I live in an area of the country that is stuffed full of people. If the region in which I live were a person, it would perpetually be pushing away from some huge buffet table with a burp and a whispered, “Ugh. Shouldn’t have had that last whats-it.” Everywhere I look, there are people. The streets are full of traffic and potholes — not because there’s no money to fix them, but because there is just too much traffic. Crews come out and fix the holes … they stay fixed for about a week … and then, there is a newer, much bigger hole. There are lines for everything. And noise. There is so much chaotic, crazy noise. People shouting over each other, just wanting to be heard. Cars honking — the mobile version of shouting, I guess — because they want to be the first to race to that next stop light or get around that next turn in the road. Most of the people around here are permanently stressed, frazzled, and grouchy. Not to put too fine a point on it, but people tend to be downright rude. Everyone has their own agenda, and they don’t care who they have to run over on the way to fulfilling their plans.
I think I’ve mentioned this in my blog before, but it wears on me. I’m not sure it wears on everyone to this extent, although I’m certain I can’t be alone in feeling chewed up and spit out by the big-city machine. I think I am particularly ill-suited for life here. I’m an introvert, which means I require a certain amount of quiet introspection and civility. Both of those are in short supply where I live. I’m also originally from S. Texas, which — at least from my experiences — tends to be a friendly sort of place. I grew up in a place where people chatted in the grocery line or held the door for each other or gave a friendly smile and wave. These things pretty much DO NOT happen where I live now.
Sometimes, I find myself struggling to see past my annoyance and anger to find the humanity and innate goodness in the people around me. Inevitably, this makes me feel isolated and sad. It makes me feel less than human, too — like I’m, somehow, not real, or like I’m just going through the motions of my life. There’s no real connection.
This past week has been a particularly tough one. The Black Dog has been following closely at my heels. Let’s face it: he’s always there. Depression isn’t one of those things that goes away — ever. I know this. But I have become better at dealing with things, so that I might feel my Black Dog ghosting me, but I don’t have to see him. This past week, I not only saw him every time I turned around, but I heard the clink of his collar and the click of his nails on the floorboards of my mind. It was just … bad.
Yesterday, I was out and about (reluctantly) running some errands after seeing a movie. As I was leaving Target, I looked up, and I saw a stunningly beautiful woman. She had such pretty skin and hair, and her jewelry was amazing. She was one of these people who just seem to glow from the inside. What is that? Is it happiness? Self confidence? True inner beauty? I have no idea. I don’t think I have this quality, but I can sure spot it in others.
It’s so completely unlike me, but I felt I had to reach out. I had to say … something. I had to, somehow, acknowledge the truth of this woman’s beauty. No matter how much I wanted to keep walking toward my car, with my head down and not daring to look to either side, I just could not do it. And so, I stopped and waited for her to catch up to me. And I said, “Excuse me, I hope you don’t think me rude, but I just had to tell you that you are a beautiful lady.”
She stopped, surprised, and looked at me for a moment. And in that small space of time, I felt I could see everything expressed in her eyes and in the smile on her face. She thanked me, told me I had made her whole day with my kind words, and we parted ways.
Probably, I will never see that woman again. I know nothing about her or her life or the challenges she faces every day. But, in that moment, I felt connected to the universe around me through her sincere smile and the happiness I saw in her eyes. Her smile stayed with me for the rest of the day. And you know what? I felt a little bit beautiful, too — on the inside.