Different From Another


Remember the good old show “Sesame Street”–and the one skit where they did “this thing is different from another” and you had to figure out what it was? It had a little jingle too to engage the kids, just like all the wonderful things on that show!

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Well, I feel I have been that ‘different thing’ my whole life. For as long as I can recall, I’ve always been the odd kid out, the one that did everything against the grain. As a youth, this of course often frustrated (or angered) the adults in charge around me. As an adult it leaves me, at times, like the bright berry surrounded by the melding colors of those around me.

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I’m not sure where this part of me comes from: maybe the lonely heart of an adoptee looking to be seen by those passing by. Or maybe this is just who I would have been anyway: the stray, wandering off from the pack to march to my own drum.

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Having been a vegetarian, long before it was fashionable, I got looks from waitresses when I would question what was in the soup stock. And I brought bags to pack my groceries before Whole Foods gave you money for it–back then the baggers just got annoyed and huffed and puffed as though you were putting them out. Now I’m a hero!

For years I’ve embarrassed my kids with my ‘behaviors’, being too out there (I don’t see it as such)–maybe talking to strangers or how passionate I am. I just have never seemed to be able to melt into a crowd.

Belonging certainly has been something I have wanted: that symbiotic need where I would get out the desired sense of feeling a part, but I’ve never been willing to give up my identity.

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Today, in this massively diverse world, belonging seems to create a strange new need. While I may have felt hurt or sadness, I never felt drawn to violence over people leaving me out. In fact, it either made me try harder to be kind–or made me tuck into myself more.

It never made me lose my sense of self, my ideals or values. Over the years, they have gotten stronger while my mouth has gotten softer in expressing them.

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We should all be acknowledged for the special and beautiful person we are, whether or not we are different from the next person.  This can be very hard in these tumultuous and changing times. But there is room for growth and two different types of people can understand one another given patience and remaining open.

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So I still stand out in a crowd and am proud, not sad, that I’m unique. It would never suit me to follow the masses. Rather I want to be hanging on where I’m not supposed to, saying what I really feel and always being true to my heart.

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Too Small


Inspired by the movie “The Woman In Gold,” I have begun to read the book titled “The Lady In Gold,” by Anne-Marie O’Connor. It is about a famous painting by the Viennese artist Klimt which was stolen during the Nazi invasion of Vienna by Hitler, along with many other Jewish treasures and artwork.

The book goes into much detail about the horrors of that time and it has hung heavy on my heart. And I realize, though, it seems not much different from today.

When I woke up this morning, after having dreams about German invasions of a hospital (because of my new job offer at a hospital I suppose), I turned on the radio and heard about the San Bernardino shooting.

My early walk had already been filled with thoughts of what a violent species we were, and questions about why this was so. And here it was yet again! More death, more unnecessary bloodshed.

NPR was profiling the current types of people who do these sorts of things: the outcasts, the unhappy childhood, the ones that feel separate or not a part or who have been rejected. This was even Hitler! It’s shocking. But what makes that one person turn on their fellow human and decide to harm them–sometimes en masse?

Sometimes this person is so extreme in their behavior they are able to recruit others–even change a nation to be brutal! Slavery of any kind is also a kindred kind of violence unleashed upon others and is filled with superiority and hatred.

In looking through history, what little I know of it, it seems that many indigenous people did not act in these types of ways. There may have been some tribal fighting, but the random ethnic cleansing due to insecure and hateful personalities of individuals seems to be missing.

I often wonder if we are mutating to possess some gene that carries this violence within us. I pray we do not. There are days I fear turning on the radio and simply feel numb when I hear about more dead.

How do we stop this march? How do we make these people feel more a part? Can you start to sense when someone might do a heinous thing and help them see it is not the answer? Are we all simply lost?

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Maybe work places need to provide more time for employees to meet, gather and really talk. And make sure everyone’s mental health is stable. We need to really start caring about one another: our co-workers, neighbors, family members–even people you just meet in the street.

Because if we all are going to live in this volatile world together, then we are each responsible for the action of another. The earth is getting too small to believe otherwise!

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Poem: Too Far Gone


When I was watching the Twilight Zone the other night

And Rod’s liquid voice

The episode with three motorcycle aliens trying to take over earth

Mostly because of how awful we are

How violent and hateful

Destroying our planet

These dudes were going to poison the water

So their race could inherit the earth

All this in black and white

A long time ago

Before terror struck

And the only pain suffered in a marathon was at the 20 mile mark

Where you could go into a kosher deli to buy a bagel

And come out alive

Or go to first grade and not be shot

Or take the elevator to work

And not leave by jumping out a window because a plane flew into the building

When people could have magazines or tell jokes without fear of

Losing their life

Were these aliens right?

Are they here now and see what we do?

I see what we do and wonder

Do we deserve this planet?

Some days crippled by what I hear

Stopping in my tracks

Because all I can do is weep

There was one alien that met a girl

She was good

He tried to tell the home ship that some humans were

But they wouldn’t believe

We were too far gone they said

Too many were bad

Are they right?

