Saturday, July 31, 2021

Sharing the Burden

These weekly blogs are my way of understanding our world... or should I say, "attempting to understand" what I have encountered this past week.  My reflections do not mean that I have solved, have figured out, or have truly grasped what is swirling around me.  This is one way for me to pose questions and insights for myself... and to seek your input and clarity.

Recently, I have been reflecting on the burdens that each of us carries:  sometimes silently shouldering the heavy weight of relationships gone awry; health issues that redirect our attention; or past stories that monopolize our time and energy.

I wonder:  because we intimately know our own stories and worries, how do we hear or understand another person's story... their burdens... what is weighing them down?

What burdens are you carrying?
(Photo credit:  Carrying Unnecessary Burdens,

Why am I focused on burdens this week?  Mine haven't shifted, but I have had several texts or conversations with siblings, friends, and classmates from my 8th grade class.  As we listened together, the Stories Shared provided glimpses of similar and different experiences.  And, I noticed after each encounter, my problems seemed to lessen:  I was thinking about the other person, wondering how I could help, offering up prayers and intentions to stay in touch.

We really don't know what is going on in another life... unless we take time to reach out, ask questions, and listen.

Are you willing to tell your story?
(Photo credit:  Huddle Up: It's Story Time! -
The Many Benefits of Storytelling, Little Red Hen

Also, I noticed that as a story was being revealed, my mind would jump ahead... filling in gaps of information, connecting the dots, and creating story endings.  In one instance, questions were asked, more of the story was revealed, and I found out how misguided my conclusions were!

I was using my life lessons and experiences to direct, filter, and complete another person's story.  The language of my burdens was distorting another person's reality.

When are you kind to others?
(Photo credit:  Heavy Burden, Pinterest - saved by Becki Albert)

On a side note, I find it interesting that so much time is spent streaming our entertainment, searching YouTube for snippets of topics that captivate us, and being addicted to our devices... yet excuses about limited time keep us from listening together to what is important.  Is it just me?  Or, is this strange?

Learning to share the burdens we carry may be the kindness that is needed right now: taking time away from our distractions to tell stories; listening and remaining curious; staying open to the endings as questions are asked; and walking away closer... together!

As a young mentor once told me, "We are a Pilgrim People" -- sharing the journey of life by walking together; caring for -- and carrying -- each other when the path is difficult.

May more of your story be revealed this week.  May your burdens become lighter as you talk to others.  May we be willing to travel through life with kindness.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Unlocking Our Hearts

I first saw it in Lisbon, Portugal - at the top of the Santa Justa Lift, an elevator opened in July 1902 as part of the public transport system.  A few years later I again encountered them in San Francisco along Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39.

Locks attached to cyclone fencing:  locks in all shapes and sizes... intentionally left behind... signifying undying love for another person.  Some had names or initials.  Some had miniature photos pasted on.  Others were ordinary and anonymous.  Locks used as public statements about what was in someone's heart.

What do you see: locks, barriers or beyond?
(Photo: Lisbon, at the top of Santa Justa Lift)

Recently, my mind returned to these images.  Not because of undying love for another, but because I have noticed my heart is locked against some people.  I have been walking out of the room when a person whom I disagree with comes on the television:  politicians, activists, news commentators.  Sometimes, I can't stand to hear their voices.  Other times, I am tired of their simplistic soundbite answers.  Most often, I don't want to hear their denials of what I hold to be important.

I wonder how I got to this point - especially with people I have never met and do not really know.  I can count on one hand -- maybe only a few fingers -- people in my life I have had such a strong reaction.  It is difficult for me to get to the point of no return: where I cut off relationships.

I tell myself:  "This is not normal" and "I am not this way."  Or... am I?

How do you show your love for another person?
(Photo: San Francisco, Pier 39 fence)

With dialogue, we are invited to respect the other person and their views.  We are challenged to suspend our judgments and seek curiosity:

  • I wonder why s/he believes that...?
  • Can you help me to understand...?
  • Why is this important to you?

