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I’m sitting here enjoying a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, affectionately known as the BLT. If you ask me, there are few better sandwiches than a BLT. Particularly on a hot summer day, when the tomato gets plucked straight from its vine. That first juicy, salty, crunchy bite? Pure bliss.
I have found that ordering BLTs at a restaurant is a risky proposition. I’ve often been left disappointed by what I’m served– even though you’d think a BLT should be a pretty easy sandwich to get right. There’s the undercooked bacon, the grainy tomatoes, flimsy lettuces…you know, those quality issues. But I find myself most disappointed when the chef feels the need to add some personal flair – like perhaps a spicy aioli that stands a bit too strong, or sugared bacon that lands a bit too sweet. Today my BLT has me thinking:
Why do we humans always want to overcomplicate things?
Full disclosure, I’ve reflected on this question a lot over the years. But lately, it seems to be more front and center in my mind. There’s hardly a day that goes by where I don’t find myself scratching my head in a slightly horrified awe at our ability to complicate our lives, particularly where no complication should be necessary. For starters, why we seem to actively seek out opportunities to get our emotions all riled up and enraged, as opposed to looking for spaces to take a breath, restore our inner calm, and appreciate what we love about our lives.
Exploring the choices we make in how we show up for ourselves in our own lives is complicated enough. It gets even more dicey when we explore how we choose to show up for others.
This past week I was asked to facilitate a few community focus groups around the topic of hate. In particular, hate in the form of racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry. Hate is one of those emotions that, when we actively choose to embody it, creates unnecessary complications in everybody’s lives.
NOTE: These focus groups are part of a larger conversation community leaders are having to try and identify ways to stop or prevent hate incidents and to understand how to provide meaningful support to hate’s victims. You can read more about this very important effort by clicking here
The feedback I heard was consistent: Hate creates fear in those it targets. And it's very challenging to navigate life in the ever-present undercurrent of fear. For example, the fear of being physically attacked, harassed, targeted or even being forced to flee. You might notice this is very similar to the stories of those who have been subjected to schoolyard bullying, where a person is ridiculed and ostracized for any variety of reasons just because that one lead bully has decided it to be so.
For the record, these threats they refer to are not imagined or dramatized. And their perpetrators are actively lurking around the corners of every one of our communities. Actually, let’s be real. Some aren’t even lurking.
All of these intentional choices to target hate has left wondering: How many souls will have their light here on Earth extinguished before we recognize that our real power is found in choosing the exact opposite?
And most importantly, how do we help remind each other that our greatest power is not found in the pursuit of what divides and separates us, but in those ways we love and embrace our equally Divine existence– no matter how different we might think we are? That instead of rejecting what we view as our differences, we honor our variations as those many magical nuances and complexities that make us this vastly unique human race? Which, by the way, requires us to embrace the truth of our whole and authentic inner selves as well. Which, interestingly enough, is usually the best starting point for any of this.
For the record, I have always been “accused” of being too sensitive, wearing my heart on my sleeve, of caring about others too much. True fact: this compassionate nature of mine showed up on more than one performance review as a "needs improvement" area for me over my corporate years. As in, "needs better poker face" and "needs to care less about how decisions affect others..." and such. So it isn’t a surprise that any stories where humans choose their lesser tendencies at the expense of others quality of life really bother me.
Why is this? Well, in this case let’s just say I’ve been there, done that. Listening to the focus group stories reminded me of one of my own experiences earlier in life when I was forced to live with that ever-present undercurrent of fear.
In my very young twenties, I was married to a man who was verbally and physically abusive. I never knew what would set him off, so I tried very hard to be “good” and do things “right.” I didn’t feel like I could tell anyone what was happening for a number of reasons, most of those being that even if they did believe me, it would ultimately reflect badly on me. I believed the narrative that I was the problem. And so I just needed to deal with it.
Until one day I found myself crawling out of my second story window onto my garage roof in an effort to escape serious harm. I didn’t have an “escape plan,” so I had to go back at some point. But I knew I needed to figure out a way to get out for good.
So why am I telling you this? Well, for two reasons really. First, many years after the marriage ended, the underlying reason for his internal rage was brought to light and this awareness helped me make sense of it all. Suffice it to say he is now happily married to a man and from what I hear, living his best life.
You see, it was his holding the shame of this “dark” secret of being gay that caused the self-directed hate to manifest as his abusing me. THAT is complicated. I truly believe that if the world (and for starters maybe his mother) had been less conditional and judgmental in their love and acceptance of him as well as others, and if he felt allowed to be his authentic self instead of a shame and guilt-ridden drunk and angry version of himself, he probably wouldn’t have dragged our lives into the mess it was.
The second reason I’m telling you this is that after two years of living through this highly destructive experience, I had to find my way back to myself. It wasn’t easy. I wasn’t welcome in the Catholic church I was raised in because I was now divorced, which made me a big-time sinner. And then there was just the general societal judgement and shame of being a now divorced female that led me to do everything I could to hide and suppress that experience – and that side of me.
Today, I can acknowledge that there were many times I didn’t think I had the strength to go on. But thankfully something remarkable happened: I was reminded of our purpose for being here. I was reminded of the beauty of the love that was planted in me, and the love that lives all around us. My way back was found in love-centered experiences like laughing with friends, working on creative projects, enjoying nature, and expanding my spirituality in other not so dogmatically religious varieties.
I learned then that it’s much simpler to allow for everyone to just show up as their true authentic selves, and to show up for each other from a place of open-heartedness, compassion, and love.
So I ask once again, why do we have to overcomplicate things?
I guess at the end of the day I think it’s time to get back to answering the basic question of why we’re here, living this human experiment anyway. If I had to sum up my best guess I'd say: All most of us really want is to be able to go on about our days with a peace-filled heart. And the path of least resistance to getting there requires us to simply let go of everything that doesn't start and end with love.
I believe that when we allow ourselves to act from this very pure and uncomplicated space, when we allow ourselves to be filled with and fueled by the purest form of love, that divine love has the power to change us, and it has the power to change our communities.
Remember, there really is no hidden agenda when it comes to living a life fueled by love. All we have to do is make the conscious choice every day to answer its call. And if you don't get it right one day, you try again the next. Let’s keep it that simple.