To know and be known

Reflecting on my week, there is a natural pause, a quiet honoring of the stories I heard and the people I sat with. The aches, pains and longings, the hurt, confusion and loss… The joys, the celebrations, the gratitude, the tears. There are moments I am overcome with my own emotions and questions around how to be present in a way that encompasses compassion, respect, and gratitude that I am privy to these stories and wisdom that would allow me to provide insight.

There are honest and raw moments of grief. As my heart aches on others behalf, and honestly, how could it not? The human experience is one of struggle. There is beauty of course, amidst the chaos and rubble, there is sheer joy and moments of happiness… yet alongside that, there is often a counterpart of fear, worry, sadness, anger, doubt- and at times, we can become weighed down, weary and even frozen.

As I walk into and alongside more and more stories, I become more fully aware of our connectedness as human beings. How powerfully similar we all are in our need for connection, to be known, to know, to share our story with another person who cares- unconditionally and without judgement. We are so desperate for it, we lose our mind without it. We spiral into anxiety, worry, fear. We plummet into doubt, even despair. We seek fillers, sometimes in desperation we are willing to fill that gaping hole with literally anything.

We grapple. We are uncertain of many things and constantly seek insight, validation, confirmation, signs that we are not alone, that someone else feels like this too, and that someone else gets it. I believe that we really come to know ourselves in the presence of others. We see ourselves, we explore who we are in our multi-faceted parts, in the company of others who are doing the same. Sometimes we like what we see, other times we do not and are forced to dig deep and explore our own strengths and weaknesses. There is inherent need for time to ones self, to pause, to be still, to reflect, to check in, to listen to our own voice and not get caught up in all the other voices. However that does not change the reality that we grow, and learn and explore and even heal in community. But we really struggle to accept this.

We both love and hate the need to connect with someone else. When we feel a deep sense of connection and things are going well in relationships, we crave them, we rest in them, we believe in their significance. However when a connection has been broken, lost, destroyed, we become aggressively defensive of our own self and our desire to be alone and not allow anyone else in or near. It is primal to protect ones self. It is how we survive. However I also believe that is can be how we die. We can isolate so well, insulating ourselves from hurt and others, that we can suffocate in silence.

We grieve. Individually. Collectively. Sometimes alone and sometimes in pairs or families or even communities. And eventually it passes, the acute grief that is. But there is residual grief and questions and longings… that we do not know what to do with, so we set aside, and we move on. We keep getting up, going to work, doing our thing, all the while, there is a nagging sense of desire. A desire to share our journey with someone who cares enough to listen, to notice and hold a space for us, to love us.

Over the past couple of weeks I made it a point to slow down, to notice the people around me, to make eye contact and not be so hurried and focused on my task or my multi-tasks, that I don’t see others. It has been a powerful experiment for me, as I look into the eyes of gas attendants, waitresses and waiters, baristas, receptionists, even those I walk past. I have seen people who are hungry for interaction, for connection. I have exchanged more smiles, more conversations and a more genuine sense of presence for the world around me, and I have been amazed.  I have seen peoples faces light up with surprise. I have heard a snippet of their day or their job duties and gotten a sense of their world, and I have had respect for them. What I have seen is people who long to be seen and who shine when they are.

We are so distracted, busy, hurried and absent minded so much of the time, we are missing out! We are missing out on seeing people around us and realizing we’re not alone. We are missing out on opportunities to share in our journeys. We are missing out on brightening someones day by looking into their eyes, by seeing them! We are missing out on a chance to show another person value, by validating their presence next to us or right in front of us. And we are missing out on giving ourselves the gift of being present where we are. Which is a powerful gift, in a world where we are often pulled in multiple directions by multiple needs/responsibilities and are often overstimulated with noise and to dos… We need to pause, slow down, see and be seen. Its not really optional. We need each other.



Butterflies & Tigers

My daughter has a set of garden themed shower stickers. They are thick foam pieces in the shapes of flowers, stems, grass & butterflies. She has had them for months now and plays with them during every bath and shower. This morning, while she was sitting down in the shower playing with these stickers, I looked down and noticed that the little purple butterfly had a separate little piece for its head, with adorable little antenna and eyes… I had never made the connection before that these two pieces belonged together, and as it dawned on me, I found myself realizing just how hurried and busy I typically am as we zip through our daily activities and routine. Then I wondered, what else might I be missing out on as I fly around at the speed of light, always multi-tasking, always thinking about my next step and one after that, never fully present in the moment that I’m in.

Amazing how little ones can teach you so much about life and value and shed so much perspective.

My daughter loves to read books and carries books to me throughout the day and crawls up on my lap for story time. She has a book about tigers that has a little button you can push that makes a “roaring” sound, and she loves to push this button and then try to roar with the tigers on the page. Today as I sat with her on the floor and read about the 5 little tigers playing hide and seek, her pushing the button every 5 seconds, I found myself strangely non-irritated, and instead very lost in the curiosity and fun loving nature of her.

It was then that I recognized that pausing for one moment of being present and still, seemed to naturally lead to another focused and purpose filled moment later on, and then a more contemplative energy as I moved throughout my day. Still points and stop overs and even a complete break from the busy, suddenly seem so much more appealing and acceptable and even anticipated in a way that makes me want to create these moments in my day, so that I can more fully experience life, and the individual moments that make it what it is.

Have you paused today?

Have you experienced your full presence in a moment in a way that made that moment pop?

I hope that you can capture a moment in all its splendor today.