Why does the world focus on differences? Me vs you. Us against them. Why is it that we emphasize the disparities between us instead of looking for a kernel of connection and building a relationship on that?

History has shown that society can divide people based on their body type, eye color, music preference, nationality, skin color, or any of the following:

  • Atheist / Believer
  • Blue-collar worker / White-collar worker
  • Conservative / Liberal
  • City / Country
  • Female / Male
  • Gay / Straight
  • Omnivore / Vegan

(Before anyone has a problem with the way I formed the list, each selection is written in alphabetical order, not in order of preference. It’s a sad state of affairs that this even has to be considered, let alone expressed.) I’m sure there are many more ways we have and will manufacture divisiveness but let’s move on.

Some form of segregation, division, or exclusion has occurred across the globe throughout history. I’m not referring to the radicals on either side of a divide, but the general consensus of any given population. Have you ever considered who keeps fostering this division? Who benefits from it? Regardless of the answer to either of those questions, is ignoring our differences the answer?

If a painter was only allowed to use one color so as to not offend anyone, would they be able to create a masterpiece? If a musician was restricted to the few notes accessible to most voices, would we miss the soaring arias or rumbling bass tones of a beautiful harmony? Do we look down on the banana tree because it doesn’t grow in Alaska or a polar bear for not living in Hawaii? Would you ask a Jack Russell terrier to retrieve birds for you or expect a Great Pyrenees to be a lapdog? Why do we embrace nature for its diversity, but stigmatize and try to homogenize the same in humans?

I don’t think we have to agree with everything someone else believes to be friends with them or connect with them. I think in many areas of our life, we need to love each other where we are. I cannot recall one instance where I have changed someone’s viewpoint by disparaging their beliefs. However, by sharing my perspective and actively listening to theirs, we have both found a deeper understanding together, even if we still agree to disagree. How boring would life be if everyone had the same way of thinking? Or the same interests? What about the same talents?

What kind of world would it be if instead of being divided by our differences, we find a common ground (besides being human) to connect us, and use that as a springboard to learn more about each other? We may find truth in something we had never been exposed to, nor considered before. We may also discover we are more alike than we know.

Words or Actions?

What comes easier for you, words or actions? Do you have the ability to say all the right things, or is it easier for you to express yourself through what you do? What happens when someone is saying all the right things, but their demeanor and body language scream the opposite? Which do you believe?

The Haiku posted in the link below on Grace of the Sun (deepest gratitude to Grace Y. Estevez – Reddy for letting me borrow her lovely words) made me think about how we express ourselves.  Many people have heard of the Five Love Languages from the best-selling book by Gary Chapman. If you haven’t explored the different concepts, please check them out.  No matter the type of relationship you have with someone {parent/child, husband/wife, relative, friend, co-worker) you can enhance your connection with them by learning their individual love language as well as understanding and accepting your own. Listen to the words, but listen harder to the actions. Step back and really look at those you love. Does their “I love you” look like the small things they do every day to make your life easier, yet you rarely hear the words? Do you find yourself thinking when you hear the words ‘I love you’, “If you loved me, you’d help me with this.”? The two of you may be speaking different love languages. Spend some time listening to both the words and the actions, then have a conversation with your loved one. Translating how you each express and receive love can help bring you closer together.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, you may pick up subtle warning signals from someone, even though there is nothing wrong with their words. An adage states, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” This has been proven time and again throughout history. However, gut instinct existed long before the written word. Learn to hear and heed its voice, especially when it makes no logical sense. Someone’s tone may be friendly, their words offering help, but as I’m learning in the book A Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker, your intuition may be screaming “NO, RUN!” even though your mind is telling you there is nothing wrong. Listen to that instinct deep inside yourself. It is the primal protector, there to keep you safe and alive and is not bound by polite, societal behavior. Listen to the words, but listen harder to the actions. If your gut is telling you something is wrong, heed its warning no matter what words you are hearing.

Listen not only with your ears but also with your gut and heart. Which speaks louder to you? What is easier for you to believe?

Make It Harder

A friend gave me food for thought the other day, and I’ve been mulling it over since. Her question was, “In some ways, do you make your life harder than it has to be?” I guess in a big picture sense, yes, many times I do. I don’t always opt for the easiest option…but is the convenience of something always the best choice?

Growing up, I watched my parents create solutions out of items on hand. I learned how to look at a situation, break it down to understand it, and then adapt something to fit what we needed. For most of my young adult life, I’ve needed to find ‘work arounds’ that required as little funds as possible. It can be a challenge and yet rewarding to think outside the box for solutions. When my sons were young, we would brainstorm ways to make do with what we had. It was fascinating to see what they came up with! Now they are adults and I proudly smile when they use those same skills to find adaptations and solutions in their own lives.