 

Yet Again: Schools Under Attack


Today I pondered what my post might be when I looked at my computer and saw the news. Yet again an attack at a school, and by a student. As I clicked through the photos, I was struck by how familiar they are becoming these days! It’s like they could be taken and used for the same event. The ones of parent and child huddled close after the event leaving the tragic scene. A lone onlooker/student standing holding a phone ready to call someone or just rung off a call. Ambulances lined up in front of a school that holds in its belly the bloody bodies. School buses lined up too early for the kids to take them to an appointed safe area. Firefighters, police and EMT’s swarming a place they just don’t belong. And aerial shots of a local high school or elementary school in some small town USA.

I grew up in New York City. I took the subway to my public school. I was a white kid in a primarily non-white school. We had stuff in our school: cherry bombs, fist fights, kids making out in the hallways, smoking. Girls used to stick pins in my butt walking up the stairwell on the way to class. I even got into a fist fight with a kid in a class once. But I don’t ever recall this kind of violence. Not so pervasive, so recurrent, so callous and so vicious. It’s hard for me to understand.

There are many theories: the computer and access to the internet; the lack of family control; the growing mental instability; the lessening of social ties. I’m no psychologist, so I don’t venture to guess why this is happening. I only know it pains me to see. To know that parents cannot find a safe haven sending their children to school is almost incomprehensible to me.

Recently I read home schooling was on the rise. I used to feel completely against this form of teaching, that it gave the kids an unfair social disadvantage. But now…I’m not so sure. Just from a safety point of view, I think I might understand! If we can’t figure out how to keep our children safe in schools, why would anyone want to send them there? But we don’t want them prisons either.

And this is where it becomes just so sad. Part of learning now has to be how to protect yourself from a potential attacker, knowing it could be a fellow student. Does this breed mistrust, or does it build self-confidence and awareness? This is the world in which we now live, and this is a pathetic reality. We can’t just pretend it isn’t. But we don’t have to like it.

Bring me back to the days when kids played in the streets or woods and not on their computers all day. Where a healthy dose of sunshine beat out iPads and texting. If you were outside all day, then maybe the TV you saw was minimal and didn’t involve seeing endless violence over and over. The time when children had decent role models. Not ones that shoot each other and seem to be made into icons by their media, slowly tempting their underdeveloped brains into mimicking that destructive behavior. The days where families spent real time together, when everyone wasn’t running in 20 different directions busy with their own thing.   Ah those days are mostly gone!

But one thing we can do is: give money to our schools so they aren’t crowded and teachers aren’t pressured. Then teachers can help us teach our children properly. Because remember this: Our children will be inheriting this earth when we are gone!

 

Butterfly Wings


Recently my youngest daughter said to me, “Mom, you cry at almost anything now-a-days,” in reference to me getting teary about some news story on public radio. It certainly may seem that way to her, but in thinking back on this phenomena, I have always been very emotional about stories I hear (whether real or fiction), personal accounts of people’s woes or a lovely moment in time.

In thinking of maybe why this is I’ve decided that I attribute it to my empathetic nature when it comes to others or any living thing. Even as a young child, I recall not being able to watch the show “Lassie” without much difficulty because of all the traumatic events that she went through. Although I knew good always seemed to prevail, I couldn’t bring myself to get through the tough spots without suffering too much. Same with Bambi and Black Beauty.

These sorts of things are probably what drove me to become a vegetarian at a fairly young age and then finally a paramedic. I find in my job it is often tricky to separate myself from my human and professional side–something we are taught to do. But I also feel this is part of my special gift as a medic. I’ve never been the smartest medic with all the book answers at the tip of my fingers, but I have never hesitated to hold a hand, cry with a patient or kiss someone goodbye.

Sometimes it can be a heavy burden to be an empathetic person–especially in the world in which we live.  It feels like there is more fear, sadness, hate, violence and crime. With easy access to information, news of everyone’s troubles abound. And I hear it all, take it all in and am sometimes overwhelmingly pained by it all. I find myself stopping dead at what I am doing and just cry many moments of my day.

Of course, the same can be said for joy! A happy tale brings me warmth in my soul also–even if it’s from half way around the world. Stories of peace, kindness, hope and giving all bring those tears that make you wonder what exactly are tears meant to do? Why do we cry anyway? And yes, now I let myself feel even more deeply than I ever have and I’m never afraid to let others see it. My youngest saw my tears again today when we watched the old home baby videos. They were tears of remembering, regret, love, hope and seeing a moment captured in time that faded into unfulfilled dreams.

So while being who I am, empathetic–feeling the pain, sorrow, joys and hopes of others can often be a big task, it’s one I feel I was made carry out. It was who I born to be. Being an emotional, feeling person was always and will always be who I am. There is no changing how I feel and I am happy that I am one that can tune into others and help them when I’m close and send them my long distance energy when I’m far away. Because as they say: “the flutter of a butterfly’s wings can cause a hurricane on the other side of the world.”  Maybe me caring is somehow reaching people all over the planet.