Category Archives: Compassion

Owning Your Uncool

The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool. Lester Bangs, Almost Famous

There is a great scene in the film “The Holiday” when Kate Winslet’s character, Iris, is so distraught over hearing the news of her ex’s engagement that she starts breathing in gas from her stove as she is getting ready to light the flame for a cup of tea.  She then realizes what she is doing and scrambles to open the window, finishing the moment with a mumble to herself, “Low point!”

I love this scene because it reminds me of our humanity and the vulnerability we carry in our hearts that result in situations in our lives that really are “UNCOOL.”  It makes me laugh every time.  The scene has become an unfailing reflection of my own relationship foibles.  As I have opened this article with a quote that I also love, from another film (yes, I am a cinematic nut job), I can’t help but refer to it over and over again in my own life.  A lot of getting over our self- judgments that usually result in some misguided perception about who we are, is about owning those moments in our lives where we really do hit those “low points” and seriously act “uncool.”  Iris’s goofy attempt at poisoning herself with gas from her stove qualifies as one of these moments for me.

There has been a lot of talk over the past week about Miley Cyrus’s performance at the MTV VMA awards, and it has been funny to see many people’s reactions here on WordPress with the weekly writing challenge incorporating it as a guideline.  Most people don’t want to give any energy to the topic and the hype of this pop performance dilemma.  I totally understand it, as a person myself who has always rejected in some way through my own musical snobbery such mainstream musical gunk- which is why I have always related to the main characters in Almost Famous.

But I can’t help but notice that even those that don’t want to give any energy to the event still do by feeling the need to make their statement.  When I finally had a second to actually watch the video, I found myself laughing out loud- really.  Why?  Because here was a person engaged in one of those “low points,” one of those “uncool” moments where her immaturity outweighed whatever it was she was trying to do on that stage.  To me her performance was no different than a bunch of 13 year old awkward boys or girls having a sleep over acting outlandish about sex, a topic they don’t know anything about but want to be “cool.”

In my heart, I can’t help but be grateful that I now have enough wisdom to honor Cyrus’s process of growing up amidst all the labeling on this planet and the continuous blubbering over one concern to another regarding pop artists and what they are teaching our kids or what they say about our society as a whole.  In the end, we have to all own our “uncool” moments for what they are and love ourselves because there is nothing else left that is real but that love.  One day, I’m sure Ms. Cyrus will own her “uncool” also and be a person she herself can fully love rather than seek the hype surrounding celebrity marketing and drama.

I REMEMBER….

A Childhood Lesson on Life’s Fragility

Thank you Weekly Writing Challenge for drawing out from me another memory that framed the truth of perception for me.

A memory that really affected my perception of the world and its profound fragility came from a car accident I experienced in 4th grade.  It is weird how when you think about one memory, all of a sudden another memory pops up.  Our mind is like a tree, branching out.  One branch growing into another, so subtle and fluid.  Fourth grade was one of those years that really stood out for me with change.  The accident took place right after Christmas.  Me and my brothers were corralled into our family’s little white Toyota Tercel by my Mom to take a trip to the local mall in an effort to exchange some things.  It was a cloudy day and the roads were slick with drizzle from the winter sky.  It was the early 80s- no one had their seat belts on.

“We don’t remember days, we remember moments.”  Cesare Pavese

We lived in the woods of Virginia, so we traveled a lot on these curvy “back roads” as we called them with deep shoulders and no lines.  As we took one of those curves our car hit the shoulder on my side of the car, me in the passenger front seat and my 2 younger brothers in the back. As we hit the shoulder, I grabbed for the dashboard.  It was a futile effort to control a car that now had its own mission.

The only recollection I have “during” the accident was when my face planted into the very dashboard I reached for moments earlier.  I do know that we flipped once, and as we began to flip a second time we hit a telephone pole or power line and this positioned us back on our wheels in someone’s front yard.  I remember my Mother being very scared and crying- hitting the horn repeatedly to get anyone’s attention.  Finally someone passed by, pulled over and was running from house to house to find a phone to call 911.  This was also before cell phones.

drseuss_memories

I remember waiting on the grass in this stranger’s front yard that we passed so many times  for the ambulance.  My brother’s face was bleeding, but mostly I just remember my Mother being overwhelmingly distraught.  There were 2 strong, emotionally charged memories from that experience that I still carry with me.  One was of a kind EMT- I remember him telling jokes to draw out laughter from me and my brothers.  I’m sure they were just as scared as I was.

