When I was in the first grade I had a teacher who didn’t like me. I don’t know why she didn’t like me, but I know she said I gesticulated too much at the Parent-Teacher Conference, because I remember my mom explaining what that meant, and years later I read the report card. A’s in everything, too much gesticulation. I was reading and writing well above grade level, but she didn’t like the way I expressed myself. I still use my hands a lot. Hello? My mom’s side of the family is Italian, and yes, I use my hands a lot when I talk. Also, I was six. But I digress. I remember the feeling of wanting her to like me, and of trying to figure out what I needed to fix about myself to gain her approval. Is it glaringly obvious to me now that making an issue of how much I used my hands or made faces when I talked is completely nuts? For sure, but I didn’t understand that then. One day during recess we were playing some game where half the kids were on their hands and knees being “horses”, and the other half were the riders. I was riding. Mrs. B, who’d been in the Teacher’s Lounge, was suddenly in the doorway, bellowing, “Ally Hamilton!! Come with me!” I froze, terrified, and she yelled, “Now!!”. I got off my horse/friend, and followed her out of the classroom and up the stairs, my heart racing, little hands shaking, blinking back tears. I quietly asked her what I’d done, and she said, “You’re getting the children into too much trouble.” And just like that, she confirmed what I already knew, and had always known. I sat on the bench outside the Teachers’ Lounge where she told me to stay (she couldn’t take me to the Principal’s Office, after all, since I hadn’t actually done anything wrong) with my face on fire and this awful feeling of shame flooding my body, and took it in. I was different, I wasn’t like the other kids. According to her, I wasn’t even one of them. My friends were, “the children”, I was …what? And I had always had the feeling of standing on the outside with my nose pressed up against the glass, even though I had plenty of friends and got along well with everyone. I think we all feel this way to some degree, but at six, I had no way of understanding that. When we had our second recess that day, I sat in the little stairwell where we entered the classroom from the street, and cried all the tears I’d been holding back for hours. My friends Robin and Karen came and sat on either side of me, and put their arms around me, and told me she was just mean. Kids get it.
If you’re awake, then you already realize you’ll spend most of your time in that internal space that is your home. Your inner world. You’ll filter everything around you through your own particular lens, which has been shaped by all your experiences. So in a sense, you’re always on the inside looking out. Depending on all kinds of factors, things you’ve been through, your experience of love, the degree to which you’ve been able to count on people, your own trust in your ability to discern what’s real, and how many times you’ve been betrayed, mistreated, or cherished, your lens is either going to be pretty clear, or pretty foggy. It might even be cracked, causing all kinds of misperceptions, making some things appear bigger than they are, others out of reach. The path to healing yourself is really about wiping the lens clean so you can see and face reality as it is. To become more responsive and less reactive. To recognize the space between inside and outside is really nothing more than the way you’re receiving and interpreting the data that’s coming at you. The truth is, we are all very much the same, even though we have our individual lenses. We are all human, we all want connection. We’ve had our hearts broken and some of our dreams have been shattered. We have fears and doubts and shame and rage, to varying degrees, and hopes and joy and the pull of that which inspires us. We have a deep well of love if we’re brave enough to uncover it. We have gifts to unwrap and share if we don’t let fear stand in our way. We have grief, and loneliness and longing. We have days full of light, and days full of darkness so thick we cannot hear our hearts. Our intuition. There’s the connection of collectively feeling separated. The shared illusion. The more we can acknowledge that we feel alone, unseen, misunderstood or altogether ignored sometimes, the more the lid comes off the Big Secret. We are all floundering around here, doing the best we can to work it out and make sense of this excruciatingly beautiful experience we call life. On some deep level, we are all trying to answer the unanswerable questions, to bring some order to the chaos, and to learn to work hard, and then surrender. To let go or be dragged, as the proverb goes. You’re not alone in this thing. Neither is Mrs. B. If you need to wipe your lens clean, get busy. Life is gorgeous even with its pain and confusion. There’s a depth to it we’d never feel if it was sunny every day. The ride is kind of amazing when you stop gripping the handlebars. If your inner world is your home, you always have the option of flinging the doors open and inviting it all in. Hoping you do, if you haven’t already, and sending you lots of love. And gesticulation! Ally