We are destined to be moved, to witness injustices, to be pushed right out of our places of comfort. For some reason.
Six months ago, I had a pop in from a childhood friend. We laughed as friends do while I alternately got to know this new, confident woman who had replaced the teenager, remembering the girl learning to drive with the bouncy curls and the infectious laugh, her wide smile and the slightest bit of sneaky and naughty lurking inside her pure heart. It’s why we got along. A mother with two beautiful and lively children —the pride evident on her face, a dedicated wife–the love brimmed under her surface, and a successful business owner–humility peeked around her edges—she had grown more introspective as we talked about life’s messages. When we apply revelations the universe shows us, our futures cruise along as they are meant. When we fight and struggle against our gut, our fate may not always end in disaster, although it sure seems to magnify our internal wrestling matches. I concurred as she continued on, this woman who had eclipsed the teenager in such smart strides, as she asked the question that has since branded itself indelible: What are we supposed to notice?
The question rears as she watches her son interact with his father, the two of them solving a problem, their heads huddled close, as they approach a situation differently than she might. What is she supposed to notice about this father and son? That men and boys communicate with each other differently than women and girls? She wonders if sons look up to their fathers the same way daughters admire their mothers? Do they want to be them, too?
What am I supposed to notice…how little control I have over plumbing?
The question got my own motor roaring as I went on with my life, a life fraught with more frustration than I had naively anticipated. What am I supposed to notice? Some days are hard and I wait in limbo to close a business deal that will allow the bills to get paid on time. Others days I have technological problems, my children have emergent situations, or maybe a pipe decides to release a slow trickle of constant water within a basement wall. What am I supposed to notice when that happens, how little control I have over plumbing?
I try to hurry up everyone as we leave for the various places we’ve committed ourselves. Get the kids out the door on a timeline. Why isn’t anyone ready? Why didn’t you tell me we had to leave an hour early sooner than right now? All facets of the experience, whatever it is, get the arrow of my short and impatient mood. The communication seems wrong in that moment, but I am too carried away to stop…I wonder if I am ignoring, or resisting what this particular day has been made for: patience, tolerance, compassion, the glimpse of hidden beauty? I’m unreasonable and it makes me mad I should have to pause to appreciate when I just want to go when I want to go. I sense the crumbling backbones in the people around me as they assess how to handle my irritation, yet still I truck on, determined to show this day it is wrong and I win and we are on time! Because that’s what matters, right? Now go have a good day, dammit.
Certain days, I have not fought the unfolding, unpredictable events of life…these are good days because it’s a snap to belong to my surroundings.
Certain days, I have not fought the unfolding, unpredictable events of life. I have skirted the peeves. Who knows why? My degree of aggravation is lower, the barometric pressure is higher. I can focus more clearly on goals, I can rationalize. I didn’t wake up with a screeching headache—a virtual screwdriver impaled in my eyeball. I feel less chronic illness-y. These are good days because it’s a snap to belong to my surroundings. I get in touch with the sensation of fabrics, how a pre-rain sky smells, I catch the blinding white teeth of our dog when he appears to smile a second before receiving his bone. I lean back into the couch and sigh, knowing I am doing exactly what was on tap for me, and every other idiosyncratic trait of life becomes tiny and insignificant. Somehow, it is only then that I welcome the enjoyment of trivial things. Because I deserve it on this day versus another for acting like a person and not a rankled donkey?
Other days, when I am not heeding the message, I argue, “I have to pay the stupid rent. I can’t sit around here lollygagging and waiting for (insert miracle here).” So I try harder, get in the mindset to move a project forward, my attitude and intention all wrong. I find to my maddening dismay, I can’t manifest. I can’t transfer positive energy. All my effort stops with the negative humming from my heart, with annoyance as I battle…myself. If I had only let my defenses down, the day would be better and memorable for other reasons. But I don’t. I fight to fight. Snark and snarl and skulk around in a snit. I put that vibration out and it returns nothing, or it yields a counterproductive response.
I don’t have to be happy and calm and you can’t make me! I don’t have the time for spiritual growth!
In another example of we have no control tangled up in the hypocritical I hate to feel my control slip away, what are we supposed to notice? The body language of someone we love who’s not validated? The slight frown on a child’s face hiding disappointment as they try to tell you without telling you they don’t feel important, or consulted? What are you supposed to notice besides dishes breaching the sink, a line of dirt you missed with the dust pan, dog hair in the corners? A hopeful smile you can’t bring yourself to return because you are too busy scrapping with yourself, or the world, consumed with proving a point that won’t matter in the end? Worse yet, you’re annoyed people have the audacity to want a piece of your love. I don’t have to be happy and calm and you can’t make me! I don’t have the time for spiritual growth!
What happens when you refuse to notice what you are supposed to? How does your day go?
What are we supposed to notice? A child grappling with an adult problem, who doesn’t have a clue how to ask for help? A spouse so used to feeling alone it’s become the new normal? A mother craving time with her rebellious offspring? A neighbor creeping into our yard, tapping at our door because they have no one else?
And what are we supposed to do about it?
We are shown truths for a reason and it is not to lie still, it is not to rail against them. We are shown truths because we are supposed to see, read, observe, experience, live and change as we outgrow our mentalities, preconceived notions and assumptions.
Do we shut out the guilt tolling in our hearts and minds, the terrible pulse, plaguing us to take an action—that we neglect? Or do we return the attention? The eye contact? Do we stop complaining and jump in to see how we can salvage what appears to be lost? Do we pick up the phone to speak to a dear relative suffering burgeoning dementia? Are we ever regretful when we reach back? I’m not. It is only when we strive to outrun our life’s purpose that regret haunts us. We are shown truths for a reason and it is not to lie still, it is not to rail against them. We are shown truths because we are supposed to see, read, observe, experience, live and change as we outgrow our mentalities, preconceived notions and assumptions. We are destined to be moved, to witness injustices, to be pushed right out of our places of comfort. For some reason.
We should change as time passes, ever-constant, moving in a direction increasingly empathetic, matter-of-fact, and less emotional about the wrong things.
The Otter, my other, races in after work then slides across the bed sheets to me, gently colliding into my body, before finding my neck to blow raspberries. I had been eyeball high in writing, but he noticed me anyway, caught the slight furrow kinking my brow, just as I noted his boyish, joyful face intent on making me laugh, on letting me know he’s glad I’m here. Wanting to get the same. Receiving it with massive enthusiasm.
The noticing goes both ways.
Original article appeared at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission.