Archive for February, 2009
“Placing the blame or judgment on someone else
leaves you powerless to change your experience.
Taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them.”
~ Byron Katie ~
Why do we sometimes wait so long to make amends to ourselves and others? Is it because we are busy taking care of other things and we get distracted? Is it that we don’t want to look at the dark, scary stuff? Or is it that we don’t truly realize what ails us until something comes along and forces the issue? For many of us, Facebook has forced the issue.
Roll back the years and meet your former self! You’ve just become Facebook Friends with your long forgotten high school pals! Or were they your pals? It may be time to find out. Let Facebook (and time) help you!
Here’s what some readers discovered:
“I was what “I thought” not so fabulous in high school. Boy have I changed and grown and healed ..Also, I have had many apologies given to me here on Facebook from people who have changed as well. It’s beautiful and I am full of gratitude.”
“I think it’s very cool to revisit our former selves. I wonder what we can teach each other.”
“I started getting friend requests from college friends…then high school friends. I was still pretty insecure about asking people to be my friend on FB. I felt like a skinny nerd in HS and thought I could reinvent myself in college… I am now addicted to reconnecting with old friends – and am overcoming my insecurities.”
“One of the aspects that I am surprised and delighted by is that I am coming to know some people who were just on the margins of my view back then. Now I am seeing them in a new light and loving it. And maybe people are seeing me differently, too.”
“FB really does heal . The wounds of time vanish more if completely. I had the same kind of experience recently with someone from senior year h.s. who hit me up as a friend. We all felt separate, weird, in our own ways. It took me right back and I was able to bridge a gap that I haven’t looked at in a while.”
“To see all these faces, some I knew very well in junior and senior high and some I didn’t, and to have discussions with all these people who helped to shape who I am today has been wonderful.”
Two weeks ago I posted the first part of this story. The night I wrote Part One I was aware that I just might be having a cathartic experience. I signed off on the post and went to bed feeling quite vulnerable. I woke up feeling more so. Then the responses started coming in and my fears began to wash away. Hey, I’m no longer the skinny, misunderstood, confused, tortured guy I thought I was in 1984. After many years of spiritual studies and practice I know that my thoughts about myself created that reality. I could never have known what “those Ridley people” truly thought or what was motivating them 25 years ago. Thanks to the Facebook friends who knew me then I have allowed myself to be Radically Open to changing my perception, to embrace the past with joy and gratitude, and truly move on. Amen!
I didn’t realize how much I still needed to acknowledge and heal from my past until I signed up for Facebook last November and started making connections with the high school folks.
It started innocently enough. I was curious. I wanted to see what 25 years had done to their faces and their fortunes. I was asked to be someone’s friend. I said yes. Then I added another friend, and another. Tracy suggested I add Greg, who suggested I add Joe, who suggested I add Cheryl. Trish was found in my People You May Know column. Pretty soon I was spending my late night hours looking at profiles, searching for people from those forgotten days, wondering what their lives were like and how often they thought about me. Lisa got inspired and created a Ridley High School Class of 1984 Facebook Group. Perfect! More people to daydream about!
And then it happened. I had a meltdown. “Oh, my God, I haven’t talked to these people since graduation in June of 1984 and now they want to be my friend? What does that mean? I don’t think they even liked me back then. Was I a friend 25 years ago? Geez, I was really weird then.” I found myself stuck in some crazy time warp. Was I 16 or 43?
I left Folsom, PA at the age of 18 hoping never to return. Oh, OK, that sounds dramatic, but I really meant it, and at the risk of sounding like an angst-filled teen from an ABC Afterschool Special (does that program still exist?) I will continue.
How many of us suffered silently through our high school years, wishing we knew how to ‘be cool’, thinking we were the weird one, feeling misunderstood, hormonally wacked, frustrated, afraid to go to the cafeteria and be seen by the guys who we thought wanted to beat us up, searching for a way out? I suppose Ridley was a fairly normal high school in the 1980’s (based on what my current friends tell me). I suppose I was a fairly normal teenager, but I sure didn’t feel like one. I had far too many dark secrets. Leaving ‘those Ridley people’ behind and going away to college was a dream come true. I realized that I could reinvent myself and start with a clean slate. So what if a few of my high school classmates were on campus with me? We were different there, more mature, free. We were in COLLEGE. High school was so over. A couple of years after graduating from college I made my way to New York City. Man, I could really reinvent myself there!
A few days ago I received a message on my cell phone. “Hey Joe, it’s Lily.” That voice. That Philly accent. “Holy shit! Lily is calling me?” Yeah, I posted my number on her wall with a sincere message inviting her to connect but I didn’t think she’d actually do it. I couldn’t stop pacing around my office as I thought about Lily and the things we had in common.
