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The Bliss Blog

peopleallovertheworl

My friend Judy Freed introduced me to a word I had never heard, but have thought about countless times throughout my 58 years on the planet. It is known as ‘sonder’ and is defined in this way:

“n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.”-  The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is a compendium of invented words written by John Koenig.

As a wordsmith, I am fascinated by the way this man’s mind works that allows him to create meaning behind concept. This one echoes with the stuff of life that has compelled me. As I consider the people who surround me, some ever so briefly, others long term companions, I know that there was a time when none of them were on my radar screen until one day, they appeared before me. Some came bearing love, others lessons. The reason-season-lifetime idea that people come to enrich our lives and teach us things we might not otherwise have learned.

  • Reason (a project or one-time activity, a “guardian angel” encounter when someone steps in and moves you out of a dangerous situation, a fleeting/swoop by lesson)
  • Season (a short term; perhaps a few months or years, an interaction that teaches you lessons that you may not have learned otherwise.)
  • Lifetime (long term connections that may begin at birth or anywhere along the timeline, that endures, perhaps despite challenges, or may even strengthen this)

When I was a child, sitting in the back seat of my parents’ car at night as we were heading home from an outing, I would watch through the window, homes in which other families dwelled and wondered if I would ever know the people who lived there. As I got older and was behind the steering wheel myself and passed through towns, I would imagine having some connection to that place. I contemplated what it might take for me to do so. Often times I would actually meet someone who lived or worked there.

When I was 14 or so, I went to a Polish festival at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa with my best friend Barb and her mother. We lived in Willingboro, NJ and it was located in Doylestown, PA, a good hour and some away. It seemed like the other side of the world at the time. Fast forward to present day and I am now living 10 minutes from the shrine and visit periodically to commune with Mother Mary. The site is in tribute to The Black Madonna.  I feel a sense of peace when I am there.

I encounter people on a daily basis, in my work as a therapist, as a minister, as a speaker, a FREE Hugger and as a journalist who embodies the six degrees of separation concept, that supposedly, we are separated by no more than six other people. In my life, sometimes it is zero degrees, since I often know someone who knows someone, or as my friend Greg postulates, “You who know everyone…” I wrote this article several years ago that highlights another example of the concept.

We imagine some lives as being of little consequence to us. The homeless person you pass on the street. The Syrian refugee. The woman who works on an assembly line packaging the bottles of strawberry jam for your morning toast. The child who rides down the sidewalk on her red bicycle. And yet, each of us is part of the intricate web of life. None of us might be where we are at this time without having crossed paths with certain people. They were center stage in their own lives and at first might seem like bit players for us, until they might become the stars.

This idea of connecting with others is intricately woven into the African concept of Ubuntu. The word emerges from the Bantu language and is beautifully described by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in this way, “It is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong. It speaks about wholeness, it speaks about compassion. A person with Ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people are open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, do not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole.”

We are only just one moment away from meeting someone who will change our lives in dramatic ways. May this be for the good.

 

eyerainbow

Finally, I can see my way past a stye in my left eye that for the past week has impaired my vision with its stop signal red glowing lump. When it first appeared,  I figured it would dissipate in a day or so. Not so, as it got alarmingly larger and filled with gunk. I researched home remedies since I had no desire to take medication if it was not needed. Warm compresses and over the counter ointment were the first round of treatment. When it worsened, I visited my friendly Physician Assistant who suggested that I continue my current regimen and add an oral and topical antibiotic.  I willingly surrendered and began to notice a slight improvement. One of the other recommendations was to avoid makeup, so for that period, I complied. Not normally one to wear a whole lot of it anyway, and that which I do use is cruelty-free/not tested on animals, it wasn’t too much of a challenge to my vanity. Still, I felt a need to explain the alteration in my appearance. Many people responded that they too had fallen prey to the bump that is caused by bacterial infection. I tossed my old eye makeup and mascara in anticipation of when I can wear it again. I also needed to overcome the slight fear that I would look like this forever. What I know for sure is that every ailment I have ever had has resolved.

