Monday, June 1, 2015

Local Connection Opens Global Connection

Soon after I began The World in My Backyard project, I realized meeting new people for the project was providing me with more insight into life than just learning about world cultures, life journeys and Seattleites.  The connections began impacting myself and my family.  We were creating friendships with people outside of our "everyday" world, having new and exciting experiences in our city that we never could have anticipated or realized on our own.  The connections opened doors to new experiences in Seattle and ultimately other parts of the world.

After spending a few hours interviewing Harold Brandford, I was taken by his openness and approach to life.  I felt a kinship with him even though our backgrounds and age were different.  A friendship formed over a few meetings.  Conversations were shared about his upbringing in Barbados and the beauty of the island.  Because of Harold, my husband and I decided to use our travel miles and explore the birthplace of our new friend.  Because of the stories he had shared, I was motivated to see the places that impacted his life.  

Although we didn't have Harold with us as a tour guide, the stories and memories he had shared about his upbringing in Barbados provided us with a different vantage point to explore the island country.
We visited the home his father built
The door knocker still displayed his family name.
We visited the high school he shared so many memories of and when we strolled the grounds while the school was on Easter break.

We met a young man who, although he could have been home resting, chose to sit on campus and study for upcoming exams.  He was a year away from graduating with aspirations to go to medical school one day...I felt like I was transported back in time for just a moment and meeting Harold on campus in his youth.

We thought about Harold growing up coming to the fish market for the local catch.

During my initial meeting with Harold, he shared with me his first experience flying to New York at the age of 12.  "it was pretty amazing.  The airport in Barbados is really small.  This sounds really sad, but going to the airport on a Saturday afternoon and watching planes come an go was entertainment...that's was lots of people did.  There wasn't much to do on the island, so you would watch planes take off and land..."
We were amazed to discover, as we were driving past the airport one afternoon, that this pastime still remained 50 years later.  A long line of cars were parked along the fence line of the airstrip.  We decided to park and check it out.

We met this beautiful, vivacious man who listened to the flight deck & pilot interchange as planes were coming in for landing or taking off via a handheld radio.
 He was so excited to share with us all that he learned from listening and watching.   He spent hours upon hours with his family parked along the fence line.  He shared he was a surfing guide and rented cars to tourists, but his goal was to one day become an air traffic controller. He let my boys listen.  We were all enthralled by the coming and going of the planes...his passion for planes was infectious. 

Having the hometown connection with Harold changed our experience of exploring a country.
I never know where new connections will lead me, what  I will learn about myself, my neighbor or the world I live in.  What I do know is creating new connections has made my journey in life so much richer and I am grateful to others who are willing to open up their world to me!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Meant to Be

Almost everyday since shifting my mind to move forward, there have been crazy, weird serendipitous connections or happenings. Nothing tangible or deeply meaningful
 if I were to explain each occurrence, but strangely they felt like constant reminders that I am moving in the right direction & meant to be exactly where I am at that moment. Every day I have woken thinking the random things for sure has to end, but every single day something has happened. And then yesterday I got smacked upside the head with one and now I am going to stop thinking it is just accidental. 
I know everyone thinks I talk to strangers all of the time. I really don't. I don't leave my house looking for a new connection, they just happen. Yesterday was a perfect example. I was working in my office most of the day. I then took my son and his friend to 
to scooter & run around at Jefferson Park while I ran the circumference of the park. When I finished my run, I did go to the car to get my camera...just in case. I sat down on a bench next to the skate park for 5 minutes. Directly across from me was a guy who had his back to me, but the way he was sitting on the step was so relaxed and for some reason I felt like I could talk to him. I really do not approach strangers very often without a reason, but this time, something about his posture made me feel like I should say hi and see what his story I gathered my courage to feel strange as I approached. I said "hi" and learned that he was watching his son scooter too. I heard an accent in his voice and then the conversation turned to where he was from...The Gambia. We talked for a few minutes about Africa and his arrival in the States 24 years ago.  I decide to ask him if I could photograph him and have him be a part of WIMBY. He agreed and we exchanged names before I snapped a few pics. When he heard my name he said, "Tara? Did you say Tara?" Yes, I told him that was correct. "I have your name tattooed on arm..." WHAT??  My name is not that common and even when I meet another person with the same name, the spelling is often different.  He takes off his coat to show me and I am assuming it cannot be...and if my name is there, it will be spelled differently. I was floored when he pulled up his sleeve. 
What are the chances?  And he was only one of two people I talked to all day yesterday.  Serendipity? For me, it was an exclamation point that I need to keep connecting. I am constantly being reminded that people in front of us may be there for a reason, but we will never know if we keep our heads down or stay behind our imaginary walls.  Mohammed was such a nice man and I cannot wait to share his story soon with ‪#‎WIMBYbyDay‬.
You never ever know what can happen if you say hello!!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Starting With This Moment

