Tag Archives: suffering

To Lend An Ear, Opening to the World Around Us

pebbles and shellI don’t often get the opportunity to step out of my daily bubble, to see the world from a new perspective.  This recent work trip allowed me an education I hope to carry for life.

What I’ve been reminded of, had reinforced in short successive meetings, is much broader scope than my personal epiphany.

The glimpse we’re given into the lives of Abraham and Sarah sets the tone:  belief in and worship of Almighty Most High, deep family ties – not ties that choke but ties that rescue when in need, hospitality to travelers, and care and concern for others unknown.

Application of those principles is something I often struggle with.  I don’t know which upheld “I need ______” sign to trust as I pass a forlorn beggar, nor do I trust my ability to judge safety when a traveler is sitting along the ramp of a busy interstate.

Touched with emotion, I keep moving past.  I don’t stop, I don’t make eye contact except to flash a quick smile of greeting, hoping that they understand my dilemma.

What I’ve just found that I am able to do is to lend an ear when an opportunity arises.  My opportunity was four plane rides during the transport to and from our work conference destination.  Safely ensconced in a crowded plane, my trusty coworkers scattered throughout the cabin, I was able to let down my typical guard and converse.

Through the brief conversations, I met several people, and received a distinct impression – a heart print – from each and every one.

I’d like to introduce them to you:

Passenger One, the tall, balding NY Times reader, with a paunch.  He was likely in his early to mid-sixties.  He was very polite, yet somewhat brisk and professional, nearly British in his demeanor.  He exchanged basic pleasantries and asked where I was going, then a little about my employer.

Side-tracked by the pilot announcements, I left it at that and chatted with the very helpful passenger on my left side.  Once that conversation had run its course, I recognized that I had not inquired about the Times reader’s destination.

There was a shift in demeanor, a sudden letting loose of the rigidity, the polite standoff.  As he turned to answer, I saw the pain in his eyes – a soft pain, but still very evident.

He was going to New York to visit his mother.  She had recently had a very serious illness (which he did not elaborate upon and I did not ask) and was still hospitalized.  He talked with a wry smile about how she loved the city life and he could not get her to budge and move closer.

No other family in the area, her friends long gone, this 93-year-old city gal was going out in her own terms.  And he was dutifully and frequently doting upon her to see her through the journey.

I told him I hoped the best for her and for him as well when we parted.  His thank you and kind smile were genuine.

Passenger Two, the frumpy, nervous-Ned, whose eyes darted frantically out the window, then to the onboard monitor.  He was likely in his late 50’s, salt and pepper, with submissive demeanor – self-deprecating almost.

As I glanced toward the window, nervous-Ned mistook my glance as curiosity for his actions on the touch screen.  He began to explain that he had a short delay between flights and was previewing the gate for his next leg of the trip.

Curious, I looked to see what he meant and he helped me navigate the new American Air monitors to see ‘my flight’ and the airport terminal map.  A perfect opportunity to learn.

Continuing, in his nervous way, he explained that he was traveling to NV to attend two weeks of education.  He is an administrative law judge and I’m sorry to say that I got distracted by that fact as he further explained his job.  I was connecting the persona to the position and my prior experiences with such.

A very pleasant man, he talked a bit about his downtime and possible travel plans – staying in a motel in Vegas but with not one iota of interest in the gaming community.

Next leg of the flight, Passenger Three, the vivacious 62 yr old brunette, with fantastically lovely cornrow braids that sparkled as she talked – and talk she did!  Our conversation began when I stated with matter of fact that she had my admiration for stepping across me so deftly to access her window seat.  I didn’t see her coming and then she was suddenly there.

She launched right into her travel logs, excitement oozing from every word.  I heard of her overwhelm with work and living the life she thought she wanted in Phoenix, I heard of her HUGE family of origin and the pride and love for them, I heard of her welcoming her nephew who would live with her during his college education.  I then heard her dreams to return ‘home’, to get back to her roots and live closer to family – as soon as the boy’s college was complete.  She cautioned me to Phoenix traffic, told me not to take it personally when folks weren’t nearly so kind and we gave each other good cheer as we parted.

Flying back home, the flight to Dallas, Passenger Four, the intense and nervous beauty, with deeply drawn lines, but sparkling eyes (when they were not clouded with concern).  She was a quiet-ish sort, nearly suggesting submissive, yet her eyes held a longing to be close, to confide.

When I asked her destination, she said to a military stop, and then on to many flights.  My eyes held hers for a moment, hesitant to ask, not certain if she cared to share – and then she did.  She explained that she was going to Baghdad, as an interpreter at the embassy there.

Short notice given, she had packed as many belongings as she might possibly be able to carry, to serve in the ‘crisis’.  She would only have the things she brought, to begin with – her lodgings would be in a small box-like ‘room’.  The last time she was there, it was for three years.  Conditions were different, it seemed… this time.

There had been an emergency evacuation, you see, she’d heard from a friend there.  They were told to put what they could in backpack and get the hell out NOW!  Everything they owned was forever lost, unless it fit in the backpack.  This is where she was going, to do what she was hired to do, to fit the need she’d determined she could fill.

