Accepting Limitations, Pressing On

I’m back. 

If the cool 55 degree weather doesn’t communicate this to me, the solicitations and “compliments” (Hey are you married? You look my age! Will you be my girl?”) from a stranger do! And I hoped to God I didn’t look his age…..

Early this morning our plane made it in to Boston and we stumbled to our beds, our bleary airport eyes and bodies tired from travel. My dreams held the wonder of rest and sunshine, something I have enjoyed in abundance these past couple of days. My husband and I got away to a beautiful spot in Scottsdale, Arizona and spent four days hiking, swimming, sleeping, eating, enjoying. We can’t count how many times we looked at each other and exclaimed “just what the doctor ordered!”

And now I’m back, realizing yet again that there is no shortage of material to write about in early morning Boston. From strung-out young women to pot-smoking men; from Albanian fruit sellers to high-heeled business executives; from screaming homeless to sleep-deprived students to unwanted solicitations from inebriated men — every human condition and emotion is here.

And though every morning it’s a reality check, this morning just back from a place far removed from the chaos I feel it acutely. Because one of the things I realized as I’ve stepped away are my limitations in reaching into this world around me. What does life in the midst of this mean, what I am called to in the midst of my daily reality? I long to do more, to act more, to be more, to care more. But being away I am also reminded that all of this is way too big for me. I’m one person locked inside my own emotions and circumstances, sometimes aware, sometimes tragically (or blissfully) unaware. I am limited by time, fatigue, and apathy. 

So this reality check means facing who I am and what I can or cannot do. Accepting my limitations and pressing on.

Fall is officially here and with it a new season. The question that looms in my heart, in my soul is how can I better reach into this world around me? How can I better nurture my soul so that I know how to respond to my world?

What about you? How do you accept your limitations while still reaching out to the world around you? 

Blogger’s Note: The pictures give you a taste of my alternate reality the last couple of days – sheer bliss!

Concentric Circles and Childhood Pain

“Write hard and clear about what hurts”~ Ernest Hemingway

I am currently participating in a 4-day train the trainer program at my work. The training is designed to develop diversity trainers for our state diversity program. The fact that I am sitting in this training is proof of how far the Commonwealth and I have come in our love/hate relationship.

One of the activities that we did is called concentric circles. Concentric circles are designed to help people get to know each other; in this case to summarize events in their life where they experienced difference. A circle is formed with half the participants. The rest of the participants go inside the circle and create an inner circle, each of them picking a partner and facing them. The facilitator has a pre-selected set of questions. After the question is posed each participant shares with their partner their experience as it relates to the question. After you have both answered the first question, the facilitator asks the inner circle to move one person to the right. You then answer the second and so on.

So the questions begin:

Describe a time in your life when you felt you were different.

Describe a time in your life where you stuck up for someone.

Describe a time in your life when you wanted someone to stick up for you.

Describe a time in your life where someone did stick up for you.

And on it goes. And the remarkable thing is the emotions that it raises. This is a training for adults, but inevitably you are brought back to childhood pain. You’re suddenly on a playground and you have been singled out because you have red hair, or glasses, or brown skin, or for whatever reason the majority decides on. And you suddenly know you are different, and different equals bad.

And then you remember a time when someone stuck up for you, and how you felt initially before they took a stand. And then the overwhelming relief, the hot, unshed tears that came to your eyes when you realized you weren’t alone, that someone was walking with you, taking your side. And as you recreate that time in the circle you know in an instant if you are healed from that event….or not.

It’s not about the pain but what we do with that pain. Does it rest unhealed and festering, bringing about bitterness in the least likely moments? Does it partially heal yielding an ability to sympathize with a whisper “Poor you!” when others face similar types of pain? Or does it fully heal and produce the powerful emotion of empathy, that ability to proclaim “I know how much it hurts, so I’ll walk with you on this one!”.

The range of stories that you hear in concentric circles is vast. They range from a grandmother telling a grandchild that they’re “too black – let’s get that black off of you” to a woman who speaks of being the only Puerto Rican in a class of all white kids and the longing to have blonde hair and blue eyes “like the pretty girls”. But the emotions the recall evokes are all similar. There’s laughter, there’s anxiety, there’s relief, and there are tears.

Moving away from the circle the participant is left with the memory and whatever emotions are associated with it. Will the memory taste bitter and continue to fester, or will it be laced with grace? It’s our choice.

The Ugly Face of Jealousy

Jealousy has a way of showing its ugly face in the most inopportune times. Often I am blithely living life in a most confident way and wham bam! The face of jealousy comes on me like an earthquake, or a tsunami, or a slap from a good friend. It doesn’t respect time or place and I feel my face growing hot with the inner questions “Why her? Why not me? Why them? How come I didn’t get that? Why do people think she’s a good speaker? mother? blogger?” And all this on a Saturday morning….or a Monday morning…or whatever morning the ugly face chooses to show itself.

It’s insidious, it’s ugly, and it’s real. It takes over my face and with my face, my identity, and with my identity – my life! And I realize that if my identity rests in who I am versus Whose I am, then it’s a losing battle. Who I am changes with life seasons and jobs – Whose I am will never change.

What about you? Is jealousy an emotion that comes and rocks your world, throwing you off-balance? How do you handle it?