The safety of observing from afar

first row of coaster


 

(Less than 2 minutes to read)

I met people in my life who were full of fear. Fear that keeps them far away, up on their mountain top, earthbound. They stayed up there, like a baby bird who never jumped, but walked around in the branches of the tree, growing into an adult, never trying to leave, never trying to risk itself. And I was no better, so my trying to help these people was pretty futile.

But I’ve left the mountaintop refugee finally. I stopped telling myself stories, and although I haven’t jumped to experience the total experience of being liberated, I’m taking small leaps, restraining myself, finding outcroppings to rest on.  I couldn’t stand the suffocating thin air of that flat-topped prison any longer, complaining about things, but not willing, or courageous enough, to change them.

It’s so helpful to surround yourself with the people doing things you want to, but aren’t. The strong influence of your friends on you is shown in scientific research. But the catch-22 is, you need to be self-aware enough to find these people, or allow them into your life.

One of the most heartbreaking things to see are those with so much potential, but so little  heart, unwilling to step up to the edge and look down to see what they’re missing. So they stay in their refugee, with enough air to survive, but not to thrive.

It’s a lesson to those of us who have decided to leave our nest on that mountaintop: The lesson of letting people go who aren’t ready for change.  The lesson of the futility of trying to pry open a person who has closed themselves off, like a clam. And finally a lesson that helps you face sadness: the sadness of seeing love wasted, missing from the world, from those who are too overwhelmed to open themselves up and share it.


Follow me and I will take you away from the everyday.

If this is something you care about, then SHARE it. Less observation. More participation.

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Not getting any love? I’ve got an answer for you.

Love your self

As I started my gratitude meditation, my cat came exploring around me. He sniffed my knees, then my hands which lay upon my knees. I watched him, thinking I would need to send him away, but I stopped, and let him climb up into my lap and find a place to settle there. He started purring after a second and I smiled and thought, “This is exactly what the gratitude meditation is about”.

Gratitude means showing some love. And that’s how you get the love.

Let me explain. In my gratitude meditation, I go through all the things we often overlook as we focus on the negatives in our lives. We can’t help it. It’s what drives us to be better people, but also it makes us depressed. It can turn us into unhappy seekers, always looking ahead to a future point, never satisfied, or maybe it can overwhelm us, as we see so much danger around us, that we never bother trying to get what we want.

So the gratitude meditation for me is usually a thanksgiving (without the huge coma-inducing meal to distract me) for what I tangibly have. The roof over my ahead, the dependable car, the job that allows me not to worry about my bills, and so on.

But a large part of gratitude is seeing that there are people in your life that care about you. These could be the unconditional investors in you, like your partner or parents, and maybe an old friend. But it also means the people who you bring value to in their lives. At work, you have an opportunity to be a contribution, not just in completing assignments, but in how you conduct yourself. Do you remember the person who is always on diligent and reliable so you can get your work done easily? What about the person who takes a moment to ask how you’re doing, how your week is going and shows interest in you?

Like a lot of things in life, what we have in hand is less important than the attention we are given and the appreciation we are shown. This morning, my meditation allowed me to not only reach the awareness of what positives things I have in my life that I overlook every day, but also the awareness that I need more than those things. And now I realize that the value we seek from others is something that comes from putting ourselves out there, and providing some value to them, too. A value that could come from a skill you develop, but also just showing interest in them first. Why?

Everyone’s favorite subject is themselves.

Just listen to most any conversation around you. “I’m doing this…I did that…I think that…” So if you find your gratitude waning in the love department, just ask yourself whether the love you think is lacking from others couldn’t be because you’re not putting any out there yourself.

Getting personal isn’t rude.

oldtimer convo

“My mother married 4 times, so I had 4 fathers,” she said.

I told her it must have been tough having her mother get married multiple times.

“What was it like?” I asked.

Then my other friend interjected. “That’s personal.” His tone was incredulous. “You don’t ask about that.”

I hesitated and didn’t ask further, but I’ve thought about it, and I realize that asking about our friend’s problems is not rude. In fact, I think as a friend, it is a requirement.

I believe that if someone isn’t comfortable talking about something, then this is an indication that it’s quite appropriate to ask about it. Friendship is about helping other people, not just with money, or lending a hand, but with your actual interest, asking questions, communicating your thoughts through your words, and encouraging them towards a better place.