I really wanted to post a follow on to my time with Robert.  It will come.  But today, I am moved to share the following.  The last week has been filled with great connections and imagery creation that I will start sharing later today but I must lead with this and I am hoping it will be the last time I write about self-doubt and is time to get a move on!!

I have spent an enormous amount of time thinking over the past year while I tenuously try to maneuver through the weeks as a mom, wife and photographer.  I feel like there has been lots of thinking, lots of stress with minimal output.  Ironically, for the very first time in my life, I have discovered my life passion.  Since the lightbulb finally went off on what I want to do in life, I have struggled to understand why things just are not falling into place.  I've heard for over two decades now, "Figure out what you are passionate about and then follow it.  That is the key to happiness and "success" in life."  

I feel so lucky to finally be able to put a finger on what drives me but instead now feeling like I have a direction to go in I have felt paralyzed.  I have gone from a person of action, living in the moment and not worrying (too much) about how the future will unfold to someone that wants to know that I am taking the right steps to achieve the visions I have dancing in my head.  It has been a frustratingly scary place to be.  Especially given my place in life...middle-age (that sounds horrible when you still feel like you are 25 most of the time), mother of two healthy boys, house in a great neighborhood, husband with a great job, healthy family (immediate AND extended), great friends...what do I have to be unsettled about??!!  I have the life I had envisioned in my head over the past 20 years of hard work.  Why can't I just sit back, relax and settle into the life we have created.  Why can't I find contentment in the photography career I worked my tail off to create?  The self-doubt, the questioning, the future and what I am doing every day to move towards it has been ridiculously exhausting.  I want to rewind the clock a few years, before I began unearthing my true passion.  Why can't I just thankful for all the great photography clients, family and friends I have.  But that is not life.  It truly is a roller coaster filled with highs, lows and infinite unknowns that are out of our control.  

So today, the first week of Q2 2015, I am going to release the seatbelt that I have strapped myself in with this past year.  And get back to living life and leading my life without worrying about how it will go, what people will think, if I make sense, if I will be misunderstood or if I will fail in reaching my "undefined" goal.  I am actually right on track with the rough plan I gave myself for this new "job".  Q1 would be planning, Q2-4 was for executing the plan.  I'm going to ignore that my "plan" is not clearly defined and celebrate that I am in action on day three of Q2.

Here is what I know:
--I believe in humanity and we can learn from and be inspired by the people around us regardless of where you are on this planet.

1995 Ha Rankakala, Qacha's Nek, Lesotho
--I have had a life-long wanderlust that on the surface appeared a lust to travel the world.  I have come to realize it is not travel to see the sights of the world that fuels my wanderlust, but the doors traveling opens to connect with people from all walks of life.  I have never traveled the world to tick off the countries, I just wanted to be in places where I was a complete fish out of water.  My desire to be immersed in the unknown (travel w/o an itinerary, w/o a fluency of the local language, w/o knowing anyone in the region) always forced me to trust strangers and people who were vastly different than myself.  For 20+ years, the living and traveling in different parts of the world fueled my passion...human connectivity.  Having new, unforgettable adventures & experiences with and because of strangers, this was the driving force behind my sense of wanderlust.  

--Since the idea for The World in My Backyard came to me in 2012, I have realized I could have similar experiences and powerful connections with strangers without leaving the city I live in.

