Let’s face it, our brains are wired to label and stereotype because it’s a simple shortcut compared to approaching people without projections of who they are and what their interests are. We know this intellectually, and yet I find myself frequently surprised when I find examples that remind me to not assume.
I'm ashamed to admit it, but I was almost 10 years old before I learned that Santa Claus wasn't real. Have you ever noticed that there are certain moments in life where your entire world view gets flipped upside down? Depending upon the intensity level of these situations and the meaning we attach to them, they can have a major impact on our mental and emotional states, which can be quite fragile during our childhood and adolescent years. In severe cases, it is not uncommon for our unconscious mind to do one of two things: either block the memory outright OR remember it vividly and replay it over and over again.
“You suck.” I bet everyone has been on the receiving end of this insult at least a half dozen times in their lifetime. I would also bet that a person’s reactions to those words varied wildly based on when it occurred, the context around why it was said, and (most importantly) who said it. After all, we might come to expect hearing something like that from someone experiencing road rage or from a drunk fan from a rival sports team. In those situations, we can find it easy to shrug this off and move on with our lives.
Case in point, several years ago I had to replace the rear passenger tire of our Ford Escape because the sidewalls were coming apart. Sure, the experimentalist inside of me wanted to see how far I could push it because I've never experienced a tire blow out while going 75 mph down a highway. Still, my wife did an excellent job calling me out on my semi-sarcastic plans, so off to the tire shop I went!
I rarely panic when I receive a phone call, but something in my gut knew something was not right. Why was my brother calling me so early on a Sunday morning? It was so out of character. I knew he had hit a rough patch and I could only guess that he might (finally) be reaching out for help. I quickly pulled myself together, took a deep breath, and with as much enthusiasm as I could muster, answered the phone with a “Hey Ryan! How’s it going?”
February 5th, 2017 was a day that rocked my family. I still remember the pain and panic in Ryan’s voice as he described what found when he got home. I immediately fought to hold back tears while desperately trying to hold my shit together during the car ride back home. You know those moments when you feel you’re having an out of body experience. You are awake, and yet you feel like you just disconnected from the rest of the world and are suspended in a dreamlike state. Only this was all too real and much more of a waking nightmare.
As my family prepares to head over to be with friends and family to celebrate the 4th of July, I found myself reflecting on and appreciating all the things that we depend on to make this day possible.
For starters, Mother Earth! How fortunate are we to even have a human race to begin with? We just happen to live on a planet that just happens to have the right amount of water and organic mater at just the right distance from the sun to sustain such a wonderful diversity of plants and animals. Without Mother Earth and the Sun, there would be no people.