Saturday, November 27, 2021

Reflections: Barred or Bridged?

Sitting on our hotel balcony looking out at San Diego Bay, I was aware of the bars that obstructed my view.  I realize the barrier is there for my safety, but sometimes it is a nuisance when I can't see clearly.  I could make an effort to see beyond the obstruction:  I could stand up to be above the barrier!

It's amazing how often I don't exert any extra energy to get beyond my limitations... of assumptions about others; meanings I've attached to what someone tells me; conclusions I've made about the erratic driver on the freeway!

What blocks your view of others?
(Photo:  San Diego Bay)

Barriers come in many shapes and sizes, and I can always rationalize how my reasoning keeps me safe.  But, walking along the shoreline, I noticed something different.  I became aware of the natural barriers around me: the sand that slows me down when I walk; the water that keeps me from the other side of the bay; and the distant mountains that hide what I cannot see.

Looking closer I saw boats scattered on the beach and a bridge that curved across the bay:  boats that could transport me... with effort... to the mainland; a bridge that could connect me to two ways of living (island life and urban sprawl).

What would help me to traverse the mountains in my life?

Do you see bridges or barriers in your life?
(Photo: Tidelands Park and San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge)

Throughout the rest of the day I reflected on the barriers and bridges that I accept or construct.  Is it possible that I:

  • Create the boundaries in my beliefs and attitudes?
  • Build fences that separate where I feel comfortable or afraid?
  • Limit the information that I take in about you and others?
That evening I was dazzled by the reflected light of downtown San Diego:  the water barrier earlier in the day became the instrument transporting the light to me!  Once we are aware of the barriers in our lives, we are invited to transform those into bridges of understanding.

What reflections touch you?
(Photo:  San Diego skyline)

After uploading this reflected skyline photo on Facebook many people liked/loved it!  We are able to learn from one another when we share our barriers to and bridges of understanding.

The important lesson I have learned is to share the image -- the bars, water, mountains, boats and bridges -- and let go.  Allow each person to choose which image speaks to them.  We can learn by observing what is liked and loved.

Moving from Thanksgiving to Gift Giving, may we learn to bridge the barriers that separate us!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, November 20, 2021

What Do You See?

Have you heard the expression "Before you judge others, you must walk a mile in their shoes"?  I was thinking of this admonition last week when walking along Coronado's Tidelands Park (San Diego Bay).  We had come across the sculpture, Penelope, a few months ago.  This time, though, we spent more time at the sculpture:

  • Where was she looking?
  • What did she see?
  • Why was this art piece placed here?

What is interesting about this sculpture are the strips of metal that overlay the face and the hair.  The curves and overlapping strands create the likeness that shapes what my mind perceives.

How do you know you are seeing what others see?
(Photo:  Penelope, Tidelands Park, Coronado)

A friend and I gazed outward, taking in the beautiful view, the clarity of the mountains in the distance, and the bridge and water close at hand.  What was Penelope seeing?

It wasn't until I returned home that I looked up Penelope's story.  She is a character in Homer's The Odyssey, the wife of Odysseus, king of Ithaca.  For two decades, Penelope waited at home for Odysseus' return.  She was faithful to him even though suitors tried to marry her, assuming that Odysseus had perished.  Penelope's story is about loyalty to what she saw and believed.

Is it enough to agree with others
- to face the same direction?

I wonder if I will ever truly understand what others see or where their loyalties lie?  It seems that so much of our society demands to be understood... for who they are; how they experience this world; for agreement and loyalty to common strands of belief systems.  But, there are so many layers to our stories as we see and experience life in our 20s, 30s, 40s and older.  Life changes us as we encounter different situations, as we expand or contract our understanding, and as we seek empathy and compassion.

When I first encountered Penelope two months ago, I noticed that the sculpture is almost mask-like: something that we are invited to try on.  Going around the sculpture, a person can lean into the back of the art piece -- stepping inside.  Looking outward from inside Penelope's mask, the water, bridge, and mountains are focused differently.  We can truly see what Penelope sees by stepping inward!

What will draw us inward to see as others see?

As with all good art -- and stories -- we are drawn closer to Life Revealed.  Various perspectives are uncovered as we move outward or inward. With Penelope, the front or outward view at first seemed so clear... but it was difficult to imagine where she was looking, what she was seeing.  Moving inward, the mask took on an almost optical-illusion quality to it -- like those portraits where the eyes follow you as you move in different directions.

Am I looking inward or outward when I walk into the art installation?  Both dimensions are available when I step closer.  Am I able to see both?  Which do I favor?

As we seek to understand what another person sees, I wonder:

  • Can we release the initial clarity we think we saw?
  • Are we willing to step inside the thoughts and feelings others are sharing?
  • Is it possible that multiple views are present -- all depending on where we stand or whose shoes we are wearing?

