I was walking my dog yesterday and was happily in my own zone–enjoying the sunshine and silence. When, all of a sudden, a car made a left into the gas station I was passing and nearly hit me! As the driver passed me, I looked in her car window and when she noticed me, she had a look of surprise mixed with terror in her eyes, and she mouthed “sorry”.
She must not have seen me, but how is that possible? I’m right here on an open sidewalk in the bright sunshine. Am I that invisible?
I continued on my walk, still a bit stunned, and tried not to fill my mind with unkind expletives, and I was reminded of an incident that very morning in my own kitchen…one of my children had been trying to communicate something to me, and I was distracted and didn’t really hear or connect to the depth of her feelings. I had not seen her. And I realized that I was not so different from the driver.
We all want to be seen, but do we make the effort to see others? In an excerpt from one of her poems Mary Oliver beautifully writes, “There are things you can’t reach. But you can reach out to them, and all day long. The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of God. And it can keep you busy as anything else, and happier. I look; morning to night I am never done looking. Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around, as though with your arms open.”
So my new mantra has become “I see you”. I try to say it when my husband comes home from work, when my kids come home from school, when I’m at the grocery store or when I am in the car. There is a story behind the eyes of every being we encounter. I can’t possibly know every story, but I can acknowledge each being, and I can open my eyes and ears and arms to the stories, the pain, the hopes and desires. I can listen without judgment and give space. And, I find that the more I focus on giving that space to others, the less I worry about carving out my own space. It just happens, organically. So, Mary Oliver, I’m with you; I’m looking around with my arms open.