Saturday, June 27, 2015

Week Roundup: Notice the World Outside the Window

For the next six weeks we'll be highlighting the artist Karmasama and her positive art/messages. You can read about it in this post

Holly: Noticing the world outside the window can be a hard thing to do for a hermit such as myself. The work I've been doing in my Etsy shop lately mixed with the soaring temperature has kept me inside even more than usual. It doesn't help that I have a skin condition (called Aquagenic Pruitus) that causes severe itching when I come into contact with water...or when I sweat. But even so,  this week I  resolved to take an hour walk every other day. Here's what I saw:

My fear of going outside made me forget all the things I love about living in downtown Savannah, the architecture and the foliage. And even better that I got to share it with my lovely dog, Sammy. Did I itch majorly when I got home? Absolutely. In fact, today I had one of my worst itching fits I've had in a long time. But I don't regret doing this. And I'm going to keep walking every other day. The world I live in is beautiful, and I need to see it more often. 

Literally looking outside the window was lovely, but I also did so in another way. The shootings in Charleston, SC rocked me. I had just been there in the week prior (Savannah is two hours away) for a sight-seeing day trip. I couldn't believe that yet again more lives were taken at the hands of one hateful person. 

And the killings sparked an even bigger discussion: the Confederate flag. I lived my entire youth and young adulthood in Tennessee. I'd always thought of the flag as a sense of regional and historic pride, and I didn't grow up around a single black soul, so my thoughts were never challenged. It was after listening to others talk about how they feel the flag is a symbol of racism, I began to see a different side of the coin. The south seceded because Lincoln was declaring territories not yet states as non-slavery areas, which angered many plantation owners who feared they would have to one day give up their right to have slaves. Once the states seceded, the American government was afraid of the breakdown of democracy, and hence the Civil War began. Why keep a flag that is the symbol of people who wanted to break away to continue a way of life that involved slavery? After musing on this I felt disappointed in myself for never having thought like this before, for never questioning whether tradition and history made something okay. I'm glad I was able to follow the discussion through news and social media to understand another point-of-view. 

Chris: This week, I didn’t get outdoors and “notice the world outside my window” in the literal sense. Unlike my brave counterpart, I hid from the heat and kept to my A/C infused apartment and explored figuratively, namely that of nudist culture. And, no, it’s not what you think.

I read a fantastic book by Mark Haskell Smith, Naked at Lunch: A Reluctant Nudist’s Adventures in the Clothing-Optional World. In this book, Smith (no relation) explores all things naturist--from the history of the movement / culture to the organizations a nudist can join to all of the various clothing-optional activities one can do--and where they can be done--legally. And while the book spends a good amount of time considering why individuals choose to become naturists, it also delves into the stigma many folks have towards nudists.

It’s no surprise that naturists are often frowned upon or outright persecuted simply because their lifestyle is not understood. Smith posits that this comes from our own discomfort with ourselves and our bodies: We don’t like the way we look, so, of course, why would we want to go around showing off all of these flaws? It’s something many would never do, so we don’t understand how anyone--in their right mind--could. Instead of trying it out for ourselves and becoming open and vulnerable with our imperfections, we hide behind our clothes, behind our masks, behind our closed doors--in our air conditioned apartments. And this limits us. Our own discomfort keeps us from trying new things. The fear of ourselves--or what others will think of us--holds us back from new experiences, from noticing the world outside our windows.

I think that this is one of life’s secrets. In order to truly see what’s beyond our windows, beyond ourselves, we have to accept who we are--flaws and all. Because when we stop focusing on that heart-shaped birthmark across our chest, the visible scars, the extra pounds and too-pale skin, the stretch marks and overabundance of freckles, we can see what’s around us for what it is, not for what we think it sees in us.

Noticing the world outside my window means seeing beyond myself, which, yes, is a hard thing to do, but something worth trying--even long after the week is up. Because while I’ll, most likely, never become a nudist, I would like to be comfortable in my own skin.

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