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Being Human: A Life Without _____ Is A Life Not Lived
It’s hard to believe it’s getting close to a year and a half since I parted ways with my job.
It’s been quite a roller coaster. I’ve had a lot of changes to get used to, a lot of decisions to make; and most of all, I’ve had to get reacquainted with parts of me I’d forgotten, locked up or ignored.
There have been a lot of feelings going on in my head and it’s not always easy.
It’s called being human.
I’m about as human as they come. I could never be accused of being a robot. I tend to wear my passion for whatever I’m doing, on my sleeve; and as a result, I may come off a little intense and dramatic.
Out in the real world it is expected that you behave with a certain amount of coldness. Sometimes you’ll hear it referred to as: professionalism and decorum. This requires you to bottle things up and not be completely honest. That lack of honesty, my friends, is one of the biggest failures in our society’s increasing isolation. Real communication is becoming obsolete.
Time and time again, I have watched people sit completely stone-faced and not express themselves– when I know they have definite opinions or feelings on the matter. It’s really hard to watch. How do you interact with that? I know, I’ve tried it– how should I say it… in the name of civility… and I usually fail miserably.
One of the biggest realizations I’ve had to face is that the feelings and responses to the things around us aren’t always going to be considered appropriate. We have to be okay with that. I think of all the people that medicate just to avoid feeling and I never want to be in that place.
We can try to ignore and avoid our feelings… even feel guilty about them but then how much are we really living? How much are we really experiencing life? It’s not always necessary to express all our feelings to other people but we at least need to acknowledge them ourselves. Appropriate or not, our feelings are real— if only to us. The people with whom we engage have those feelings too. Everyone deals with things differently… the important thing is that they are dealt with and not ignored.
It’s far too easy to become numb and go through the motions of living.
It can happen for a number of reasons:
- We’re too busy, obsessed or focused on one thing; ignoring, or refusing to deal with everything else,
- Afraid to become emotionally involved; of being used or hurt,
- Lack of self confidence and feelings of inadequacy; fear of being judged,
- Expectations of professional demeanor, void of expression; always holding your cards close,
- Purely for self preservation; protecting your self, job, relationships or image,
When we allow ourselves to fall into any of these patterns, we start living a life without. We alienate ourselves and our selves. We may find the temporary protection we need to get through any given situation but if this becomes the way we deal with every day life, something is missing. We can become lost.
Being human is thinking, feeling and expressing through our experiences.
Life is joy, celebration and happiness— anger, heartbreak and tears. It’s connecting and sharing those feelings with others that make us human.
It’s important to feel things.
It’s important to express things.
It’s most important that we not lose who we are in the daily routine of survival.
Take away these human traits and what do you have left?
A big blank. A life without.
First, Last and Everything In Between
I took advantage of the weather early this past week and began the arduous task of prepping the flower beds and started mulching around the trees and shrubs. This is something I really love doing, even though it takes a lot of time and effort to do it all.
I couldn’t help but think of the Frances Hodgson Burnett children’s book, The Secret Garden, which is one of my all-time favorite stories. Particularly, when Mary discovers the hidden garden and begins clearing away the brush and leaves allowing the tiny buds of spring to catch their first glimpses of sunshine. In the story, the garden symbolizes healing and rebirth. Often, when I’m doing this, I’ll find the song, A Bit of Earth (from the musical version of the book) playing over and over in my head.
I’d had cleared a good-sized area, pulled out hundreds of maple tree seedlings and was spreading mulch as Cash came sauntering over to me, sniffing around the damp soil and butting into my space. He got right in my face, grabbing my attention and looking in my eyes, he snorted and started licking my face. When he was done, I gave him a couple quick pats and rubbed his coat. Then he was off, settling nearby in a warm spot, enjoying the sun.
It was a moment.
This wasn’t the first time this has happened. In fact, I can’t begin to count the number of times Cash or Roxie had done this over the years. No matter how often it happened, it has never ceased to touch my heart and make me smile. For that brief moment, it brings me back to reality from my daydreaming and we connect. Then off they’d go to explore.
Having lost Roxie a few months ago, these precious little moments are especially dear. I couldn’t help wondering as Cash wandered off the other day, would that be the last time? Sad? Yes. Morbid? Maybe. The point is that it was just one of those seemingly common occurrences that we don’t always appreciate or think about until they’re gone.
This started me thinking… of all the important events in our lives, we naturally tend to remember the firsts and lasts the most. First meeting, first kiss, first concert… graduating, closing night of a play or saying goodbye to someone special— What we really risk missing are all those special moments in between.
We are always in such a rush to get from Point A to Point B that we miss, or fail to appreciate, everything in between.
The in between is the journey. We experience so much in our travels and often learn so much—there can be many successes and failures along the way– it would be a shame to forget what got us to our destination.
We meet new people and sometimes instantly click. In other instances, friendships build over time. In either case, the in between becomes the history that can bind us together or eventually drive us apart.
