Finding Common Ground: It’s Only (Big) Steps Away


the middle
photo credit: DSC01779 via photopin (license)

I’ve been writing in fear, guys.

The Photo a Day Challenge helped. I could write about happy faces in frying pans and display sweet pics my kid took of clouds and not tread near to the hell breaking loose around the world. Unintentionally, I dealt with fear of speaking up by looking down.

It involved sticking my head in the sand when it comes to the Denver Broncos’ offseason woes or the perennial quandary my Colorado Rockies put their fans in by sucking but not sucking enough to justify giving in on a season and trading off all your tradable players.

I bottled up thoughts and reactions to pertinent things in the universe, such as shootings and coups and attacks on the innocent and a contentious election season brewing.

I’m glad, because the thoughts weren’t ready then. A lot of things weren’t ready then. So I simply dealt with the moment. It involved being okay with far-off doctor’s appointments and unanswered questions and persistent health problems.

It involves late nights and early mornings and schedule-cramming and responsibility-shirking. It includes falling asleep many times before I hit publish. It means I’ve let this life get full and the approach to keep my head down and handle it one thing at a time works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Events, huge and mundane, shape us

It reminds me that my arms ache and my skin itches and Gabi needs brakes and a headlight. My laptop has seen its better days, and my $20 Android often gives me $10 worth of smartphone.

It means I’ve kicked Coke Zero but haven’t really because I didn’t feel alive today until I had one.A tall, cold, beautiful one.

Think of one event that changed your life. You kick cancer’s ass or you win money on the radio or you get custody or your citizenship, and your timeline takes a dramatic turn, dramatic as your divorce or parents’ death or the day you set eyes on the love of your life.

It could be as slow as vowing to get more sleep or it could be something as quick as joining a protest because of recent news, but it will all alter your trajectory.

It’s also in smaller moments, an extra glass of wine or yellow light run rather than stopped for or that day you bought your frozen pizza at Target instead of Food Lion and you not only occupied a different space in time but you also left a void where you might have been.

Who knows how that simple choice altered your existence, or someone else’s?

It could be as slow as vowing to get more sleep or it could be something as quick as joining a protest because of recent news, but it will all alter your trajectory. You might write a congressman or write a blog post or just write in your journal, but the day, it alters you.

Where we wedge our trajectories

At times it feels as if no matter where your trajectory heads, your tract means nothing in the grand scheme. Only, it does. In these divisive times, we can wedge ours among the angry hordes or we can tune truly into it and follow it, whether it runs red, blue, or purple.

Because all the things that happen, the grandiose, which includes but isn’t limited to diet and death, well, they leave huge tracks. They’re incredible, like the close call you had on your bike as a kid, a concussion or diagnosis that turned your life on its ear.

Incredible.

Puzzle pieces fit together all around us, including the guy at the next table and the family behind you in traffic.

Also incredible are those times you begin to see puzzle pieces fitting together, pieces that were nothing but pain or impossible to understand, and now they’re fitting together to make something.

You.

And just think that this happens all around us, to the guy at the next table and the family behind you in traffic. We have so much in common. I loved this tweet last week:

Common life binds us all

I walked out of Food Lion last weekend, after a week of tons of car time with Grace, discussing everything from pop-singer crushes to terrorism in France. The sky above me sunk with ominous intent. “Man, look at that!” I said to no one in particular.

A guy walking past said something about the sky getting ready to let loose.

I’d just talked about chocolate and candy bars with peanuts and also vegetables with a cashier and a mom and a short guy who works for the power company. He wanted the forecast of storms and hail to be false. It’d been a helluva week he’d just recovered from.

It’s not the mean streets of Chicago or in the midst of turmoil in Baton Rouge, but it’s people in America living in harmony.

This is boring stuff, right?

Everyday, mundane. Thing is, in all this, one person was white, another black, and one of them in law enforcement. No, it’s not the mean streets of Chicago or in the midst of turmoil in Baton Rouge, but it’s people in America living in harmony.

It’s the common elements of our lives – candy preferences, weather watching, that mattered most.Or at all.

It just took some time

I wish I could have drummed up the wisdom I wanted when my littlest girl started conversations this week. I wish I hadn’t been afraid to speak my mind when people I love so far right and so far left spoke theirs and left me squarely in the middle.

Actually, I’m glad I’d been afraid to speak out.

I’m glad I had time to think more, to feel more, to examine myself more. I’m a middle-aged dad in a profession that won’t make me rich. I’ve dark skin and a crappy car. I’ve been pulled over and asked to step out of my car.

A girlfriend broke up with me after her brother told on her for dating a ‘beaner.’ That’s over and done.

I’ve also watched officers descend on a building when they didn’t know what to expect from inside, after I’d called about a break-in.

I lived in a Colorado town where opportunity didn’t feel abundant for Hispanics. A girl broke up with me after her brother told on her for dating a ‘beaner.’ I got a job at a newspaper doing a job I wasn’t trained for in the name of diversity.

