Day 17

Yesterday was good.  The day before was good.  It was a welcome change to the pattern of this emotional roller coaster that has insisted on one good day followed by one bad one.  And I admit, I got excited.  Two days in a row made me think, “Randy, you got this now; it’s all smooth sailing and good feelings from here on out!” But this is also not my first time around this ride, and I knew that today could either go really well or really poorly.

Today was neither.  Today had no simple adjective to qualify it.  Today was an adjective that I don’t know.  I’m not yet the writer that knows how to describe today in a single word, and word play and funny anecdotes and light-hearted drawings feel wrong tonight.  It would take away from the reverence of this day.  So maybe that’s the word – this day had reverence, or created reverence.  I don’t know.  But I apologize if this post is rambling, or unfunny, or unentertaining.  Today was personal and important in a way that the words and the telling don’t mean as much.

Exercise

I got up this morning and ran.  It was hard and I was cursing people and hills, but it felt great after it was all over.  The schedule change is still tough, and I was not at my most productive at work and struggled with being tired.  It wasn’t a terrible tired, though, and I think it’s something that might go away with enough practice.  I’m trying it again tomorrow.  Nay, I’m “doing” it again tomorrow.

Meditation

Meditated for 20 minutes.  I returned to focusing on breath today instead of a guided meditation.  In the spirit of not being able to describe things, this particular task is changing things in a way I can’t really put into accurate words.  Something is happening in the way I choose to see the world, “choose” being the operative word there.  Meditation is opening up the possibility of choice.  I can choose my perspective.  I can choose where I focus.  I can choose my response.  I think that’s why I’ve been having so many lucid dreams—perspective is up to me.  But it’s deeper than that.  Ugh, I suck at this tonight.

Random act of kindness

Here’s the meat of today, which is ironic because it involved a vegetarian sandwich (sorry, spirit-of-austerity, I’m a writer; I like playing with words).  I went to get my favorite salad today, and they had mozzarella sandwiches for $3.75.  So I got one for a “as of yet unidentified homeless person” and put the change from the $5 bill inside the bag with the sandwich.  I walked outside looking for someone to give it to, determined, knowing that I had this task to complete, and I saw a man in his sixties sitting in a wheelchair outside a bus stop, covered in dirt and bewilderment in a way that I could judge him as “needy.”  I walked up to him and asked, “Are you hungry?”  He looked surprised and nodded so I gave him the bag with the sandwich, not mentioning the money inside.  His eyes started to water, and before I could look away, he was full on sobbing.  Like an idiot, I asked him the dumbest question you could ever ask a homeless person in a wheelchair, “What’s wrong?”  I wanted to kick myself hard, and then he replied, “I didn’t think anyone saw me today.”  I’ve been a weepy, crybaby mess since then.

I’ve been trying to break down why I’m reacting to this in such a strong way.  Something in me profoundly shifted.  “Me.”  That word rings so wrong here, and that’s what I think shifted.  I’ve been approaching this task as a task.  Yes, there have been realizations, yes, it’s changed perspective on all kinds of things, but the “me” and the “I” in this has always been the root.  “This is work that will help ‘me’ not be so depressed.  ‘I’ have to do something kind for someone, and it makes ‘me’ feel like this.”

Today, this task started out with the “me” but it ended up about being about him and his need to simply be seen.  I judged the man as homeless, as hungry and needing food, and all of that may be true, but he and they, the beneficiaries of my acts of kindness, have been “other” to me for the most part.  He was grateful for the sandwich, but being seen was what he responded to.  I have that need—as evidenced by my public display of my war on depression.  Him and me are the same.  “We” are human.  “We” need to be seen.  “We” are connected.  “We” have the same basic needs.  This had nothing to do with me and everything to do with we.  And I think that’s the thing that’s made me weepy–I’m feeling for us both.

I’m not really a self-help kind of guy.  I’ve read a few books, I’ve dabbled a bit in Hinduism, but it’s all been from a more academic, philosophical perspective.  Concepts like “connectedness” and “universal oneness” made sense in theory, sounded great, could totally get behind that idea.  Today was not thought; today I experienced it.  Today I understood that this one is not a task, it’s a way in.  It’s a way into understanding that you are not petty or insignificant.  That he is not petty or insignificant.  That your soul holes are the same.  Our needs are the same, and this work should be done to honor the “we.”  It’s not about looking for opportunities for kindness, that’s just the surface of it.  The task in its essence is leading to something bigger than you and taking you to a place where you can be truly, authentically, and connectedly kind.

So I will now officially stop referring to this task as a task.  This one is not work, nor should it be seen as such.  This one is a vehicle to learning that you are not other.  That he is not other.  A switch was flipped today, much like a switch that flipped around meditation a week ago.  I understand this particular aspect of the work differently.  I will continue to report on this one because that’s the pact I’ve made, but know that this one caught today, and it’s changed everything.

