The Souls Among Us

My plate is quite full these days, and with some of the bigger things in life. In the world of what really matters, most of us agree that we can do without nearly anything except basic food on the table, safe drinking water, shelter, and loved ones. Next comes health, and that’s where my family has been having some challenges lately. In moments it seems like those challenges will never end…

Thankfully my husband is recovering well from the stroke; you’d be hard pressed to notice any remaining impact. But we still don’t know what caused it. He will spend the next few weeks on heart monitor and we are awaiting the okay for him to get his next test (a transesophageal echocardiogram or TEE Test). He managed to get a cold in the midst of everything and it’s not a procedure to have when you’re sick. Besides that, he’s now feeling the pain in his right arm from where he fell. The orthopedist was shocked nothing was broken, but confirmed the stroke just based on the fact that it took him nearly three weeks to realize that IT HURT!

I’ve always been an adherent to the adage, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” But, bartender, its time to make mine a Lemon Drop Martini!

So I believe we will all come through this with our heads and hearts in tact, stronger for the experience perhaps but I’d rather think we were pretty damn strong already. The “everything happens for a reason” and “God only gives you what you can handle” and “you’re being tested” falls flat. Very flat. When confronted with it, it not only offends me in a well-don’t-I-wish-I-were-weak sorta way, but it smacks of complete insensitivity.

When I am feeling more generous, though, I see it for what it is: someone who doesn’t know what we are going through from the insdie and is desperate to be helpful in some measure.

And THAT realization got me to thinking about the souls among us. To meet me in a grocery store aisle or at the lake for a walk, the stroke and my metastatic breast cancer would not be know-able. Save those with whom we are most intimate – and even then – we don’t ever truly know what baggage others care, how troubling or disabling it is, how recent or ancient, and how they carry their load. I don’t think we all suffer, mind you, but lately I do sometimes feel I’m carrying more than others.

I am not.

We all live in a world where there is pain, hurt, loss, fear. And we all carry some measure of that with us. In Jewish tradition, when a close relative dies we rend our clothing (often symbolically by wearing a torn black ribbon). It offers awareness to those around us that we are in mourning, that we require the support and comfort of the community. It allows us, without a word, to share our fragility, and it allows other to approach us from a more sensitive place in themselves. Sadly, with pain short of the death of a loved one, there is no such vehicle letting those around us know when we are vulnerable.

However, just as the world is filled with pain, it is also filled with joy, beauty and love. If we walk through our lives seeing our own challenges. But that the person demanding to cut us off on the freeway or the one who insists she see the doctor we’ve been waiting for, what if we assumed they were struggling more than we were? Could we treat each with the kindness and respect we would a mourner, acknowledge the tenderness that comes from knowing we are each broken or scarred in some way? If we could, each of us and the world would be richer for it.

The souls that ride the bus with us, who work in our offices, who tend to our homes and our lawns, who live across the street, who teach our children – they all have their own world of challenges and difficulties. Whether Judaism’s reading that we are each (equally) created in God’s image, or the Golden Rule of Christianity that we treat others as we wish to be treated, or the Taoist or Wiccan or Islamic version of the same – or perhaps just because it is a way to be in the world – we get to the same place.

Ultimately how we treat others is a reflection on how we see ourselves. I want to walk kindly through this life, not for what it may mean after I’m dead, but because I reap the benefits now. So I’m going to try really hard to be patient with those ahead of me in line, to lend my ear when clearly someone needs to talk, to not yell at the next person who cuts me off. And if all else fails, I’ll order that martini.

I can’t remember whether it was Bill or Ted who said it first, but

Be excellent to each other!

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21 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The Accidental Amazon
    Sep 12, 2013 @ 09:34:30

    Everyone has baggage. There is always someone carting around more than most of the folks around them can possibly know. This is not just philosophy, but knowledge reinforced every day in my job. I have long thought the most important thing we can do each day is to simply be kind. Lovely post, Lori. Thinking of you & your family.

