Saturday, August 04, 2012

How a child sees herself

Typically, I am very aware of the people around me. I naturally observe what each person brings to the table and what that means to the goal of the encounter or situation. Even so, I have been oblivious to something—something right under my nose.
This recent relocation has opened my eyes to my daughter in ways I could not have anticipated had I tried. I assumed she will experience highs and lows throughout the transition from Brasil to the southern part of United States, but she is resilient, so I was confident the move would be positive. She has lived in three states and two countries in her short life. Now her cognition is on overdrive and perhaps I was not aware of how much thinking is truly going on.
The second day in our new home, my almost 14- year-old daughter nonchalantly asks, “Have there always been black people in Alabama Mom?”
Looking at her, unsure of what she is asking or where the conversation may lead, I tilt my head and reply, “What exactly do you mean? Like since the beginning of time, the history of the state/country.”
When she replies yes, I deliver a clear, albeit brief, run down of the history of the state of Alabama. How after the “discovery” of the Americas and Westward Expansion, part of the economy that supported the southern parts of the United States depended on slave labor. I remind her that which she already knows regarding slavery and the robbery of millions of human beings from Africa and how so many people were forced to the “New World”, predominantly, but not limited to, areas of the South in the United States. Finishing my mini-history lesson with a definitive, “so, yes, there have pretty much always been black people in AL.” Satisfied, she had no more questions.

A little while later, that same day, my daughter randomly says, “Mom, I am not going to find anyone who looks like me.” (Notice the level of processing going on in her mind. She, for obvious reasons, is concerned about making new friends, and it is human nature to seek others who “look” like us to forge friendships.)

I ask, “What do you mean?”

To which she replies, “I just think you chose to live in a part of the city that has mostly black people.”

Without a moment’s hesitation, and honestly with almost no thought, I turned to her and asked, “Do I need to remind you that YOU are 50% black?”

To this reply, she giggled, demonstrated a bit of embarrassment and said, “Oh yeah! Never mind.”

The significance of this observation is truly amazing to me. Living outside of the US for the past six years, my daughter has not been forced to look at herself through a North American racial lens. The history of this country and its impact on the race situation has not been personal for her. This is not to say that race is not an issue in Brazil. It most certainly is. It is just different and worthy of a separate post.

What matters right now is that this conversation reminded me to think about what it means to be a bi-racial child of a single parent? I understand the daily effects of white privilege I carry with me as a middle-class, white female in the United States. I forgot, however, how much that privilege has indirectly influenced my bi-racial daughter throughout her life.

For a bi-racial child of a single parent, it means that one half of the child’s ethnic identity is not present in her day-to-day. Actually, this is the case for all single parent children. However, in a society where race is visible and the history regarding race differences is not so distant, bi-racial children—perhaps—face a different element to “coming of age” and “defining oneself” than children of mono-race parents in particular when one parent is not present.

I took for granted that my daughter identifies with both sides of her genetic make-up. I assumed that the conversations about history, current events, family tree, and life were enough.

We know how we see ourselves. We know how we view others. We have an idea how others view us. But nobody knows how the other views herself.

What I can say proudly is that I watch my daughter encounter new people and interact with strangers in a store, and I witness her generous openness and kindness. I see her greet others with sincerity and respect regardless of each individual’s outward appearance. For this I am proud. After all, it is this very acceptance of differences that I have hoped to instill in her. I hope to foster the tools she will need to be part of a diverse global community because I know that self-identification is an on-going process that doesn’t magically end after adolescence.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sensory overload and culture shock....
I am under construction.
Will write soon.
I promise!