--People all over this world are more the same than they are different, but in our society, we tend to see each others differences and stay separated because we don't know how to bridge the gap or we make assumptions about an individual based on the difference.  Creating our own perceptions of who we think people are, even though we know perception is always different than the reality.  If we can be open to new connections the gaps will get smaller.

--I got stuck in my first year of the project because I wanted everyone to get to have the unbelievable experiences I and my family were having just because we were meeting strangers in this city.  The stories I have managed to share have resonated with a few people.  When I started w/ this idea, that was enough.  Somewhere along the line I got worried about how I was sharing or should share.  What the end result for my project or best vehicle for sharing should be so I stopped interviewing and sharing.  But people still tell me something I shared with them resonated and impacted them.  So I just need to get back to doing.

--I have never had a clear road map for any of my "achievements" or why do I think this experience should be different.  I need to return to my 20 year old self and jump in with both feet trusting that I will find my way and that I am able to do good things.

--Being self-employed can be tough because it takes 100% self-motivation.  I need to hear feedback to know if I am hitting the mark or way off...and unfortunately, my office walls don't talk back!  Reflecting on my 17 yr. photography career makes me realize that I had quite a bit of self-doubt that I was forced to overcome because I had clients who had no idea I was questioning myself.  Each time I delivered my work to them, they reminded me that I was on the right track.  My work was good enough.  I continued to grow and improve.  That is what I have to believe will happen with this process.  So if you are reading this and you stick with me in the weeks and months to come, I would ask that once or twice this year send me a thought you may have, good or bad about the content I am sharing or how it resonated (or didn't) with you.  

--The content I will be sharing will not be succinct or uniform for each.  I am going to let myself off the hook from having a standardized form in which I share the individual stories because that is not how I think or function.  If I give myself that constraint, I will continue to stay paralyzed.  Feedback on what works or how it can be improved will help shape the process and ultimately, I will find what works best.

--If my work does not go beyond this year, whether I run out of emotional/mental steam trying to produce this on my own or I need to return to my photography business I will try my best to remind myself that it will not be a failed venture.  My biggest worry right now is having my kids see me give up on my dreams and discovered passion.  If I do not try, I am not living the words I preach to them.  If it does not pan, at least I stood by my mantra that nothing can change if you do not try.

Today, I will get back to sharing stories of people in The World in My Backyard (WIMBY).  Adding one new facet...there will be stories "By Country" (continuing to follow the original goal of meeting one person from every country in the world living in Seattle) AND "By Day".  

In the middle of writing this post, I had to step away to attend a school event for my 3rd grader.  This song was sung by the 4th grade class and the timing could not have been more perfect for me.  I often feel like I have a tiny little voice and what is the point of sharing...this song provides a reason...

"Starting with this moment, we can make a change.
If we love those around us, maybe they will do the same.
Though we have a small voice, and just a simple song.
Let's place it in the heart of another, so they can pass it on.

It starts with; one hear loving another, two hands reaching out,
We can cover the world with love.

Two voices singing together, one song ringing out,
we can cover the world with love....cover the world with love.  Cover the world with love."
--Cover the World with Love by Jerry Estes

I am going to print these lyrics and put them by my computer to remind myself that although my voice is small and the experiences I am sharing seem so simple, I am going to pass them on.  The ripple effect can happen if we all chip away at our fears and start opening up to the people around us.

If you reached the end of this, THANK YOU!  If you follow the stories to come and feel moved by them (whether positively or negatively), please let me know and I ask that you share with others.  I am not sure how to amplify my "small voice" work, I am going to rely on you to help me spread the stories and images.  "Like" The World in My Backyard  & Human Connectivity Conservationist on Facebook, send me ideas, offer your technology or editing prowess to my efforts.  Any support you can provide, I will be so grateful!!

A WIMBY By Day story will follow very soon.
Thank you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ex Con. Ice Breaker. SOUL SHAKER.

Upon walked into the lobby waiting room for a therapist in Madison Park (an affluent neighborhood in Seattle), there was a disheveled, Snoop Dogg dead ringer, with tear drop tattoos and plastic bags next to him.  Ashamedly, my immediate thought was, "Is this man homeless and just walked off the street for a warm, dry spot to sit?"  He presence was so incongruous with the people I had seen in this office, or the upscale neighborhood, for that matter.  I put my head down, walked past both and sat on an empty sofa.  

