Recently I had the opportunity to take a last minute trip to Washington DC for work, which normally I would be kind of “bah-humbug” about, but this time was different. Why the “bah-humbug”? I’m not really a city person, so the idea of being in the hustle and bustle of DC always makes me a little anxious. Plus, being a natural introvert, I always get a bit panicky when I have to be around strangers. Then I have to also be aware of my role at work and how I represent myself; I have to put my knowledge and skills on display to my peers in the sector. It takes so much energy out of me and that tends to take away from the potential excitement.
However, this time was different. I didn’t sleep well the night before due to the anxiety, so when it came time to get up and moving I was already a bit weary. A quick fix of coffee and then I’m out the door and into the stillness of the early hours. As I was closing the door, something caught my eye;I looked up and there was the moon.
She was bright and clear, shining through the shadows of the oak and poplars that surround the house. I felt a little calmer in that moment. This was a good sign! This was also a reminder to breathe and so I inhaled deeply. Closing my eyes I could smell the faint damp scent of dew on the grass, the earthy warmth of newly fallen leaves, and the slight tinge of something metallic in the air; perhaps the smell of the grill.
As I opened my eyes and made my way to the car, I noticed I felt better. The anxiety had not completely subsided but had diminished. Yes, okay, I can do this. I can take on today. All because I looked up.
The rest of the day I was reminded to just look up. When I got on the train I sort of made it my mission to not only look up but look around. My fellow passengers were either snoring or were preoccupied with their electronics. When the usher came through to scan tickets not many passengers bothered to look the man in the eye, much less up at him, which I found discouraging. I made sure that when he reached me I looked up at him and said “Good Morning”. I was rewarded by a truly appreciative smile and a responding “Good Morning”. I could tell that my eye contact and greeting was a novelty, and the warm feeling I got from him made me feel better.
I could have worked on my laptop, on my many tasks to complete, and look down like everyone else but the Voice said “No, keep looking. Eyes up child.” So, I listened. I watched the people around me and the scenery from Richmond to DC. Yes, I did occasionally look down to check messages and emails on my phone, but I spent most of my time gazing out the window. I enjoyed that.
When I arrived in DC I was almost two hours early for my training session. It was an absolutely gorgeous day out so I decided to walk from Union Station to my destination. I took a few tourist pictures of the monuments I passed during my walk and eventually came across a patisserie shop for breakfast. I was again struck by how many people just did not look up – either at the cashier or each other. Everyone was either actively involved in their phones or just plain actively avoiding contact with the shop staff. I found myself getting irritated at this! I purposely stared at strangers to see if they would notice and no one did!
I made sure to, again, make eye contact with the lady who rang me up and wish her a good day. She looked a little surprised and gave me a sort of half smile in wonder, but again I got the warm feeling that my exchange with her was appreciated. It made me happy to see that I made even a tiny difference. Gods what is so wrong with us, that real human contact is a wonder to behold?
I went about my business and walked on to the location of my training. I chatted with the gentleman at the front desk who seemed to appreciate my politeness (again, what is wrong with us that we seem to expect rudeness?) and quickly found the conference room I needed to be at. I was the first to arrive and was then confronted with my anxiety: how do I proceed? Do I retreat and become my more introverted self or do I rely on my management training and put the effort into being more outgoing?
Again, I was told to look up. I sat down in the center most chair at the center table and looked up into the face of the regional director. He met my eye contact and introduced himself and expressed his gratitude for my attendance. In that simple looking up and making contact with someone who was engaged and happy, I was energized to be that more bubbly aspect of myself. The entertainer, the “manager”, the side that only my family (best friend and partner included) know as a part of my duality. I drew people to me and made sure to be welcoming to the others who were a part of this training. This simple “looking up” thing made such a difference in how my day went!
When I left, again I was struck by no one seeming to notice each other or how beautiful the day was. It left me sort of sad as I boarded the train home. We have become so focused on our devices, on drawing inward, on not trusting or appreciating the value of face to face interaction, that we have have forgotten to look up. Many my age are faced with this odd culture shift that puts us at odds. We (in general) tend to share so much of our lives through social media, down to the most banal things, in an attempt to be open and inclusive.
Yet, because we do so much of this sharing through a screen, and by consequence this sharing is very superficial, we don’t feel connected with anything. We are reluctant to listen to our inner voice or the Voice of the Divine because we don’t trust it. We look through our screens, we share to “connect”, we reach out while looking down expecting connection to just happen.
Look, I get I’m making generalizations. But I’m an observer by nature. I see now more than ever more people blissfully un-aware and empty. I have realized that I really place more value on actual human connection. I think I really came to this when my youngest left for basic training; I seriously took for granted that he was at the house all the time. Then to be confronted with the reality that he won’t be around all the time and in fact will be far, far, away and sometimes unreachable by the technology we rely on everyday was just horrible to realize.
So, it became very important to me that I spend more actual time with him when he IS around. I don’t want to take the people I love for granted, to de-value the importance of spending face time with them, because who knows how much longer we have with them. Either by choice or by nature.
This is part of my new appreciation for looking up. Only when you look up, either to the Gods or to the eyes of others, will you truly find the connection you’re looking for. We can’t keep looking down and missing the beauty of the blessings we have around us. The blessings of simple exchanges, smiles of appreciation, and the connection to our surroundings.
When was the last time you looked up?
Writer, Wannabe Artist, Overthinker, List-Maker, Photographer, Chronic Under-Salter