From Rio de Janeiro to Montgomery, AL coming soon.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

On being American

Living on the outside for the past 6 years, I have found myself criticizing my home country at various times. I have witnessed—from afar—political changes, economic struggles, and social injustices. I have at times been warned about my safety as an American outside of American territory. Ironic because I have felt more secure in Brasil than in some parts of the states. I have not worried about my daughter living in the mega-tropolis of Rio de Janeiro in the same way I worry about her in the states. There is a genuine respect for women and children in this country. It has not always been that way. Brasil's history includes horrible stories of violence against both; thankfully, in the last 2-3 decades the government has successfully implemented laws protecting both women and children. (It's one of a couple of areas of Brasilian government that actually functions-minus corruption and intense bureaucracy.)
Is that to mean crime and violence and risk and danger are absent in this culture? Of course not! I myself experienced an assault my third year here that left me scared to walk the streets for six months. Is that to mean that Brasil doesn’t have her own “issues”? Absolutely not! The differences among social classes leave the poor so poor that random, petty crime is a way of survival. It is still third world.
The slogan on Brasil’s flag is: Ordem e Progresso! Order and Progress! Let me tell you…this has been a constant joke of sorts among us expats, as much about Carioca living is disorderly and disorganized. But there is something so awesome about the Carioca Jeito (Carioca Way).
*video for those who speak Portuguese and understand the Carioca Jeito

At various times over the past six years I have found myself “anti-American” (more so during the years of the Bush administration because of the reactions from locals when they asked what I thought about my president. I learned quickly to appear neutral.) I do not tie myself to one political party or another although my friends would say I am ultra-liberal. I certainly do not talk political party, I talk issues and right vs. wrong and ethics, which I guess could be linked back to a particular party's opinion...but anyway that's not what this is supposed to be about right now.
I have been physically preparing (literally) to leave for the last three weeks. I have also been emotionally preparing myself. Re-acclimating to life in the U.S. will be challenging. A couple of weeks ago, as I chatted with a good friend, I realized something I had not thought about previously.
This friend is also and expat. She has been living in Rio for 30+ years. She is American, but she has lived in Brasil longer than she lived in her home country. Her three children and all but one grandchild have been born in Brasil. She shared with me that over the years she herself has experienced her own love/hate relationship with the United States. At times channeling Lee Greenwood and belting out lyrics to "Proud to be an American". At other times, shaking her head in disappointment or embarrassment at national events.
Next month, she will close-up her Rio apartment, jump on a plane, rent an apartment in California, and volunteer on the 2013 US Presidential Campaign (I will leave out which party she will be working with because it might mar your impression of her, and it really doesn't matter because what she says next is absolutely true, incredibly important, and political opinion does not make a difference in its significance.)
As she counseled me on my re-acclimation (counseled because in hindsight that's exactly what it was--for both of us probably), and she shared that similar love/hate with the U.S. that I have felt. She came to this...
One day, how, I am not sure, but one day, she realized, "I am who I am because I am American. If I speak ill of my home country, I am in fact speaking ill of myself. I have the open mind I have because I was born and reared in the United States of America. I have the opportunity in life that I have because I am American."
Freedom. Opportunity. The American Dream. It's what founded our country. It's what keeps our country afloat in times of trouble. It's what continues to summon thousands of people each year who journey to the U.S. in search of a "better life". What did I do to be American to have this opportunity?
I was born there. I have ancestors who chased that dream 100 years ago. That's all. Nothing more. I have grandparents who worked hard. Who were honest. Who struggled. The only thing that makes me different from the less fortunate Brasilian child on the street is the parents to whom I was born. How lucky am I? How lucky am I to have the privilege to choose a life outside my home country for however long I wish and be able to return whenever I want.
For that, I am proud to be an American!