I grabbed a magazine and quickly busied myself.  I only have my own experience to draw on, but in therapist waiting areas people rarely seem to make eye contact or talk.  Is there shame or embarrassment we are trying to avoid?  Aren't we all seeking help? But the vibe is always if I don't make eye contact with you, you will do the same for me and we can hide behind the imaginary wall and pretend no one is struggling. 

Minutes passed, I thought about the man in the room with me.  I did not make eye contact with him, but I was curious about him.   Why didn't I acknowledge his presence?  I think I am a nice person.  Why can't I look up?  "Keep flipping through the shiny Seattle Magazine.  I didn't want him to think I was judging him.  "Head down until your therapist calls your name," I said to myself.  "Maybe he is homeless and if I open the door with a 'hello', I won't be able to shut it??"  Total avoidance of another person's presence in a small space...that didn't feel great but I convinced myself that was the better option.  

A voice shook me out of my bubble.  I look up to find an inquisitive gaze followed by, "Excuse me, this is my first time here.  Do you just wait for a person to come and call you back?"  His simple question broke through the wall of silence.  

"Yes, whoever you are meeting will come and call your name," I reply.  And then, not wanting to continue my closed off position, I ask the question I ask most to people I do not know, "Are you from Seattle?"  "No, am from Missouri, I have only been in Seattle a few months."  

"That is a big move.  What brought you out to Seattle?  Friends or family?  How have you found Seattle to be?" I asked.  

"I needed to get away from Missouri, I came alone and it has been tough because it seems like people here are not friendly.  They don't like to be asked questions.  Compared to Missouri, they are not really that friendly."

I said, "Seattle is filled with very nice people, but it does take quite a bit of time to get to know people, 'Seattle nice, Seattle ice.'"

He had not heard that term before, but said he definitely has experienced it.  Just then my therapist arrived.  I had to quickly depart.  As I walked past him, I said goodbye and good luck....on with my day. 

I walked down the long hallway to my therapist's office thinking, I was thankful he asked me a question and stepped through the wall of silence.  I am not sure I would have done the same if I was in a place where I was a fish out of water as clearly as he was.  The  brief experience, although very minor impacted me but I couldn't put my finger on why.  On with my day...

Following my hour appointment, when I returned to the lobby, there he was, loading up his plastic bags.  I asked,"Did it all work out?  Did your counselor come?"

"It turned out I had the wrong time.  My appointment wasn't until 12:30.  So I need to come back in an hour." 

I mentioned there was a beautiful lakeside park just a few blocks away where he could sit while he waited.  His counselor had shared that with him too.  I told him it was a pleasure meeting him and I was thankful he asked me a question to take me out of my own space that morning.  I asked his name, "Robert," he shared.  I thanked him again as I pulled out my business card, handed it to him and said he could email me if he ever wanted to connect again or had any questions about Seattle.  He thanked me and I walked out. 

Just a few steps out the door, planning to cross the street to grab a coffee at Starbucks, I realized I could invite him to join me.  He said people were not friendly here...I could extend a few minutes of "friendliness" to him.  I returned with my invitation.  He took me up on my offer.

As we were approaching Starbucks, I asked him why he choose Seattle.  "A friend in St. Louis said it was a nice, quieter city.  That sounded like what I needed.  I needed to get away from everything in Missouri and start fresh."  
"Were you born and raise in St. Louis?"  I asked.  

"Yes.  I spent my whole life there."  

"Wow, that takes a lot of courage to move to a place so far away, when you don't know anyone and start a new!" I said.  He shrugged this idea off, but I reiterated my thought.

"Yes...I guess so." he said.  

"I know so.  That really is a big deal.  It cannot be easy."  I said.  

