Thursday, February 28, 2013

How much do you let in.....

Stranded at the crossroads the other morning, waiting for the cargo train to pass in order to turn onto the main road; no one could move and no one was willing to let me in.  Cars pilled up one by one, most tried not to glance to the side at the waiting cars at the cross road, I guess if I'm not there then they don't need to change, to do anything different. 
At the supermarket a week or so ago, every checkout maxing out, only one unopened & a quietly spoken young girl came over & said I could move over to her checkout as she was about to start for the evening. As I bent down to pick up something that had fallen an older man pushed past nearly knocking the rest out of the basket and to the amazement of several customers rushed to be the first one at the opened counter. Noticing the young girl who was unsure what to do, I just smiled as he demanded to be served and hurried on his way.
People rushing past a sleeping homeless person, a stranded car, lovers too busy following poorly written social rules to tell each other the truth; people holding back their hearts, trying desperately not to notice anything that could disrupt them from their mission of the day, to basically get on with their day to pretend in their world "everything is gonna be alright". We are surrounded by busy people, rushing, shoving, with no real focus, just an ego stuck in over drive charging them forward into an abyss.
Sitting there waiting the other morning, running slightly late yet in no hurry I wondered about this shoving, pushing and excuses people tell themselves in order to ignore everyone & everything around them; how much we let in, how much we let anyone in, how busy we become in the day to day routine and nothingness of getting by, the words we reassure ourselves with if we have ever participated in this type of behaviour ourselves, what justifications people use to ignore a person in need, including themselves. Do you ever wonder how much do you let in?

This isn't a behavioural phenomena of recent thoughts; I'm constantly amazed by how little people communicate clearly and openly with the people they care about most, let alone ignoring those who have lost their way or have difficulty asking for help; how someone could have a child, marry, make a committment, buy a house with someone, yet unable to tell the truth about themselves, to be vulnerable, to let someone in.
Brene Brown spent 6 years looking at this behaviour of human beings, tapping down into our connections to land squarely on our fear of vulnerability, on our relationship with worthiness, breaking human beings into those who allow themselves to be vulnerable, as those capable of doing so when they feel worthy and those surrounded by a fortress, struggling with trust, control issues, addictions, constantly trying to fill a gap in themselves with material possessions and monetary gain, whilst deep down resent vulnerability, as it tells a tale of their feelings of unworthiness.
Connections, these interactions everyday of our lives is the meaning in life.  To allow ourselves to be so vulnerable that we reach out to another human being, to allow another to touch us requires our ability to transcend shame, fear, anxiety and take a step into the unknown; why? because it feels right and it is.
It is a risk reaching out, just like learning a new skill, jumping into the deep end for the first time, trying something you've never done before.  Many will tell you to not waste your time, yet this is afterall your time how you choose to spend it is entirely up to you. What could be richer in experience than to give and love unconditionally another human being?

How we interact, touch, change and communicate with others tells more about us, than it does about them.  Your inability to stop and have the time to understand the world through someone elses eyes due to "it's not my problem" or "I'm too busy" or "I don't care", this tells your story, not theirs.
I was having one of those days the other weekend, having just taken a dagger to the self esteem, I allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to trust, only to have it rolled into a canyon and fired back with a lightening bolt strapped to it, luckily for me I was on my knees (already down) and close to the ground at the time, so it missed. I felt like crap yet nothing like having a passion for human behaviour and insatiable instinct to analyse why we do, including ourselves, what we do, much easier to recall the "forgive them for they know not what they do".
Amazing whilst people can be completely wrong in their assessment of you, just hearing their lack of understanding is still painful, regardless of the ignorance, so whilst one can forgive, it takes time to forget. I Tried washing it down with a few mind numbing cold ones, yet in the morning it was still there.  I went for a run, headphones on, music loud, no one was getting in to change this mood I was on a mission.  Then it appeared, this tiny fragile infant Kingfisher, having nearly knocked itself out flying into a window, so frail it allowed me to pick it up and deliver it to the nearest wildlife rescue centre. I was away from home & had no idea where to go, so I asked around.  One by one strangers, complete unknowns came to the rescue of this little bird. A guy interrupted having his morning cigarette, a young waitress stopped putting out the morning breakfast tables and a cyclist who stopped to assist.  All stopped in their day to change the fate of this gorgeous tiny bird.  Azure Kingfisher actually and welcomed into the warm amazing home of a woman who had moved her life to be near her children and regularly let's strange, injured and demanding wildlife into her home to put back together and send them on their way and for nothing in return.
Sitting there at the crossroads the interaction of all these people came to mind.  What makes some let people in and others do not. Is the harm greater for letting someone in than it is to not?