Monday, June 25, 2012

If you speak more than one language, you might understand that words exist in one language that are impossible to express with the same significance in another language. Saudades is one of those words. It means: longing for or missing something or someone. But to say, “I miss you.” in English is not the same as saying, “To com saudades de voce!” in Portuguese. There’s a power of passion in the word saudades. Its connotation is different, stronger. I am going to feel saudades imensa (immense longing) for many things once I board my plane for Montgomery on July 2.
Here are a few:
Ipanema Beach and Barraca do Nildo (there’s truth to the Cheers theme song)
Brazilian Music and live Samba (especially Samba do Chapeu at Bola Preta.)
Monkies and toucans playing in the trees outside my window
The serenade of the beach vendors singing their respective products’ names…matte ou lemao, picole, queijo coalho.
Walking through the street with an open can of beer (there’s truly something liberating about being able to openly drink in public, like "you're a grown-up, you can be responsible")
Carnaval Blocos (despite the risks of random pick-pocketers)
Picanha and farofa
Living in havaianas
The Carioca jeito (The Rio way)
Living bilingual
Girl’s WeekendS in BUZIOS!!

Of course these are just a few and the list does not include the PEOPLE who I will miss more than the THINGS (except the girls' weekends one, that's TOTALLY about PEOPLE!).  I can’t really write about people because that’s usually what makes the tornado come. (You know who you are!)
The past week, as I have sorted and re-sorted through my “stuff” deciding what will go with me on the plane (this has been easier for Sierra since she is giving away almost everything in anticipation of being able to buy a complete, new wardrobe--hmmm---that kid's pretty smart), what will go in the shipment, and what will be left behind, I have been an emotional tornado. The anticipation of this move is a constant current blowing me in the direction of accomplishment. The saudades come in, change the direction of the current, causing a funnel cloud that leaves me in tears.  I am not sad, don’t misunderstand me. I do not regret anything about my decision. I am in fact ecstatic to start this new chapter, to make a difference, to work hard, to be stimulated, to create, to forge new friendships. And at the same time, I am looking forward to many elements of re-acclimating to life in the land of milk and honey; such as:
Target (hehe)
Organized roads with (generally) drivers who respect the lanes
Central Air
A new car (oh yeah baby!)
An amazing educational opportunity for Sierra
A smaller commute
More time with my daughter
Time to write
Home Depot! (refer to this earlier post to understand why)
Time to play my guitar again
So what is it that I'm really thinking as I pack and organize and sort and purge and repack and feel the anxiety created by living in transition (I do NOT understand how hoarders do it, seriously, my house is a complete disaster, and I can't stand it. How do people live surrounded by boxes and stuff all the time? It really is a mental disorder that requires intervention. I feel for them. Sincerely.)
I am: Invigorated! Blessed! Grateful! My friend Diane recently said, "If there isn't a little bit of fear in your decision to make a move in your life, it maybe isn't the right decision." I think I agree with her. As an educator for 17 years, I believe that in that moment of discomfort, where we are right on the edge of what we know and what we don't know, is where the most learning takes place. 
I am invigorated by the unknown. Being taken outside of my comfort zone is turning on all of my neurons.
I am blessed. "How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."
I am grateful.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I am battling insomia. I have too much on my mind. I feel tired, but as soon as I lay down, I can't sleep. I am facing a major change, and I feel great about it but have so much to do. I started this blog in 2006 as a way to chronicle my adventure to Brasil. Looking back, re-reading, it is clear that I have learned and grown leaps and bounds. I am not the same person I was when I arrived here.  So I thought it might be fun to redo this entry--call it a comparitive study. The then and the now...
I am: powerful
I know: what I want
I want: to make a difference in the world
I have: to sell my car
I miss: Rio (and I haven't even left yet)
I feel: blessed with opportunity
I hear: the rain forest, a neighborhood dog, and the hum of an A/C
I smell: wet Earth
I crave: stimulation
I cry: when I think about the distance between friends
I search: understanding
I wonder: who my friends will be in AL
I regret: nothing
I love: being amazing
I worry: about not having enough time to travel
I remember: moments that make my stomach hurt from laughing
I dance: as often as I can
I don't: say "shouldn't have"
I argue: almost never
I write: more and more
I win: strength
I lose: nothing--other than the "stuff" I am giving away due to an international move
I wish: some people could come with me always
I listen: more than I used to
I can usually be found: thinking
I am scared: of regret
I need: to be passionate
I forget: what it was like to be unhappy