Lily and I grew up in the same town. We met in Mrs. Shields’ kindergarten class. We shared 12 years of schooling and socilaizing. Lily was one of the hottest girls around and she scared the crap out of me (as many beautiful women used to). I was sure she saw me as a total loser in high school based on what I considered a disaterous make-out and groping session on her living room couch (in 8th grade?) while the movie Grease played on cable TV in the background.
I listened to the message a second time and there was no doubt in my mind that I had to get in touch with Lily immediately. My fingers and feet danced as I dialed her number. Her voicemail kicked in and I started to leave a message, but before I finished, my Blackberry beeped in a way that told me there was an incoming call. It was Lily. I was about to have my first off-line conversation with someone I’d left behind in the era of big hair.
“I can’t believe this!,” I said, as we talked and laughed like old friends who just happened to have lost track of one another. “Do you remember Spencer in that dress?” “What ever happened to Karen?” “Do you ever talk to Mike?” It was a magical experience. Layers of awkwardness and embarrassment melted away. In April Lily will be coming to New York City, where I’ve lived for the past 18.5 years. She’ll be traveling with some other women I know from high school. I will happily do whatever I can to make their weekend fun, interesting and worry-free. Ah, the power of Facebook.
Last week I meditated on the thoughts and feelings I had about my high school years. I looked at my fears. I recalled my month-long intention of Radical Openness and the book next to my bed, Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping. I was a bit shocked to discover that although I saw myself as a dramatically different person than the young man who tried to run away from his painful past by fleeing his hometown all those years ago, I hadn’t made the conscious connection that ‘those Ridley people’ had changed too. 25 years is a long time. “Perhaps a large dose of Radical Openness and Radical Forgiveness would help here,” I heard myself say. I guess it’s working.
As my list of Facebook friends grow, I look forward to adding more Ridley High School Class of 1984 almuni to it. I am open to healing whatever needs to be healed in regard to that part of my amazing life. I’ve asked someone to post my yearbook photo on Facebook. I intend to look at it with openness, forgiveness and love. Amen!
Not Exactly Sex in the City, but I Got Off On It Anyway (Finding Peace in New York City’s Times Square)
Ask most New Yorkers and they are likely to tell you that strolling leisurely though Times Square on a Saturday night is not something that rates high on their To Do list. In fact, most would probably do whatever they could to avoid Times Square on any night. And that’s exactly why this veteran New Yorker decided to shake off his cynicism, get into the spirit of Radical Openness, and brave the crowds on 42nd Street.
I spent about 10 hours on Saturday sitting on my ass. Seven hours were spent in a computer lab at the Fashion Insititute of Technology with Melea, my Social Networking guru who’s played a big part in the viral Facebook request ‘Can We Find 200,000 by Feb. 12th to Wish Darwin a Happy 200th Birthday?’, learning about web marketing, and the remaining hours were spent with a friend at Sacred Chow on Sullivan St. stuffing myself with vegan food (that gluten-free chocolate cake was awesome!). All of that sitting, and yes, the eating, made me hungry for movement, so my friend and I decided to enjoy the uncharacteristically warm February night and walk off our meal. We headed north. As we reached 28th St. and 6th Ave. I looked up at the Empire State Building, which was lit beautifully in red (for Valentine’s Day?). I’ve been carrying my camera with me lately to record moments like that, so I shot a few frames of the famous structure. Standing in the middle of the sidewalk, staring up at one of Manhattan’s premier attractions, camera in hand, I felt like a tourist visiting the city for the first time. “Wow,” I thought, “I feel so open.” Radical Openness was working once again!
Deko and I parted ways a few blocks later and I headed to Penn Station to catch the subway. I crossed 7th Ave. and walked into the crowds outside of Madison Square Garden. Just as I got to the stairway that would take me down into Penn Station and on to the #3 train, I froze. My mind was filled with thoughts about Radical Openness and my experience several minutes earlier with the Empire State Building. “What do you want to do, Joe?” came the voice. I looked uptown at the flashing lights of Times Square and knew exactly what the answer was. “I’m going to walk up there as if for the first time, camera ready, and look for signs that offer me a positive message of openness.” Off I went. How liberating! Free from thoughts of what I might look like snapping photos every three feet, running into the street, and staring up at buildings with my mouth and eyes open wide, I began to observe the city that I call home from a completely new perspective. My usual rush, rush was now an inner hush. I was OPEN! I felt welcomed by the throngs of people walking toward me. I enjoyed the site of policemen getting their picture taken with adoring tourists, the guy in the Batman costume throwing a giggling young woman onto his shoulder, the many different languages being spoken all around me, the bright lights, the cars, cabs and buses, the horse shitting near the curb. How many times had I walked through that place and not SEEN it? Where else in my life could I retrain myself to SEE?
I found a spot at the top of a giant red staircase (how long has that been there?) in the middle of the square. For a long time I sat and watched. My eyes watered. My chest tightened and tingled. “Let this crack you open,” I heard. And so it has.