Looking With Our Better Eyes

IMG_1785I was just reading a piece I have in draft, one I never posted here.  It was a general rant about how much of what we read, see, are offered to take in via news and social media, is negative, derisive, and ugly.

I’m not going to post it.

I still agree with what I wrote.  How I’m tired of the negative, how I yearn for the positive. But I’m too old to be on the playground, and that’s what it feels like.  It feels like what it was to be out on recess, caught in the middle of some ridiculous name calling fight.  How those fights seemed to escalate into the absurd and how the passion for those ludicrous arguments seemed to escalate as well.  Escalation turned ugly, pushing turned to shoving, sometimes turning to blows.  It’s exhausting.

I want a revolution of thought, I’m getting bogged down without one.  I want kindness, ideas, offered solutions, compassion, a recognition of simple human dignity.  I don’t think I’m the only one.  I think most of us feel this way, even as we sometimes find ourselves participating in those playground-like antics.

What if, for a day, we posted only something positive.  The old adage, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.  If that’s you, post a photo of a sunrise or a cute puppy, or your grandchildren instead of that negative thing you are about to post.

What would that feel like?

I get up, I make my way to the french press and the tea kettle, I get my steaming mug of freshly made delicious coffee, I empty the dishwasher, I fold the laundry, I open my laptop to check email, then I head to my news feeds and finally Facebook.  I’m shocked to see news articles about new inventions and good deeds and how even though I may not agree with this politicians views on this or that thing, they have good intentions, or are good in this one area, or they’re smart.  I see that everyone seems to be posting how happy they are about this or that event, or friendship, or job opportunity, or the tasty hot meal they had last night.  I read about how this guy, running for this office, had this idea to solve this problem.  How interesting.  I hear that even though Democrats and Republicans and Tea Party people are staunch, they are fair, and understanding, and compassionate toward those who don’t agree with them.  I see kindness and forgiveness and goodwill toward fellow humans.  I see us disagreeing with respect.  I see sharing and helping and love.

Life is a matter of perception.  It always is.  We can look and see terrible things in our opponents, in the government, in each other, or we can look and see that even though we don’t agree it doesn’t make either of us a monster.  It doesn’t make either of us an idiot.  From there we can have reasonable discussions, we can listen to each other, we can gain understanding, and we can start to move forward, freed from the quagmire of distrust and finger-pointing and nastiness.  There is something to like in almost everyone.  Just as there is something to dislike.  We see what we want to see.

We can see the negative in things, in life, in each other, and we can dwell there.  If that’s the case, that’s what we will notice, that’s what we will pick up on first.  The problems, the differences, the ways in which things are not right.  Or we can see the positive in things, in life, and in each other.  We can dwell there.  In that place there’s forgiveness, problem-solving, things to build on, there’s hope.

It’s up to each of us to decide.  I’d just like it if I could wave the magic wand and for one day we helped without criticism, we offered opinions without disparaging someone else, and we talked about solutions with kindness, instead of venom and animosity.

I believe, with all my heart, each of us is doing the best we can in the world.  Making our way the best we know how.  Sometimes what we do is not that great, and most times if it’s not that great it’s because we faltered, or we were never taught a better way, or we ran into something that spiraled out of control.  We don’t know anyone else’s story.  We can’t presume to know.  We also can’t presume to think our ideas, our solutions, our way of doing things is the only way, or even the right way.  There are many paths to a good solution, there are many “right” ways.  Yes, there are wrong ways too, but we must make people feel safe in order to help them change.  We must make them feel listened to, just as we like to be listened to.  We can’t bully, or push, or strong arm people into our way of thinking.  Most of us hate being told what we should be doing, but we don’t mind being talked to, respected for our opinions, and offered other opinions in return.  We don’t mind a good chat.  We all feel we should be respected.  That doesn’t change with position or ideology or background.  We all want to be respected as human beings, and we all should be.

I don’t expect that we’ll all hold hands and sing Kumbaya, but wouldn’t it be great if we went at things with that in our hearts.  If we were open, loving, and kind.  If we all realized we were in it together.  Facing it together.  Because we are.  None of us are in it alone.  Everything we do, small and large, effects other people, and spreads like a ripple out from ourselves.

I can only start with me.  So this is me saying to me that I’ll try to be more present, more aware of what I say, how I say it, what I put out into the world.  I’ll picture the faces of friends and family, I’ll try to act with hope and kindness and understanding.  I will try not to judge.  I’ll try to be fair.  I will try to be a better listener.

