Nobody is a Stranger in Scotland

Once in a while you meet someone you didn’t quite expect and that person ends up imprinting a part of themselves onto you, whether they were intending to or not. And yet, you walk away from that experience being extremely grateful.

Hospitality and friendliness among the Scottish people is no secret. My friend and I experienced this throughout our travels around the countryside in guesthouses/B&Bs we stayed in, distilleries we visited, etc. Back in 2019, my friend’s Uncle Jimmy greeted me at the airport then welcomed me into his home for the night and hosted me for a full day taking my jetlagged self around Glasgow and treating me to a classic Scottish dinner: spicy curry. (A small side benefit to worldwide colonialism is bringing some tasty cuisine back to your home kingdom.) I recall how much the whole day and experience of his openness blew me away because I had only met him adjacently *one time* at my friend’s wedding seven years prior. I still talk about it with friends when that trip to Scotland comes up.

A similar opening of arms and heart greeted us upon this visit to Glasgow. On our last day in Scotland, Tim and I met up with a local whom he had met three years prior at a pub. We’ll call this local Allan because that’s his name. He told Tim next time he was in town to let him know and that they’d meet and hang out again. Promises were made and words were kept. After breakfast, Allan met up with us in our hotel lobby to be our local city guide. We had provided no guidance or clues on what we wanted to do, so Allan took us on a walking tour as he saw fit. He would not so discreetly be looking up factoids on his phone if he didn’t know something and be admirably patient with our indecisiveness when he’d ask, “what do you want to do next?” as we’d simply shrug nary a thought to be found in our heads.

What struck me with Allan, similarly to Uncle Jimmy (I have adopted him), was how open and friendly he was from the onset of first meeting me – and as I’m told also with Tim during their first encounter – without knowing me from Adam. And yet not only that, but also all the generous and mindful actions he took towards two relative strangers: picking up drink/meal tabs, transit tickets, observantly noticing when I felt out of place at the pub while a football (“soccer”) game was on, and making sure we “did something I wanted to do next,” to so thoughtfully buying me a nice tea mug “just like he has at home” to keep us connected after I returned. He had no reason to be so kind, yet I am eternally thankful to have been a recipient of his joyous and giving spirit.

Oh, he had some unexpected party tricks up his sleeve like balancing a full Guinness atop the edge of an empty glass and he did it with such elegance and humility.

balancing guinness

We don’t have enough Allan’s in the world. We need more people with no ulterior motives or expectations of anything in return in our interactions and relationships. I’ve already been marinating on how I need to change my perspectives and heart to embrace this type of more open and generous living.

What if we didn’t look upon strangers and new people with a side eye and so much caution? What if we worked towards having a more generous and welcoming presence to strangers who may one day turn into friends? Truly, nobody is a stranger in Scotland. I already have an invite to come back to visit Allan and I’m going to work on how to make that happen in the not too distant future.

And the teacup is lovely.

mad hatter tea cup

Do You See What I See?

During a recent conversation with a couple of friends, the topic veered off into ink colors specifically for what to put into a fountain pen. As I was looking at color swabs my friend T was putting on paper to get my opinion, I commented on how similar two of them looked to me and how I perceived another in a way she could not wrap her head around. They couldn’t be any more different (I’m sure she thought in a Chandler Bing voice.) 

It’s important to note that I am a tiny bit colorblind and have slight difficulties differentiating certain shades from one another across the color spectrum. Reds and greens in particular are a challenge. This manifests in me not properly perceiving what I’m told are dramatic differences between some colors out there. This may have resulted in me one time buying some pants I thought were brown until someone gently told me, “no, Greg, those pants are more of an olive green.” Oops. I often feel like I won’t be able to fully appreciate the beauty of a grand forest.

After explaining my eye cone deficiencies, my friend did her best to explain to me how each ink color swatch was unique, what underlying colors made each swatch look the way it did (e.g. one green has more yellow tones whereas this other brown had reddish tones) and how she’s able to perceive these things. I tried my best to see what she was saying in each color sample, doing what we all do when we can’t see something quite right: squint. Spoiler alert, squinting your eyes is neither a solution for improving overall vision nor one’s ability to see colors with greater accuracy. Regardless, I appreciated her patience in pointing out what I very obviously could not see. 

