Imagine All the People

  A while back, Scott and the kids and I were sitting around the table eating dinner. I don’t remember which one of the kids asked it, but the question was, “If you could have any super power, what would it be?”

Scott said the ability to fly. Luke said to be invisible. Noah wanted to be really fast. Grace said she wanted to be able to talk to animals. When it was my turn, I said, I’d like to be able to have ultimate understanding of things. The kids just looked at me blankly. Scott laughed at me and said jokingly, “Super lame, Mom!” But it was true! That would be what I’d wish for, to be able to look at a person or a situation, without trying to affect my will on them and to just be able to understand.

  There will always be people who misunderstand us because our scope is limited by the lens of our ego. It doesn’t make anyone “bad.” It just means that we can’t yet see past our own experience of the world. As human beings, we are prone to judge and criticize, to tell others what we would do if we were them. But we can’t possibly know what we’d do without actually being them and living with their understanding of the world. Not surprisingly, this theme keeps popping into my days lately.

  Scott and I were in New York City over the weekend. It was my first time being there and it was a gorgeous time to go. Spring in Central Park is surreal and I fell in love with it. We decided not to do a tour of the park and instead, wandered in the rain, hiking some of the nature trails and I loved how organic everything felt. There weren’t overcooked landscapes; no sort of contrived feeling to any of the life we observed. A bunch of wild violets were just growing haphazardly under bushes and thorny shrubs, massive boulders hugged by the roots of proud trees. It was all naturally beautiful just the way it grew. No one had tried to force their ideal of beauty in any obvious ways.

  Really, the whole city of New York was like this. Before I’d gone, I was intimidated by the idea of the busiest city in our country. I worried I’d get trampled, but what I found so

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Scott at Central Park

intrinsically hopeful about New Yorkers is that they are so comfortable being who they are. While one of the greatest tragedies of mankind happened in the heart of the city on September 11, 2001, it hasn’t diminished the light of it. The spirit of freedom and love pulses through it. There isn’t any feeling of fear in people expressing themselves. We listened to a woman playing a cello in a tunnel under a bridge, letting her silky smooth notes fill the air. We saw artists at the MET parked in chairs under sculptures, sketching or painting the way they interpreted them. No one asked them to move or told them they were in the way. No one gave them suggestions on how they would make their art better. In the streets, people stopped to hug and kiss and dance. Passersby would just go around them without a word. And maybe because there are so many people concentrated in New York, one could expect it would create dissonance or chaos, but what I found was complimentary harmony.

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My first visit to Times Square, a cacophonous harmony.

 

I was thinking about how we all could do a better job at this. If we just let each other be, not demanding or forcing our ideas of perfection, letting each other grow a little wild and free, how lovely the world could be. I wonder if our idea of education or religion would change. Maybe our learning institutions would be less structured and as a result people would thrive being allowed to grow in unexpected directions.

 I know what I’m suggesting could border on anarchy if we weren’t careful, but I’m not suggesting lawlessness. Just tolerance and acceptance of each other the way that God made us. John Lennon’s song “Imagine” kept coming to mind. 

  I do believe humanity is evolving. I’ve seen it in my own life. I am beginning to see the world in ways I never thought I would. For as hopeless as I feel at times about the way of the world, if I shift my perspective and see things through a lens of love, I can stop judging myself and others. I can forgive and I can heal. I find that I finally am beginning to understand. 

 

 

You Have A Message.

Hey Girl,

  It’s me. You know me. We go way back. I’m the one who is nestled deep in your brain. I’m the beam of light your body is holding, the true you. I’m your soul. We don’t get to talk much anymore. You’re really busy. You forget to connect with me for long periods of time.

  That’s why I’m here to tell you, it’s reeeeeally important for you to stop and remember me. Because what I see is you’re about to self-destruct. I see you going day in and day out forgetting about what it was you set out to do in this world. I see you focusing on everyone else except for yourself.

You are no longer “Me” because you’re trying so hard to be everyone else. You are an extension of the people closest to you. You are hands that do all the things. Your eyes are always watching and comparing yourself to people around you or on a screen. You are trying to cram so much into your days just to prove something to everyone around you, but what’s funny is, they are all doing the same damn thing! They don’t see you, not like I do.