Pinching pennies isn’t as necessary as it used to be, but old habits die hard. These days I have the luxury of choosing when to hire someone else, jury-rig an alternative, or if investing in a new tool is required. I usually make that decision based on the time and funds available, how specialized the project is, how long it will take, and how often I can predict using the new purchase in the future.

Back to the convenience aspect, is it always the superior choice?

  • A baby blanket can be purchased in minutes from the store for less than the materials to create one (not to mention the hours spent creating it) but the love and time that goes into creating it is priceless.
  • Homemade bread takes much more effort than picking up a loaf at the store or stopping at a bakery, but the smell of freshly baked bread and the taste of it warm from the oven is unparalleled.
  • Boxed muffin or cake mixes are usually cheap and seemingly convenient, but measuring individual components from scratch doesn’t really take that much longer.
  • It’s much easier to pick up vegetables at the store or farmer’s market, but growing them gives you full control over what is used to amend the soil and control pests.
  • Rototilling the garden takes a fraction of the time and effort than turning it with a fork by hand, but no-till methods are better for the soil and the beneficial insects that help the garden thrive.
  • Preserving the summer’s harvest for the winter months takes time and a lot of hot effort, but seeing the colorful jars sealed and cooling on the counter is extremely rewarding.

I could continue listing many more examples of things where a little more effort can provide a superior result. I guess where my thoughts are going is…where do you decide if the convenience of something is worth the trade-off? The answer will be different for everyone, I’m sure.

Watery Ramblings

Join me for some rambling observations from an early morning kayak ride!

  • Silent water gently cradles me as the day begins anew. The rhythmic dip of the paddle sings peace into my soul. Bacon fills the air, and early risers sip coffee from a multitude of decks while I skirt the edges of the lake.
  • Boats, floats, rafts, and a rainbow of colored Adirondack chairs commemorate lives lived on the shores of their happy place. Humble cottage or a glass-walled mansion, what brought their occupants here? What did they sacrifice to make it theirs?
  • Turtles slip silently from their sunny log, escaping into the protection and freedom of the water. Sharp reports of a woodpecker seeking breakfast, an infant’s hungry cry, and the warning bark of a dog blend with the droning engines and lonesome train whistle in the distance. It all combines into a soundtrack for my journey. The world is waking up.
  • A stark white gazebo stands as a sentinel above a rocky bank. Can you picture the sunsets it has seen? Can you imagine the secrets it has heard?
  • Mirror images on the still surface shatter with the gentle breeze. As the water slips beneath me, a dragonfly pauses for a ride, wings glinting in the sun. My silent companion for a brief time until well rested, it flies off to grace another with its beauty.
  • Humanity encroaches. What once was a small, wooded oasis for wildlife has been cleared and is now mowed short and rigidly planted. Beautiful and inviting in its perfectionism, however, I mourn the former wildness.
  • A family of geese watches me slowly pass by, as they glide serenely across the water. For the geese and I, to stop paddling is to lose momentum. How many things in life look effortless, but if you can see below the surface you realize the monumental work that goes into just keeping it afloat?
  • Where the shoreline meets the road on the farthest point of my journey, a diesel engine growls as a dump truck rumbles by. I feel bad for the driver who’s working on such a gorgeous morning, but maybe he’s grateful for the temperate weather? I wonder, did he pass by the lake without a thought? Or did he wish he was on the water too?
  • The temperature drops as I enter the shady channel, a narrow path of beauty that connects one bay to another. It hides me from view and offers a welcome respite from the unrelenting glare of the sun. The lurking specter of algae-covered trees resides in its shallow depths. I allowed them to hold me in place for a few moments while I finished jotting down my thoughts. A spider stopped by for a brief visit, descending from an invisible silken thread before I swallowed the last of my coffee and turned toward home.
  • On the other end of the channel, a summer camp stirs to life. Happy kids and energetic counselors all embrace the joy of the outdoors, not plugged into a screen nor confined between walls. Can you see the friendships forming and the memories being made?
  • Anchored boats of fishermen cast lines to seek the catch of the day. The perfect spot, the right bait, and a measure of patience will net them their next meal. Conversations drift across the surface…do they realize how easily sound travels across the water?
  • As morning turns to day, traffic on the lake increases. I ride out the waves from a passing pontoon, rocking as they pass. Wonder what their hurry is? At last (and alas), my pier is in sight. I cling to the peace found with each dip of the paddle and slowly approach the shore. Time to find my land legs again and head back to start the day.

For the Invisible

If one day I wasn’t there
Would it matter? Would you care?
If one day I ceased to be
Would you perhaps remember me?

Am I seen? Am I heard?
Do I pass by without a word?
Did I affect in some small way
A tiny part of just one day?

