Tag Archive | enlightenment

Happy New Year – 2019

It’s New Year’s Eve and I need to make an entry to close this year out properly. The first three drafts of this blog contained a laundry list of accomplishments for the year, and status updates for Ryan, Ivy, and myself. I deleted that because I never want my posts to merely be status updates. I have Facebook for that.

As I review the last year, the one thing that has been looming larger and larger in my mind, my life, and in my actions, is the pursuit of spreading kindness and illuminating beauty wherever I see it. I know people who are dying, who cherish every minute they have left, and who would do anything for more time here. I know others who are utterly absorbed by their bleak perception of the world at large, poisoning their lives. They wax fanatically about the tragedy of “what our world has become” in contrast to the unrealistic, vague fantasy of “how it used to be.” If they were close to death would they change their focus?

Maybe they would listen in delight at the crunch of snow under their feet, or feel utter awe in the diamond-sparkly blankets of fresh fallen snow that cover a town and make it look like a toy train set. The sight of the sunrise or sunset would take their breath away, and they would watch in captivation as a hawk coasts soundlessly against a bright blue sky. 

They would smile at the fluffiness of a squirrel tail, or as I do at the simple sight of the four-year-old next store whose head appears over my wall as she bounces in her trampoline, talking to me in a squeaky voice, in short bursts with growing and descending volume. “How many years do you have?” she asks. “I have four.”

Would they feel the wind on their face as a soft embrace, hear the thunder like a tuba in an ethereal orchestra? Enlightenment does not come from political reform or the shunning of certain races or economic classes, or in outlawing anything that does not fit with whatever religious text or personal ideology you follow. It comes in the hidden treasures: the snap of an ice cube when it hits water, the stabbing of soda bubbles on your face. It’s about feeling, and taking it all in, in experiencing what we can while we’re here, while we’re alive.

I can’t force people to have a sense of wonder, or to appreciate the immensity of the beauty and kindness that is all around us. I can’t force people to feel giddiness when they see clouds touching mountaintops, or autumn leaves dancing in a circle, but I can keep talking about it and hopefully it will rub off.

I can’t make people accept others as they are, to look past their religions, or race, or ethnicity, or sexuality, or political preference. But I can try my best to enlighten others with stories, and maybe that will make a difference.

In 2019, I will continue to focus on the positive, will try to see the best in people, and let myself be spirited away by the joy found in the simple things.

Happy New Year and welcome to 2019!

-Carly G.

 

The Inner Judge

The other day I went into an upscale burger place in our town to set up a fundraiser for a pet rescue I’m involved with. While I waited for the manager, I saw two middle class, middle aged men walk up to the counter together to get their trays of food. One of the men grabbed a double burger from the tray and dashed outside. My instant reaction was that this guy was jerk. He didn’t even say goodbye to his friend, just snatched the food and ran out. What an antisocial creep, I thought. I got a little angry and rolled my eyes.

Luckily, I kept an eye on the hamburger grabber and felt like a judgmental idiot when I saw him hand the burger to the bedraggled looking, probable homeless man outside. The scraggly man smiled and took the burger to go with drink he already had (surely the man bought that too). Then the middle aged man came back in, rejoined his friend, and they took the trays and went off to sit. I noticed as the man walked away that he wore an L.A. City Fire t-shirt. So he saves lives and gives food to homeless people. Good job, Carly, wrongly judging a really good guy based on…what exactly?

It got me wondering why we put labels on people. I talked to Ryan about it on the way home, how when you’re younger you need labels so you can tell one person from another. Dangerous person, nice person, old person, child, parent, teacher, policeman, etc. We learn labels from parents and from society and it’s important to know who people are so we can stay safe. But as we grow up, it goes one of two ways.

You cling to the identifying tags you learned through experience, and die with an unwavering conviction that all X types are bad and all Y types will hurt you, and you are the only one who is truly good and smart and worthy. I know too many people who slap labels on every poor soul who is not just like them. Are they so lacking in self-awareness that they truly think they are better than everyone? Or do they have so little confidence that they need to put others down to feel good? Whatever the causation, it makes for a lot of negativity inside them and to the ones who endure their judgment.

The second way it can go is that you grow up. You learn lessons from those around you who are different. You put yourself in their shoes, and you understand.

When I was younger, I was pretty self-righteous. Maybe I didn’t come right out and say, “I would NEVER do that. I can’t believe you live your life that way.” But I thought it. A lot. Maybe I said it too. I hope not. But time humbles a person; and over the years I took on a lot of roles I may have turned my nose up at before. I’ve been divorced twice, lived with men out of wedlock, didn’t finish college, drank enough alcohol to throw up a bunch of times, got a tattoo, declared bankruptcy, gave away a dog I couldn’t control, smoked cigarettes, raised my daughter on takeout food…the list goes on and on.

All things my younger, perfect-self vowed never to do.

But as you live life, you often start becoming all the things you rallied against. It takes the wind out of your sails in a hurry, and you gain compassion because you know how it feels to be on other side. I’ve lived in some very low rent apartments and some fancy houses. I’ve been a registered Democrat, Republican, and have voted third party. I did the Atkins diet and ate mostly meat for a year. And now I’m a tree hugging vegetarian in Southern California. I never saw that happening. The California part at least. I think I always had an inner hippie.

And for everything I wasn’t: homeless, a minority, chronically ill, elderly, fiercely religious, gay, a drug addict or alcoholic, violent, mentally challenged, very rich, college educated, depressed, schizophrenic… I have been very close to people who are those things and it gave me perspective.

I consider myself a self-aware, kind person. But then there was the guy the other day. The inner me burst out, unfairly labeling and judging the kind man who was bringing food to a homeless guy, reminding me that old habits die hard. I wanted to smack my smug inner voice.

Inside, we are all just humans, crossing paths on this planet at the same time. We have different journeys but share the same roads. And it’s a much better experience if you learn to respect your fellow travelers and see them as they are, not through the lenses of your own biases.

It’s good that once in a while I am reminded that I’m not quite there yet and still have a lot of work left to do.

Here’s to true kindness,

-Carly G.