I started the morning at a pleasant hour, feeling rested and merry, in a familiar amount of pain, consistent with the cold weather. I sipped my coffee and quietly honored MLK Jr Day, reading biographical essays of great civil rights leaders of color, and about black American, and immigrant experiences of struggling with the American dream. I had considered going to one of the numerous public events, but the icy weather keeps me home today.

I got to thinking about racism and discriminatory biases generally, even peculiar “mean girl” biases against “outsiders” who don’t wear the “right” clothes, or make-up, or use the “right” language; human primates take “fitting in” pretty fucking seriously. Comically so, were it not for how much damage we do, and how we hurt each other. Can we not let go of that? It’s so childish and trivial.

I think about a younger me. It has been a struggle to better myself, to leave my racist upbringing behind, to stop judging others because they are not within the parameters of some bullshit ideal built up in my head about what people “should” be, handed down to me by my parents, or propagated by the media. I’m not the woman I was at 23, at 27, at 32, at 40… Still very human. I still face the woman in the mirror every morning asking how can I take another step toward being the woman I most want to be? How do I treat my fellow human being truly well, and also treat myself truly well?

I saw myself on video the other day. A corporate end-of-year presentation looking ahead to the year to come. I did not recognize myself visually, at first glance; that woman doesn’t look like how I feel when I look out from within this fragile vessel made of flesh. She’s… fat. Not pretty. Not “cool”. Sort of… nerdy. Older. I felt struck by something else; I’m okay with who I am these days. I wasn’t frightened, offended, appalled, or ashamed of that woman on video. I heard her words. I smiled because she engaged me with her passion and ideas. I lost sight of her appearance quickly. I have grown.

A change of perspective can be really helpful.

A change of perspective can be really helpful.

For some time now, I make a point to seek out what is beautiful in the people I see around me. I shut off the dripping internal faucet of subtle criticism any time I catch it dripping, and return to smiling at strangers, wishing them well, and seeing what else there is to see about my fellow human beings on this strange journey. I take advantage of the power of imagination, and life experience, to rewrite the internal narrative I tell myself about humanity.

No, we aren’t all kind people. We aren’t all supportive or pleasant people. We aren’t all “doing our best” to improve the world. Still – there is more to each of us than our worst moments, and there is more to each of us than our outward appearance taken in at a glance by a stranger in an impatient moment. So. I try to see more. I try to see differently. I look for the beauty. I look for the delight. I look for the best of what each stranger offers the world. When I catch myself doing differently, in some very human moment of my own, I imagine switching to a different pair of glasses. Glasses that filter out the ugliness and hate. Glasses, let’s be clear, that filter out my ugliness and hate, and judgmental criticism, and anger, and impatience with the world, and frustration, and pain. I’m human too. Sometimes I need to see more clearly, sometimes that means changing not the world itself, but how I see it. 🙂

What sort of tint is on your glasses? Hate? Mockery? Cruelty? Anger? Criticism? Impatience? Smug superiority? Righteous fury? Resentment? And when you turn your attention from the world to the person in your mirror, what then?

Today is a good day to see the world through different eyes. A change of perspective. Greater compassion. Acceptance that we are each having our own experience, and awareness that the experience I have myself, may not be what someone else experiences, at all. Simple respect, consideration, compassion, and awareness, go a long way toward healing the world. It doesn’t take much more than seeing the circumstances and asking “how can I help?”, without defensiveness, without blame, and without criticism. I’m ready to clean off my glasses and begin again.