Sure, we have a lot of problems, but there are also so many things that are good and beautiful out there.  Look around.  See them.  Feel what that feels like to see them.  To use a line from The Abyss, a movie I love, “We all see what we want to see. Coffey looks and he sees Russians. He sees hate and fear. You have to look with better eyes than that.”

Look with your better eyes.  Look with them, and see.

March 19, 8:30 PM

What will you be doing? Think outside yourself.

Sailing Away

There is so much beauty in the world. I try to remind myself to be open, compassionate, and kind every day. We don’t know anyone else’s story. People are complex and have lived through things we will never understand. It’s important to remember that.

A public piano was installed, and then a homeless man sat down to play.

Excuse Me, Sir….

885049_10151628201270802_1338036815_oI’m not a man.

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….

And the World Could Live As One

“Je suis Charlie” has popped up over and over on various news feeds and social media sites since the terrible events in Paris. Seeing it, connecting to it as a human being, isn’t a big stretch. I think we can all imagine both the sorrow and outrage an attack like this brings. And I think it’s human nature to want to join hands in solidarity and show that despite our petty differences, despite our sometimes feral and acidic tendencies when we disagree, we are one people. We can stand together.  We are, deep down in our bones, all the same.  Je suis Charlie translates as, “I am Charlie”.  I am.  And so are you.

The footage of the march in Paris is stunning. It’s humbling. And when you add to that this footage of the crowd when a girl decided to play John Lennon’s Imagine out from her balcony, it’s quite emotional. Thousands gathered, and millions more around the world stood with them in spirit.  It’s beautiful.  Imagine if we could be this loving and patient and supportive of each other all the time.  Imagine what that could be like.

Imagine.

Until We Could

Sometimes we read things and they make us cry.  This was one of those things for me.

I am in love.  Still.  11 and a half years together and I am still in awe of our relationship.  Fortune smiled on me, it smiled on us.   And this year, finally, we were given the same privilege as all other tax paying, law abiding, loving couples who are committed to each other, we were able to get legally married.  Technically it was our third marriage, our third to each other, though in our hearts we’ve been married, I think, since the beginning.  Forever, for us, started a long long time ago.  But this step, this privilege, this legal recognition of our relationship, and the protection it provides us, was so very significant to us.  Which is why, I think, this poem made me cry.

That, and it’s beautiful…

 I knew it then, in that room where we found for the first time our eyes, and everything— even the din and smoke of the city around us— disappeared, leaving us alone as if we stood the last two in the world left capable of love, or as if two mirrors face-to-face with no end to the light our eyes could bend into infinity.

I knew since I knew you—but we couldn’t…

I caught the sunlight pining through the shears, traveling millions of dark miles simply to graze your skin as I did that first dawn I studied you sleeping beside me: Yes, I counted your eyelashes, read your dreams like butterflies flitting underneath your eyelids, ready to flutter into the room. Yes, I praised you like a majestic creature my god forgot to create, till that morning of you suddenly tamed in my arms, first for me to see, name you mine. Yes to the rise and fall of your body breathing, your every exhale a breath I took in as my own wanting to keep even the air between us as one.

Yes to all of you. Yes I knew, but still we couldn’t…

I taught you how to dance Salsa by looking into my Caribbean eyes, you learned to speak in my tongue, while teaching me how to catch a snowflake in my palms and love the grey clouds of your grey hometown. Our years began collecting in glossy photos time-lining our lives across shelves and walls glancing back at us: Us embracing in some sunset, more captivated by each other than the sky brushed plum and rose. Us claiming some mountain that didn’t matter as much our climbing it, together. Us leaning against columns of ruins as ancient as our love was new, or leaning into our dreams at a table flickering candlelight in our full-mooned eyes.

I knew me as much as us, and yet we couldn’t….

Though I forgave your blue eyes turning green each time you lied, but kept believing you, though we learned to say good morning after long nights of silence in the same bed, though every door slam taught me to hold on by letting us go, and saying you’re right became as true as saying I’m right, till there was nothing a long walk couldn’t resolve: holding hands and hope under the street lights lustering like a string of pearls guiding us home, or a stroll along the beach with our dog, the sea washed out by our smiles, our laughter roaring louder than the waves, though we understood our love was the same as our parents, though we dared to tell them so, and they understood.

Though we knew, we couldn’t—no one could.

