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Carrying the Conundrum: why it’s hard to be human

Package wrapped in plastic with label reading Handle With Care, Fragile, Thank You. Arrows indicate which side should be up.

I was puzzled. A long line at the post office and then the sight of my package being thrown into a bin with all the others caused tears to swell in my eyes. I did not understand what was rushing through me. Sensing something that felt like overwhelm, I judged. I pushed away the feeling rather than getting curious and stepping in.

Once I was willing to explore, I knew what I had experienced. I had lived a metaphor.

We Are All Connected

In the bin moment, my heart took in the enormity of this: There are billions of us on this journey together. Small-scale connections are so much easier for me to enjoy.

I am more comfortable when I stare into the center of a plant or watch a bee crawl on a thistle. In that moment, I am at peace as fascination erases the sense of my body; my perception is more ethereal than material. That same sense of wonder envelops me when someone I care about has a baby; every cell of my body experiences the immense preciousness of that child. I am awed when I see my friend’s smile perfectly replicated on the face of her grown son. Sometimes I marvel at strangers.

The Park Argument

There are benches and a gazebo in City Hall Park. The local commuter bus stops there; that was probably my reason for being downtown on a sticky summer day—the day I heard the yelling.

A man, a woman, and their belongings were on a bench. It was unclear what they were fighting about, but it ended with the woman gathering her possessions and walking away. The man stood as she left, shoulders slumped, a burning cigarette dangling from his hand. His plea was drawn out: “Ah come on . . . don’t leave . . . DON’T!” She did. She went to the other bench. If there were a door, she would have slammed it. Instead, it was her arms and legs she crossed as she set her jaw. This. Door. Is. Shut.

My heart opened to them, but not just to them. It opened to couples, and to the frustrations in relationships. This same scene plays out in a yurt, a two-million-dollar home, or in an apartment. Those arguments can be a beginning, an ending, or just another day. (Having one now? Ten tips for solving relationship conflicts here.)

We Are All Carrying Something

It’s a privilege to hear the rest of the sentence that begins with “I never really told anyone this before, but . . .” I let it land; we move from there. Rarely is the previously unspoken burden shocking. Often it’s something I have felt or done before. Always it’s human.

This is the push and the pull. We’re the same and we are unique. We’re together on the planet and we are separate. We do many of the same things, but with a different twist. We’re doing good and we’re causing harm. We judge and judge and judge (ourselves, each other). All of us at once are carrying pieces of this human experience in our own way. And, something in each of us shines.

It Makes Me Curious

This week, I started a new project. I’m building a photo album called What Matters? So far, I’ve asked three people to tell me what is concerning them. But the question is posed twice. First, the context is the present moment. Then, what is a larger or more global concern? What is it you are swimming in? The endeavor is an exploration and a celebration. It is my attempt to capture and share just a bit of our connectedness, and our shared conundrum. We are one and we are many—thrown together in the same big bin.

Susan McDowell practices Whole Person Coaching and is based in Central Vermont.
Read more of her blog here.