Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The signs we are

My brain is not awake and yet I am writing. I had the oddest thought this morning when I woke up. I saw or imagined myself standing at the light of a busy intersection in my city, as panhandlers and the homeless often do, holding a sign that stated, "I do not need anything from you. I only wanted to know what it feels like to be ignored, to be invisible, to be the guy that you avoid eye contact with. I am a person. Look at me if you realize this."

That got me to thinking just now of all the people that see me everyday, who know my face, who inhabit my pattern of life, who see me as part of their pattern and yet do not see me. I know that I see them. I am always looking at everyone, all the time. I wonder about them and who they are. Do they wonder about me? Do they muse to themselves who all of these different people are, as I do?

I go to my coffee shop just about every day, when my life and schedule permits it. It is hard to believe that it has been a part of my life in this city since I turned 16 years old and started to drive. It really was my first window into an unknown world of strangers. Each time I have moved away, I have missed that place, not only for the coffee and time spent there, but for the emotional lodestone that it has continued to be in my life. A part of my pattern if you will. I can distinctly remember watching the sunrise over the ocean on immensely difficult mornings in the Navy and hoping, wishing I could think myself back there, back to home if only I thought long and hard enough about it. Each time I tried it never worked but then one day in 2006, while watching the sunrise I realized I was there. I was here. I was back home.

There are times in my life when it is full of people. Different groups I have been in, circles of friends, people who have made my daily existence rich with their presence and there are other times when I am rather solitary. Some years I have lived my life reaching out and letting others in and other seasons I withdraw back into myself and tend to keep my own company. I like seeing people. I do like knowing them but rarely have I ever let them know much of me.

The facts of my life are always rather easy to share with others. What I have done, where I have been, the choices I have made and the experiences I have had, that is the simple part. The emotions and feelings behind all those collections of days, now that is a matter altogether different. There lies the rub. Letting others into that space, to know how I feel and ponder is a small circle indeed and usually only inhabited by one person at a time. No one lives with me right there. This seems to be a season of walking alone.

I don't mind my own company but I do miss sharing. People come and go out of my life. Usually, for whatever reason they all eventually fade. I seem to have perfected the art of traveling, of moving on, even when I am standing still.

What does all this mean? I have no idea really. I know that I am not invisible. I realize that people see me. When I look up from whatever is occupying my mind and eyes, I see them, seeing me. I still cannot help but wonder why they don't say something to me. If I caught their attention enough to look, look back and continue to look, then why the silence of words? Another question is, when I look and see them seeing me, why do I not say something. The lack of connection lies with us both. What would happen if I start talking to them instead of merely being present. Would it interrupt our lives? Would it shake and disorder the entire pattern? Would they have anything to say? Could they finally ask the questions that I see on their faces? Being known. It has its own worries.

I will not make that sign. There will be no time spent standing holding it at some intersection as my city and world passes me by. I have no need of a poster with words scrawled on it. I am the poster. The words are on my face and body. Who sees me? I see other people. Maybe the answer is in a smile, a simple hello. Maybe it is time to start looking past the words on their own signs and faces and start intersecting with them. Intentionally touching lives. That could be a way to live. It may just change things. It always has in the past.


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