When the fiery kick lines and fires were set for us by our founding mother-fathers at Stonewall, we first spoke defiance. When we paraded glitter, leather, and rainbows made human, our word became pride down every city street, saying: Just let us be. But that wasn’t enough. Parades became rallies—bold words on signs and mouths until a man claimed freedom as another word for marriage and he said: Let us in, we said: love is love, proclaimed it into all eyes that would listen at every door that would open, until noes and maybes turned into yeses, town by town, city by city, state by state, understanding us and the woman who dared say enough until the gravel struck into law what we always knew:

Love is the right to say: I do and I do and I do…

and I do want us to see every tulip we’ve planted come up spring after spring, a hundred more years of dinners cooked over a shared glass of wine, and a thousand more movies in bed. I do until our eyes become voices speaking without speaking, until like a cloud meshed into a cloud, there’s no more you, me—our names useless. I do want you to be the last face I see—your breath my last breath,

I do, I do and will and will for those who still can’t vow it yet, but know love’s exact reason as much as they know how a sail keeps the wind without breaking, or how roots dig a way into the earth, or how the stars open their eyes to the night, or how a vine becomes one with the wall it loves, or how, when I hold you, you are rain in my hands.

~Poem by Richard Blanco.

A Drop Becomes a Ripple Becoming a Wave

Life is Beautiful

Life is Beautiful (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

I was commenting on a friend’s Facebook post today, trying to put across the message that we need a little more positivity in the world and how positivity catches hold, just like negativity, if we let it.

So, here’s the deal. (Yes, I’m on the soap box again.)  I don’t post negative stuff on Facebook, or this blog for that matter. It’s a conscious choice. I decided that what I put out into the world will try to be positive and beautiful and kind. Not to say I’m not aware of the myriad of things about this country, the world, the way things are politically and spiritually and environmentally, etc., etc., etc., and on, and on, and on, that could be changed. Or frankly, need to be changed. I know there are issues. I know there are things that are wrong. I know we all have varying ideas about what those things are. I’m aware. I just choose, being the person I am on the this planet, to only put out positive energy. At least, that’s what I strive to do.

Here’s why. There’s enough bullshit out there already. There’s enough opinion and doomsday predictions and nasty words and accusations and scare tactics and bullying behavior and finger-pointing and hurtfulness to fill pages and pages for years and years. Frankly, it doesn’t really solve anything, or do us any good. It’s divisive and has about as much impact as spitting in the wind.

I believe in what comes around goes around, do unto others, being kind to our fellow humans and the planet, what you put out you get back 10 fold, I believe in being the change I wish to see in the world. And the change I wish to see in the world is that we all become kinder, gentler, less judging, more helpful, less greedy, not as self-centered, nicer versions of ourselves. We can choose to look at all that’s wrong, pointing fingers and shouting doomsday predictions, or we can look at what’s right, and build on that. We can try for understanding and compassion instead of accusations and tearing people down. Ideas, even if they aren’t yours or mine, are all valid.   None of us have all the answers. Which brings me to the thought that a little less arrogance would also be in order. Thinking we have all the answers is the first step to not getting any worthwhile answers at all. And believing we know, without a doubt, what’s best for our neighbors, our towns, our country, or the world, is crazy thinking.  Just sayin’.  No one knows everything, and the moment we start to think we do, we’ve cut off our nose to spite our face. We can only try our best, try to evolve with our problems, and try to respect each other. We all, whoever we are, deserve at least some modicum of respect. As human beings with feelings if nothing else.

So, I know there’s a lot going on in the world.  I know some of it isn’t good.  I know some of it needs to be changed.  But, I also know that there’s beauty and light and love and kindness and compassion and gentleness and giving and loving and respecting and grace out there.  People are, generally, good.  Most of us want the same things in life.  Most of us want not only ourselves but our fellow humans to be well, to be happy, to be fulfilled and to have joy.  Most of us are good people doing the best we can to get by, to have a life, to make a better future for our children and grandchildren.  We are more alike than we aren’t.

Like I used to tell the kids I worked with, “use your powers (and there are many) for good, not evil”.  You have a choice.  I choose to try to emphasize the love and beauty and light and joy in the world.  Not to say my way is better than any other way, but it’s my way, and this is my blog.  This is the best way for me.  It helps to remind me, every day, that there are good people out there and good things happening.  It helps me remember that we are more the same than different and that there’s so much creativity and goodness in the world.  If I seek out the positive, I find it.

I think of it like this… a drop of light creates a ripple of kindness, which leads to waves of joy and compassion and understanding that flow out well beyond where that one drop started.  Just think what would happen if we all got together and tried compassion and understanding and joy for change.  Think of what could happen.  Think of the huge wonderful waves that shared energy would create.  Think of how beautiful that would be.