 I know, you find yourself feeling anxious and worried about little things that will never probably happen. You often feel sad and lonely even though your phone is always chiming with text messages or phone calls. It’s not like you have a bad life! You have everything you could want; a home, running water, electricity, and people who love you. So why are you so unhappy? Why are you so unsatisfied? Now you feel guilty for feeling this way. And oh God! It just spirals, doesn’t it? Here’s the cycle: 

  1. Recognize your faults and shortcomings.
  2. Compare yourself to someone else who is doing so much better than you.
  3. Feel disappointed that you’re not thinner/prettier/overall better.
  4. Resolve to get better in all the ways you think you suck.
  5. Become stressed out because you’re too busy. 
  6. Stress makes you anxious.
  7. Anxiousness turns to isolation.
  8. Isolation leads to depression.
  9. Depression leads to self-loathing. 
  10. Self-loathing leads to disrespecting yourself and making unhealthy choices. 
  11. Now you go back to one. 

 Just stop it. 

Just stop and listen to me. You forgot about me, but I’m here. I’m still here. And I love you. I love us. I was made for you. I’m just waiting for you to remember that you need to love me. You need to love your soul. I am the thing that makes you beautiful. It’s not about how thin you are. It’s not that new eyeshadow palette you spent an obscene amount of money on. It’s not even that stupid filter on Instagram that blots out that patch of zits on your chin. I AM WHAT MAKES YOU BEAUTIFUL. There is no one else in this world who has me, your soul. 

Look, I know you’re not perfect. You’re living in a world that is full of challenges. I know you’re going to mess up. I know you’re going to go through some hard times. That’s what I signed up for when I agreed to be your soul! But the thing is, we are still whole together. No one can touch me in here. No one’s opinions, no one’s expectations, no one else’s faults or even your own can hurt me in here. 

  Please, take five minutes tonight when you lie down and don’t let any of the “what ifs” or “shoulds” get into your brain. Set a timer and then don’t you dare touch that phone! 

  Just feel your breath. Close your eyes and thank your body for everything it got you through today. 

Maybe you messed up something, but don’t think about that. Focus on your breath. Think about your blood pumping through your veins. This is your strong, beautiful body working all by itself so you don’t have to stress about that. 

  Think about me in here. I’ve been here since you were small. Remember all those dreams we had about what we’d do together? Find those things that made you feel joy. Be in that moment for a minute. Find that time when you felt pure love. Be in that moment for another minute. You can always come back to this, you know…

  We think time is a straight line. The past is behind us, the future is in front of us. But what about this moment right here? We never stop to be right in that moment, do we? We dwell on our past and we worry about the future. But this moment is actually the only moment that matters. 

  So you just devoted this time to accepting yourself and loving yourself exactly as you are. How powerful is that?! What if you could choose to be right there all the time. Guess what? You can!

  Your path doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. You don’t need to do what everyone else is doing because I am not like anyone else! Your soul is unique to you alone. And once you learn to love your soul, you can really love someone else’s. You must give yourself love and grace because until you can do that, you’ll never be able to love anyone else that way. 

  Now, when you open your eyes in the morning, remember this moment and carry it with you all day long. This is the state you are meant to exist in. Be self-aware and in love with me, your soul, because I love you and I always will.

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Would you ever talk to your child the way you talk to yourself? Love yourself gently. 

 

A World of Weirdos

I was just watching an old video of Grace coloring a picture of really tiny scribbles in different colors. To her and to me, they were flowers. In the video, she’s asking me to draw a picture of a dog. Her word for “dog” sounds a little profane, but as her mommy, I knew exactly what she was saying. At the time, I didn’t think twice about it. Now it makes me smile at its innocence. I really would have had no idea what she was saying now, but then it made total sense. I spent the most time with her so I knew her language when no one else did.

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One of Grace’s early works of art: “Flowers and Mom.”

  As parents, we know our kids better than any of the other billions of people living on this earth. We know their hearts and minds backward and forward. But something happens as they get older. We start to lose that connection. I look at our oldest, Noah. He is going to be eleven this year. He has two settings lately. He is either making obnoxious sounds, thinking that he’s being hilarious, or he’s highly sensitive and insecure, snapping at us or having a meltdown over the battery dying on the iPad, or the Snickers ice cream bars being gone; everything is a really big deal right now. 

  I miss the days when I knew him backward and forward. I guess this is what all those old ladies meant at the grocery store when I was sweating, trying to get everything on my list while trying to keep his butt seated in the shopping cart and they would say with those annoying, all-knowing smiles, “Enjoy it! It goes fast.” 

  At the time, I was thinking, “B*tch please. Do you smell me right now? I haven’t showered in three days. Enjoy it, my a**.” Well, it turns out they were right. I should have enjoyed it more because that kid is gone. My sweet Noah whose laugh—best little kid laugh ever—would echo off the canned goods and make strangers the next aisle over start cracking up, is now constantly trying to imitate his favorite tv characters or he’s breaking things around the house trying to flip half-filled water bottles to make them land on end. My favorite phrase has become, “Go outside!”

