It’s been a strange week, in some respects. I’m sitting here with my morning coffee, mulling over the strange sights I have seen, standing in front of the office, taking an occasional break from working. I see a lot of things. Our building is immediately opposite a large hotel, and surrounded by restaurants, banks, businesses, public gathering places, and transit stops. There’s a lot to see, is what I’m saying. Homeless people. Busy people. Angry people. People who are lost. People who are pre-occupied. People who are exceedingly well-dressed. People who are dressed, well, as though they are in Portland (it’s pretty casual here). People with ear buds in their ears, talking to unseen others over wireless connections mingle with schizophrenic people; it’s not always possible to tell which are which simply by the conversations.

…It’s a city. There are a lot of people. Human experience is vast and varied. I see a lot of things passing by, as I stand quietly enjoying the theater of humanity existing. Too often, I find myself wondering how long this will last…? Humanity, I mean. We’re doing a pretty poor job of thriving, as a species, it seems.

Yesterday, I walked past a man laying on the pavement, flat on his back, head lolled back and somewhat downwardly, past the curb, sort of (but not quite) into the street. Nothing about it looked comfortable on a freezing morning. He was not wearing a coat, or wrapped in a blanket, or covered up at all, really. He did not appear to be “sleeping” so much as unconscious. People passed by, glancing down, walking past. He was in front of a Starbucks. Some time later, he was gone.

Later, I was startled to see a man run screaming and yelling from inside the hotel across the street. Not a guest, obviously, from his clothing; a homeless man, perhaps, unkempt, and pants literally around his knees as he ran, hobbled, up the street and away from security, who chased him half-heartedly. I heard later, from the doorman of the building I work in, that the running, screaming, man, had been defecating in the actual lobby of the hotel.

I saw a well-dressed woman, obviously a professional woman of some sort, well-groomed, and precise, talking on her phone outside the building. She was sort of fixed to the spot where she stood. Face tense. Jaw clenched. Trying to “hold it together”, until her emotions broke like waves against the stillness of her face, and she began cursing and weeping at the person on the other end of the call. In an instant, she was as human as anyone. In an instant, people began to avoid her physical space, and turn their faces away from her suffering.

I saw a younger woman on a bus stop bench, rocking and crying, making her misery quite public, while she stayed somehow still very private, herself. People simply walked past.

Misery is pretty common in a city. Maybe everywhere. I used to be immersed in it, myself. I have cried in public, unable to hide “the shame of my emotions” at a time when I found them shameful, but too far gone in the experience to care about it anymore. I have run screaming, angry, or hurt, or frightened. I have had tense public phone calls that would have been better handled privately, personally, and face to face. I have laid still, sick or injured, immobilized by my circumstances in some other part of my life, stalled by the chaos and damage.

…Fucking hell, I am so glad I stand where I do, today. It’s been a bit of a journey getting here. I don’t take my current good fortune for granted; it could happen to anyone. Frankly, any of it could. It’s one  of the fundamentals of our humanity; in spite of the wealth of variety in the human experience, misery is both plentiful, and tediously similar, no matter the circumstances. And any one of us could be “stuck there”, at any time. No kidding. If you aren’t miserable, right now, take a minute to really feel how good it is to feel a bit better than that. 🙂 Celebrate getting to this better place, or celebrate having never had to experience real suffering (if you are that fortunate, thus far in life) – it’s worth a moment of recognition and appreciation.

The fact that Thanksgiving is behind us, already, is not sufficient reason to turn my back on gratitude. Gratitude is lovely all year long.

I arrived home last night, after a somewhat trying commute, and there was my Traveling Partner, relaxing, waiting for me. The house is spotless, aside from my studio, and I’m committed to tackling that this coming weekend. Moving things around improved how comfortable things are, and somehow I’m not completely disrupted. It’s pleasant. I am enjoying the changes we made, together. I take a moment to sip my coffee, and feel grateful for all of this, too.

Reading the news, or observing the passing theatrics of human misery standing on a city sidewalk, it’s easy to forget the joys in life. They’re worth experiencing. They are even worth wallowing in, if you’ve got enough joy to do so. 🙂 It’s okay to enjoy life’s pleasures – I try to avoid being a dick about it, though, and refuse to avert my eyes from human suffering. I’m not sure what to do about it, sometimes. (A lot of times.) I think, probably, we could do more, better, to alleviate a great deal of suffering in the world… probably harder to do that, if I’m not willing to be aware that it exists. I think about an X who tried to “buy her way into heaven”, unsuccessfully, of course; heaven is not for sale. We build heaven with our actions (there are a lot of verbs involved), our compassion, our concern, our authentic resolve to change the world – did I mention action? Yeah… this planet isn’t going to take better care of itself. We’ve got work to do.

Don’t like what you see around you? The answer isn’t in turning away from the problems. What are you going to do, to change the world? Check the time. It’s already time to begin again.