We talked about many things, and I can only hope that the unburdening gave her a small moment of relief.  There is a situation, and we only know the tip of the iceberg – and she didn’t share information she should not share – but I am an observer, that’s what I do best, and I looked deep into her eyes and saw sorrow that I only know the edge of.

She touched me, squeezed my heart – and I reached out a hand, placed on her arm and told her I hoped for safe travels for her.  Then she strapped on her 70 lb. backpack, this petite, yet sturdy version of citizenship; hoisted her second carry-on, and moved forward.

On the last leg home, I was pensive, seated for the late arrival of Passenger Four, the beautiful youth, a blond fawn-like creature, with demure eyes and obvious over-seas ways.  She strapped on a headset immediately and plugged in to the seat back, appearing to shut out the world around her.

Then, after take-off, she had removed the ‘electronic wall’ and glanced furtively at me.  I smiled.  She smiled.  She leaned toward me and asked if they would serve something to drink on the flight – yes, they certainly should.  ‘Good, I need fluids’, she said.

Definitely international – but very good English, I asked where she was heading and the conversation ensued.  A native Bulgarian, she was looking forward to college in a small Kansas town.  Her primary reason for the change was to play basketball, something she’s done for the past twelve years.  She wants to study psychology and be a mentor for at-risk children, particularly those entering school and kindergarten aged.

She spoke of home with a strong mix of pride, and sadness.  Her community is mired in hopelessness, you see.  They’re poor and give up all hope when their youth is diminished.  She challenged me to keep forging ahead, to live life as fully as possible – and to visit her country.

I challenged her to contact me, to have a home away from home, as a newly adopted member of our family.

We’ll see…

 

 

 

Suffered Life

I have recovered from a long period of depression – in the midst of my depression, every event, every duty, every change was taken in by my despairing mind as a personal attack. A thing to be suffered. Another thing to survive.

It’s so hard to believe I was like that now that I’ve healed.

But I remember.

cold outside

I know my thoughts, how I would literally be buffeted by every single fucking thing. Hammering at me. Constantly. Ceaselessly. Pressed down further into the deep pit of despair by the weight of it all.

Every little thing another burden, another suffered pain.

I cannot find the words to describe to you how relieving it is to be free of that weight. To be myself again, a person I’d lost and didn’t even know I was missing. Can you imagine?

It’s a little frightening to look back at how poorly I handled my work load, my loved ones, myself.

 

Our home reflected my negligence. Dust littered walls and decor. Cobwebs in corners and ladybug skeletons in light fixtures. Disorganized closets and drawers. Stacks of indecisive mail pleas.

bath

Work fared some better. I was busy at my job. I was completing tasks. I can’t say that I was unproductive, that’s not really the case. I wasn’t wholly engaged. I was pained by the pressures, pained by the responsibility. Procrastination took on a new level as I allowed every deadline to guide my last-minute rush to complete tasks. Challenging items lay piled like little losses across the desktop, normally bare.

Loved ones received little response from me. Conversations were stilted, as I simply had little to give. Rote queries became tiring and friendly visits a perceived personal attack on my pig pen space.

 

I cared little about keeping up and was quite surprised to find my nails too long, and my shoes scuffed and dirty, and my socks worn bare. I realized that I had chosen a few outfits and wore them repeatedly, a pattern of my ailment.

wine thirty

I see now that challenges had overwhelmed me, robbed me of my confidence. I could no longer believe that I had any abilities, any worth, anything worth fighting for.

Perhaps that was driven by my affected memory loss, my lack of B12. It’s also a symptom of depression. Realistically, it’s a sick cycle – which came first, the B12 deficiency or the depression? It doesn’t really matter now, does it?

I suffered life.

The shame of this does not escape me. I regret with my whole being the time that I lost to this down. Life is too short to waste time, as we only live once. This is our opportunity and it doesn’t wait around.

What I know is that life is hard, and there are going to be icy patches that take your legs out from under you and the landing might bust your ass.

The patriarch Jacob/Israel nailed it when he said it had been a long, hard life.

But there are joys and beauties and challenges and people who make those hard things seem better, easier, worth it.

There is the living, the breathing, the taking it in and giving back out. The push and the pull, the ups and the downs, the ride – the scenes.

There are the connections, those electrical charges that occur when you are affected by another human being. Warm hugs and handshakes, twinkling eyes smiling and sorrowful eyes sharing pain.

heart angles

Belly laughs, crying because you’ve laughed so hard, laughing too hard because you’re trying to retell a remembered funny and it just makes you laugh more, sighing because that memory was so sweet.

There is beauty around us that makes us silent, steals our breath, the majesty of creation – acknowledgement of an Almighty that put this tiny sphere in the universe for a reason, a purpose that escapes us. And that’s okay. We’re not meant to know.

heart angle focus

And work to keep our minds active, and flexed and eager for the next challenge. Labors that produce more than the material design that we’re striving for, but that also build muscle and endurance and an appetite for the bounty of this great planet.

And something here might seem to have some faint recognition in your brain, some far away bell sounding a muted alert, some rusty hinge squeak coarsely affecting your ears.

have a heart

Listen, pay attention, you who are suffering life.
Get help!

Find the reason and pour every bit of energy you have left into fixing yourself.

You deserve it, you’re worth it.

Life is.

Don’t miss it.