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Series of Lasts

I would like to thank Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson for introducing the world to the term "the Bucket List."
Before writer Jack Zackham's 2007 film, I am not so sure I had EVER heard the phrase used. Now, it seems to be something everybody has--their own "bucket list" or things they want to accomplish before ________ (fill in the blank). In the film, Nicholson's and Freeman's characters, facing the last years of their lives, create a list of things they want to do before they die.  As a member of a fairly transient community, the "bucket list" is what people I know want to fulfill before leaving one post and heading to another. Knowing that you are leaving a city/country creates a lot of pressure to make sure you took advantage of all the city/country has to offer.
About a month ago, we fulfilled one item on Katie and Joe's "bucket list" by having a LONG Brazilian-style Sunday lunch at churrascaria Majorica in Flamengo complete with caipirinhas, gin and tonics, lots-o-carne, and plenty of conversation.
Koa shared his dessert with Ernesto (not really his name, I don't think, but this gentleman acted like the owner of the joint, so I decided to call him Ernesto.)
Since taking the job in Alabama, many people have been asking me what is on my bucket list.
I have to admit that I don't really have one...well other than finally making it to Igreja Nossa Senhora da Penha...
365 (one for each day of the year) steps lead the way to this incredible landmark of Rio de Janeiro. The energy is amazing, calming, overwhelming. I entered the church, knelt in a pew, gave my thanks to God for the blessings and opportunity in my life--the privilege. I cried praise and thanks. Literally. 
However, other than Igreja Penha, I do not have a LIST of things I need to do before my departure from Rio. I sure do look at the city through different eyes though. This weekend, I took advantage of being in Zona Sul and walked everywhere I could. I didn't want to get on a bus or jump in a taxi. I want to walk. I want to feel and smell this city. I want to remember the paths I have taken, yet not taken for granted. I want to tatoo the images in my mind so they are not to be lost.
I don't think it is possible for me to remove Rio from my senses. Last week, I went to EARJ for Sierra's 8th grade "graduation". I arrived early in order to say farewell/ate logo to a few people. Sitting with the HR Director, reminiscing over the last 6 years, she reminded me what I said  upon first entering my Rio apartment in July 2006.  I remember it like it was yesterday.
I walked in, I took a deep breath, I closed my eyes, smiling, and said, "Ahhh, it smells like Brasil!" and it did.

And since that first deep breath, I have lived. I have enjoyed. I have immersed myself so deeply in this city and this way of life that I am left with no "bucket list". No magic list of things I need to do before I go. I have done all that I wanted along the way. Danced on the beach, hiked to the waterfall, paraded in the Sambadromo, fell in love, road the buses, the metro, the train. I have lived my AmeRIOca dream. Even though the moments are but memories that stay with me, I hope, throughout my life, I encounter smells that bring me back like the first day I walked into my Rio apartment.


Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Longer Than the Bachelor (Part 2)
The Courtship (cont'd from)

And wait I did...3 - 4 weeks I spent waiting.

I carried my iPhone in my pocket at all times. I slept with my iPhone next to my pillow in case the ding of a new email should call out to me in the middle of the night. I opened and checked my email at least 50 times (sometimes more) every 30 minutes -- no exaggeration! Just as I had started to feel defeated. Just as I had begun to believe that I must be one of thousands of applicants and not who they want, the email arrived!

Thank you for the opportunity to interview and for your interest in...

I thought for sure it was a rejection letter. I took a deep breath and continued reading.
We are interested in your experience and expertise. We invite you to participate in the next round of the hiring process.

This is what I did inside my head!

The next round involved answering eight questions. I was given one week to complete and return my responses, via email. I excitedly (and almost immediately) started writing! The topics were invigorating! I read through the list of questions, as my good friend Suzanne looked on, nodding my head, smile growing wider by the second. Suzanne's response: You Got These!

I had a blast answering. It was a journey through my career via my passions, and I welcomed the opportunity to slow down and take a look back over the past 17 years. I make reflection a regular habit, but typically the topic timeline is more immediate. The questions forced me to dig deep. It felt good, and I was thrilled to have an audience.