As someone who believes that biological ailments are more than a collection of physical symptoms that are treated externally, I went inward to ask what it was about emotionally/spiritually. What I came up with is the biblical quote about focusing on the speck of dust in someone else’s eye when I have a plank in mine. I also questioned what it was that I didn’t want to see. The first is that there are times when I am judgmental about the ways people live. I feel justified in my discernment that people who deliberately cause harm to the planet and its inhabitants, plain and simple, shouldn’t. Most powerfully, the choices our administration (and those who support it) makes fitting that description. I can feel seething (much like the bump in my eyelid) anger and a desire to call them out on their attitudes and actions. There are times when this peacemaker who intends to see people through the eyes of love, views them instead through blurred visual apparatus that feeds the fire rather than extinguishes it. I also don’t want to see myself as limited in any way. In the past few years, a series of health challenges has had me slowing down even as I resist that necessity. I still work out at the gym and am training for a 5k in September and in the midst, feel the fear that my breathing will slow me down as it does when I am on the treadmill or am walking fast paced uphill.  I tend to minimize my challenges since I reason that others have far more severe impediments in their way. My father used to guide me with the words, “If that’s the worst thing that happens to you, you’ll be okay.” Mixed message, that one, since while it seems supportive, I internalized the idea that I had nothing to feel badly about…ever.

I also don’t want to see myself as limited in any way. In the past few years, a series of health challenges has had me slowing down even as I resist that necessity. I still work out at the gym and am training for a 5k in September and in the midst, feel the fear that my breathing will slow me down as it does when I am on the treadmill or am walking fast paced uphill.  I tend to minimize my challenges since I reason that others have far more severe impediments in their way. My father used to guide me with the words, “If that’s the worst thing that happens to you, you’ll be okay.” Mixed message, that one, since while it seems supportive, I internalized the idea that I had nothing to feel badly about…ever.

Another revelation came courtesy of a friend yesterday. After listening to me tell her how lately I have felt overwhelmed with people calling on me for support; some with chronic issues for which they saw no resolution and some who tended to ‘one up’, as in ‘my problems are worse than other’s,’ she pondered whether I had been taking on the energy until my body reacted by attempting to expel it through my eye. Made sense to me. Once I took in that wisdom, my body complied and cleared out the toxins (not wanting to get too graphic in my description, but suffice it to say that it wasn’t pretty) so that the lump is considerably smaller.

As I go out into my new day, my intention is to see the world and the people in it through the crystal clear eyes of love.

fisgetspinner

I was a busy-buzzy kid; always on the move. In a day’s time, I could be seen riding my bike, swimming, coloring, playing with dolls, digging in the garden, skating, hanging out in the woods, reading, and being with friends. I eschewed naps after probably four years old; not wanting to miss out on having fun. As a result, I have rarely been bored. That’s the upside.

The humorously downside is that my mind is easily distractible.  I can be in the midst of one activity such as writing this article and another thought pops in, like what I need to do later in the day and I make a mental note to take care of it; or an idea for an additional article dances in front of me, waving its hands. I also notice that I am pulled away from what is in front of me by Facebook, emails, a reminder to call someone or check my appointment book to make sure I get where I need to be on time. And then there is a prompt to switch the laundry, turn off the water boiling on the stove so it doesn’t dry up and scorch the pot. That almost happened last year, when I forgot.

Although I was never given a formal diagnosis, I suspect that I do have some form of ADHD. If so, I come by it genetically, since my father had a hard time sitting still. He was nearly always in motion, except when he would nap, which he could do standing up. Even so, he managed to work full time as a milkman and bus driver throughout his lifetime; remember his routes and the people he would encounter along the way. He also volunteered in our community, raised my sister and me along with my mother, had a full social life and friends. He also made time to run on the junior high school track across the street a few times a week, with our dog Hukki. A master at multitasking which I have become as well. Although I might make it look easy, it really does take intense concentration at times, to remain on task and complete one thing before moving to another.

