I’m focusing on just being really kind to other people.
… Carving out my own little space of heaven on earth, where others can be treated with dignity and respect and offered what they need most – connection with a living, breathing person who sees their worth and humanity.
I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that a lot of people just want to connect, just want to talk, just want to be treated like a real human being.
And that’s what I’m going for these days.
In the supermarket… sharing a moment with someone trying to figure out which package of chicken to buy… in the elevator, just chatting with someone who wants to be acknowledged… at work, where everyone is worried and uncertain… at home, where my spouse wants to just hang out and spend some time together.
It takes time to connect with other people. It takes energy. And at the end of a long day, I don’t always have the strength to do as much as I would like, or to do it as well as I’d like.
I could have stopped a little longer to talk to the woman in the supermarket. I could have said something more intelligent to the veteran who was sharing the elevator ride to the 2nd floor. At work, I could go out of my way to be a little more friendly to people. At home, I could spend more time just hanging out with my spouse, talking about things we both care about.
I can think of many things I would like to do better. And each time I make the effort, I learn a little bit more.
There’s nothing like reading international news to put things in perspective for me. I’ve been reading news from Europe and Asia-Pacific, thanks in part to Google Translate, English versions of foreign news sites, Google Chrome, and the BBC News website.
Looking outside the USA for what’s going on in the world, it’s obvious that there is a whole lot more to think about and experience, than the current election frenzy that dominates all the news cycles. I’m not going to get into the political choices here – there’s lots of opportunity to explore that … everywhere else. What concerns me here is the narrow-sightedness of the the news cycles and the fractiousness of it all. It gets us so worked up, so jammed in political fight-club mode, that when all is said and done, rational thought doesn’t really have much to do with anything – it seems to be all about whose side you’re on, not the subtle and often gray-area issues of our time.
It’s a little depressing for me. Especially considering that all this focus is being put on the every-four-years contest at the expense of other everyday concerns that are much more immediate than political platforms and endorsements. I have a lot of friends who argue that this has everything to do with political platforms — that who’s in power determines who gets helped, and who gets screwed. It all depends who you talk to.
Anyway, looking at the news from around the world, New Zealand has been having earthquakes, and a teen was found dead after a night of heavy drinking. The makers of Thalidomide have apologized, but British citizens find the apology “insulting”. In Germany, Arabic youth attacked a Jewish Rabbi and threatened the life of his six-year-old daughter. The Paralympics have kicked off in London, and in France there’s sport, politics, and fashion drama.
I haven’t ventured to look at news from Africa, for it seldom seems to be really good. Same with many other countries. Most of the world, in fact. Maybe it’s the nature of the news, that whatever bleeds inevitably leads. In any case, I have to take care about what I fill my head with. Especially when I’m sick and already feel like crap.
Being sick gives me some much-needed leeway to cut back on my activities and concentrate on the barest of basics — food, sleep, fluids, meds, and more sleep. And while it’s been entertaining to read the news, I’m in the mood for something more substantial, actually. Interestingly, I’m in the mood for sports and fiction — real life stories of contest and experience that tell me more about the human condition than a simple one-page news bite, burdened by my ignorance about what it’s really like to live in those places I read about.
Of course, with my presently ill state of body (and to some extent mind), there’s only so much I can do. There’s only so much I want to do. I know I need to do some work-work to catch up with what I missed yesterday, due to illness. And I know I need to study and practice my technical stuff. But beneath it all, there’s this very real need to, well, feel human again.
It’s an interesting feeling, this really needing to feel human. You would think it’s always there, but it tends to elude me when I am so focused on doing-doing-doing, on setting goals and achieving them. I get so caught up in the busy-ness of life, that I neglect to just stop and live my life — to experience it as it happens. And I forget to reach out to others and see what it’s like for them. It’s no good for me to stay limited to my own perspective, alone. Maybe that’s where reading international news helps me. It widens my perspective, and even when I read about things that seem trivial to me but are so very important to others (take fashion, for example), I’m forced to really ask myself what it must be like to live that kind of life, where such things are considered so very essential, even beyond the basics of everyday life, like food and water and shelter.
We humans are an interesting species, aren’t we? So much that matters to us for different reasons… so much that gets on our radar… or not. Ultimately, I think the important thing is not so much *what* we think is important, but whether or not we have those important things in our lives. Do we have priorities? Do we have things that really, really matter to us — and do we have enough things that matter, to have a handful of them that matter more than others?
It’s that quality of living that I am seeking out more and more as time passes. It helps my brain, it helps my spirit. Having things that really matter to me, and having some things matter more than others… and finding ways to keep that spark alive… that matters to me. And it matters more than money, more than material success, more than any tangible belongings. Now, obviously making money matters. And material success with its tangible results also matter. But you can have those things — I have in the past — and not feel much of a connection to them, or even to your own life.
I’m fortunate that when I did have those things, I had a really strong connection to my life, and to the experiences of my life. I wasn’t just on a track to Get More Now. It was about living fully and living every moment of the day for me. And when I fell in 2004, and that went away, losing that sense of connection with my own life, and having my ability to really livecurtailed by fatigue, confusion, anger, and crazy emotional roller coasters didn’t help matters any. In fact, more than losing the money, losing the jobs, almost losing my marriage, it hurt way more to lose that sense of connection to my own life. It was this huge hole that I couldn’t seem to fill or patch up or repair.
I really think it was because I was working so hard to just maintain, to rebuild those connections in my brain, in my life. I think I was funneling every last bit of energy into getting back to some semblance of functionality, of figuring out where I stood, where I was supposed to be, etc. that I just had no energy left over to just enjoy my life and experience it as it came. Nothing made sense anymore. It was the strangest thing. And it’s still strange, because even though I do have evidence that I’ve repaired a lot of what was broken, on some days, it just doesn’t feel like my life. It feels like a life I’m trying to build back… and it feels like there are all kinds of holes in it.
It’s really hard to describe, and if you haven’t been there, I’m not sure if it makes any sense. But I still feel like a stranger to myself in many ways. My neuropsych thinks its wonderfully exciting for me to be rebuilding my life and rediscovering parts of myself, but what about me missing the parts of me I used to know, but have now morphed into something else? What about dealing with the things about myself that I feel like I’ve lost and cannot seem to get back? Yes, it is great to be building back my life on purpose, yet it feels like a whole lot of work, and those new pieces just don’t feel very familiar or comfortable.
I don’t know what feels familiar or comfortable anymore. I just don’t.
Well, today is a poor day for me to be plumbing the depths of my soul, because I’m really sick and my head is foggier than usual, and I really do feel pretty bizarre, overall. I need to go back to bed and sleep, and I’ll do that in a few more minutes. I’m sure I’ll feel better when I get up — the meds have been working pretty well. And I’ll have some more of myself back — a sense of myself that is settled and okay and able to take in the feel of this day and this long weekend. It’s just a matter of rest. Of sleep.
I’ve cleared my calendar of everything except the most basic things, this weekend. I’ve got movies and books and the web to keep me company. I’ve got meds and tea and cough drops and tissues and sleep to help me mend. I’ve got an extra day to really soak it all in.
And soak it in, I shall. The experience of being sick, of being overloaded, of being fed up and motivated all in one. I shall soak up the pacing of the language of websites from far beyond my immediate world, and I shall see what is there for me to experience … really experience. It’s not all delightful. It’s not all fun and intriguing. Sometimes, it’s just plain boring, irritating, pathetic, and drably pedestiran as an old cracked sidewalk in a deserted coal town in Ohio. Sometimes it’s too much. Sometimes it’s not enough. But there it is. And that’s what matters most.