Totally off topic, but I seriously just got cherry syrup all over my keyboard and mouse...ugh...brb.

My responses were sent--2 days ahead of the deadline. At the time I was so excited, then as the waiting continued and I didn't hear back (click play on the video below and continue reading), I began to think, "Maybe I should have waited until the date they said." "Maybe I should not have sent early." "Did my email reach their office?"

Mind you, with each step in this process, I was speculating about EVERYTHING
  • number of candidates
  • how long they will take to read the responses
  • what are they looking for exactly in the responses
  • who is really reading the responses
I invented my own answer to each of these topics--based on nothing, and that answer changed depending on the day and my level of confidence. I asked my closest friends what they thought, and I gave their answers/explanation great worth. It was maddening.
Then, just as between steps one and two, right as I was beginning to feel defeated and my patience was dwindling, I received a phone call! Ironically, the phone call came in on a Friday evening and I didn't actually hear the message until Sunday afternoon because I didn't open skype that weekend. Geeze, 48 extra hours of worry for nuthin! :)
The rest of the story is really not that exciting. Mostly because it was a mixture of interview/waiting, interview/waiting with little to no contact in between. Again, at various times I told myself they had chosen someone else. Throughout the process I continued to celebrate how far I had come. It was incredibly validating to have an organization of this caliber even consider me. I was proud to have made it "so far" with each step of the way.
My friends were often unsure whether or not to ask if I had heard anything. I think everyone was secretly scared I would implode if I the offer didn't come through. (I don't think that would have happened, but I am so happy we will never know. It might have been ugly.)
The final night of waiting, after the final interview, my friend Katie says, "Man, Sara this is longer than the Bachelor! You deserve your final rose ceremony! We are celebrating regardless of the outcome because you have survived the process."
I am really happy that I didn't have to have the "you're awesome even though they didn't pick you celebration". Fact.
If you read the first part in this two part series, you know that this position, is what I would call "my dream job". It's not a glamorous position. It's not going to make me filthy rich (at least not monetarily rich). It's not located in the travel destination of your dreams, but it is PERFECTLY me!
I feel so fortunate, so truly blessed, to have the privilege that I have. The chance to do the work that I feel I was put here to do is overwhelming! To realize a dream, a true lifetime dream, elicits these incredible feelings of humility and joy that are totally beyond words.

To new beginnings and realizing YOUR dreams!

Channeling Robert Frost
A reflection about leaving Our Lady of Mercy School

Mr. Rundle opened the OLM 2012 Commencement Ceremony with a reading of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” As I sat and listened to the poem, remembering from earlier readings the beauty of artful words, I thought to myself, “I took the road less traveled [by], and that HAS made all the difference.” As an expat in Rio de Janeiro, it is not uncommon to be reminded of all the differences choices make. I have been extremely blessed with rich experiences. It is possible, however, that I am channeling Robert Frost as I find myself preparing to enter the road less traveled once again.

The Southern Poverty Law Center ( is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. They are headquartered in Montgomery, AL. This NGO has an innovative Teaching Tolerance ( program which produces and distributes – free of charge – documentary films, books, lesson plans and other materials that promote tolerance and respect in American schools. I have been offered a position with Teaching Tolerance—my new road revealed.
This is particularly exciting to me because I believe the root of American education comes from a promise Americans made in 1964. With the signing of the Civil Rights Act, we promised to educate—equally—all children in the United States of America. This is no small promise however, and 48 years later, my home country continues to work toward fulfilling this promise in materials, practices, facilities, and opportunities for school-aged children in the United States. This “road not taken” gives me the chance to participate in fulfilling a nation’s promise to its children. However appropriate to my individual philosophies and ideals the work at SPLC may be, the decision to take on this challenge, to walk down this road, is by no definition an easy one. I have been a part of the OLM community a mere 11 months, but in that time I have grown a great deal. I have made friends. I have learned. I have shared. I have been reminded of the amazing work that comes out of the presence of faith. “Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:3).
I feel the need to make sure children have an advocate. Plans are established if faith is present. The hardest thing about teaching is definitely reaching all students [teachers] effectively. Working cooperatively requires us to consider the human variable. “Commit your works to the Lord”.
And although I am “sorry I could not travel both” roads, I am grateful to OLM for the year of growth it has generously provided me. I am a little scared about this next road that I am about to walk down, but mostly I am excited about the amazing opportunity to create change and fight for social justice.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Longer than the Bachelor! (Part1)

