takes is a moment, a little shift. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and open them again. Look at the sky and the light and the faces of the people you love. Put on a great album and hear the notes, the arrangement, the groove of the vocals. Read a book and appreciate the beauty of the words. Listen to the laughter of your children or grandchildren or your spouse. Play with your pups or cats or rabbits or lizards and notice how much they love you. Seek out positivity in your news, see what good is being done out in the world, there’s so much of it. Notice kindnesses and smiles and the friendliness of your neighbors. Watch sunsets and look with wonder at the amazing things we can build when we dream. See the world with different eyes, a different heart, and it will be different. It can be. Even if we only manage to do it for a moment or a day. String those moments to hours and those days to weeks. If we notice the kindnesses in the world, maybe we’ll act with more kindness. Be the love you want to see in the world.
I’m in a good mood today and I want everyone to be in a good mood.
Many of our friends and family members are celebrating right now. My Mom just sent us a text message expressing her excitement about the decision from SCOTUS today on marriage equality. To me it’s always a beautiful thing when love wins.
For those wondering what gay marriage, which from now on will just be referred to as marriage, looks like, I wrote this post to fill you in. First though, some background. We’ve been married, in one form or another, since 2003, having had our actual marriage ceremony (the non-legal one) on the beach in Maui, then a few years later we got our legal domestic partnership in Oregon (I think it was 2007), and finally we were legally married in Illinois last year. We’ve never had to have the paperwork to tell us who we are or to define our relationship. We’ve always known. And in fact we’ve only actually had one ceremony, that day on the beach in Maui, just the two of us, all those years ago. The rest of it, for us, has just been about getting the paperwork, making it legal. And being legal matters because we wanted the same privileges when it comes to protections for each other, rights to be enjoyed, etc. We celebrated each time we took a step in that direction, each time we were afforded another set of rights, protections, and privileges. And we are celebrating again today, because now so many of our friends can, if they choose to, make that same legal commitment to each other. It’s a beautiful moment.
But what does “gay” marriage look like you ask? What exactly is “gay” marriage?
Every day we get up when the alarm goes off. We grumble a little, sometimes just laying there, petting the dogs, wishing it was a no alarm day. But it is, so we get up. We open the doggie door and put the water on for coffee. Coffee is essential. If there are dishes in the sink from the night before they get loaded into the dishwasher. The dogs get breakfast. My honey fires up her work computer in the office and gets to the task of ruling the world from her pajamas. I pay some bills and get an appointment made to get our Jeep serviced. Breakfast of some sort gets made. The morning goes on, turning into afternoon. Sometimes I run errands, we may get a visit from the grand kids, we take the dogs for a walk. In the spring and summer we find time to pull weeds in the garden, dead head some flowers, fill the bird feeders. We say hello to our mail lady and sometimes have a friendly chat with our neighbors as on both sides of the fence the barbecues get fired up to make dinner. We laugh together. We talk about our upcoming vacation and get excited about the places we’re going and the beauty we hope to see there. We talk about the news and the grandkids and our parents. My honey’s birthday is coming up and I’m excited about the present I got for her this year. She’s hard to buy for, but I think I did it right this time. I hope so. We make dinner, barbecuing some steaks, steaming some vegetables, and feed the dogs their dinner. They are, as always, excited about getting fed. We head down to the family room where we sit in our recliners, which are side by side, and watch whatever shows we happened to have recorded. I’m a huge fan of the tiny house shows at the moment so we usually watch one of them. My honey enjoys them too, but mostly I think she watches them because I love them. That’s how we are. We hold hands and pet the dogs who seem to always find their way onto our laps. We chat, we make each other laugh. Every day it seems we have to take turns emptying the dehumidifier which always seems to be full this time of year. My honey heads up to the kitchen and comes back down with some small sweet dessert. I throw in a load of laundry. We finish up our evening, wander back upstairs, do the dishes so they won’t be in the sink the next morning, make sure the dogs go out and then shut the doggie door. We turn off the lights, brush our teeth, and make our way back into bed. We flip on the tv for a little bit, the dogs snuggle in with us, we watch, we chat, we laugh, we say I love you, and then we shut off the tv and go to sleep. Tomorrow we’ll do it again. And the next day. And the day after that. It’s our life. Our beautiful, wonderful, regular life.
This is what marriage looks like.
M, my friend, I love to you. I know your heart is breaking as you get ready to start your journey. This trip, in one sense, signifies an ending, but I know in my heart it will also end up being a celebration of a life well lived.
