I was recently on my way to eat dinner in the park with my family and I came across a young woman crying as she sat on the sidewalk. Her legs were crossed and her back hunched as she sobbed.
So often when I see something uncommon or perhaps even uncomfortable in public, my first instinct is to distance myself, but on this particular evening something inside told me to go toward her instead.
I cautiously slowed my pace and gently approached her.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
She looked up, squinting a bit from the light of the setting sun, eyes streaming with tears.
Before she could even answer, my eyes immediately began to swell with tears too. Without one ounce of information my heart ached with vicarious pain simply by witnessing her tender sadness.
“It’s just been a really tough day,” she mustered in between straining for breath.
“I’m so sorry you’re having a hard day,” I choked, the tears making it hard to fully get my words out, “it’s especially hard when the world is also so tough these days…”
“It is. It really is,” she nodded. “I appreciate you stopping though.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“I don’t think so, but thank you for stopping, it really means a lot.”
It was a brief encounter.
Likely I will never see this woman again, and yet her face is etched in my mind. How young and innocent she looked. How heartbroken she seemed. How heavy it all appeared on her shoulders.
When I rejoined my family, my daughter had already taken off her shoes and her pants. She was running wildly through the grass and laughing hysterically for no apparent reason other than the sheer joy of having found herself in this new setting.
The sunlight beamed through her face illuminating the deep blue of her eyes.
“Mama, mama!” She screamed, running toward me with glee and then promptly tackling me with a hug.
My eyes, still wet with tears, had me soft and receptive, present and awake.
Here it is, I thought: the full spectrum of being human.
The joy and the suffering. The levity and the weight. The freedom and the burden.
It’s all right here.
Things are heightened dear one. The expansion and the contraction. The light and the dark. The acceptance and the rejection.
It doesn’t seem like things will be getting any less vivid anytime soon, nor any less complicated.
And so…my questions for you to consider, either through contemplation or writing:
- What parts of the spectrum are you resisting? How might life feel different if you resisted a little less?
- In the face of the whole, what is undeniably most important to you? How can you concretely honor that which is most important just a little more?
As always, I’m sending my heartfelt care and strength to you as you navigate the waters of being human in a complex world.