May this time of Thanksgiving draw us together... allowing us to be loyal to what we see... while at the same time, respecting what others see.  Let us give thanks for one another... no matter what we see or experience... differently!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Birthing New Perspectives

Over the past several weeks I have participated in virtual reunions with friends from my 8th grade class and from the youth ministry groups I coordinated.  Many of these friendships go back 40-50 years:  we are an accumulation of shared history, individual stories, and years together and separate.  In addition, November is a month of remembrance and thanksgiving: All Saints, All Souls, Día de los Muertos, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving... and it's my birthday month!

Reflecting on the passage of time and relationships -- past and present -- provides me insights into Lessons Learned.

What impressions are created when
you meet someone for the first time?
(Photo:  Larry Gardepie, 11 hours old)

I have noticed how immediate impressions have skewed how I look at people.  I am wondering:

  • Are those impressions accurate?
  • Did I allow the friendship to reveal the depth of the other person?
  • Was I willing to be changed by new information about that person?

I don't know about you, but sometimes it is difficult to let go of first impressions!   I quickly assume I know the person because of my earliest conclusions.  I am hoping this awareness will slow me down and remind me to check out what I saw, heard, and concluded about others.

How do you see people after
they do something unexpected?
(Photo:  Larry Gardepie, displaying crocheted objects)

When my grandmother moved into a nursing home, her world became smaller, her sense of self-worth eroded, and she concluded that she no longer had anything to give.  I knew my grandmother crocheted, so I spent a vacation week with her -- asking her to show me how to crochet.  There were many moments of frustration as my not-so-nimble fingers tried to figure out single, double, and triple crochet stitches!  The time with Grandma was what we both needed:  I eventually overcame my frustration and my crochet skills improved; she passed along part of herself to a grandchild.  Soon after our time together, Grandma began to forget how to crochet.
What was unexpected:  people's double-takes when they encountered a young man working on a lace tablecloth or an afghan... like the Czech guard looking down with surprise (or disgust!), turning around abruptly, walking away and not completing his passport-checking duties on the train I was on!

Do you change when working closely
with others on a shared project?
(Photo, Larry Gardepie and project colleagues)

Our world is more connected than ever, yet at times we seem so far apart.  To bridge some of our separation, I wonder:

  • Are we willing to sit with someone and learn more about them, allowing our first impressions to be challenged?
  • Rather than projecting what we think the other person will say or do, can we invite curiosity to be our guide as we explore what another person experiences?
  • Like children, how might we excitedly anticipate the unexpected, awaken each day to a new world, and hope for change?

May we reconnect this week through our awareness of first impressions, our curiosity to learn more, and our willingness to change.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)



Saturday, November 6, 2021

Endings and Beginnings: Finality and...

Leaving the UPS Customer Service Center this past week I felt a sense of completion, a relief that another task had been accomplished, an ending.  I also felt sadness, a letting go.  I was returning the business laptops, monitor, and cords to the company that had employed me for over 10 years.  Another chapter of my life was ending.

Once back home I saw the rearranged office space, the cleaned out closet and desk drawers... and I was ready for the next chapter to begin!

Is your Life's Path blocked?
(Photo: closed gate and passage, Harfleur, France)

Reflecting on beginnings and endings, I remembered other times in my life when there was a sense of finality - that a fork or turn in the road was providing a moment of Pause and Choice.  Gained was the ability to appreciate a new perspective.

Remember those words of encouragement to look for open windows when doors close?  I wonder if hope is hardwired into us to Look Beyond closed gates and seek passages that reveal new perspectives and challenges?

What do you see options beginning to open?
(Photo: open passageway, Harfleur, France)

It is important for me, I realized, to stop and savor the transition points from Endings to Beginnings... from finality to what lies ahead.  Noticing the changes that I am experiencing -- thoughts, emotions, hopes, dreams --- allows me time to welcome in the Adventures Unfolding.

One of those adventures is sharing what I am noticing.  As an example: one of Family Circus' children states that his dad is wearing his hat backwards.  Is this noticing about Right-or-Wrong?  Is one hat worn correctly and another isn't?  Or, if we step back, maybe the adventure is all about Noticing!  One person is aware that a difference or inconsistency is present.

How do we want to respond?  Correcting... or asking questions?  Winning an argument... or considering other options?

Whose perspective is correct?
(Photo credit:  Family Circus, Bil and Jeff Keane, 11.06.21)

Maybe the ending of judgments will open us to understanding others.  Maybe the beginning of understanding will offer new or different choices.  Maybe seeking opportunities to pause and choose will finally move us to accept one another.  Maybe finality will provide freedom... to wear our hats in the way that suits us!

Endings and beginnings are not all about individual choices, though.  Finality and looking beyond comes when we can balance what is happening in our individual lives with its impact on others.  Sharing what we notice and listening to others is the beginning our society needs right now.

What endings and beginnings do you see in your life?

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)