Communicating gets thoughts out where you can shine a light on them and ask yourself what you think. Do I want to keep doing this thing that makes me feel this way? And that’s what friends are for. To get you that perspective on a situation that is truly impossible for you to get from the inside. To help you talk about things that you want to change or need to face. The things you don’t want to talk about are precisely the things that need talked about.

Relationships are what make us feel valued. The only way to feel valued by another is when you do something valuable for them, and what’s more valuable than helping them change into a better person? And letting them help you do the same?

Get personal. It’s what friends are for.

Don’t blow through the pleasantries.

“Hi there.”
“Hi”
“How are you?”
“Good. How are you?”
“Almost perfect.”

It’s true that I’m almost perfect. Really.

I’m being more honest than when I say “ok” or “good”.
I’ve also heard people give the depressing “Not bad” and “Can’t complain”.

The “How are you”s are part of the exchange of pleasantries. They’re supposed to be pleasant, right? Then why do we blow through them with a catch phrase? And then we stall, searching for something more tangible to talk about, like the weather, which will save a conversation, yes, but it will also make you want to check your cell phone for more stimulating conversation with faceless people.

I realize that the so-called pleasantries breakdown the walls we have built up. They slowly bring the conversation to more meaningful levels, so that we’re more comfortable.

Why is that?

Sure, our genes may be coded with the fear response to strangers. Strangers who may be from another tribe who want to kill me for my food, shelter, or women, but why continue the drive-by pleasantries today, especially in this country, where survival is pretty easy? Even in low-income areas, no one is starving.

Ok, so keep the superficial pleasantries…what’s next?

When we get to the more meaningful part, we circle around asking the “how” and “why” question and get neck-deep in the comfortable quicksand of what we did, where we went, or what someone else is doing. We might get to some feelings, like “It sucked.’ Or “It was awesome.” But when was the last time we asked a probing “Why?” follow up?

We’re conditioned to make the “How are you?” the start of the conversation, and it’s ok to make it a greeting. Hey, it’s the best greeting I can think of..It jumps right into YOU. But instead of it being the start of the conversation, I think it should be the conversation. Let’s keep the courage of our convictions and see how someone else feels. Maybe give each other a new perspective?

The “how”s and the “why”s are the reason we’re here: It makes up the dialgoue that enables us to connect with people and grow.

I think a good start to connecting is to take that greeting seriously.

So…
How are YOU?

Patrick and I aren’t friends anymore

I remember I met Patrick at the Ravari Room. I would go there most every Wednesday, to watch Tony and his jazz trio bang out tunes. After that night, I ended up hanging out with Patrick regularly, but ironically, it was only after he stopped returning my phone calls that I realized who he was. He was a teacher who taught me how to truly value people.

It’s not just what people do for you, but why they do it that makes them your friend

I was lost when I met Patrick. I needed to accept myself and construct my own value system for life. I was selfish and I would use people without appreciating what they had done for me. And I survived off of their attention. Little did I know that Patrick was the teacher that I needed, if only I had been ready to change.

One day I told Patrick that I had given some money to a friend at work who was in need, but I hadn’t realized that I was close to not being able to make my bills for the month. I didn’t want anything from him, I hadn’t even thought about it, but Patrick promptly said, “Let me know, I can help you out if you need it.”

When Patrick’s friend Chris moved into his house, Patrick said it was a little aggravating to always see him at home. I said, “But it’s nice to have that help with the house payment.” Patrick replied, “He’s not giving me anything. Not yet.”

Patrick moves to the ghetto and gets robbed

Within 6 months of moving into a low-income neighborhood, Patrick’s bike was stolen out of his garage and then his HDTV from his living room. Both were stolen because he had not locked his place. It may be naive, but the pureness of his attitude is inspiring because it assures me that he wasn’t a person that needed other people’s sacrifice or trust. He had a confidence in humanity.

It may seem that he sacrificed something, but what did he really lose? Things. Things which he certainly valued, but didn’t derive happiness from. And just as important, what did he retain? His courage, which serves as an example to others.

Patrick didnt compromise his values for money. He treated me like an adult. He helped me when he saw I really needed it, offered money, connected me to his company to apply for a job, among numerous favors.

After a couple of years, I guess he decided he had given me enough chances to develop confidence in myself and become self-sustaining. I regret that my change in attitude did not come sooner, but I’ll always remember his simple, honest, positive approach to life. I hope to live by the example he unconsciously set for me and everyone in his life.

Patrick knew everyone should be given a chance, because humanity is lost if we don’t try to provide an environment that promotes encouragement, trust, and love.

I’m glad he took some time to trust in me.