During both of my pregnancies, I couldn’t go anywhere without feeling that I was surrounded by a disproportionate number of women who were also miraculously growing tiny beings inside of them. Everywhere I went, pregnant people abounded, and we would see each other, seek out each other’s precious bumps, make eye contact and smile with a sparkly twinkle in our eyes that said, “I see you – you are beautiful, and I am so happy we are part of this circle of life.” As a pregnant woman, I had amazingly strong Pregnancy Radar.
Those who know me will attest (albeit perhaps reluctantly) that pregnancy was not an entirely blissful and beautiful experience for me. In the beginning, I was nauseous and hungry at the same time, and there was not a single food that was appealing to me. The rest of the time, I was forgetful, hormonal, temperamental, and generally difficult; not to mention tired beyond my wildest imaginings of what it previously meant to be tired. I had carpal tunnel syndrome and swollen ankles. And I was forgetful. (Did I say that already?) But despite all of these things, inside was a miniature, beautiful person-to-be who made all of the discomfort somehow worth it. And all of this could be shared with one poignant glance into the eyes of a perfect stranger who was occupying the same crazy, hormonal boat. Pregnancy Radar.
This phenomenon evolved into Baby and Toddler Radar after the kids were born. I constantly noticed women with children the same ages as mine (must have been all of those pregnant people from before). I would see them in the grocery store; three-year-olds throwing complete fits over riding in the cart, not riding in the cart, wanting a toy, too tired/hungry/thirsty, wanting to go home. But even in the trenches of two-year-old tantrums, we mamas knew that we loved these remarkable little people more than we loved ourselves (why else wouldn’t I be driven to a life of crime when my son SCREAMED and clung desperately to the orange Home Depot cart, not wanting to leave anything so big and beautifully orange behind in a parking lot?) These smaller versions of ourselves forced us to look so deeply; to dive to depths of patience we didn’t always realize we had. During these times, the shared glances between mothers were that of sisterhood, “Hang in there, Mama, this too shall pass. You’re doing great. We’ve all been there.” Baby and Toddler Radar.
Fast forward a few more years, and my radar developed in a way I never could have forecasted. Following two surgeries for thyroid cancer in 2010, I couldn’t help but notice the inordinate number of women with faded smiling scars at the base of their necks. These shared war wounds from unanticipated battles told me they, too, were acutely aware of how one tiny gland can wield so much power over one’s mood and sense of well-being; over the very sense of who I am and what defines me. They, too, had experienced inhumanly extreme levels of fatigue and hormonal imbalance, but without the happy ending of a baby to make it worth the suffering. In these cases, the eye contact and connection stated, “Hang in there, Friend. I am here with you. I know that behind your smiley-face scar there is pain, but there is also a beauty indescribable; an appreciation of life that few things can teach you so forcefully.” Thyroid Cancer Radar.
It seems to me that no matter what phase of life I am in, the thoughts that consume my days become staggeringly obvious characteristics of the people around me who share that common experience. Our radar is honed to whatever occupies our lives at the moment. So lately I have wondered, what if I consciously cultivate peace? What if the thoughts that consume my days are primarily aimed at opening my heart to find connections with people and nature and the miracles that surround me every day? What kind of radar would that be?
Not everyone has children. And not everyone has had thyroid cancer. But I think it is fairly safe to say that every human being has a desire to find happiness in his or her lifetime. When I focus my attention on cultivating peace and happiness, the glances I share with people become stolen peeks into caves of hidden jewels and luminous treasure. Awe-inspiring. Even those who might have hurt me or those who are currently experiencing pain or angst share – at some level – a desire to find a little magic in their lives. If I bravely look at them with peaceful eyes; if I really see the woman who is rudely critiquing my food choices as she checks me through the line at the grocery store and tell her that I hope she has a lovely day (and mean it), I can connect with that common piece of humanity. The connections are limitless. The world is full of beautiful, beautiful people. Happiness Radar.