While an imperfect analogy, it got me thinking about the “colorblind” spots each of us struggles with. Some of us are blind, whether partially or in full, to understand the perspectives of people who grew up in a different setting, such as living in the suburbs and not being aware of the specific struggles of a dense urban city or quieter rural town. Perhaps you can’t get yourself to wrap your head around the differences between, say, Catholic and Baptist traditions and simply choose to live in the dark and be blissfully unaware of what makes each unique. 

A disproportionate amount of tension and misunderstandings in this world come from us 1) not being sufficiently aware of our surroundings, specifically of people, 2) being unskilled at asking questions, and 3) not being good at asking questions which is very closely tied to #2. Far too often we don’t recognize or ask to understand how others see the world. But what happens when we slow down to ask those questions, to pick up on cues both obvious and subtle, that the person you’re interacting with (or just consuming their content online) may have a blind spot that causes them to come off as harsh, cruel, or misguided. What is your response to that moment of newfound information? Do you pause, recenter yourself, and work to educate and share how and why you see what you see. It’s too easy to assume others totally “get you” and that you “get them.”

Dig, ask questions, share, explain. Don’t be afraid of your limitations, but do be aware of them.

Musings Rant

In Your Own Words

In the last few years, I’ve watched people I know take on new personas online and spout off with positions on topics on social media and speak in tones and absolutes that would trouble me if I heard them talk that same way in person. I’ve seen how calloused and stubborn we have become in positions on everything from politics to medicine to foreign policy to religion and everything else in between. And in most of these areas, the people I’m referring to are not professionals in those spaces but speak with the authority and audacity (pride?) of someone who is. It is baffling. Why do we feel so compelled to sound right all of the time (and everyone else wrong)? 


2020, The Loss Of Nuance, and The Callousness of Selfish Gain

I was not ready for what this year became. I suspect you, reader, were not either. 

This year was hard. Though like many others I tried to make do with what was dealt. I spent more time alone than usual and wrote about feeling the need to be cared for as a single person. Travel was mostly nonexistent, save for one coordinated trip to the South for a week in June to see & quarantine with close friends. The April marathon I trained for was canceled. Yet I continued running throughout the year and almost logged 700 miles. Neighbor Bob and I masked up and replaced the basement and stair tile. I completed a year at my not-so-new job. I also made some new friends while nerding out over stationary. So not all was lost.

However,  I also found 4 gray hairs. That is not acceptable. Thanks a lot, 2020!  


Truthful Words (Should) Matter

How much does truth matter to you? 

Mm, what’d you say?
Mm, that you only meant well
Well of course you did
Mm, what’d you say?
Mm, that it’s all for the best
Of course it is
Mm, what’d you say?
Mm, that it’s just what we need
You decided this
– “Hide and Seek”, Imogen Heap

It’s a cliche at this point to say American culture is at a crossroads. Each generation says and feels that “it’s never been like this before.” And they would be correct. Our moment is no different; how we talk and write about it is, however.


Best Supporting Actor

Be the best supporting actor role in everyone else’s story

Me, Me, Me

American culture has an odd obsession with celebrity and being a star and unique. We are taught to see ourselves as important and as the center of our universe. Individually we are each the point from which all things revolve and rotate around. We each matter, probably more than the next person! It’s ok for goals, personal freedoms, and desires to take precedence over any unexpected repercussions in our ongoing quest for self-gratification. It’s self above all else. 


Counting Up All The Change

It adds up to something much more significant than expected

“Every moment has led up to this.” 

– Every movie protagonist as they get ready to face their biggest foe

Change adds up

Over the last couple of years, on this blog I have examined questions about identity discovery, living in a space with less built-in promises, and on reliance and trust on people outside myself. Offline in the real world, I’ve been quietly preparing my mind and heart for a big change. What that change would be was very much unknown, but it’s clear through what I’ve felt compelled to share that the status quo wasn’t good enough anymore. In the process, I couldn’t see what that would add up to. I don’t have the final answer yet; I’m actually still doing the math and formula calculations, scratching out notes and numbers because I write in pen and never believed in doing my math homework with a pencil.   


On Reliance and Trust

Life has a way of finding new things to surprise us with and to shake things up to keep us on our toes. They can be small and feel inconsequential in the moment. Others are bigger and have an immediate effect on how you see the world. I’m in the midst of one of those bigger life surprises.