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Are Those Trees In That Forest?

There's been some bad stuff going on in the world. If you're plugged in at all you know what an extraordinarily trite understatement that is.

There's been a lot of bad stuff in the world for a very long time. So much disparity and frustration and anger and jealousy and hatred. Over what? In the end, over what? For money? Control? Land? Goods? Ideology?

I will never understand it. Maybe it's because I come from, what may be considered as a place of relative privilege. I haven't had to wonder where my next meal came from. Or where I'll sleep. I've been given education, and allowed to travel freely, and love whomever I choose. I can put my head down at the end of the day and not worry that something will explode in the air above me. I have had what I need, and sometimes what I've wanted if it's been more than enough.

Maybe I've just been easy to please.

I haven't redone my color schemes, or replaced all my furniture deliberately. I haven't renovated or ever put in that pool like we said we would many moons ago. I'm the kind of person who's had the same things for decades - my major appliances, my clothing, my vehicles. I've never been the type to rush out to get the latest of anything, especially when what I have serves my purposes. Except my phone. I do upgrade my phone. But usually about a year after whatever that latest version has been released. But even the fact that I can do that - i am aware that it is a privilege.

I'm not wealthy in most people's books. I do have a lovely home and live in a lovely neighborhood, and my kids have vehicles and haven't wanted for much. We've had family excursions. The kids went to camp and participated in all sorts of activities. It's been a nice life.

But I've also struggled financially, I've needed help from time to time. I've been laid off. My husband was laid off. We had medical bills that pushed us to the brink. i may have "forgotten" a utility bill once or twice in the past. There were experiences I had to pass on because I had to make other things a priority.

I've just never been one to covet what I don't have. I'm not exactly sure where that come from, but maybe it's because I haven't been significantly denied - even with the stumbles along the way. But I wasn't spoiled either - not by my parents, not by my husband. Maybe my definition of spoiling is different than most.

I think where I'm going with this (and my wanderings can be somewhat circuitous - so bear with me) is that because I've never let my things nor surroundings define me. They don't contribute to my self-worth. And I don't judge others by the things they have or don't have. Who they are intrinsically is what I care about. How they conduct themselves as fellow travelers on this planet is what makes me decide if I want to intertwine their stories with mine.

Often, when getting to know people I dance around my background. I just say I'm from "up North", okay, New York, and that I lived in a few places there. That I went to college there, and then I moved around. If I say exactly where I spent most of my time, people are quick to judge, framing my words and actions in the context of who they think I likely am based on the stereotypes they feed into. I want them to decide on me because of ME...not on what I've done or where I'm from or who I've known or I what I own.

I'm also probably one of the least competitive people you'll ever meet. I'll root for a team, I'll enjoy a win. If I'm participating in a group activity and am part of a team, I will hold up my end of the deal to the best of my ability. But if I am in it by myself...I don't need the win as much as others. I'll hold back. I'll step down. I'll let someone else take the reins - not because I don't enjoy the accolade, but again - it doesn't define me. I'd rather do what I can to make sure more people get what they need of the experience. And don't get me wrong - I'm not a huge fan of the "everyone gets a trophy" mindset (though I do see the value in applauding people who take the chance at participating and commit themselves to an activity from start to finish). I just don't need a bookshelf full of trophies or a wall of plaques to remind me of the things I've done well. I also don't need to always have the final word. I can recognize when I am no longer being heard and will focus my energies where they can make a difference.

I know that drives some people absolutely bonkers. Or that they may think less of me. If you've read this far - you'll know that I'm okay with that.

So to round back to my initial point - trying to understand why people do bad things to each other. Why they can't tolerate being disagreed with, or why they must hold others down so they can rise up, or hoard resources so others suffer. What pushes someone so far that the only option they see for justice is to eradicate the other...even if it means losing themselves in the process? Why they can't see the forest for the trees, that in the end, regardless of a flag that's flown, or a symbol on a necklace, or a book that's wielded as a weapon - that we all bleed the same color, our tears taste the same and though the sky may look different in your part of the world, it's the same sun that breathes life into us all.

I don't know where all of this mess begins for anyone...but I know where it can end. It ends with love. It ends with a conscientious and conscious decision to lead every choice and every moment with love and acceptance. Not only for each other, but for ourselves.

Easier said than done - I'll grant you that.

Take a breath first.

I'm not saying anyone has to deny themselves the things in life that make them happy. But I think it's important to know why those things make you happy. And that's a discussion for another time....

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