Sunday, May 4, 2008

I've got my eye on you

I try very hard not to cross my arms when I'm standing and engaged in a conversation with someone. That supposedly sends a defensive message, but I want to reassure you that if I do that with you, it's because my arms hurt from my fibromyalgia and it's more comfortable to cross them gently than let them hang down. Or if I move them around a lot while I'm sitting and talking to you, I'm not rushing or ignoring you; I'm just seeking more comfort so that I can fully concentrate on what you're saying.

But when it comes to eye contact, that's a biggie.

I make eye contact because I want and need to, to make sure I'm connecting with you and your words and unspoken emotions. I'm an observer of human behavior, and that's an important part of my storytelling passion and skills. Recently, I came across someone who drove me utterly mad, because this person wouldn't keep eye contact for more than a few seconds at a time. (However, I didn't comprehend that as the reason for my madness until afterward.) Within minutes, I became frustrated, and then my body language was probably speaking noisy volumes like …

"HELLO!!!! You're not listening to what I'm saying!!!!!! What did I do wrong??????? What are you not saying?????"

Yikes! It was a half-hour after the conversation before my red face finally cooled to a less threatening shade in the crayon box. And I must have come across as over-reacting, which was not the way I had planned to be.

I'd actually been living a much calmer, focused, productive and happier life in recent months, or at least I thought I had, until this.

Nah. I'm going to continue my calmer, focused, productive and happier life and remind myself that no one can make me feel bad unless I give them permission. Sorry, no more permits will be issued for the remainder of this life.

That's I've Got My Eye on You 101.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Remembering Holocaust victims

It may seem strange to some people, but I think about the Holocaust just about every day. Why? Probably because I've got a book coming out soon about the effects of this horrific historic event and how individuals and families still pay a bitter price for it.

May 1 or 2 (depending on your location) is the officially recognized Holocaust Remembrance Day, also called Yom HaShoah. I've been so fortunate to meet a number of Holocaust survivors throughout my travels across the country and those who have been guest speakers at the Yom HaShoah services in Peoria. How do you combine two diverse words like heartbreaking and inspiring in the same sentence? You can when you meet these individuals.

When I observed my first Walk of the Living, which precedes the Yom HaShoah services, I was stunned by the poignancy and message of silent individuals carrying signs bearing names of towns and their Jewish populations … before the Nazis literally wiped them from the map. You see a few hundred and then several thousand, and it's almost impossible to fathom the massacre of so many human beings, 6 million in World War II, just for being born a Jew.

And despite the literally mountains of evidence, there are those who still deny it ever took place. That is why this day of remembrance is necessary and becomes more vital as the number of survivors dwindles as time itself claims more every day. It will be up to the sons and daughters and grandchildren and a society of diligent human beings who must bear with courage the responsibility of teaching new generations the dangers of intolerance and hatred.

Start in your own home and neighborhood. That is how the priceless values of tolerance and compassion can spread faster than any wildfire of evil.

That's Remembering Holocaust Victims 101.