"Yeah, it is tough, but if you want to change to happen, you have to take a leap and go for it.  That is what I am trying to do.  It is hard, but I am trying my best.  I know I need change."  He had no idea how his words were impacting me.  They cut deep for me because I have been feeling down and isolated the past few weeks.  I believe these words.  I preach these words to my husband and sons.  But when you hit periods of self-doubt, even knowing those words to be true, it is easier to burrow into the ground than leap.  The messenger was powerful.  I assumed his difficulties were much greater than mine.  If he was pushing self-doubt aside, who was I to not start doing the same?  Courage.

I asked Robert what kind of coffee he would like.  "I don't"

"Black, that's it?  Lighter or darker roast?  Do you want room for cream and sugar?"  If you are a Seattleite, there are so many questions you can ask about one cup of coffee...
After I finished his simple order, followed by my "Tall Americano, one Splenda and topped with steamed milk" nit-picky order, Robert asks, "What is this place?  Do they make some special kind of coffee or what?"

"You know Starbucks, right?  The headquarters is here, but they have these shops in St. Louis and all over the world." I say.

"I have heard of them, but I have never been in one..."  That is hard for me to wrap my mind around.

After joining him to walk down to the waterfront park and sit with him, I learn why the unfathomable is real.  

Robert was incarcerated for 15 years.  Entering at the age of 21, in 1999.  I have never met an ex-convict.  I cannot believe my first experience was in a most unexpected neighborhood.  

The next hour unfolded with learning and new insight for both of us.  I will close for now and hope to share a little more about Robert's impact on my head and my heart.

Most significantly, Robert shook my soul just when I needed it.  Life is about taking leaps every day.  

HUMAN CONNECTIVITY is ESSENTIAL and can be found every day in unexpected places.  We just have to lift our heads and have courage to say hello.  