The other most vivid memory from this ordeal took place at the hospital.  I remember being alone in my little curtained cubicle in the ER, and crying.  My mouth hurt because it had a very big cut behind my bottom lip that needed a lot of stitches.  But also, I felt a lot of stress from being in that accident.  It was kind of like what people experience with PTSD.  I remember someone came in to look at my mouth and placated my crying with a “oh, you’re fine- no big deal- we’ll stitch you up and you’ll be out of here.”  She even laughed at me.  It was awful, and I will never forget that person’s lack of knowledge about the psychological impact of a car accident on a child.  I couldn’t get that image of my Mother out of my head, panicking and crying and yelling for help.  Saying over and over again, “my babies,” with anxiety and fear.

Most children are not fully aware of a world that “lacks control” around that age.  They are just learning- and to see your parent in all their humanity, who you always note to be a leader, a solid foundation in your life- not solid and genuinely scared- is a huge learning experience and really affects your perception of the world.  You are learning that everything is not always the way you think it is and all you thought to be safe and secure can change in the blink of an eye.

When I watched the film, The Impossible, I was very taken aback by the scene where the oldest son sees his mother physically falling apart and realizes for the first time how serious it was, and he didn’t know how to handle it.  She had to refocus him and force him to keep moving or else they would die.  I know my memory is nowhere near as traumatic as this was to that young boy- but in essence, it was very similar and it really affected me watching it.  I only hope that other children who experience similar things will be helped with more kindness and compassion.  Our physical world is very limiting- we never know what someone is feeling deeply inside- we are each a planet unto ourselves.

This is perception and the fragility of our perceptions creates valuable lessons for all of us.  I only hope that we can all continue to remember how sensitive the ego of a child truly is, and their inability to describe where their emotions may be coming from makes their ordeal more traumatizing than it can be for an adult.  With a little TLC, we can make a huge impact on someone’s life without understanding what is going on in their heart or head.  It’s funny. I remember the one person that did care and tried to help me and my brother’s anxieties, as well as the one other person that did nothing.  I learned so much from both of them!

Visualize This- Turning Yourself Inside Out

Each person we meet contains a part of our wholeness.  If you look at a picture of the earth from space- how do you perceive it?  It is luminescent, blue, white, brown- a glowing ball in the middle of space.  From afar you can’t tell that it literally contains everything we experience in our physical world every day- streets, cars, mountains, people, houses, trees, oceans, rivers, little flowers.  Yet every one of these things is a part of the earth’s wholeness.

In thinking about this picture of the earth from the viewpoint of outer space- look at others around you.  Think about your own existence.

How is each person in your life like the earth in this picture?

How much is contained and experienced in their life, that makes them who they are, that you simply can’t see with your naked eye?

Now look within.  Look at your own life and how much you have going on in it.  Everything you see and feel, they experience in their own heart and mind.  We are all a microcosm of the macrocosm.  Our perceptions are fragile, they are not who we are nor are they who the other person is…they serve as tools to navigate and learn.  The foundation of your being exists in what you can’t see from the outside, it is what you see from the inside- always affecting the whole.

“LET’S ROCK BIG LOVE!”™ Jessica
A celebration of our desire to love ourselves Big!

 

Monthly Peace Challenge- A Vision of Peace to Behold

How can a photograph inspire a purposeful perception?  How can a photograph inspire a new vision of peace for our world?

In September of 2004 I had the privilege of experiencing an amazing day in our Nation’s Capital- Washington DC.  I grew up in northern Virginia, and at the time was working downtown at a higher education non-profit.  I was a year out from a divorce and my life was finally settling while living in the District.  This one particular morning DC was abuzz with a slowly unfolding plot.  The opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian was about to take place and the “Gathering of the Nations” was about to open up a door to peace and beauty on the post-summer Mall rarely experienced there amidst its normal chaos of traffic and partisan politics.

A magical day of festivities was planned.  As I walked down the street to my office that morning, you could feel it coursing through your body like adrenaline only it was pure joy.  My heart felt like it could leap from my body.  Like a window was about to open to a new manifest destiny as the Nations took DC by storm.  Representatives, families from the entire Nations’ tribes were gathering in their ceremonial dress on 14th street, passing me by with a pride they have always deserved.  The Washington Post had posted a picture of a sunrise ceremony and blessing that took place next to the museum and you could already see the sunlight rehearsing for a show that would move my soul later that evening.

