What do you see when you look at me?

I wonder what they all see when they look into our windows. What do you see when you look at me? Have I spent so much time worrying about what I see rather than how others see me?  We must not confuse our own view of ourselves in the mirror with the view that others have of us as we stand naked in the window.

A famous story among policemen is that of the woman who calls to complain about the man who constantly watches as she undresses each night. When the policeman arrives at her home, she walks him into her bedroom where the shades are open allowing all to see whatever happens in the bedroom.  He politely explains that if she wants privacy all she need do is to pull her shades closed.

Yet so many of us lay ourselves out there, naked with the shades open wide to the world. Opening ourselves to the judgement of others and worrying or complaining about their views when they judge.  Have we not invited them into our rooms? Have we not opened our shades and exposed ourselves to others and their judgement?woman_silhouette_shower_curtain

So why should we fear their judgement? Perhaps we should ask them, what is it you see when you look at me? When going clothes shopping, my bride will try on a new dress then look at herself many times in the mirror, but her view is not complete until she asks me what I see.  Her opinion of the dress is not only framed by how she sees herself but how others see her in it.

The other day a woman called me a racist.  I have been called many things in my life, been cut by words as sharp as the knives that have stabbed me as well.  However, this stopped me and made me look again.  I found myself looking again in the mirror not to see what I have always seen of myself but wondering what others saw in me.  Did others think this of me? What could I have done to earn this moniker at the hands of this woman?

I have spent my adult life advocating for those who needed my assistance, regardless of race or creed.  I have spent hundreds of nights in the worst parts of our community trying to help those who called for help, never once asking what color was the skin of the person whose voice called for my help.  My curtains are always open and my emotions always on display, whether I like them to be or not.  I am a good guardian but not a good actor.  When I am cut, I bleed; when my soul hurts, I cry.

She sees me based not on the lens which I see myself but based on the lens of her own experience.  In her world, we are all racists.  I am a person who wears a badge in her world, therefore I am a racist like the rest.  She sees the shield alone and not the man who bears it.

I will continue to leave the curtains open so that I can look out and enjoy the view.  However, I will also wonder what others see when they look into my window.  I will wonder how they will judge me based upon who they “think” that I am and not what they can see from the outside.  And with that in my mind, I will try not to view them differently or to judge them based solely upon what I see with the lens that I wear but what they truly are. What they are when they lie naked within their room, beyond the open window and passed their open curtains.

I will view them in a way that I wish they would view me, with honestly and a belief that there is good within them until they prove to me otherwise.  I will look out of my window and no longer simply wonder about the things that lie without but also will wonder what others think of me and the things that lie within.

Judgement Day

There are no windows here. Four walls adorned with government symbols and flags. It’s supposed to represent the power of government to protect the people. For some reason it just represents a room with no view of the past or future. It’s just a place where we apply the law, nothing more and nothing less.

The lights in the courtroom seem brighter today. Almost blinding me. I am sitting with two others in the jury box because there are no seats available in the gallery. Normally we sit in the back, hidden away from the judge and the lawyers. Our work is done, after nearly a year and thousands of hours toiling over disgusting and almost inhuman information and messages and pictures and emails, after an eternity of darkness in his pathetic and single minded little world, we are done and today is his day.  It is judgement day.

In the back corner of the gallery I can see her sitting with her mother and father. She is in college now but she still looks so very innocent.  She is pretty and tries to hide her beauty under long hair and baggy clothes. Her lack of self-confidence is entirely because of him. Just another wound that may never heal.  She sees me looking and smiles shyly.  I smile back and give her a nod. She did the right thing. We are here for her today.  But she is not the only victim here.

His wife and kids are here to. They haven’t really seen him for a year. He sat in a cold dark cell while we busied ourselves exploring the depths of his depravity.  His wife still believed him. At times I wanted to just call her and tell her what we found. Tell her what he really was. Tell her that she deserved so very much more than the monster that she shared a bed with for so long.

I look to his oldest daughter who was only a year or two younger than the victim.  I remember seeing text messages to his daughters about picking them up and the very next text setting up a time to meet a girl their age to “play.”  That’s what he called the game. It was play.  Most games have a winner and a loser.  Not these games. Everyone lost. This entire room lost.

His hair is grey now.  He looks tired in his prison jumpsuit. I look at the handcuffs on the chain belt around his waist and smile a little thinking back to when we first cuffed him.  When we first took away his freedom much the same way that he took hers away. He was going with us whether he wanted to or not. She felt the same way. She thought he loved her and where he went she would follow.  She was a prisoner of another kind, a worse kind of emotional prison.girl-in-the-window

I hear him apologize to her and his family. Its sounds hollow to me. His mother begins to wail and he describes how their “relationship” started. He calls it a relationship. I feel like standing up in my seat and telling the judge that he shouldn’t be allowed to call it that. He shouldn’t be allowed to use that word because it doesn’t represent what he had with her. He raped her, there was no relationship I want to yell.