Friday, March 6, 2015

An Enlightening Near Miss

­­­­­­PEOPLE CHANGE PEOPLE.  These three words have been swirling in my head for weeks.  Each day I have had a new thought to add to this belief.  They were BIG thoughts, BIG examples with BIG tangible outcomes.  I was looking forward to formulating my thoughts for my next post.  Then, just an hour ago, I had a very minor incident happen that left me reflecting on how small human exchanges can have small, but no less meaningful impact.
Five minutes before walking out the door for school this morning, my youngest son (9 yr. old) shared his stomach did not feel well.  WHAT????!!!!...totally out of the blue, no fever, no sign of illness until the 11th hour before school.  I decide to have him stay at home and re-assess in an hour.  My full plate of work and to-do list would have to wait too.  Two hours later felt well enough to go.  We headed out the door with lightning quickness before he changed his mind.  Off to school we raced.  I am filled with relief that I would still be able to tackle a few of my tasks.
As I drove onto the school grounds, about to turn left into the parking lot, a SUV surprises me coming out of the parking lot.  We both stopped suddenly.  I felt I had the right-of-way and slowly moved forward.  She must have had similar feelings in regards to her positioning and moved forward too, leaving a very narrow space between her car and the curb.  I decided I was going to put my head down and keep going, narrow or not, I was in the right.  She honked.  I kept driving without lifting my head.  Even though I thought I was in the right, I was not 100% sure, keeping my head down, avoiding eye contact allowed me to avoid seeing what she thought of my perspective. 
I drove past her and she drove out of the lot.  That was that.  I did not feel good about the exchange, who was she to honk??  Maybe I was not right to pass by without letting her pull out, but I still felt I was right and I let me feelings towards the random driver stay in a negative space.  Time to move on with the morning…I had things to do.  I walked my son into the school and the incident was moving into my rearview mirror of my day.  Most likely I wouldn’t give it another thought. 
That is what normally happens with frustrating stranger encounters.  We never see the person again.  We get to hold onto our self-justified perspective of an incident and hold onto the feelings of the person who wronged us.  The one I was holding onto was an image of an uptight, slightly older, dark haired woman who could not have been very nice…totally uptight. 
Exiting the building, I was about to descend the stairs, thinking about the few productive hours ahead of me.  Then, I see a dark haired woman walking briskly towards the stairs with a business brief case roller bag.  My mental dialogue was yanked from my to-do list to facing my immediate future and rapid fire thoughts race through my mind.  “Is that the same woman who was leaving the lot?  Couldn’t be; she was leaving when I was coming.  What if it is??  Should I just put my head down and walk past her?  I had the right of way, why would I want to revisit the frustrating incident?!  Why do I have to see her NOW??  Maybe it isn’t her, I didn't really get a good look because my head was cowardly down when I past.  You have to look at her.  You have to stop and acknowledge her.  What if it isn’t her?  Don’t stop.  Walk faster!!  Her head is down too, maybe she won’t see you.  Act like it never happened.”
Five seconds later, I am at the bottom of the stairs and she is five feet in front of me.  I look at her.  She sees me but I do not see any sense of recognition cross her face.  “Maybe it isn’t her,” I think.  I don’t know.  I decide to look grab my courage and ask her if she is the woman from the SUV.  She looks at me quizzically.  “It isn’t her!  Whew!” I think.  This woman has no idea what I am talking about.  Now I feel silly for even stopping her to ask, but I ask one more time, “Did you and I just have a car meet up by the parking lot?”  I see the light bulb go off.  “Oh, yes that was me,” she rigidly said, frustration washing over her face as she now recognizes me.  She is not happy.  I explain I had felt like I had the right of way, but since my reaction was to avoid eye contact when she honked at me, I had thought maybe I was in the wrong and did not want to face her. I apologized for my part in the incident.  Instantaneously, the rigidity visibly dissipated from her being.  A smile of amazement crossed her face as she gratefully accepted my apology and offered one of her own.  “I should not have moved to narrow your pathway or honked at you.  I am sorry.  I did feel badly for that.”  We continued our mutual apologies and forgiveness as if a flood gate had been opened.  As we were parting ways, she stopped me and said “Thank you so much for this.  I must tell you how much it means to me that you stopped me to apologize.  I really appreciate it.  Really, I cannot tell you how much it means…”  She leaned in to give me a hug.  I wished her a great rest of the day and she did the same.  Back to our busy, crazy lives we went.
What I learned was my actions, regardless of if I believed they were justified, impacted another person and hers’ mine.  It was easy to brush aside because she was a complete stranger. 
I would never be held accountable for my behavior, right or wrong.  But exiting my car with feelings of frustration and questioning my own behavior left me with negative energy to add to an already harried day.  Rarely is there a way to reverse ill will expressed between strangers.  Sitting here this afternoon, I feel like I hit the jackpot to have had the opportunity to cross paths with her the second time (completely the opposite feeling I had when I was approaching the stairs).  We were able to really see each other and realize our actions were inappropriate regardless of who was at fault.  To apologize for our behavior lifted both of our spirits.   
Every person, regardless of age, walking on this planet has a busy, complex, crazy life.  It is easy to forget to think about others when you are trying to get through your day.  I will use today to remind myself always, ALWAYS lead with kindness because in big and small ways people change people! 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Empathy & Connectivity—A Lesson Learned from the Seahawks