Dialogue opens the door to noticing what we have in common and what is different.  Suspending judgment slows down the reaction to lock out another person, to pause, and to respond by inviting them in.  The words "right" and "wrong" become foreign as we explore... together... how and why we experience this world individually.  We seek to understand the filters that overlay and provide separate meanings to the same event.

What does your heart say about others?
(Photo:  San Francisco, neighborhood mural)

So, why do I walk out on a figure on TV?  Maybe because I don't have a relationship with them?  Maybe I have not locked in my curiosity or desire to get to know them
?  Maybe it is easier to walk away from others than to listen?

I now wonder what is worse:  to be locked in or locked out?  What do you think?

May we explore the locks we have publicly or privately set.  May we share with others what is in our heart -- and why.  May we unlock opportunities to discover relationships anew.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, July 17, 2021

What Am I Missing?

Have you ever taken a message for someone else - whether from a phone call or someone wanting to pass along information through you to another person?  Sometimes I have taken down what I heard word-for-word.  Sometimes I ask questions to understand the message.  In many situations, I might not understand the message because I don't have the understanding or context of what the person wants to pass along.

Invariably, the person receiving the message asks questions:

  • Did she say anything else?
  • What did he mean by...?
  • Am I supposed to do something about...?

As the messenger, we are often caught short.  Sometimes I find myself cycling through Should Have's:

  • I should have asked what the message meant.
  • I should have written more in the message.
  • I should have remembered to...
Passing along information to another person is not always simple!

What do you hear?
~ Click on image to enlarge ~

(Photo credit:  Pickles, by Brian Crane, June 13, 2021)

I wonder about the different roles that we play: as the person with the message; the messenger; and the person receiving the message.  Each person impacts the situation.

Why this reflection on message, messenger, roles, and impact?  I blame it on the book my dialogue reading group is currently reviewing:  Dialogue - The Art of Listening Together by William Isaacs.  He distinguishes between thought and thinking, felt and feeling.

In order to listen together, we must separate the inner spiral that intertwines memories (past thoughts and feelings) with listening and responding in the present:

  • What is happening now?
  • What am I hearing now?
  • How am I feeling now?

What swirls in your mind when you  listen to others?
(Photo: Point Loma Lighthouse, San Diego)

This separation of past memories with current reality allows us to move from reacting to responding.  The reflexive actions generated by our memories are released so that we can be inspired by what actions need to occur now.

Isaacs mentioned that the ascendancy of science over arts, ethics, and philosophy created an imbalance in the human experience.  Proof overrode interconnectedness; facts overshadowed faith.

What happens when science is no longer trusted, though, as we are experiencing now in our Pandemic of Distrust?  Without balance we begin to spiral downward:  individual beliefs outweighing collective wisdom; My Way refusing to acknowledge other possibilities.

Can you see beyond your blinders?

(Photo: La Casa de Estudillo, Old Town San Diego)

In a different discussion this past week, Jayne, a member of a dialogue mentoring learning group, suggested that we must:

"Listen with the ear of the heart."

This imagery invites me to consider opening my heart to what I am seeing, hearing, and experiencing.  As I take a message for someone else or convey a thought to another person:

  • Am I willing to hear with the heart;
  • Listen beyond the words; and,
  • Seek understanding?
What messages do you hear from your heart?
May we move beyond past memories; may we respond to present needs; and may we listen together.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, July 10, 2021

To Let Go or Not to Let Go: Is that the Question?

Many people have used the months of COVID-isolation to reflect, to clean out closets and other storage areas, and to simplify their lives.  Pre-pandemic activities and distractions seemed to melt away as we sought solace and comfort at home... safe from others.

As our social options have begun to reopen, I wonder what we are carrying forward: what have we learned about ourselves from this time of noticing, reflection, and clearing out?

As you return to normal, what have you left behind?
(Photo:  Liberty Station, San Diego - July 4th, 2021)

As I tried to go through boxes in my garage, I would get sidetracked with what to give away, throw away or keep.  Memories of family activities, elementary school friends, high school awards, and college assignments surfaced.  This Life Review opened appreciation for parents, teachers and mentors who have guided me; family and friends who have encouraged me; and work colleagues who have challenged me to grow in skills and knowledge.