All that? Over and done.

These experiences, and so many others, tons that had nothing to do with my social status or skin color or lack of height, comprise me. The good. SO much good. Friends who never lost faith. Family that stuck by my side. Strangers who made a difference.

I’m here, now. In a crazy, mixed-up world, it would seem. Or is it crazy and mixed up for all time, and this is just where we are today?

What I’ll do. What we should do.

I don’t have the answers. I will be good to you, though, even, maybe, if you’re not good to me. I will, until my dying day, talk with and answer questions for my beautiful girls and help them forge their own way into the world. Can they fix things?

Can you?

Can we find the commonalities and go from there?

I see, when I look one way and then the next, a whole lot in common you might not see right now.

I’m here, in the middle, y’all. I see you all the way in the red and all the way in the blue, and I see hurt and I see love. I see, when I look one way and then the next, a whole lot in common you might not see right now.

You’ll have to take your own path, even if more pain and hurt lies ahead. It’s a treacherous path filled with ways you’re still losing and causing pain in addition to enduring it. It’s an enlightening path, filled with answers and lessons if you’re willing to see.

There’s kindness going around. Churches with signs for $1 car washes – but then giving the dollar to the car owner after the wash. Belk dishing out gift cards for no reason. Smiles and waves, people letting other people in during a traffic jam.

These don’t get headlines. These do build the basis of harmony. You never know how your kindness will come into play for someone who needs it more than you realize. It feels like small potatoes ways to solve a big-potato problem. But they are ways.

I might still be afraid, but I’m no longer afraid to write.

Come sit here in the middle for a while, if you want. I’ll even share the frozen pizza.

[This post by Carrie Hilgert helped me to articulate this post.]

middle quote

 

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30 Replies to “Finding Common Ground: It’s Only (Big) Steps Away”

  1. The work and heart you put into this post shines through. Your words ring true as kindness. The world is still a good place regardless of all that trying tear it apart.

  2. These are the things I live by: Life is short. Treat people how you want to be treated, even when they don’t treat YOU well. Love and love and love some more. Appreciate the good you have in your life and let go of the bad as much as possible. Remind those you love that they matter because not everyone knows they do.
    Remember: every single person has an impact on our world, even when they don’t realize they do. Every action causes a ripple in someone’s day and we can all just hope that the resulting tidal wave is one of good intent. YOU, Eli, are an amazing wonderful soul and your little piece of the web has been a positive stopping point for so many people. I’ll sit with you in the middle, if just to remind you you’re not there by yourself. Huge hugs Friend. ❤

    1. I like the way you think, Nix. At some point, we have to stop tossing the hate. If you don’t toss it back … it can stop being tossed, right?

      I think also trying to understand what you’re opposed to, or at least acknowledge some common ground.

      Thanks so much for this comment. Traffic’s WAY down around here. It’s a test, to see why I really write. Is it for numbers, or the process?

      So far, it feels like the process wins. Glad to know I won’t be alone in the middle. I hope it gets crowded.

  3. Good to start looking around properly, stopping and taking a moment to realize what’s actually going on. I need to remind myself to do so every now and then. Puzzle pieces coming together… Yes, for sure. Sometimes it’s hard to see it, sometimes easy. Fantastic post.

    1. It takes a while sometimes, doesn’t it? Especially when emotions are high. By practicing restraint, we can keep some of the heat out of the mix.

      And trust in the universe or whatever higher power you believe in. Glad you liked this!

  4. Oh, this. I just love it. And this part especially–“Or is it crazy and mixed up for all time, and this is just where we are today?” <I keep wondering the same thing. Are our experiences that unique? Are we hypet-sensitive to every horrific news story or have they always been the same and we are simply more in tune with what's going on?

    The world is a bizarre place lately. Like you, I prefer the cozy spot in the middle where I can eat my popcorn and interject when necessary. I don't always come to rational thoughts in irrational times and sometimes I need that space to clear the head too.

    Keep doing what you are doing. And good riddence to that ex of yours.

  5. What you have given us here is a refreshing, potent antidote to the nastiness that swirls around us. Yes to recognizing common ground in common things. Yes to sanity. Yes to shining a great big spotlight on the kindness in the world. And YES to not tossing back the hate but instead seeking to understand.

    1. Thank you, Mo. I just hate that people won’t see the other side as viable, as human, as worthy, in so many cases. We see what we want to see in others; we hear what we want to hear in their words. Today, a woman who operated a booth at a flea market barked at one of my kids “don’t tear any pages out of that!” as she flipped through a grownup coloring book.

      What triggered her ire? Was it racial? Was it gender-based? Was it totally unrelated to her, and all about the woman? I don’t know. I know only that it was rude.

      Kindness, we don’t worry about the origin. We just acknowledge it for what it is. Sounds so much easier.

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