A Facebook post from my friend on January 18…
“Went to Walmart tonight and bumped into a little 3-year-old boy who was standing up in a shopping cart chattering away while his grandmother pushed him along. She apologized and said Cayden talks to everyone and that he was too much to handle at times. I said I didn’t mind talking since I had no one else to talk to and so I kept our conversation going. He shouted simple words like “thank you” and “bye” a few times while his grandmother continued to apologize. I asked Cayden for a high five and then just as they were about to move on, he came up with a new word for me, which was “hug.” I asked grandma if it was okay with her. She said she didn’t mind and that we needed more of that in the world. With that, Cayden flew into my arms and gave me the biggest sweetest hug a little man could give. I thanked this little ray of light for making my day and left the Walmart Superstore with my supplies and a happy heart.”
This post received a lot of feedback from her followers- her and I contemplated why this was so. I believe it’s because we can all resonate with a character in the story.
Maybe you feel like the grandmother. Maybe you are the one who is rushing to get things done. Maybe you feel overwhelmed in your life and are wondering when life will finally grant you relief. You find yourself and others in your close circle a burden to the world- in constant combat with the universe. You begin to apologize for things that are out of your control. You apologize because you feel as though it is your responsibility to carry more to prove yourself. You think you can handle more, so you just pile it on your plate. And maybe if you just stay busy, you won’t realize how heavy your load is. Maybe if you keep moving, you won’t break down.
Maybe you feel like Cayden, the little boy. You find yourself care-free and liberated in your pursuit of your truth. You are ready for love and ready to embrace life. But for some reason, everyone around you is apologizing for you. As if there is something wrong with you. You don’t think there is anything wrong, but begin to question your confidence in yourself. Rather than receiving the grace and love you have been gifting to the world, people are trying to suppress your experience.
Maybe you feel like my friend. You are journeying along by yourself craving the kind of hug you have not received in a while. You desire to be seen but wouldn’t dare put yourself out there. You want to be validated and are waiting for someone to claim you are worth it. You are ready to welcome love but feel debilitated to pursue it by your present circumstance.
Maybe you resonate with one or more than one of those characters. Maybe you used to be one of them and now see yourself as another. Maybe you don’t know where you are in the story but somehow connect to some of these outlooks. No matter what character you see yourself as, the reality is we all crave love and connection. We are all broken and in search of wholeness. We want to live an impactful life. We want to be seen and recognized.
After discussing this post with my friend, her and I headed to PetSmart in search of an extra-large outdoor dog house (a lot harder to find than you would think!). A manager, named Michael, approached us to ask us if we needed to help. We began to talk about doghouses, and he blurted out something along the lines of “I am having a baby…this is not in my plan and I am not ready”. Rather than avoiding the subject, my friend and I continued to ask him about it. It was as if he had been carrying this weight with him for a long time and was just waiting for liberation. You could tell by Michael’s body language that as soon as he had released this burden, he was quickly rebuilding those walls in fear that the vulnerability had been misplaced. We assured him this was a safe place and that he was seen. He mentioned his brother had committed suicide, and for some reason included the exact date…February 22, 2015. This was the exact same day that my mom died. We all three stood there together giving hugs and words of encouragement.
From about December until February is always a tough time for me, surrounded by family and expectation and remembering her last days and trying to stay strong but also trying to honor her through remembrance.
The truth is, everyone is carrying something. What if I stopped long enough to see people? To recognize their burden and invite vulnerability to empower us into liberation. Society tries to quiet us by assimilating openness as weak and resulting in pain. On the contrary, vulnerability in the context of community fosters intimacy- the kind of connection we all crave. This doesn’t necessarily meaning unloading on the cashier or waiter about your breakup. It may look like waving to my neighbor, sharing a smile when embarrassingly making contact with someone across the room, saying hello to someone on the mat next to me. Remaining open to the possibility of sharing and support. Being present enough to recognize when someone needs to unload. Showing up for myself and creating space for others.
When someone attempts to release their burden, sometimes I feel the need to take it from them and carry it with me. But this is not necessary. Sharing in someone’s suffering invites me into the present. Immediately after this release, the burden moves into the past, which no longer exists. I do not need to return to their past (or our past or my past) to pick up that burden again. Whenever I feel drawn back to that burden, I can simply accept that as merely information. I become an observer rather than an experience-er. In Baron Baptiste’s “Journey Into Power”, he illustrates our lives as a river and our thoughts as the current. Meditation or mindfulness invites us to step out of the mighty rushing current and onto the bank to become an observer of our thoughts. As if we are recognizing our thoughts and surrendering them. Recognition does not mean grasping.
One final story. In “Yamas & Niyamas”, Deborah Adele mentions a story of a busy mom rushing around her house cleaning and cooking and talking on the phone and reading emails. Her three year-old son attempts to get her attention for several minutes to no avail. Finally he reaches over the counter, puts both his hands on her face, and says, “mom, you are not recognizing me”. Maybe I am the three year-old boy and sometimes I am the mom. Wherever I may find myself, not being recognized or moving too fast to recognize others, I commit to see people. Today, how can I see someone? How can I show up for someone with my best self?
Showing up is your power.