What I don’t want you to know about me is that a lot of times I am driving around my neighborhood and most of South Wales, and all the gray pebbledash (aka stucco) houses stained with diesel smut really gets me down.
I want to see color! Vibrancy! Variety! Wooden cladding with beautiful paint jobs. Nicely decorated front porches and whitewashed fences.
I’m not in Kansas anymore though, and unlike OZ, all I can see is gray.
The part that I don’t want you to know about is that I am starting to resent where I live. I feel stifled. And I judge myself harshly for feeling this way.
‘Grow up. Get a life. Stop judging your surroundings. You should be happy with what you have. Stop being so superficial that you let a bit of dirt and gray get you down.’, my inner critic dutifully chides away.
A couple of months ago I was walking towards the Swansea waterfront for a jog on the beach. The neighborhood I was walking through… let’s just say it could use a facelift. Terraced pebble-dash houses with concrete slabs passing for a garden, bleeding into asphalt pavement (aka sidewalk). No grass. No trees. No sign of life.
Except for one.
One neighbor in the 4 or so blocks I walked was doing life on their own terms. They had created an actual garden in their 10’ x 6’ plot of front yard and humongous tulips were in full bloom, all different colors. You could tell it was cared for.
It was so beautiful, and so starkly different from it’s surroundings, that I stopped and took a picture to capture this memory. Imprint the beauty. Make it last.
A true testimony to the idea that when you shine your light, you impact others.
Two days ago, I was again going for a jog along the beach, and The Beatles decided to come with me. ‘I am he, as you are he, as you are me, and we are all together’ started running through my head.
I never could really understand the point of this particular song. The Eggman? The Walrus?
But as I fell into a rhythmic pace over the sands of Swansea Bay, it clicked. I didn’t have to be high on LSD to get the point, at least of this first line.
I am he: I want beauty in my life and so does the person who takes the time to make this garden beautiful.
As you are he: If you want beauty in your life, you’re just like him too.
As you are me: Oh cool, we both crave beauty (and both probably winge when it’s lacking).
And we are all together.
So if we’re really all together, than I’ve got some socks to pull up because ‘he’ is clearly doing his part in creating beauty, and all I’m doing is getting more and more depressed the more I don’t see it.
So two days ago I did something different.
Drug-free but high on endorphins from my run, I went to my car, took out a pen and paper, and wrote this neighbor a note of thanks. ‘Thank you for caring enough to make Swansea beautiful.’
I walked over to the garden (this time, huge purple roses in bloom; took my breath away so much I forgot to take a picture). I was going to leave my note in the mailbox but heard voices on the other side of the door, and sure enough an elderly man opened the door as he was was about to go walk his dog.
I thanked him for creating a beautiful garden.
He had no clue what this Crazy American was on about.
But he proudly told me about the days where he would get up every morning, walk over to the university, tend to the gardens there, and then pick up his grandkids from school.
I still don’t know who the Eggman is. Or the Walrus.
But lesson #1 from the Beatles I now know: People around us can teach us about, and heal, our soul cravings.
I crave beauty. I need it in my life. I know this because when I see someone else create beauty, I am attracted to it.
And now I am challenged to create it. Because I am he. And if this grandpa can conjure up some beauty, then so can I.
Whether it’s by planting flowers, cutting my grass, painting my nails, or writing a note of gratitude…
I get to choose. I get to let the light bouncing off my soul cravings, light up others around me.
Lesson #2 from the Beatles: I am he, and you are he, and you are me, and we are altogether… works not only with beauty, but with all the crap in life too. Our suffering is the same.
As different as we might think we are from those around us who suffer, we are not.
We are in this together. We create beauty together, we suffer together, we heal together.
Perhaps that’s the Eggman. The Walrus. I think I am so different… I mean, heck, I don’t have a bald head or tusks. I’m not a retired grandpa who maintains his horticultural hobbies.
But inside we’re all the same. So when you come across someone who is suffering, remember that their suffering is yours too.
Thursday happened to be the first ever World Eating Disorder Action Day, which makes this Eggman and Walrus concept even more profound. At the crux of an eating disorder you’ve got a massive loss of identity. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the person sitting across from me say, ‘I don’t know who I am anymore’.
So if that is the suffering of someone with an eating disorder, all the more reason for the rest of us to shine our light so that they’ve got a chance to find themselves through the light they are attracted to. Just like grandpa’s garden reminded me of my soul craving for beauty, and experiencing it healed a part of me.
I have no idea what grandpa saw in me other than that Crazy American, but I would like to think that somehow in helping me heal my suffering, some of his was healed too. Maybe he felt alone, unappreciated, forgotten and someone noticing his soul creation gave him some hope or something. Who knows.
But I do know that sometimes I feel alone, unappreciated, forgotten.
So maybe our suffering is the same. Maybe your suffering is the same. Maybe we can heal it all together.