Michael Mendizza

Writer, Filmmaker

What Are You Doing?


Parenting, Playful Advice

It is a privilege to be Carly’s friend and guide. She is obviously not an honored guest, a celebrity or foreign dignitary, but she deserves being treated like one, with that same heightened level of care, empathy and respect. To do so takes time and attention. Being present is increasingly rare today. The earth is spinning at more or less the same speed, but inside we humans, psychologically, the world is not the same at all. Ten years ago, in 2007, we crossed a tipping point. Human consciousness was jump started into exponential acceleration. Most now carry a mobile computer in their pocket or handbag that buzzes, beeps, and flashes pictures, grabbing our attention, 24/7. Every time it does, we become less attentive, less present, less sensitive to what is taking place here and now, in and between ourselves and our honored guests. Imagine being deep in the Congo and discovering that your guide is oblivious to what is happening, standing there, enchanted, staring at the palm of his hand. “Wake up,” you say! “Be here now!” That is what loving and caring for Carly does. She wakes me up.

Waking up is a serious challenge. Most of the time, when we think we are awake, we are not. We are day dreaming, talking to ourselves inside, thinking and remembering, and we call this awake, but it is not. Talking to ourselves, thinking and remembering is not much different from staring at our phones or texting. We switch from one channel on our inner-television for another but we are still watching the tube, and that is not being present. Carly knows the difference.

I find it increasingly difficult to articulate the profound changes I experience as Carly continues to morph day by day. During the early physical years, it was easy. The difference between crawling and standing is dramatic. In a strange way, Carly’s emotional presence is a constant. She responds, and has, emotionally to every move, every encounter, every challenge and frustration. The question is; how aware and present are we, her friends and guides, as she experiences – everything? That, in my view, is the difference that makes the difference.

“What are you doing,” is now Carly’s favorite phrase. “What is that,” she asks, and she really wants to know. Carly wants to be involved with everything. That precious wonder and natural curiosity is fully alive, vibrant and compelling. A large mysterious box arrived. “What is that?” she asked. An umbrella for the patio, I replied, she pushing as I hefted the box outside. Last week’s heat suddenly turned cold. “It is going to rain,” I said, leaning the box upright against the house to keep it from the rain. The next morning Carly tugged at the upright box. It came tumbling down, her legs and feet pined by the heavy box. As she screamed and cried from the sudden shock, I checked for broken bones. “The ouieee will go away,” she said. “Yes,” I said. “The ouiee will go away.” The next morning bruises could be seen between her slightly swollen toes. She could walk, her right heel on the ground, toes up, as if her foot was in a cast. “The owiee is getting better,” she said. “Yes, that is what owiees do.”

Unafraid, we went to the neighborhood clinic and then to the local hospital for X-rays. In the Curious George book, there is a story about George swallowing a puzzle and going to the hospital. “This is just like George,” I said, placing Carly on the X-ray table. A lead blanket covered her body. I was given one too. Three pictures were taken. We looked at the display at the bones in Carly’s foot. She wiggled each toe as we pointed to the display. Then, waved good-bye and out the door we went.

What I find most unusual it how quiet Carly is in new places or with new people. We hardly said a word at the clinic and the hospital. The receptionist, nurses and technicians all asked the same; what is your name, and how old are you questions. Carly never replies. And yet, she is very verbal, and in two languages, at home. Words are a distraction from that absorbent presence complete attention demands.

Don’t get me wrong. Words are very useful. Stories and imagination bring us to the threshold of creation. They allow us to share and explore vast worlds together. But, as teachers have often said, the word is not the thing. The word is a symbol, a metaphor that represents or points to something much deeper. We get so accustomed to the superficial metaphor that we often miss all or fail to experience the deeper meaning. Carly’s attentive silence shows her attunement with this deeper experience. Being quietly present with her allows me to experience what she is experiencing. She trusts that.

As human consciousness jumps headlong into exponential acceleration, being with, caring for and hopefully guiding my honored guest is both a profound gift of attention and a tremendous responsibility, responsibility being ‘one’s ability to respond fully with care, affection and hopefully some degree of intelligence.’ Imagine responding to everything with this quality of quiet presence and attention. The quieter we are inside the more vibrant and alive we hear the universe, the one verse, singing. That is what I learned with Carly today.

Michael Mendizza


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