What Appears To Be
I just watched a video produced by Project KIND. It’s a series of photos, from an event* that I participated in, synched to music. At the end of the video, in big letters, it reminded, “Homeless” is not my name.
So often, we look at someone and form a judgement. Whether it’s negative or positive, it’s still a judgement. We label and compartmentalize people, putting them into categories, and then treat them as if they are what we believe them to be.
Working with people who do deep personal work, I learn a lot about them. In order to heal, they need to peel back the layers and often, I am there to witness the unfolding. I have met people who have been addicts, who have been raped, people who have kept big secrets, who live with anxiety and depression. I have met people who were suicidal, who are struggling in their marriages, or estranged from their families. And here’s what it is: struggles are common, and people often don’t wear their worries on their sleeves.
I’ve seen this quote, about a thousand times now, and it has been attributed to everyone from Plato to Ian MacLaren, which states:
”Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
I can tell you that I know it to be true. Someone may look put together, have a fancy car, a nice house and, in the meantime, their entire world is caving in. Or maybe they look rebellious, but under that tough exterior is a mound of vulnerability and pain. People can be pushy, obnoxious, controlling, and inside they are just terrified. We don’t know. Whatever the case, it’s important to really always be kind, and also to support ourselves in the process.
Sometimes, being kind means walking away. Sending love as you let go. When people hurt or abuse you, you should love yourself enough to walk away. Sending healing energy to them, praying that they find peace, and releasing their energy. Being kind doesn’t mean being available, being accepting, or letting yourself step into the line of fire. It just means having compassion.
No one is immune. I’ve struggled with anxiety, for years and years, thinking there was no end in sight. Xanax became my rock — it always got me through. I was in a long-term relationship with someone who was gaslighting me, and it took me two years of therapy (and lots and lots of tears) to leave. I have felt deep pain over things happening to others, and couldn’t detach from empathizing. It would take days, sometimes weeks, for me to come back to myself. I lost friends, lots of them, because I was too anxious to be in a friendship, or I didn’t know how to put up boundaries. I’ve been the victim of men who encroached my boundaries, and they did so knowing that I was too afraid to speak up. Therapy healed my mind, but my body still knew all the hurt and injury. All the things that happened to me, all the messages that were pushed onto me (without my permission), took up space and energy in my body. In order to heal, I had to move it out.
Working through the pain is the only way to heal it. Breathwork made it easy. The breath took me for a ride, each time allowing me to heal a broken part. I no longer need Xanax. I trust my intuition. I continue to breathe; I continue to heal. Healing feels good.
Back to the video and the quote about the homeless… who are the homeless? It’s easy to marginalize them in our minds, so that we can walk past them on the street and not cry or give them money, food, or a listening ear. In my beloved city of Charleston, people get fined for giving money to the homeless. FINED. While I love that beautiful city so much, this law really breaks my heart. (Give anyway, get the ticket.) But really, who are they?
They are individuals, as unique and worthy of love as each of us are. They have names, stories, families. When I met them, I got to talking to them and found myself gravitating to some more than others. You know why? Because sometimes we make better human connections with some people than with others. The fact that they are homeless doesn’t make that any different.
Note this moment. Take a minute to really pay attention. Create encouraging messages to remind yourself to be gentle with people. All people. The mean ones are probably masking a lot of pain. The perfect ones are probably hiding a lot of fear, or the messy parts of their lives. Usually, those who are showing up messy, unconcerned, even a little boggled, THEY are probably the ones walking the path to self-love. But you never really know. So go easy, and approach all situations with compassion.
Most importantly, start sending some love inside, to you. Love the parts that you want to judge, love the parts that feel ugly, and have deep compassion for the path that you are walking at this moment.
*Project KIND and the NY Giants hosted a special event called Worthy of Love Fest, inviting two busloads full of people (who are currently experiencing homelessness) in for special treatments, including lunch in the Coaches Club, hair cuts, facials, manicures, massages, and meditation and movement. I was blessed to host the meditation and movement classes. Please watch the video, consider donating or helping out, and join me on November 17th for a day of wellness called Give + Be Grateful to benefit Project KIND.