The beginning of the magnificent sunset on the Mall the day the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.
The beginning of the magnificent sunset on the Mall the day the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

An eclectic, free concert in the evening was planned featuring Lila Downs whose earthiness just exudes in the movement of her body and the sound of her voice.  As I walked down the Mall on the sunset’s cusp, I felt so grateful to be a part of this historic event.  As me and my friend waited for Lila Downs’ performance, the sky began to dance.  Soon it was like an explosion of light amplifying the energy of the day and illuminating life.  Every part of my being knew it was a result of this sacred energy that was brought to DC for this unique and uplifting occasion.

The 2nd stage of this magnificent sunset.
The 2nd stage of this magnificent sunset.

It was a peace that our own Nation’s Capital should strive for every moment- if not for themselves, but for the people of our country that have to endure the reality of our current economic plight every day.  In the Bloggers for Peace writing challenge this month we were supposed to write a letter, but really this is a short prayer and meditation on peace for not only the US and its government, but for all governments in our world.  I can only hope that the memory of this landmark event and the picture of its beauty prays in the earth of the DC Mall and emanates itself into the hearts of those visiting and those that live there.  A garden of tolerance and compassion is readying itself with a purpose.  In my heart I will continue to strive to project a vision of this peace to our world, slowly giving rise to perceptions that are rooted in awareness rather than ignorance.

What has this post inspired for you?  What new, purposeful perceptions about your present moment can you now use to create awareness in your life?  Please let me know!  I truly value your inspiration as we journey together.

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Character to Be Loved

Me and my grandmother, Gertrude Grzybowski, right before I moved to New Mexico.
Me and my grandmother, Gertrude Grzybowski, right before I moved to New Mexico.

When I noticed the Weekly Writing Challenge this morning, I was grateful, because when I thought of all the people I would like to write about at this time, it was my Grandmother.  Gertrude Grzybowski, daughter of Dziadek and Babcia Perkowski- I don’t really know their first names- just grandma and grandpa in Polish.  They were potato farmers from Poland with a farm on Long Island, New York. They had a legendary flower pot on their front lawn made from an old toilet- a piece of cultural history.

My Grandmother has been very sick, in her late 80s living at a nursing home and trying to find ways to enjoy the last moments of her life, as she felt sad and lost trying to adjust to a strange place she was forced to call home due to her ailing health.  One of her last enjoyable activities was buying necklaces made by other ladies in the nursing home and wearing them all at one time.  It wasn’t NY high-fashion and it drove my aunt crazy, but it made her happy.  As I pondered about how I would write about her quirky character that she played in this life, I received a phone call this afternoon that I had been waiting for without any knowledge of when it would come exactly.

In my heart, I wanted her to be free of this body that was weighing her spirit down, and causing her the inability to live as independently as she has enjoyed for so many years.  My only living grandparent, Gertie, died this afternoon peacefully after suffering a stroke almost a week ago.  As people’s bodies start to break down, you find yourself as an outsider trusting the natural process of passing from one reality to another, but it is hard to stay in the present moment with them at times because you are constantly wondering- will this be the day?  I feel in her own mind, she was wondering the same thing.

You never knew what was about to come out of Gertie’s mouth.  She might shout the funniest thing, like her phrase that came to be her own, “That guy’s a bumb!”   Or she might just talk about how tired she was, and how she felt really alone, as all of her friends passed away with each year. Life seemed more and more like a foreign country to her with each passing moment.  She was not always the nicest person, but I always thought of her as this funny character in a film, navigating through this life as if it were one thing after another.  She loved Poland, and as a kid we always gathered our outgrown clothes for my Grandmother to send to our family there that had nothing because of the “communists.”  We were told, “They didn’t even have real ice cream.”  “Their” ice cream was more like half frozen sweet milk, barely recognizable by us spoiled Americans.

She prayed her rosaries every morning over her stacks of prayer cards, and every Friday she cleaned the altar and pews at St. Hedwigs Catholic Church.  I remember going to the masses growing up when visiting New York where the legendary priest would talk so quickly that it was like listening to someone pretend they were saying a mass and forgot the words.  Even though I didn’t understand anything because he was saying it so quickly, and with a New York accent, I was more than happy to spend 15 minutes less in a mass on a Saturday night.  Her collection of ceramic nuns in her living room and plates of the Polish Pope John Paul hanging on her walls would dance to the sound of her attempt to whistle while she swept the floors every morning in her house coat.