I believe the people we love never truly leave us. She lives in your heart, she lives inside of you. Her spirit is with you…
She’s there in the sound of footsteps and the rain falling on roofs and the feel of the wind on your cheek. In the rushing of the waves and the ceaseless movement of the tides. In small kisses and the purring of a furry friend and when you are wrapped up in a warm hug. In the emotions brought on by the pages of a good book and in the beats of great songs. In hope and joy and laughter and in the sunlight through the trees. Inside deep conversations and thoughts of love. During moments of celebration and sadness. In the quiet space on either side of a breath. In the flapping of birds wings overhead and in the lightly falling snow. In the moonlight, the moving of the planets, the rushing of the blood inside of you. She resides there. In all those moments. In so many moments. Strong, eternal, full of grace, and overflowing with love.
Love surrounds you my friend, as it surrounded and surrounds your Mom as she steps to the next place on this amazing cosmic adventure.
I didn’t really throw a tantrum, though it sort of felt like one in my head, mental foot stomping and all. Sometimes our better selves appear to the world, but not always so much inside our own minds.
I’ve always had this idea, as many of us have I imagine, that I was meant for great things. That I was meant to do something extraordinary, something beyond the usual, past the normal, over and above the every day. I can’t really remember a time I didn’t feel this way. And the feeling of it, the haunting thoughts that come with that feeling, are sometimes sort of depressing. After all, I haven’t really achieved anything big. Big in the I’ve written the great american novel and it became hugely successful kind of way. So to have this feeling with me that I haven’t yet done “the thing”, whatever that might look like, can be a downer. You know, not having fulfilled my greater potential and all.
I’ve lived, to this point, an ordinary life.
I say that, and then the next thought is… yeah, but… wait. Think of this life I have, this life I’ve lived and am living. Think of the wonder of it.
It occurred to me the other day, driving down the freeway toward Chicago with the radio blasting my current favorite playlist, that I’ve always had this feeling. This feeling of not achieving. I’ve had it, and never named it, never spoken it aloud, or even mentioned it quietly to myself. Never the less, it’s always been there, taunting me, haunting me, and pressuring me since forever. The next thought that day was that I’ll be turning 50 on my next birthday. The big 5-0. Surprisingly I realized I wasn’t dreading it. In fact, I’m sort of excited to be entering the next decade of my life. I think good things are ahead.
But, back to the deep thoughts I was having that day in the car. All of this was passing through my mind, my strange expectation for extraordinary, my approaching milestone of a birthday, what my life has been and is, and then it hit me, the most simple of ideas. The purest of truths. My life is amazing. My life is phenomenal.
When I looked on my life, the ins and outs of it, the ups and downs, I realized something wonderful. I already have an extraordinary life. My every day is impeccable. My place in the world is secure, my mark on the world happening every day. If I honestly look at myself I realize I’m a good person. I treat people well, I’m there for people when they need me, I look at things with a bend toward the positive instead of the negative, I love nature and my fellow humans despite all of their flaws and sometimes because of them, and I truly believe we can all rise up to be our better selves if given the opportunity and sometimes a little help. I’m a good sister, a good daughter, a good friend, and a pretty good partner. I tend to think the best of people, want the most for people, care deeply about what happens to my fellow creatures great and small, I recycle, I dance in the kitchen, and I feel a deep sense of wonder and awe about the world around me. I also realized in that moment that my life has been a wonder so far. The people I’ve known and know, the places I’ve been lucky enough to see, the experiences I’ve had in small ways and big. It was incredible. An enlightening realization. I have and am everything I need. My life is already extraordinary.
Sometimes small moments, little thoughts, turn into huge discoveries. One minute you’re just driving down the freeway listening to music on a sunny day and the next you are shifting how you feel about yourself and your world.
I’ve spent most of my life to this point thinking there was more, should be more, was supposed to be more. That I was somehow not all I could be or should be or might be. And that feeling, as I said before, haunted me. It informed decisions, lent itself to indecision, and pushed me in all sorts of directions at once, while keeping me stuck where I was more often than not. All of it inside, occasionally making me feel incomplete.
My realization, my revelation, is that I am all I was ever intended to be. The rest, it’s unimportant. I know now that by being who I am, just me, I have changed people’s lives. I had jobs where that was a literal thing, and yet somehow I always devalued it, until now. I also know that I have had a decent impact on the people in my life, hopefully a good one. Not just those I have known and still know, but on those I once knew, and don’t know anymore, and on those I will know. I feel this certainty now as much as I felt the lack of it before. I know this because I know how much the people in my life have had an effect on me. I know this because it is. And that is extraordinary.
My life has to this point been a series of wonder-filled moments. Incredible moments. I recognized some of them as they happened, more so when I looked back on them, but to now feel this sense of accomplishment for just being who I am, for just living the life I am, for just touching the lives of the people I have, it’s ground breaking to me.
This life, my life, is far from ordinary. My life, every moment of it, has been and is extra-ordinary. Light and love filled, even in it’s darkest moments. To know this, to feel it now, to see it for what it actually has been and is…. it’s joyous.