Bridging our divides...
It's easy to get caught up in the details. To let your worries and doubts hold back your dreams and ambitions. If someone had told me that someday I would have an incurable chronic condition I'm not sure what I would've done. I'm not even sure it would've changed my path. But what I do know is that it has awakened a different perspective. Being slapped in the face by a diagnosis that simply must be endured and battled everyday has a way of testing your patience for even the simplest of life's daily elements. But it also has a way of opening your eyes to the beauty and ugly in the world.
We as humans are capable of the most touching of actions. Yet we are also capable of the most heinous of crimes. We pit ourselves against each other measuring our selves against one anther's perfections and flaws. We battle each other for “rightness”, standing on our own soapbox of experiences and beliefs. We build our own personal foundations and walls and sometimes harden in our own place allowing these divisions to form rivers around us and disconnect us from one another. We become our own little islands, out of touch with one another. But despite these divides we have the capacity to bridge them. To connect with one another through empathy.
We have the capacity for empathy but sometimes we don't exercise it. However, when you strip away all of our personal experiences, cultures and beliefs we are simple beings. We simply want to live the best life that we can. We want to survive and endure practicing our beliefs and cultures free of fear and persecution.
Each generation for many generations has faced its own version of atrocities and miracles. World wars have divided us. Economics has divided us. Race has divided us. Religion has divided us. Gender has divided us. I could go on as there are truly so many ways we can divide ourselves but in the end these divisions, whatever they may be, continue to destroy us.
It is not easy to confront what we are uncomfortable with. Discussions about the characteristics that differentiate us and sometimes violently divide us often lead to silence. But if we instead approach these divides with a simple question and an honest reply we may begin to strengthen the web that connects us. We can start by asking "how are you" to one another and always replying with and honest answer.
In our honesty we can bring about real connection by providing each other with the opportunity to deepen our empathetic muscles and strengthen our human connections. If we are connected our divisions can no longer decisively divide us. I believe we can dismantle the feelings of “us” and “them” through the simplest of actions. A smile on the street to a stranger. A “how are you” to a sales clerk. Holding the door for a mother or father with a baby carriage. Giving up your seat on the train or bus if you are able so someone who you perceive needs it more can sit. An honest answer to a “How are you”, and so many more. By practicing some of these simple actions we can begin to nurture our own empathetic inclinations and with time we can change the world. We can build bridges of human connections between our personal islands and through empathy heal the divides.
...remember we’re all on a journey and we can be stronger together...
We all carry with us some struggle that we harbor internally. We hide it from the world through feigned health and happiness believing that to show our struggle would somehow mean showing weakness or incapability. I have done this for years and believe there will always be an internal struggle. But who benefits from keeping these struggles hidden? The answer I have kept returning to is no one. Relationships are strained when we hide our struggles, people not understanding the full picture are left to make assumptions good or bad. More importantly our own health and happiness are sacrificed in the process of our deception to the world. Despite this knowledge it is hard to become visible. To speak with honesty about the struggles we face for fear that they might overshadow our accomplishments.
I am invisible. The true self that I hide from the world is one that struggles daily with pain, exhaustion, frustration, humbleness, and gratitude. I am grateful for what I am capable of but I struggle with what I cannot do and will never be able to do without great consequence.
I am one hell of an actress but I am tired of acting. When I am not okay…it is not okay to pretend that I am. I can’t count the number of times I have thought about just disappearing. Slowly slipping into the night, out of my life, never to return. It is as if part of me believes that escaping from my current circumstances would somehow free me to live more honestly and holistically. The reality is that that “notion” of escape will never provide the relief I seek. Only honesty with those around me will help me find the strength to do what I need to do. To take care of myself and those around me. I believe deeply that I am not the only one who feels this way. So I am left asking "why is it so hard to be our true selves, to live boldly and honestly?"
The answer is complicated and unclear. The world is a hectic place, with a myriad of beliefs and ideas. It is a mix of beautiful and ugly, inspirational and discouraging. Each day we are bombarded with judgments positive and negative about how best to lead our lives and uplift or condemn the actions of others. Some days, like today, I feel the negative is stronger than the positive. That to take actions to adjust my life so that I may be more balanced and productive will be condemned as weakness and incapability. However, it is in moments like these that a sense of clarity strikes my mind.
We have a responsibility to change that atmosphere of negativity to uplift ourselves and those around us. To not jump on the bandwagon of judgment and instead step back and ask questions that allow us to slip on someone else’s shoe and walk in someone elses life. When we engage in this exercise, we hone our ability to see another view point and cultivate the capacity for empathy and compassion for one another.
This is not easy, it burdens our hearts and minds deeply when we begin to carry the weight of others struggles as if they were our own. But in our sharing of this weight, even if for just a moment, we can find the connection and acceptance that despite our different beliefs, ideas and judgments that we are simply conscious beings looking to live the best life we can.
So I challenge us all to become visible, to allow each of us to lift each other up with compassion. To recognize that our disagreements make us unique and challenge us to find places where our disagreement ends and our empathy and compassion begin. In becoming visible we take a risk, but with this risk comes the chance to inspire others to meet you half way and build a more compassionate world.
Take the risk, become visible and remember its about the journey…
Hi, I'm Liz. I like to write about life and the wisdom I cull from it. I use words and images to inspire empathy and connection with each other and the world.