I have been an educator for 17 years. Most of those years have been as a classroom teacher. My experiences range from inner-city Minneapolis, MN to large, urban, public education in Houston, TX to a little bit of the suburbs back in MN and way south to the other side of the equator in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. (I spell it with an "s" cuz names are sacred.) Although each stop presented its own uniqueness, each challenged me to find and use resources to the best of my ability.
Early on, I was exposed to one of the best resources I have ever found, and it became a staple in my pile of teacher resources. The mission of this project, the multiple perspectives represented, the honesty were all characteristics that attracted me to SPLC and Teaching Tolerance from the beginning.
I told a friend and colleague, around 2002/2003, "Working for Teaching Tolerance is my dream job!"
Little did I know then that I would actually realize that dream one day.
During my third year in Brazil, I was reading my weekly update from ASCD and browsed the job postings at the bottom. That was the first time I heard the alarm. Teaching Tolerance was hiring a Teaching and Learning Specialist--My DREAM JOB! But...
I wasn't ready to leave Rio...can you blame me?
I closed the job posting, went about with my day--which probably means I went straight to

Barraca do Nildo in front of Cesar Park Hotel in Ipanema because that is where I spent most of my non-work days the last six years!
However, life is fluid and unpredictable and if I have learned anything I have learned not to say NEVER! Well, I have also learned not to say "should have, would have, or could have" too.
So, back in February, again while reading my weekly ASCD newsletter, I scrolled to the job board at the bottom and what do I see? The same posting for Teaching Tolerance that I saw three years ago!
Am I ready to leave my Rio now?
Deixa a Vida Me Levar!
I don't know. Rio is in my blood. It's part of my sould. I am AmeRIOca! I love it here and I love my friends here and I love my life here and it's been a GREAT six years.
So I threw my name in the mix. I sent what the posting asked for: resume, cover letter, and sample curriculum-based writing sample, and I waited...

And since this process has been 3 months in the making...
the rest of the story will have to come later...
Until then...
Enjoy one of my favorite songs from Brasilian artist Djavan

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chasing the Rainbow (Part 4)
Passion. Integrity. Perspective. Humility.
The fact that I am passionate, have integrity, and value perspective means that I go all out in just about everything that I do. Just about because sometimes even I get tired. 
What does it mean to be humble? to have humility?

It means that I realize that I have to remember that everybody has their limitations. It means that each one of us is AMAZING in our own way. 

Two recent conversations are the inspiration for this post.

The first happened about three weeks ago. I was driving with a new-found friend to one of Rio's amazing out-of-the-city beaches

Our conversation was bouncing around various topics when we stopped at a redlight and were handed, through the car window, a brochure for a new apartment complex development--this is not uncommon in Rio. The slogan for this particular complex: Pra viver bem e uma arte. (To live well is an art.) Isn't that the truth!! As we continued driving, our conversation regarding "the good life" and "living well" ensued. Both of us talked about the need for God in our daily life, the need for treating ourselves well, our bodies are our temples. However, my friend said something that REALLY hit me. He said, "Sara, if we all just live our lives trying to make the person next to us better, we could all be happy, healthy, successful, living the art."