Recently, my sister Jan sent me an article to which I can relate completely  Although I am not yet a senior citizen; at 58, I call these my ‘middle aged moments,’ and not senior moments, as the author refers to his or her ‘oh, look, a squirrel!’ distractions. The other difference is that I do eventually finish what I started. It is a necessity in the various lines of work in which I engage. As a writer, I have deadlines to meet. As a therapist, I have clients to see at specific times and days. As a minister, ceremonies to officiate. As a speaker places to show up on time.

A relatively new tool that purports to assist people in quelling distractibility is called a fidget spinner (pictured above). Some of my adult and child clients use them and vouch for their benefits. Seems that I don’t need one since I have one in my brain that feels like it is perpetually in motion. One thing that I notice making difference is being methodical in my actions. When I empty the dishwasher, as I did this morning and put everything in its place, it has a zen-like quality. It also sets me up to have a more easily flowing day.

Yesterday also presented an opportunity to test out that dynamic. A friend had asked me to work for her food business called One Love Catering at a Philadelphia event called Reggae in the Park. People lined up all day long for the luscious Caribbean food, redolent with the flavors and aromas of Jamaica. It involved setting up, food prep and serving from steaming silver trays. In order to maintain calm, I brought myself to a sense of one thing after another,  in a generally graceful dance with my co-workers. It helped that the music wafting through the air provided a sonic backdrop.  Each time I would hand the meal to the person in front of me, I would silently bless the food and them. Perhaps that is a key to maintaining focus so that my mind need not spin ceaselessly.

As I am writing this article, I am listening to this music for deepened concentration.

leftfoot

As I am writing this, I am nursing a painful bout of plantar fasciitis in my left foot. I’ve had it before over the years, but not as persistently. Working out and being on my feet a lot are two of the physical causes. I have been treating it with stretching, massage, and Reiki, as well as spending less time using the elliptical and treadmill and more time on the bicycle and weights at the gym. I have been rolling a bottle of ice water underneath it, got orthotics for my sneakers and have been taking Tylenol if needed.

I know that many physical conditions have emotional components. In Louise Hay’s book entitled You Can Heal Your Life, she highlights some of the root causes of bodily issues.

Feet: Represent our understanding – of ourselves, of life, of others. – Foot Problems: Fear of the future and of not stepping forward in life. (there was nothing specific for heels or plantar fasciitis).

These both resonated for me since even though I am confident most of the time and with hindsight, know that I have survived everything that has ever occurred in my life, so I know I will get through anything waiting in the future, there are times when I hold myself back. Sometimes these are internally motivated choices, born of uh oh, what if I fall or fail?  fears. There are other moments when impediments show up unexpectedly. Recently, as I have become more visible with my work and words, folks have made observations based on their own life experiences and world views that have seemed to run counter to my beliefs about myself and my work in the world. My initial reaction was one of protection and defensiveness since much of what I do and hold dear are central to my claimed identity.

These in-your-face experiences have me taking my own inventory and examining my intentions and actions and see if they are in alignment.

One of the ideals I live by is the Buddhist principle of the Three Gates: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? The first two are pretty easy for me to follow. The third, not so much. I consciously need to ask myself why I want to express certain things. Maybe it is because I can. Maybe because I ‘can’t NOT’ share. Perhaps it is to inform. Perhaps it is to justify, explain or just plain want to be right. The last one is not easy to admit.

That is my Achilles heel.  Remember the Greek tale about the son of  Thetis who took her son to the River Styx so he could be rendered invincible? She dipped him in the water, but his heel didn’t get submerged. In battle, an arrow struck him in that foot and he succumbed.  Mine was struck by the thoughts that I had stepped on toes and had said what I wanted to for all of the aforementioned reasons. It is also the desire to be viewed in a certain light. Most people in my life do see me as I want to be seen. A friend recently mentioned that those who question my words or actions are preparing me for greater visibility, since the greater the visibility, the more intense the scrutiny.

I admire the work of Brene’ Brown whose own willingness to bare her soul allows me to bare both my soul and soles.