The theorist Carl Rogers talks about the enormous benefits of permitting ourselves the time and patience to understand another human being, to see the world through another's persons eyes.  It is natural and easy to pass judgement on another's attitudes, their way of life, decision making and parenting, what clothes they wear, appearance they have, job they choose, these are easy obvious targets for the ordinary onlooker.  Higher level human beings, who engage their thinking skills in partnership with emotions regularly decide sitting in the back seat of a life is as boring as hell, when life has the potential to be rich, colourful and wonderful when we allow ourselves to step outside our own view of the world and think about someone elses needs, other than our own.
It is true, sometimes in life we let someone in, something climbs over that wall and like the damage of a Trojan horse we vow never to be so gullible again.  Yet rather than close our doors altogether and shut people out waiting for either a knight, white horse & a big sword or a maiden in black leather & a kitted out Landrover Discovery that parachutes in to save us, wouldn't it make more sense to just check them out a little bit more as they knock on the door, to learn from the previous lesson. To cut loose that sense of entitlement, to everything you have, to people just because why? What makes you so entitled to treat people so poorly, to live in a community you ignore are too busy to let someone in and then expect to receive so much in return. When we know better we can and should do better.  The world will not change unless we do.
It seemed like a lengthy wait at the crossroads, then I caught the smile of an older lady, some 10 cars back who decided to wave me out of the intersection, I waved in return. I was smiling as I recalled someone's words earlier how those who have the least to give, give the most, even when it is only their time.  In my younger years I grew up west of the Great Dividing Range, where waving is not reserved for kind gestures alone, a simple few fingers off the steering wheel, a full hand or a nod would suffice to acknowledge a stranger on a dusty road, a tip of the hat, a smile walking down the street.  Yet whether it is a geographical change or a cultural, more and more I see less and less connections between each other.
People want change, want a better world, happier kids, more loving partner and they want it all, the latest version and then some, with someone to tell them how to fix it when it stops working.  You could of course start by taking down that wall, brick by brick and letting them all in. Tell the guards to take some time off that gate you have under lock & key, tell them you've decided to try something different.  Open the gates.

Let people in, how hard can it be.  Yes, it takes courage to be vulnerable, it takes compassion to be kind to yourself and to others; as Brene discovers to be authentic as a human being requires vulnerability, to let go of who you think you should be, who you think the world wants you to be and to throw caution to the wind, to just be yourself.  To have a connection with another human being requires your vulnerability; to be a beautiful loving human being requires reaching out, having the capacity to say "I love you" first, beautiful people take risks. Beautiful people let people in, without knowing the outcome, without a crystal ball, without knowing all the answers.

We are far from perfect, the most vulnerable species on the planet and yet still walk around like we have some entitlement to live the way we choose, hurt what we like, not answer to ourselves or anyone else for that matter. Take off those shoes & try someone elses, swap them around each day, look into someone elses eyes, hold a hand, let go of what you carry in that backpack and for once in your life imagine the world does not revolve around you; while you stand still, while you rush to the checkout, be rude and abnoxious to people trying to help you, can't be bothered to understand anothers suffering, too tired to make a call, life is passing you by, people, connections, love is out there everywhere and you are too busy zipping by in the fast lane.

Vulnerability is not the sign of weakness it has been portrayed.  It is essential for self acceptance, in feeling worthy, capable and deserving.  Let's take a look around at our current state of affairs, the US is not the only ination in debt, addicted, obese exploding society on the planet! As Brene highlights it is impossible to numb, block out, switch off or shut down the grief, anxiety, pain, suffering, anger and not to damage the good stuff at the same time.  Emotions just don't work like that, it isn't selective, it's all or nothing. If you want people to notice you, notice people.  If you miss the feeling of love and acceptance, then start loving and accepting yourself.

"When we numb those feelings, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness and then we are miserable and looking for purpose and meaning and then we feel vulnerable so we have a couple of beers and a banana muffin and it becomes this dangerous cycle."

"We pretend what we do doesn't have an affect on people."  Brene Brown

It doesn't take a lifetime, it takes a moment, it takes risk, it takes you to let people in. We belong to no one, we owe nothing, expect nothing. We have the power to change the lives of others with our kindness, our understanding, our time. To love with no guarantees with our whole heart, to reach out to others, to feel the need of others, to be compassionate, believe in ourselves, in each other, is to live authentically, is to live with no regrets, to know letting people in is about letting you out.

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