I was like, HOLY SMOKES! That is SO true. So I tested it. I thought about being in traffic--which I can sincerely say I hate--and letting the person next to me merge even though they were coming from the shoulder not an actual lane. I thought about standing in line at the grocery store with a cart full of items and letting the person behind me with three items go first. I thought about sharing the knowledge of my practice while listening to the faculty, with the frame of mind that I too am learning. 

In ALL situations, the end result is win/win. It's really true. Humility. One has to let go of egocentric desires and the need to be "right" or "first". But if we can manage that, karma seems to kick in, and good things happen! If we all just live our life so that the person next to us is better. So simple, yet so complex.

The second conversation that inspired this post happened just yesterday at lunch. I ate with the music teacher and a Catholic brother. This music teacher is a phenomenal person! Since first joining the faculty at my current school, this man is always positive, always shows gratitude for any help I provide, and is always smiling. Literally! ALWAYS smiling. 

Yesterday, we talked about happiness. We talked about friends we have who are highly successful professionally. Friends who have the expensive house, car, material belongings, yet they are unhappy. 

His bottom line: I know who I am. I am happy with who I am. He quoted a line from the 1968 Peter Seller's film The Party

The line he said has stuck with him for a number of years is when one character (sorry I don't know the film) asks Sellers: Who do you think you are? And Peter Seller's character replies: I don't think who I am, I KNOW who I am. 

Humility. The brother went on, referencing The Lion King. That moment in the movie when Simba sees his reflection for the first time in lake and Rafiki appears in the reflection too. Is it his father? Or is it The Father? Brother added the spiritual element to our conversation at lunch (not surprising, he is a man of the church afterall). However, the need to have faith, belief in something bigger than us, belief that we don't own the control but instead are here to do the work of something bigger. This generates humility.

We are human. We screw up. We are constantly evolving and learning and living. To do so with humility and grace is most certainly an art!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Chasing the Rainbow (Part 3)
Passion. Integrity. Perspective. Humility


I have stared at this picture for 15 minutes straight. I see a young woman, looking away. Some people see an elderly lady when they look at this picture. Am I wrong in thinking it’s a young woman? Are others wrong for thinking it’s an old lady? Is it possible that it is both, at the same time?
How many arguments have you had in your life that revolved around perspective? How many hours have you spent of your (insert age) years trying to convince another person to “see it your way”? I know I have spent countless.
In my younger years, I would get frustrated and often angry when I was unsuccessful in getting the other person to see things my way. Then, somewhere along the lines, I grew up a little—only a little because I continue to grow even though I’m pushin 40! What I realize is that it’s ok if another person doesn’t see my same reality or if I don’t understand hers. However, it’s NOT ok if I fail to recognize that the other reality exists, I don’t have to understand or agree with it. That’s where my thoughts about perspective become crucial.
If you combine passion and integrity with perspective, it is imperative to recognize the emotional element, and emotion forces us to respond/react to a situation instead of think about the the parts of the situation. Passion risks emotional drive, yet integrity pulls that emotion back to the bigger picture where perspective plays a part.
Take for example the film I Heart Huckabees.
The main character goes to an existential counselor for intervention. In his initial consultation, Lily Tomlin’s character says, “My associate will look at your case from a different angle.” He asks, “What angle?” And Tomlin replies, “He will investigate your perception of reality.”
The film goes on to demonstrate how reality and perception influence our actions, our existence. A couple of the characters end up pretty messed up…check out the film. In the end, it’s what I believe to be essential to our interdependence.
We crave being understood. We seek to understand others and our existence and what it all means. Sometimes we search self-awareness through others, seems oxymoronic in some ways.
The bottom line: if we let go of our egos, believe that those around us do not intentionally do things to hurt us, look for understanding in where the other comes from, discourse and interaction will never go wrong. It doesn’t mean we always agree. It means we give up having to be “right” or finding the "wrong". It means we develop compassion and empathy.

Although I have tried, I still don’t see the old lady. Does that mean she doesn’t exist? No, it means I must remain open to understanding that someone else sees her. That someone else could maybe point her out for me, help me to see something in a new way and grow.