Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Seeking to Understand...

Last week, I saw a transgendered individual walking across the street.  It looked to me that this person had been born male and was now identifying as a female.  She was dressed as a woman but had a large frame, awkward stride, and looked nothing like what our culture defines as womanly.  A variety of thoughts ran through my mind.  None of them kind.  Then it hit me. That what I was looking at was not a what but a person.  A person like me.  Someone, who has emotions and feelings.  Someone, who wakes up in the morning and puts on a pot of coffee.  Who has a family and friends.  Who needs  love and affection. Someone, who longs to be accepted.  A person just trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in this world.  When I thought about what this person must have to contend with day in and day out, my heart broke.  I was filled with compassion.  I found myself wanting to know her story.  Not so I could fix her or find some reason as to why she is this way but to try to understand. 

This encounter has got me thinking about people. More specifically, how I see people.  Do I see a person or my own bias and preconceived notions?  I think as a human being, I tend to gravitate to those who are similar to me and move away from those who are different.  Similar is safe, different is not.  Different can be scary, not to mention uncomfortable.  Different has a way of challenging my thinking and how I see life.  When I seek to understand those who are different, I run the risk of having my world turned upside down.  No longer are they the ‘other’ but a flesh and blood human being.   And it makes it harder to dismiss them or be cruel to them.

My original response to the transgendered woman was my attempt to keep her as the ‘other’ because to see her as a person, would cause me to have to rethink what I have believed about transgendered people.  And changing is difficult and painful.  It is much easier to dismiss, to criticize, to blame than it is to try to understand and to see things through another person’s eyes.

Honestly, this is hard for me to do even when the person is not that different from me.  It is so easy to get caught up in my own day and forget to look at people.  To stop and look into their eyes and remember that there is a person in there.  Often a hurting person.   A person with a story.  A story I may or may not know. When I can do this I find that I am gentler.  Kinder.  Able to love better. 

I read something recently about how we should try to ‘give our understanding to people and then seek to understand’.  It really struck me.  I want to be that kind of person.   To hold back my judgments and just listen.  Really listen.  And if I can really listen, maybe the understanding will come.  And if the understanding comes then maybe the differences will begin to fade.  And then maybe the love can come.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Getting Ahead of Myself....

Last week was kind of stressful.  The kids started school.  I started school.  I had always thought that when both of my boys were in school full time I would take a class at UNH.  Something interesting. Something just for fun. So, as my kids got on the bus to tackle the first and fourth grades, I also headed out to begin my own first day.  Rusty and anxious but excited. 
I say ‘excited’ because that was not the case a month ago.  Nope, a month ago I was anything but excited.  I was anxious and stressed for sure but not really looking forward to the class I was taking.  See, I was actually signed up to take Statistics.  You know, the class that everyone dreads and avoids like the plague until they absolutely have to take it.  Yeah, that one.  You are probably wondering why on earth I would be taking a class like this when I initially wanted to take something interesting and fun.  Good question.  You see, I am the kind of person who tends to get ahead of herself.  In this particular situation, it went something like this in my head:

Looking at the UNH course catalog:  Hummm, these sociology classes look really interesting.  This one about Family would be really cool.  What if I like sociology?  What if one class leads to another and another?  What would it take to get a Masters in Sociology?  Am I smart enough to do that? Maybe. How much are classes these days anyway?  Holy crap!  That’s a lot of money.  I should meet with someone in the graduate program and find out what prerequisites I would need because I don’t want to be taking classes willy-nilly at THOSE prices. 
After meeting with Graduate Department:  okay, so I need to take Statistics, a Methods class and a Theory class.  Hummm, it makes most sense to start out taking Statistics because it is the foundation of how Sociologists do their research.  Okay then, Statistics it is!

And that my friends, is how Kathy Harter went from “taking a fun class” to “getting her Masters” in a field she has yet to decide if she even likes.  Thankfully, after a conversation with my therapist, I was able to take a step back and reevaluate.  To ask myself how I ended up being where I didn’t want to be.  And how do I get back to where I actually want to be?
When I get ahead of myself I think it partly has to do with fear.  Fear of getting to the end of my life and having missed my purpose.  Never getting to where I was supposed to be. Where I was meant to be.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the phrase, “ I don’t want to miss God’s will for my life” or “ God has a plan for your life and you don’t want to miss it”.  Knowing God’s will is big in my subculture.  So, I try to figure out how God might be leading me and then come up with a plan.  But sometimes the plan takes on a life of its own and I get stuck in the very thing I have created  (and sign up for a very ‘un-fun’ class).

I wonder if God’s will is different than I have made it out to be?  That it has more to do with becoming than arriving.  More about a journey than a destination.  I wonder if it is less complicated…..simpler?  . That He loves me and wants to heal me.  To make me whole and slowly transform me into the person I was meant to be.  What if His will just sort of unfolds as I go along?  My experiences being like stepping stones; each one leading to the next. I could worry less about getting to where I think I should be and focus on who I am becoming. 
I think there is some wisdom in that.  When I get ahead of myself and try to force things in my life, it often produces a great deal of anxiety and stress. But when I take each day and allow life to happen, I tend to enjoy life more.  And honestly,  when I look back on my life, there have been  a lot of twists and turns that I never would have anticipated.  I would  have NEVER been able to map out the path that has brought me to the place I am today. 

So, I dropped the Statistics class and signed up for the Family class.  And I am going to try and let go.  To embrace the unknown of the future.  To step on one stone at a time and leave the bigger picture to God.  Trusting He will get me wherever it is a need to be, when I need to be there.