Reflect on something good that happened

I came one step closer to experiencing humanity today.  I do not mean to pat myself on the back about this, only to express that my ego took a much-needed blow and took the “me” out of kindness.  I am human and the “me” may return, but today is a branded memory on my soul hole.

3 things I’m grateful for:

1)   That we were both seen today

2)   My friend Timothy who can make me feel amused and challenged at the same time

3)   Moments when common clichés change from someone else’s words to the only thing that can describe the crazy thing that just happened

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29 comments

  1. Jennifer

    I am speechless. Your growth over this short period of time is simply miraculous! I’m sure your MawMaw is smiling down at you. XO

  2. knoon

    i beg to differ with your assessment that you “suck at this tonight.” this is perhaps the most profound post of your experiment and far from being inarticulate, i think you nailed it right on the head. i’ve recently had similar experiences working shifts with SAS over the past few months. their clients are not unlike the guy you saw so clearly today — they’re the people who most people’s eyes reflexively dismiss and avoid. it’s a peculiar trick of ocular elision that not only robs other people of their humanity, but us of our recognition of our own connection to their humanity. it’s a horrible thing for all parties involved and yet we do it all the time. i invite you to volunteer on a shift at one of the needle exchange sites. for me it has been a humbling, humanizing, and heart-opening experience, much like what you described tonight. i find myself looking at the folks on stevenson or on 6th street now and seeing them and noting that they’re not so different from me after all. it’s been a lesson in compassion and connection and i’m psyched that you’re learning a similar lesson. bravo! your narration of this experience adds a grace note to my days and i’m happy to be watching this unfold.

  3. Kris

    I’m not one to get all emotional, and definitely not one to post comments to a stranger, but today you moved me. Whether you realize it or not your entire journey has pulled ‘we’ or ‘us’ along with you . ..connecting with so many…helping others see they are not alone. Thank you and keep up the fantastic work not only to help yourself….but many.

  4. Pamela

    I’m reading this while standing in line for traffic court and I’m just trying to hold the sobs in. This IS the work and its amazing work. No bad guys and no good guys. Just us.

  5. Carol Harlig

    It’s so amazing to watch your transformation, Randy, and to read your beautiful words. Each day I eagerly look forward to opening my email to see what you accomplished or what insights were revealed to you. Today’s blog left me speechless.

  6. dianejwright

    And now you’re one step towards being a better writer as well. Stories, at their core, speak to the interwoven needs of all humanity. When writing taps into that, it’s talent. When a writer taps into that, it’s storytelling. Congratulations on taking the leap.

    Also, the need to be seen and the belief that you’re not good enough are deeply important to recognize. Here’s a little trick:

    1 – Pay attention when you hear those messages,
    2 – Mine for the memory of the event from which each originates,
    3 – Name how you were feeling at the time,
    4 – Understand the past situation from your current perspective (noting especially how emotional abuse is all about the abuser and little to do with the abused — none of it had anything to do with the actual person who is Randy)
    5 – Heal yourself with new, more loving messages.

    Repeat. In time, you will develop detours around the ruts that are negative self-perceptions so that one day, you’ll hear the awful self-hating message and you’ll stop yourself from believing it. I know, magic. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re in it for life now. And you’re winning just by playing the game.
    Big love to you always,
    djw

  7. Susie Dalton

    This is beautiful, Randy. It is such a profound need for every one of us to been truly seen in our lives, and your words today made me cry from my own deep place where that need lives and the beauty of reading that you gave someone that most vital gift. You are bringing so much to my world through your honesty and openness in this work. Much love to you.

  8. Jennifer

    Came across this this morning and thought I’d share it….

    “Meditation is not to escape from society, but to come back to ourselves and see what is going on. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. With mindfulness, we know what to do and what not to do to help.”

    ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

  9. Tony Sacco Jr.

    Great post, indeed!… Your discussion of meditation and then the random act of kindness reminded me of something that was taught at the Zen Center as a central idea about practicing meditation. One of the chants talks about “just sitting” (or just practicing zazen/meditation), but also that the Practice (“P”) is about the “We”. Many of the chants in Zen practice suggest that “Practicing” in the world, the way you are, (meditation as well as outlook and deeds etc…) is for the purpose of “saving all beings”. So, thanks, man! 😉 ps…hope this made sense!

  10. Tauma

    I listened to you telling this story on The One You Feed podcast. I have some heavier-than-normal stuff I’m dealing with and have been a bit emotionally frozen as of late. I burst into tears the second you finished “I didn’t think anyone saw me today.” I felt connected and moved… and also all the bs that is petty fell to the bottom of my Shit I’m Dealing With list. It reminds me that everything I say and do to reach out to another human matters. A smile in the elevator or a “I like your shirt” could be like giving a shot of healing elixir to that person. Here, have a shot of Life, and I’ll have one too! Cheers!

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