formerly Diane's Addled Ramblings... the ramblings are still addled, just like before, and the URL is still the same...
it's just the title at the top of the page that's new

Thursday, March 6, 2014

We're All Just Walking Each Other Home

Today, I had lunch with a perfect stranger.

You should know, this is not something I do regularly. Or, you know, ever.

Now, don't get me wrong... I connect easily with people. I can make conversation in grocery store lines and elevators. Little snippets and pleasantries are easy. And I can talk for England when it comes to work conversations or interviews. But to sit down and have a meal with a someone I've never met?

I don't do that.

But I did it today.

I had just sat down in the food court at the mall, with my plate of chicken, vegetables, and rice from the Chinese place. There was an elderly man sitting at the next table over. He looked well-worn and tired, his face scruffy, eyes yellow. His clothes were not in good condition and when he smiled at me, his grin was gappy. He nodded toward my plate and said, "That sure do look good!"

I smiled back and agreed. Then, surprising myself, I asked him if he'd had lunch yet. He leaned down and reached into the bag at his feet. "I got me a banana."

Surprising myself again, I told him that if he'd keep me company while I ate, I'd be happy to treat him to Chinese. He grinned his gappy grin and told me that'd be "real nice."

During the next 40 minutes, I learned that his name was Henry, he was 82 years old, and the youngest of 11 children (6 of whom are still living). Here from NY for an old friend's funeral, he was waiting for another friend to take him back to the bus station in Charlottesville. He was waiting at the mall because he didn't want to see his friend's sister, whose heart he broke back in 1961 and "...she never quite got over it and still don't like [him] much." I also learned that his great-grandparents were slaves, emancipated by President Lincoln, that his father was a cook in the Army during WWI, that he fought in Korea, and that he'd marched with Martin Luther King and he even got to shake his hand. When I told him about the essay I had published in a book to honor Dr. King, he shook my hand, too, and told me it was his privilege to know a real author.

But the privilege?

Was mine.

It was the best lunch I've had in a long time, with the unlikeliest of partners. Henry thanked me profusely for the food and the company and I told him it was my pleasure. I left the mall to go back to work, grateful that I'd asked him if he had eaten; grateful that all he had was a banana; and ever so grateful that I'd stepped out of my comfort zone.

This job I have is hard. There are many reasons not to like it. There have been many times I've wanted to quit. But it has made me realize that the people we see with our eyes transform when we see them with our hearts, and only when we see them with our hearts can we truly get to know them or help them. It's something I thought I knew already... but I didn't.

This job has given me a wonderful gift that I did not expect.

It has made me realize that we are, indeed, all just walking each other home.

Today I met again with my "thug." If you haven't read the post about him and you'd like to, it's right here.

I gave him the books I'd gotten for him... and he cried. This kid -- this tough, street-wise, I-don't-care-about-nothin' kid -- cried because someone did something nice and unexpected and unsolicited and unnecessary for him. For him. I have earned his trust, which, given this kid's incredibly troubled past, is no small feat. And it happened because I was finally able to see him with my heart, which didn't judge him the way my eyes did (and I'm so ashamed for that).

What I know for sure is that we are all connected, even if we have forgotten it or, for some, never knew it. We are all in this crazy, messed-up, beautiful Life together. No one is -- not a one of us -- an island, try as we might to convince ourselves otherwise.

And we are all just walking each other home.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Broken Open

I wear my heart on my sleeve. Anyone who is even remotely observant can tell how I'm feeling within minutes of seeing me. Sometimes I wish this wasn't the case... sometimes I'd like to be able to tuck my feelings inside, out of sight, and go on as if everything in Life was always tidy and neat.

But I can't.

Life isn't tidy and neat and its chaos shines out of my expressions and my demeanor and my words the way the sun shines in July.

If you've been reading here for the past month (or the past several years), you've seen it. It's not pretty. It's not always pleasant. It can make people uncomfortable.

Someone from my 'real life,' who began reading my blog recently, remarked about how open I am here. And I told her that's true... to an extent. There are, of course, things I will never discuss here... or I don't think I will, anyway. I guess I don't know yet just how brave or open I'll be willing to be down the road.

And I'm sure there are people who think I'm too open; that I share too much; that I should hold some things back. And maybe they're right. I don't know.

But here's what I do know, right here, right now...

When I open myself up -- my heart and my head -- and I tell you things about my life and its chaos and how I deal with it all, it makes me feel a little less crazy... a little less chaotic. Very often, you come back to me, by way of comments or emails, and you let me know that something I've said has affected you; it's resonated with you; it's made you feel not-so-alone; it's given you a new perspective; it's made you want to reach out and open up to me...

And that?

Makes me feel good. It makes me feel validated. It makes me feel visible and necessary.

And I think we all need that.

Today, a friend of mine posted on Facebook about a friend hers -- a friend who committed suicide on her 41st birthday. I didn't know this woman, though it turns out we have a few mutual friends. But hearing about suicide naturally makes us wonder why... so I looked at her Facebook page and through her photos, wondering why; wondering what about her life might have been so terrible that she felt the need to end it on the day commemorating its beginning.

When you look at my Facebook page and my photos, I think you probably get a fair picture of my life. As you know from reading here, I'm pretty much an open book. Pretty much. I'm sure that's not the case with everyone... maybe even with most people... and probably not with this woman...

Because her life appeared to be perfect.

Let's change the emphasis there, shall we?

Her life appeared to be perfect.

She was stunningly beautiful. She had a handsome husband and a beautiful home. She traveled often, to spectacular places, and, indeed, spent her birthday on a boat in the Virgin Islands. It was clear that she possessed a spirit of adventure. She had many friends, who seemed to simply adore her, and beautiful nephews, who looked ridiculously happy to be photographed with her. Her posts were creative, her words captivating, and she had a smile that lit up whatever space she was in.

Her life appeared to be perfect.

It was not, of course.

No one's life is perfect.

And I wondered if, in her 'real life,' she wore her heart on her sleeve; if the people who loved her knew that her soul was troubled. I wondered if she felt it necessary to tuck her feelings inside, out of sight, and go on as if Life was tidy and neat. I wondered if she was ever able to open up, to share too much, and to lay herself out and just say, "This is me -- in pain, fucked up, sad, weary, and broken open."

I can't begin to imagine the pain she must have felt. My heart breaks for her and for her family. I know how fortunate I am to have never felt pain to that degree. I know how fortunate I am to have always, always believed that no matter how messy Life gets, it will get better.

And I am incredibly fortunate to be able to open up, to share too much, and to lay myself out and just say, "This is me -- in pain, fucked up, sad, weary, and broken open."

It's not pretty. It's not pleasant. And it sometimes makes people uncomfortable.

But it's so necessary.

And I wish it for everyone.