Anyone who feels dismissed
Or that they simply just exist
Is marking time ‘til life is done
Not reaching out to anyone.

They feel unheard, misunderstood
While doing all they think they should
Wishing every single day
That they were seen in some small way.

Can you relate? Could this be true?
Are these thoughts describing you?
If you could see through another’s eyes
You’d find these words are only lies.

For when one day you cease to be
Your life becomes a memory
What you’ve done will stay behind
To live on in someone’s mind.

They’ll recall a gentle touch
Or a simple smile that meant so much.
You left a mark but never knew
How big that single kindness grew.

You are seen! You are heard!
Don’t give up without a word!
You do bring joy to someone’s day
By being you in every way.

Imagination Overdrive

Do you ever wish you could turn off your imagination? Tell it, “Um, nope! Not going there today, thank you!” Most days my imagination is helpful and can bring a bit of fun to the most mundane situations. Other times though, I dearly wish it wasn’t as skilled at creating visions of things that never happened.

Recently a friend was in need of assistance. It was within my power to help but the aftereffects of doing so would have stayed with me for a long time. In an emergency situation, I’d have done what needed doing, but in this instance I curbed my instinct to offer, and connected them with someone else in the area who could help. In spite of all that, I have mentally played out the whole scenario multiple times with varying results.

Thanks to an overactive imagination, this happens with many other topics as well. After a close call driving, the replay of what could have happened continues to loop through my mind. I can hear the squealing tires, see the crash, smell the smoke, feel the terror…all from something that thankfully never occurred. I can experience the heartbreaking loss and grief of losing someone I love…even though they are here with me; happy, whole, and healthy. Instead of the weight and memories of actual events, my mind keeps dreaming up imaginary scenes in their place. I don’t only picture the dark side of things, I can create a whole ‘happily ever after’ scene as well. When imagining the negatives, it brings relief that things didn’t play out that way; however, picturing the perfect scenario then leaves disappointment in its wake when reality returns.

Where does your imagination take you? How do you find the off switch when your mind starts haunting you with ‘what ifs’? Are you able to change the channel in your brain so that you’re only imagining the things you wish to create?

Take Flight

Birdie who has clipped your wings
And prevented you from soaring?
They held you back, put you down
And told you that you’re boring.

Little birdie, you must believe
You were always meant to fly
Take a chance, trust yourself
Ignore them all and try.

Birdie, birdie spread your wings
Fly high into the air
See all the places you can go
All the stories you will share

Thank you for reading! This post was inspired by a prompt from Ragtag Daily Prompts. https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2022/07/16/rdp-saturday-wings/

Dredge It Out

July 9, 2022

On the eastern end of a lake near my home is what locals refer to as ‘the channel’. It’s a narrow path of water winding through wetland on one side and homes on the other. Over time, the bottom of the channel slowly builds up with grass clippings, downed branches, and fallen leaves. Rushes and cattails crowd in from the banks. Year after year the channel becomes shallower, narrower, and more stagnant.

In order to make the channel navigable again, it periodically needs to be dredged. All that muck and debris decaying below the surface gets dug out and hauled away. During the process the water becomes a thick, soupy mess. The surrounding neighborhood smells like sewage. The muck stains everything it touches. Once the dredging is done and the water settles, the channel is left cleaner, deeper, and overall a more pleasant place to be.

How many of us could benefit from an internal ‘dredging’? Our lives may look fine, but the muck slowly gathers below the surface. It’s dirty, it smells, and it blocks us from becoming everything we potentially could be. The buildup isn’t as obvious as rotting branches and leaves (and I really hope you don’t have cattails growing around your edges) but hurtful words, losses, failures, mistakes, and the like have a way of accumulating. It happens so slowly that you don’t even realize it’s building up and decaying inside, similar to the debris in the channel.

Clearing out the inner ‘muck’ is hard work. It may require someone else’s help, such as a therapist, energy worker, minister, or a trusted friend. Similar to dredging the channel, it is also a dirty, smelly process. It can leave stains behind, depending on what and how much has built up inside. Sometimes you need to take it one layer at a time, letting everything calm and settle before digging down into the next. Where could you begin today? Take a look below the surface and don’t be shy in asking for help. The more muck you remove, the more you open up the calm, clear space inside where things can grow and thrive.

(Many thanks to T and J for their words that inspired this)

Paddling Peace

Sun rising, fish jumping
All cares for a moment cease.
Birds singing, paddle splashing
These are the sounds of peace.

Take a break from the hustle
Put your worries away.
Set everything aside
For a moment today.

Birds dancing, paddle flashing
As the sun continues its climb.
See joy and peace surround you
Just pause for a bit of time.

Take it all in to feed your soul
Your cares for a moment release.
Birds singing, paddle splashing
These are the sounds of peace.