But I don’t. I sit and wait. Finally he stops talking and the judge begins to establish that he will spend the next seventeen years behind bars considering the impact of what he has done.  Some are happy with that but I look back at her. Her father is holding her tightly as she cries. This part is over. He will “pay” for his crime. But when they walk out of this building and into the street it will not end for her. She will pay for his crime for the rest of her life. I did what I could to give her justice but I know that it will never truly be enough to make up for what he had done.

Again I will go home and shower the feeling of the dirty animal off of me. I will put the thousands of notes and pictures and files into boxes in storage and never look at them again. But I won’t have to. I will remember each of them. I will remember each piece of the pain that he caused. I always do.

When I am finished I sit in my chair and look out of my window. The sun is bright today. All I can think is, “what’s next” and wait for the next cry for help.  It’s out there beyond that window and soon I will hear it and it will start again. That’s my choice. For right now, I relax and sit and wait. What’s next?

Renewal and looking inside your window

Yesterday I opened the blinds to look out of my wonderful window and took a moment to be thankful for the weekend view.  So many times we are so very hurried during the week that the view is always just passing us by, quick glimpses of those that we encounter and the view of others running the same race with no real destination beyond survival.

Then comes the time we are supposed to stop and spend time at home, looking inward instead of outside the window. Talking to our family and trying to forget those terrible things we may have encountered during the week.  Recovery. Solitude. Peace. And with a little luck, renewal.

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I look at the lives that my children have and compare them to those who I encounter every day, those who have been the victim of some horrific act or another and those who would victimize others in one horrific way or another.  Some of them are as old as my children in years, but in life experience they are worlds apart.  Many have not felt the warmth of a parents embrace, heard the reassuring voice of a supportive parent or felt the deep sense of belonging that a family can provide.

Some are destined to walk alone and may never feel nor provide another with those feelings. How can we ever teach them to be good parents and to avoid the mistakes that they may have encountered? How can we shed light on what they should feel and who they should become as parents? How do we break through a wall that emotional neglect has created?

But it is the weekend and I close my eyes to stop those thoughts.  I concentrate on a picture next to my desk and remind myself that these are the ones who I can impact, that while I cannot save everyone, I can make life better for these kids.  I can make sure that each and every day I reassure them and hold them lovingly. I can remind them that they are special and they have something important to bring to the world.

Monday will come again and I will do my best to help those strangers who are in pain that I encounter.  And I will remind myself of the joy that I have looking inside my windows as I come home at night and see what my life is truly about.  While I spend so much time staring and wondering about the view from inside, it is nice once in a while to stand outside and look in.  The real joy is to see those who are looking back out at you.

Clearing the dust and looking out once more

It’s been a while since I could sit back and actually take a look for the view. I have missed my window and am looking forward to pulling up a chair and seeing once again what there is to see.

When I look out I have to clean off the dust that’s built up around it, I haven’t been able to look outside for an eternity, been so busy living in the world that I have somehow forgotten how to take a breath, take a step back and just look both inside and out.

There is safety inside the window. We are not exposed to the elements; snow is pretty but it cannot bite your skin with the pain of frost. A rolling thunderstorm is an amazing spectacle from the window, but outside it is a danger and you become drenched in sweat, rain and even a touch of fear.  It is always safe to look out this window from inside the locked room, not standing beyond and experiencing everything that exists outside of it.

Should we open the window?dusty-window Try to breathe the air but still be able to slam it shut if the air tastes bitter?   Put our hand out there to see if it can “feel” differently than within.  Perhaps we should. Or do we even want to?

From the window I can see the landscape before me and not that which lies in the shadows, waiting and whispering to me.  Things that have long fallen from my hands, from when I always left the window open, when fear wasn’t part of who I am.  I used to lean out of the window, teetering on the edge, almost daring myself to fall but not. I basked in the tension and thrill of the risk.

I have forgotten how beautiful it is to look out there.  Wind blowing across the trees and when I touch the glass I can feel the outside. The window pane shakes ever so slightly at my touch.  I pull my hand back quickly, almost afraid of the feeling yet wanting to feel it again. Making the connection and desperate to feel that world again.

In the end, I open the window and push myself past the safety of the window frame, exposed to the outside world and able to feel the sun again.  I breathe in and let the warmth fill my lungs.  The air is good and the breeze is gentle, almost caressing my cheek like a lost lover. It feels….welcoming.

The Writers Note:  I am so very sorry to have been away so long. So busy living life that I stopped writing about how I feel while living it.  I am back and looking forward to sharing the views yet again.