    Reply

  2. jschoger
    Sep 12, 2013 @ 10:13:15

    You ARE excellent.
    Much love,
    Jody

    Reply

  3. Liza Bernstein (@itsthebunk)
    Sep 12, 2013 @ 10:35:01

    BEAUTIFUL post!
    Lori, thank you so much for being the excellent you you already are 🙂
    XOXOXO
    Liza

    Reply

  4. Cancer Curmudgeon
    Sep 12, 2013 @ 10:44:55

    Bill and Ted, excellent AND wise. Rumors of a third movie on the way, hurray!

    Reply

  5. Julie Goodale
    Sep 12, 2013 @ 10:49:03

    most excellent!

    Reply

  6. Susan
    Sep 12, 2013 @ 11:28:19

    Superb post. I love the idea of walking kindly through life to reap the benefits now. It’s a great way of thinking and acting.

    Reply

  7. rannpx3
    Sep 12, 2013 @ 11:28:43

    Hi Lori,
    That’s a great admonition, and we should all remember it, even within the fiery trials. I love the way you reframed your situation so that you remained in love, rather than leaning toward bitterness (which would have been easy, considering).
    I, too, have been in terrible trials this year. Somehow, I thought they would get easier but they don’t. I only have recognized that I am handling some things better than before. I will confess that I despise the hardships. I also resent the adages you listed above. They offend me as well and do fall flat. They offer no consolation whatsoever to a person who needs love and understanding. Whoever says them is ignorant. I have not found them in Scriptures, old or new testament. What I know is that we are flesh and spirit, and soul, all of which need renewing daily. Our Father is loving and always present and aware. He has reached for us, we do not need to seek or beg his presence. Emmanuel means “God with us.” Thank you for reminding me to keep watch for my brother and my sister. For their plight may, unknowingly to me, be much worse than mine 🙂 I’ll say a prayer for you, your husband & family.
    Love, Rann

    Reply

    • Lori
      Sep 12, 2013 @ 22:17:42

      Oh Rann…thank you so much for your response. I am right there on your page, as I hold you close with love, hope and possibilities. Please, please take care of you. XOXOX

      Reply

  8. karen sutherland
    Sep 12, 2013 @ 19:56:50

    dear lori,

    lately, as I traverse the world of deep grief and the long stretch of time ahead to deal with treatment for a new cancer, I have been so moved, often to tears, with the kindness of strangers. troubles of so many varying origins and degrees are part of the human condition, just as being at a loss sometimes of what to say, how to react, or what to do to ease the aching hearts of others. your tender and generous approach, your recognition of those truths, and the compassion you express about mis-fired words that don’t quite hit the mark is honoring your faith as well as your humanity. i find myself so much softer around the edges when someone says something i used to think was inane and offensive. so much so, that no matter the awkwardness, i just react with giving a warm hug. it’s good to remember and be reminded that kindness is the extension of the truth that the whole purpose of life is love.

    love and light and thanks, my dear friend XOXOXOXOX

    karen

    Reply

  9. DrAttai
    Sep 12, 2013 @ 21:11:07

    A beautiful post by a beautiful and wise soul. And I love the new banner photo!

    Reply

  10. Susan Sutker
    Sep 13, 2013 @ 12:31:11

    Lori…hugs are being sent your way and thank you for sharing your strength through your blog. Howard and I try and live as each day really counts. May this be a healthier year ahead L’Shana Tova.

    Reply

    • Lori
      Sep 13, 2013 @ 12:53:06

      Thank you, Susan! Wonderful to connect with you here! May we ALL have health and hope and hapoiness in the year to come. Please, please send my love to everyone!

      Reply

  11. Holly
    Sep 14, 2013 @ 06:06:36

    Thank you Lori for so eloquently expressing what I and so many other have or are feeling. sending my love to you and yours….

    Reply

  12. Tanya Abronson
    Oct 02, 2013 @ 21:29:01

    Thank you for your wise words. I miss seeing you and the guys.

    Reply

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