Sunday was a blip on the map for most people in the world, but here in Seattle, it was a day filled with abounding excitement, with hope and with community.  Hundreds of thousands of people in Seattle and around the globe were fortunate to be drawn together around a common cause…NFL football.  NFL FOOTBALL!!  It seems crazy that sports can bring people together hoping to further their happiness with another win.  We were all proud to be 12's in our city.  Young, old, rich, poor, black, white, Asian, straight, gay….everyone was part of one great community galvanized by a common goal…another Seahawk win.  The connected vibe in Seattle was palpable and intoxicating.   The energy had been building for months, reaching its peak at 3:30pm Pacific Time.  But, a mere four hours later, Seattleites were filled with question, frustration, sadness and even anger because of one play.  How quickly emotions shifted and the electrified air was sucked out of our sails.  After a few days of reflecting on the emotions surrounding the Seattle Seahawks, their accomplishments and their defeat, I realized it is a perfect analogy for why we, as a society, get in the way of real human connectedness.
Sunday left me wondering if the ingrained societal “default” behavior is judgment and criticism, instead of empathy and understanding.  When life is good, it is not as apparent and has less impact because we are enjoying ourselves.  But when something goes wrong, we instinctually turn to questioning, blame and criticism.  Those three actions undoubtedly create negative reactions. 
If this is the societal “norm”, why would any individual ever venture outside of their comfort zone, knowing they will most likely be met with questioning and criticism?  It is much “safer” to stay in the comfort zone and join in the judgment, blame and criticism of what we don’t understand, resulting in stagnancy and disconnectedness. 
What is crazy to me is, I think most people crave community, acceptance, happiness, and understanding but clearly it can be fleeting based on perception and judgment.  Nothing changed for 99.5% of the proud, enthusiastic community that existed on Sunday, except their team lost…our lives did not change, but our happiness was erased.  To take it even further, maybe .5% of people who were truly impacted by the loss have to stand tall and answer countless, incessant questions about ONE play.  ONE PLAY!!  Their lives this week truly have been impacted and I cannot fathom the weight they are shouldering individually and collectively.  It must be mentally crushing.  As a layman, I cannot imagine the mental and emotional strength it must take for Pete Carroll to open his bedroom door in the morning and be met with such question.  The individuals that truly gave their heart, soul, body and spirit to bring home a win to Seattle are the ones who deserve our understanding and support most…but instead they are met w/ judgment.  How isolating that must feel!  Do people forget that they are just like you and me...human...not super human.  Imagine trying to deal with the devastation while under the microscope the media creates.  I would want to crawl down a rabbit hole and not emerge until 2020!!  Not an option for these guys.  
Ironically, Seahawk fans and the sporting world at-large spent a season filled with pride and adoration for what Pete Carroll and his football team represented—making choices most would not, playing a game uniquely different than any other NFL team has ever played.  We were in awe of decisions Carroll and the head office made to bring a together individuals that most NFL execs overlooked.  We were proud of the fact that the Seahawk team and their victories represented “team” not “I” or a few superstar individuals.  The shift that occurred in one goal line play is sadly mindboggling for me.  The sporting world and the Seattle 12's moved from celebrating Pete Carroll’s unconventional choices and decisions to vilifying him for ONE play call.  One call that could have easily had a different result—a reception, touchdown and a Seattle repeat as the Super Bowl Champions.  The city would have gone berserk.  Celebrations and connectedness would have lasted for weeks.  Pete Carroll would be held up as one of the best coaches in NFL history.  We know life does not always work out they way that we want.  But instead of having empathy for the outcome, most have chosen to question and blame.
I wish we could put a magnifying glass on this immediate shift in our local societal behavior and had it play out in an alternative universe where we led with empathy and understanding instead of judgment and questioning.  There is so much to be gained by shifting the perspective because, just as the Seahawks have been providing us with incredible life lessons throughout their season, they are continuing to provide us with more in the face of defeat.  What if, instead of leading with frustration and anger, causing a shutdown to understanding, our community paused and thought about the gravity and impact that one play had on the people who were on the field.  This would lead to empathy and leave us open to learning from their real experience, creating more understanding, resulting in stronger connections as a community instead of separation.
After experiencing a few hours of disappointment myself, I realized I needed to continue celebrating this amazing football team.  As a former athlete and mother of two young boys, I am grateful for the messages Pete Carroll and the Seahawks continue to provide.  The path less traveled is never easy, it takes infinite courage and in the end, our world is a better place because of the courage of the individual!
The words and wisdom courageous individuals share from their real experiences can translate to every human being.  I hope for the day that our societal default will be empathy, support and understanding, so we always learn from each other and become more connected in this fast pace, crazy world.
I close with one of the many messages that has inspired me as a result of the Seahawks Super Bowl loss.  On Tuesday, Russell Willson share this on his Facebook page:

"Thank you to a good friend for passing this inspirational message along.  12's, share this with your friends and loved ones if you are already focusing on next season.  #DontQuit

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit -
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don't give up though the pace seems slow -
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than

It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor's cup;
And he learned to late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out -

And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit -
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Thank you Coach Carroll, Russell Wilson and all the Seattle Super Seahawks!!  We are incredibly lucky to have you in Seattle!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