It was as if I was looking back at distant corridors of my life while at the same time seeing openings of opportunities still available.

What path will you choose to take post-COVID?
(Photo:  Liberty Station, San Diego)

The initial goal of clearing out the garage has become an on-going discovery of Life's Riches and Rewards reflected in the willingness to be curious and learn.  For instance, the questions I am now considering are:

  • What baggage do I carry around with me from relationship to relationship?
  • What memories are attached, and do these memories keep me from letting go?
  • How do I decide what to hold onto and what to let go?

It seems that as we emerge from our COVID survival mode, we have a choice:  do we want to see the Windows of Opportunity reflected in the lenses that still illuminate our lives?

What do you see reflected in your life?
(Photo: lighthouse lens from
Point Loma Lighthouse, San Diego)

I wonder, do we... or why do we... want to Return to Normal?  Is it that we don't have to reflect on or notice the baggage that burdens us?  Is being on autopilot a mechanism that keep us from facing our memories?  Or is it that we don't know how to let go?
Whatever is happening, our lives are reopening.  We have choices to make on how to rebuild and refresh our relationships.  As a friend recently reminded me, maybe the file folders I have about people in my life -- those perceptions and conclusions I have made and filed away about you -- need to be reviewed.
Opening our Windows of Understanding will allow fresh air to come in and remove the staleness that has been undisturbed for too long.  What is the question you face today:  To let go? Or not to let go?

May we begin to see the baggage we carry.  May we reflect on the burdens that weigh us down.  And may we make choices to let go of past misunderstandings, misconceptions, and missteps.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Friday, July 2, 2021

Confessions of a Masked Minority

Is it safe to say that people are tired of COVID-19 and want life to return to normal?  It seems that way!  I find it interesting -- maybe even intriguing -- as I've watched people's reactions when State or County restrictions or guidelines have changed or eased over these many months:  moments of confusion, misunderstanding, anger or acceptance.

I understand, on one level, the disruption and isolation caused by the inconvenience of this pandemic.  Not knowing what is expected or appropriate in different situations can be unnerving.  We want to know how to fit in... and be safe.

I wonder:  what have we learned and where are we, as a society, headed?  Why do we continue to struggle when someone looks or acts different than the majority?

Do you mask your thoughts and feelings?

Several weeks ago, the majority of people were wearing masks and social distancing.  Today, mask wearing is done by fewer people... at least we are seeing fewer physical masks!  (It was amazing how quickly people were ready to ditch those masks at their first opportunity!)

But, are we ready to remove the Masks Hidden by our beliefs and conclusions of others?

Change is not easy when we stay caged in the labels we place on others... or the labels that identify us.  These self-created definitions oftentimes thrive on whether we are a member of the majority or minority, the boundaries that limit and separate us.

What happens when you feel caged in?

I don't think we can escape the affects of this past year:
  • Political tensions and dysfunction
  • Safety guidelines adapted to what is known or feared about the virus
  • Inequities and injustices surfacing

The pandemics of power, wealth, and justice create imbalances when not shared, not earned fairly, or not allowed equal access.  Our masks and cages keep us from achieving the true human potential we all desire.

Where do you find comfort?

Comfort may come when it is okay to wear a mask -- or take it off -- without being judged.  Comfort may come when we join with others -- masked or unmasked, willingly or imposed -- to understand The Why behind the realities of being a minority, the feelings of isolation, and the chains that bind.  Comfort may come when we sit in human solidarity. 
Comfort also comes when we realize the independence that this holiday celebrates: the ability to live in freedom balanced with the responsibility to protect each other's independence.  After all, how important is the mask if it doesn't protect... followed by the freedom when the mask is removed because we are all safe... together?

May we have a safe and healthy Day of Independence.  May those who have a majority status learn to protect those identified as a minority.  May our definitions and labels become unmasked as we understand the reality that we are one.
Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)