  And yet, we still have our moments… 

  “Mom, sometimes I feel like I’m always going to be alone,” he said to me the other night,  one arm flung dramatically over his eyes. 

  “Why is that, buddy?”

  “I just don’t think anyone gets me…the kids in my class think I’m weird.”

  “Hmm…well, do you think they’re weird?” I asked him.

  “Sometimes…Especially the girls,” he said pulling his arm from his head.

 “I think sometimes at your age, we start to feel lonely because we think we are weird, ourselves, and we defend ourselves by trying to believe it’s the other people who are more weird than us. So everyone takes turns picking on each other so that they don’t have to be the weird one that day. Does that make sense?”

  “Kind of…”

  “Look, no one–NO ONE–is perfect. We all are ‘weird’ because nobody is exactly the same. Even twins have different personalities, right?” 

He nodded. 

“That’s what’s tough. We live in a world where people want to be a part of something but we all feel so misunderstood because we are all a little ‘weird’ or different.”

  “You mean like how I still like Minecraft but the kids in my class don’t as much anymore?”

  “Yep, that’s definitely part of it. God gave you a desire to be creative. You like to express it right now by creating Minecraft worlds. God gave some of the other kids a really strong interest in sports. It doesn’t really make anyone ‘weird,’ He just wants us to be different because we all have something special we are going to do in this world.

  “I know you’re going to do something really awesome someday, Noah, because God gave you an extra dose of ‘different.’ I am so proud of you. He gave you a tough job because He knows you can handle it.” 

  He was quiet for a minute. “Okay,” he finally said.

  “I love you, buddy.”

  “I love you too, Mom.”

  He doesn’t say it much anymore, so as I left his room, it filled my heart. I really believe what I said to Noah. We all are different, with our strengths and even our vulnerabilities because we all have something special that we are meant to share in this world through our experiences and lessons. There is a reason we were born at this time, in this life. God really does have a divine purpose for all of us. We may not understand it when we’re going through it. It does sometimes feel lonely. But we need to be open to it all. 

  How did people know, trust, and believe, that they are meant to do extraordinary things? Look at the light bulb. I just went to google “Tesla” to make my point, but found that the light bulb was actually more of a collaborative invention made by a bunch of 19th century “weirdos” trying to improve what the last one started. I am willing to bet, those guys all seemed super weird to their friends. But they were hellbent on creating this thing that would revolutionize the world.

 And I love thinking about Jesus this way, too. For the record, I am not trying to compare any of us to Jesus, but I am trying to make a point. Here was this kid; rumors flying in the adult world about his illegitimacy so he’s already off to a rough start. People think he’s a little “touched” anyway. Any kids his age probably thought he was nuts! At one point he wanders off and goes missing for three days and Mary and Joseph are worried sick thinking he’s been kidnapped or killed and they find him in a temple preaching to the religious leaders and his response is, “Well, where else would you find me besides, my Father’s house?” Like, “Duh?” Meanwhile, Mary is probably having a heart attack. But really, how do you reprimand the Son of God? I don’t think you can ground him…Thank God, Mary had Gabriel clue her in before Jesus was born. But still, she’s probably like, “God, what am I supposed to do with this…?”

But Jesus knew from a really young age who he was. He wasn’t worried about being weird. He was on a mission. What if we could be so resolute about our life’s purpose? What if we could just know what it was we were meant to do? It would take so much of the anxiety out of life.

But that’s not part of our journey. We have to feel weird. We have to feel lonely and uncomfortable because we need God. We need Him to help us navigate life.  He wants us to need Him–he gave us our quirks and knows our weaknesses. He’s our Father who knows us backward and forward. He doesn’t stop understanding us when we hit our pimply, knob-kneed pre-teen years or our awkward, fumbling adult years. He’s our constant. And the coolest thing is, He doesn’t stop loving us during any of it.

  So to get to my point, I was thinking if we can all give each other that kind of grace; to know that we are all on the same kind of unknown journey, struggling, trying to figure it out, could we all be a little more loving and grace-filled toward each other? Could we all understand that none of us feels comfortable in their own skin? No one is walking around thinking that they have everything figured out. Sometimes we feel God giving us a sign that we’re on the right path, but most of us don’t have the gift of knowing what we’re doing here. Most of us are still like little Noah, feeling homesick and lonely for a true home that we are waiting to go back to, but we don’t understand it because we don’t really remember it. We just know that this human life is a tough one and we’re falling flat on our faces much of the time. 

  My hope today is to be attentive and receptive to God’s purpose in my life. I want to be open to His plan for me and to give grace to others who are trying to follow His plan for them. I will hold back judgment because I understand how hard it is to know what we are doing in this world. Everyone feels a little “weird” sometimes.