My Grandmother didn’t make it easy for anyone as they grew up in her house.  I was fortunate to be a granddaughter in her life that was told on her 16th birthday, “sweet sixteen, and never been kissed” with a giggle following her attempt to tease me.  She grew up in a time that lacked emotional education, a time where there was war and great financial uncertainty, and even though there were dark times in the house where she brought up 6 kids, there was a certain light around her that I enjoyed, and I will be grateful for every day.  During her last lucid days in the hospital my mother said she overheard a conversation with a male orderly who struck up a conversation with her.  He asked her about being a nurse, as she was, and how many kids she had in this life.  She said 8, which was correct- 6 living and 2 stillborns.  You never know what experiences people have had in this life.  Underneath the surface, there is always something lingering in someone that may be causing them pain and cause their personality to become distorted.   But the one thing we can always be sure of, as I was with my grandmother, our Gertie, is that inside their heart there is a place that just wants to be loved.

And so, as I come together with those that knew Gertie in many different ways- from sister, to aunt, to mother and grandmother- I shall remember that all you wanted was to be loved, and I shall send you that love with the hope that you are joyful in your freedom from the human body and in a place of peace in your heart.  Thank you for saying “I love you, Jess,” and reminding me that life does go fast, and every now and then we just need to remember that we are all human and subject to the foibles of our mind- but it is not our true nature.  I am grateful for all I have in my life, including you, and will remember to try and see beyond personalities into the human desire to be loved when we do not know how to love ourselves.

In one of our last conversations you said to me, “We used to have fun, right Jess?”  Yes Grandma, we did have fun.

Creativity for Peace Program- Prepare to Be Amazed!

Image by: Creativity for Peace Israeli May Freed, Creativity for Peace Director Dottie Indyke, Palestinian Jwana Ghaleb
Image by: Creativity for Peace
Israeli May Freed, Creativity for Peace Director Dottie Indyke, Palestinian Jwana Ghaleb

I don’t know if you have this radio program available to you, but if you don’t- you should check it out online!  One of my favorite things to listen to, be inspired by, and just plain “cry” to is Peace Talks Radio.  Weeks ago as I was driving to work, they were featuring one of my most loved programs on this planet- Creativity for Peace.  “What is this savvy, amazing, peace instilling program that you speak of,” you may ask?

Well!

“Creativity for Peace includes a camp experience in the high desert of New Mexico for adolescent girls from all sides in the Middle East conflict.   At the annual camp, the girls speak their minds and hearts about their own suffering due to the hostilities.  Despite being taught to see the other as the enemy, they learn to get along and even be friends.  More importantly perhaps, they learn important lessons in conflict resolution.”

I am a huge proponent of teaching people to listen- deeply listen- to resolve conflict and create healing in their hearts from traumatic or abusive situations.  This program to me represents everything that can be accomplished in our world if we understand that words much of the time are just expressions of emotional release, and many times once they are expressed without  judgment or reacting, healing can take place for both parties.  Incorporating deep listening practices into your daily routine can be life changing- especially with those people that really know how to “yank your chain.”

This particular episode that I was listening to had two young girls, Palestinian Jwana Ghaleb and Israeli Jew May Freed, who have attended the camp and continue to work with it to help other girls resolve their inner conflicts due to the outer conflict of their cultural society, particularly between Palestinians and Israeli Jews.  Their stories will drive you to great heart opening experiences, and give you the opportunity to see where you may need some healing yourself.

To listen, CLICK HERE.

I Shall Not Hate- Dr. AbuelaishA long time ago, I heard an interview by a Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, MD, MPH, where he talked about the anguish he experienced in losing 3 of his daughters and a niece due to an Israeli shell that hit his home in Gaza.  Dr. Abuelaish served as a doctor in Israel, and had dedicated his life to serving those that many would call his enemies.  In response to his experience, he wrote a book called “I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey”.  What was amazing about his interview to me, besides how incredible his spirit is to have dedicated his life to peace after an experience that could have perpetuated hate and conflict, was learning that one of his daughters that died in the bombing had actually attended Creativity for Peace, here in New Mexico.

My inspiration today lives in all of those that see beyond their own inner conflict and anger, and reach out to the world to heal rather than perpetuate the ego’s delusion of separation.  Deep Listening is a practice that can be instilled in all of us- and if our children learned it at a young age, I feel we could change the world.  To me, it is a meditative exercise that connects us to the hearts of one another, rather than our mind which is full of belief systems and a desire to be argumentative.  I hope that you have time to listen to this radio show today, or check out Dr. Abuelaish’s book– or just think about someone that you might be angry with, and see them with compassion for their ignorance that may have caused you pain- or have compassion for yourself, which is so hard and difficult to do for many of us.

Give yourself a hug, by giving someone else a hug.  Happy Friday!