This week, our country celebrated Martin Luther King Day.  In Seattle there was a march, online there were countless images and powerful quotes shared, throughout the country people entered theaters to watch Selma, a powerful movie depicting Martin Luther King’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic 54-mile, 5-day march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.  I took my family to the movie and was moved to tears by the end of the film.  To read and hear the words of MLK, Jr., to be reminded of the courage of the human spirit to stand up and peacefully demonstrate for equal rights, fair treatment and hope for opportunity, to share this history with new generations...all of this is so inspiring.  But what about today and tomorrow… next month and in August??  The inspirations fade to the background and are replace with prejudice, presumption, fear, unrest, demonstrations, anger, resentment, questioning…We are approaching the 40 year anniversary of one of this country’s greatest peacemaker and I am saddened that, although progress has happened, prejudice continues to be pervasive in our society.  How can this move from conversations & inspirations to new & different actions to create change?
I am constantly wondering if pre-judgment is instinctual.  I know, as much as I hate to admit it, I make presumption about people ALL THE TIME  that keep me distant from them.  Depending on the day I am having, an experience from my youth, the choices I lean towards, the media I intake, the stories or gossip I have heard, I pre-judge even though I know that it is not fair, I DO IT. (My list of pre-judgment is long…I just based on religion, economics, age, race, education, beauty, material objects, associations, political choices, eating styles, occupation, culture…these are only top of mind topics, I am sure I could go on and on)  Sometimes I do it to make myself feel better about me and my life.  Sometimes, if I internally disparage someone else, I can avoid focusing on my own faults.  It allows me to justify keeping my wall up.  It really takes courage and consciousness to push the assumptions aside and connect (which, crazily, isn’t that difficult to do).  I would venture to guess that the majority of the times this happens in an honest, open way the prejudices fall away and the discovery of similarity or a learning moment happen.  But it takes work.  In the past few years, I am now realizing, I am becoming less and less tolerant of my instinctual dialogue, ignoring it and listening to another voice.  “Say hello, tell them you like their hat, their smile, their shoes.  Share what is on your mind and see what they think about it instead of assuming you know their answer.  Why are you holding back…just do it.”  Seriously, I have some little dialogue with myself.  9 out of 10 times when I open up to someone new, I get back way more than I ever could have imagined.  And I have a new, lived experience to counter stories I may have hear 2nd hand, from the news or on social media.   I am dispelling the perception I had with the reality I experience.
Have we been conditioned since our youth to accept perception instead of discovering reality?  We all know perception is never the reality, so why do we accept it?  We are bombarded daily with information to help us form perceptions.  Do we question our perception?  That takes more work.  That takes putting ourselves in uncomfortable or unfamiliar situations.
Here is a quick example that just popped into my head…from the global news, we tend to paint wide swaths…Islam terrorist killed 12 Parisians—Our societal take away…Islam is a crazy religion filled with violent followers.  Be guarded and questioning of all Islamic people.  Instead, we should realize that incident, those 2 Islamic men are the anomaly.  2 men in a population of exceeding 1.5 BILLION Islams (a quarter of the world population).  TWO radicals.  Two bad apples.  They cannot be our sole representation of Islam.  But we allow the news to sink in and be our knowledge, build our fear, keep us separate…this happens every single day just insert a different identifying factor (black, dropout, millionaire, Mormon, Russian, post-partum mom, unemployed man, politician, welfare…you choose the descriptive, there will always be a bad, horrific story to tag on and allow us to form our perception of that “group”).
So, I sit here super sad when I think about the vision, dreams, wisdom, inspiration and leadership Martin Luther King shared with our country 50 years ago because I see our behaviors and disconnection countering what I believe all human beings hope for and want to believe in.  We remember and celebrate MLK, we teach our children his words…but what we do with our actions will always be more powerful than anything we can pass on with words.  But, just like it was required of him to be great, it is required of us…it requires courage to reflect on our behavior and try something a little different. 
I, for one am experiencing the benefits every single day because I am trying to put myself out there.  Trying to ignore my prejudice and connect.  In person, online…wherever.  It isn’t easy.  Lots of times I want to shut down and listen to my negative instinctual voice, but I have had way too many experiences now to know that it is worth the effort.  Human connectivity really, really matters and can change lives.  And I know it can change our world to be the world MLK envisioned. 

What do you think?  Are you in?  Let me know…