A Valentine Shoebox: how we belong to one another

As a kid, on Valentine’s Day I declare that I belong

My elementary school classmates and I were raised to include one another on Valentine’s Day. Without exception.  Any other day there were “popular” kids, “dumb” kids, and kids nobody wanted to be seen with on the playground. But on Valentine’s Day we shared a ritual. Each of us brought a shoe-box, decorated for the occasion, and clearly identified by name. The shoebox had a slit in the front or the top. And we each brought a Valentine addressed to every other classmate. Of course distinctions, meanings, and inferences were made. But the popular-dumb-kids-nobody-wants-to-be-seen-with dramas were muted.

There is one shoebox I remember vividly: I had covered it in a shiny gold wrapping paper and decorated it with red lacy paper hearts further adorned with cut-outs, perhaps from the Best and Company Catalogue or Good Housekeeping Magazine. I don’t remember what grade I was in or what I did or did not receive by the end of the school day.

When I unravel the significance of the memory, I can only say that somehow it stands for my 2nd or 3rd or 4th-grade declaration: 

I belong. And so do you, and you, and you….

Back then, Belonging was a holiday event. There were 364 other days of the year when it cost me to belong. Belonging meant Being Good, Being Quiet, Being Studious, avoiding my Mother’s Look. 364 other days full of exceptions of who was to be included and under what circumstances.

As an alleged grown-up, I want to foster belonging 

For family members, friends, strangers, colleagues, clients, teachers, students: I want to be a giver of Valentines every day, to slip something beautiful or appreciated or supportive into the shoebox of each life. To choose the right words or choose silence, at the right time. To act or to sit or to move this way or that way at the right moment. 

From family members, friends, strangers, colleagues, clients, teachers, students: I want to be a receiver of Valentines every day, to perceive the beauty, appreciation, or support that  is there. To see through “interruptions” and “delays” and “obstacles” and “the opportunities to do things over again.” To hear  truthful words I’d rather not hear and hear through them back to belonging.

Belonging is a healing Valentine for the 21st century epidemic of shattering events. 

Awakening or asleep, it is into one another’s  hearts that we slip messages daily.

We belong to one another.

Different and the same, particular and human, we belong to one another.

Including everyone. Everybody. Every body. Even as one binary after another softens and shows its glorious nuances, leaving us bereft of our fixed categories and stumbling over new words.

Belonging is the why and how we are here, in the world.

Belonging is the way we dignify one another’s human existence, and the Mother Earth beneath our feet.

You, and you, and you…and me.

We belong to one another and to the Big Wide World.

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Is there a situation you are struggling to include in your life? a difficult person?  Are you that difficult person, wrestling with yourself ? Does responding to the world feel like a duty or an intrusion?  Nondual healing can bring you to a new level of wholeness and freedom in your life, as you practice including more and more of who you are.  Schedule a 30-minute free consult. Let’s talk.

Stories to heal what ails me, what ails America

Life events, aka Reality, continuously weaves surprising plot twists and characters into my preferred story about my life. Pops or induces slow leaks in my inflated views of myself, nudging or hurtling me towards the Real. Deprives me of false hope and false comfort.  So it goes with America’s stories as well. Whose precious and difficult story are you willing to hear, bear, receive, and hold?

 

Sara’s story: the idealized and the real

In my preferred telling, the Main Character is selfless, empathic, honest, fair and equitable, and trustworthy. To claim these virtues as parts of myself is to claim some hard-earned wisdom. To claim that is the whole of who I am is to idealize myself, to leave aside my limitations and the work I have yet to do, to flatten myself into a paper doll. Because I also can and do fail to even consider another’s needs; steel myself against feeling another’s turmoil or suffering; deliberately ignore, skirt or disguise what I understand to be true; play God; fail to follow through on a commitment. I become a human, dimensional, interesting Protagonista when I invite all this into my story.

The problem is not that I have ideals and wisdom that I aspire to live into. Nor is the problem that I fall prey to quite human limitations. The actual difficulty is when I take a partial view of myself as the whole. Not a believable character, but one I maintain by default whenever I fail to notice what I am doing. Or when I take my story as Everyone Else’s Story.

 

Once I notice what I am doing, living into these questions helps me:

  • What story, whose story am I telling?
  • Who are the heroines, the allies, the enemies?
  • What drives the action?
  • Who and what am I leaving out, filling in, emphasizing, dismissing?
  • What pattern of my lineage or culture am I continuing to act out or react against?
  • How am I responsible, and how do I act on on that?

 

Reflection – Ask yourself

How do I appear in my own story?

Who and what am I including?

Who and what am I leaving out?

The shattering of an idealized America

We live in raucous times, pitting our stories against one another. Heroines, allies and enemies are shaped by where and when we were born, into what circumstances, with what skin color, with what religious belief, with what expectations, with what gifts and burdens of history – and countless other influences.

From all around and within us our many and varied stories resound with the thunderous cracks of shattered dreams, the heavy sighs of disappointed expectations, and piercing cries for justice. We are challenged to separate out the many actual injustices from the collapse of our idealized stories of ourselves – and most especially how our stories are supposed to end, our partial stories of others, and our partial versions of America itself.

To draw on Khalil Gibran’s potent words – we are in an agony of pain as the shells that enclose our understanding, our precious and difficult stories, break one after another. Until such time as we each, in our own way, are willing to hold the pain of one another’s stories, even the pain of someone who we have written in as an enemy in our  own.

CHALLENGE: Whose precious and difficult story are you willing to hear, bear, receive, and hold?

How big a story treasury are you willing to risk becoming?


Banner photo: Lend a Hand, acrylic by Linda Carmel, Hillsborough Gallery Of Arts, Hillsborough, North Carolina