Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
We choose where we live. First, we pick a place to house our bodies. We talk rent or mortgage or investment values. If we’re fortunate, we can seek out a place that suits our needs and our taste. Some of us consider whether or not we’ll wow our visitors.
During lockdown, our choice of location was sorely tested. Did we have enough space to work, to play, to stay sane? But we discovered a truth. Where we live isn’t a question of footage or status or even function. Our most important environment is that we construct in our minds. When my husband and I purchased our first house, I was worried. Our new house included a grudge hedge—a property line the previous owner had cleared by pouring diesel fuel on a rose bush border. What kind of neighbors would inspire such spite? My employer asked me what the neighbors had been like in our apartment building. “They were wonderful; we’ll miss them.” My employer smiled. “Then your new neighbors will be wonderful, too…because you’ll treat them as wonderful.” He was right. We create what we expect. Those neighbors beyond the destroyed hedge became more supportive than blood family. The same phenomenon happened in our current home.
What makes a wonderful neighborhood? In her Inspector Gamache crime mystery series, Louise Penny lures readers into a fictional village called Three Pines, a village based on real places she names in her comments at the end of GLASS HOUSES. “When we choose tolerance over hate. Kindness over cruelty. Goodness over bullying. When we choose to be hopeful, not cynical. Then we live in Three Pines.” The core residents of Three Pines are free to have bad days, be different, and make mistakes—even significant ones. They don’t always like one another. But the one perpetual ingredient they depend on is compassion that leads to forgiveness. Like real life emergency workers who risk their lives to rescue strangers without ever asking about their race, religion, politics, or gender before they help, they care unconditionally. In our town of Trinidad, Colorado, residents from several different churches and even atheists once crowded into the oldest synagogue in Southern Colorado for services to save it from being closed to the dwindling Jewish population. Likewise, a local surgeon became internationally known for his expertise performing sex change operations because they were sorely needed, and the profits from his work rescued the local hospital. Many resented his unconditional compassion, anyway.
Why are we attracted to compassion? First, everyone—regardless of beauty, wealth, or youth—will one day need help. EVERYONE. Each of us will be touched by disaster, disease, grief and old age. No mystery. Trauma will happen. And the help we’ll need most will be emotional support. We’ll need real friends. As the old saying goes, to have a friend you must be a friend. We need government institutions to act as friends based on human needs.
Second, a loving life is life-giving. Mark Rowland, the CEO of the Mental Health Foundation, explains that people who are kind and compassionate may live longer and have reduced stress plus improved emotional wellbeing. They’re happier and healthier. My thermographer told me she can spot unreported stress by looking at a thermogram of the body that reveals inflammation. Unhappiness can make us sick…can kill us. We mitigate stress with kindness.
Women are often linked to compassion—which, to many, makes compassion a weakness because they like to think of women as weak and childlike, needing shielding. To them, strength is power. It’s ironic that the Broadway Peter Pan in America who sang “I’ll never grow up” was played by a woman. In traditional societies worldwide, women aren’t allowed to be self-determining adults as men are. Women who are presented as strong are often women whom manipulative men select for being malleable and selfish.
Throughout the globe, we’re being asked to design the emotional world in which we’ll live. We’re being told to worry about riches first. Money can buy deceptive ads, but money can’t make bad people good. Before you take action such as the vote Americans have, close your eyes. What’s most important in your life? Real friends, family, love, safety, good health—honesty. Remember you’ll be vulnerable one day. The United States as a democratic republic is vulnerable now. Vote for the emotional home you want. Be the neighbor you’ll need one day. Republican Former President George H.W. Bush once envisioned a kinder, gentler nation.
So do I.