I spent many years working with students in high school theatre, the goal, of course, is to put on a good production. Many students would prefer to skip right from audition to performance but it’s the rehearsal process that hopefully teaches them skills and develops their abilities to portray their characters convincingly. During rehearsals– the in between— Friendships and trust often develop along the way. The in between colors, not only the resulting performance but potentially the rest of their lives.
I’ve worked so much on the the technical end of productions, my in between was consumed with many hours building and painting scenery and sometimes unexpectedly, building some important friendships. You learn a lot about a person working with them side by side. There’s often a lot of laughter, stories and maybe a few tears mixed in with all those hours of hard work. In the long run, the by product of the experience can be more valuable than the impact of the performance itself. There are in between moments I remember now, quite vividly, for productions that are all but gone from my memory.
I’ve found, especially when I’m feeling stressed, how important a quiet moment of reflection can be. Stopping what you’re doing, taking a breath and taking a look around can be very cathartic. It is surprising how different everything can look in a simple, quiet moment. It’s often brought me a calming peace and sometimes a pure moment of clarity.
An unimportant, simple moment— in between— can suddenly seem like the most important moment of all.
I moved my computer out to the table on the front porch while I was writing this. Cash just came up on the porch after barking at a passing dog and his owner and has now settled down. He is laying with his head resting on his paws, eyes closed, on the welcome mat.
He’s sleeping now.
There’s a light breeze and birds are chirping noisily in the background. A relatively unimportant moment— but a moment that feels so precious and alive.
Don’t miss those moments. Those moments in between.
Embrace them, cherish them… and don’t let the rush to Point B blind you to what is really important…
You Are What You Eat – Body & Mind – Part Two: Mind
It’s pretty easy to understand the relationship between food and our bodies but what about how we are feeding our minds?
I’ve been thinking a lot about how we become who we are, how we live and how we think. There’s been many studies on how the stimulus young children receive establishes who they are. Though I think this is really interesting, I think overall it’s a little shortsighted. We frequently hear, you can’t change someone or people don’t change… but I don’t believe that to be entirely true. People can change but only if they really want to… or are forced to change.
First, I want to talk about the mind food we don’t ask for… the stimulus we receive from others and from our environment.
I think we can all agree that how we behave is closely related to how we think. Take education for instance. Because we think differently, we also learn differently. Most schools are not equipped to accommodate different learning styles. They have one set way of teaching and you either learn it (temporary memorization, in most cases) or you don’t. This has a direct relationship with our behavior. Some students seem to absorb information easily and others require hours and hours of studying. The third group are those that don’t even seem to try. This third group is made up of students that either don’t want to learn or more likely, are unable to learn in the style they are being taught and just give up. I can’t even being to tell you how many students I’ve met that have brilliant minds but are labeled ADHD or special needs because they can’t be forced into the strict mold our education system requires of them. Their brains just work differently.
Words, actions and events have a huge affect on us. Our interactions with others, intentional or not, mold who we are, or at least how we behave throughout our lifetime. I wrote a little about this in a past blog post. Negative input tends to cause stress, a lack of self confidence or self worth or even cause people to shut down. Harsh words from a teacher… the boss who tells you, you can’t do anything right… the experience of a tragic event… all are stimuli that can have a profound impact on us. Unfortunately, we can’t control these types of experiences from affecting our brains and they can have life changing results.
What about what we choose to put in our minds? We are able to make choices of what we do, who our friends are and what we read or watch for the most part. We can also choose to experience positive activities that will have a major effect on us. Our attitudes are shaped by what our mind consume. This, in turn, can change us.
I believe our spirituality is the essence of who we are. It is our inner path. Our spirituality is the most important part of our character. Religious beliefs can be an important part of our spirituality but it should not be misconstrued as the only part of it. Many people wear their religion on their sleeve like a badge, yet when it comes to who they really are, it may not be quite as visible. Our histories can cause us to put up walls blocking the world from seeing our true selves. When I hear someone referred to as an old soul, I think of someone that has moved beyond those barricades and is unafraid of revealing their inner self. It’s a gift to be able to live without fear and to look beyond the facade of others and see the true person that might be hidden behind layers of hurt, anger and betrayal.
Feeding the Mind
We are surrounded daily by negative mind food. Especially in this political year, the news is bursting with negativity. It’s important to at least balance the negative content we absorb with positive thoughts and behavior. We can’t find positive solutions when we focus on the negative. Unfortunately, our society loves to complain about all the problems that surround us but seldom take action to find solutions. If we’d focus on the solutions, we might actually be able to make some progress.
I see too often that people say they don’t like negative people, and then they surround themselves with them. Some people like to wallow in negativity. It feels good to vent frustrations but we all have to be willing to take the next step towards resolving our issues.
Our survival relies heavily on the strength of our body, mind and spirit. We tend to overlook the latter and that have serious implications on our overall health. Focusing on diet and exercise is only the beginning. We also have to feed and exercise our minds. Having a victim mindset is unhealthy. We must strive daily to look for the good and conquer our problems. With a positive outlook– reconnecting with our spirituality– we can overcome any obstacles and live healthy, meaningful lives.