Mandarins: A Lesson in Openness


This morning the sky was an endless expanse of blue. A perfect morning for walking and reflecting. I was having one of those bare-bones, no fluff conversations via telephone with my mom—it is quite a feeling to grow up and start to know the person (the actual person) as a child you only imagined your parent as. Who knew my mother was a David Lynch fan—that she saw and appreciated his different perspective and the importance of that difference—long before I even knew his name. Who knew that she dabbled in journaling, but never followed through with it—“Hell, I don’t know why I can’t follow through with things. That is a problem I realize about myself”. She is still self-realizing, still learning. Who knew that she used to create the most beautiful sketches of nature. I was learning those things about her in my adulthood. How she has a fire burning inside of her—how containment (one of my biggest fears)—is something that haunts and imprisons her. It is remarkable the depths of a person. You could spend your whole life-time exploring the multitudes of a single person. The only problem is openness.


Are you open to letting people in? Are you open to listening, I mean really listening, to others? Are you open to experiencing life? These are all things I am just learning how to do at 27.


Our mind, our mentality, can be our greatest prison— our greatest containment. I used to itch with it. But I recognize my fears. I have been working on breaking them down. Because fear is not the way I choose to live. And when having this conversation with my mom—in the midst of realizing what a remarkable human being she is, flaws and all—a young man stepped out of a car on the street corner I was waiting to cross. He looked a character from an animated film. Black bowler hat on head, a crimson Chrysanthemum placed just so in the band of his hat. He walked straight up to me, earnestly looked me full in the face, and asked, “How are you doing?”


I wasn’t taken aback. I was in awe of the openness of his nature. In awe of his earnestness. I replied, “I am actually doing very well. And yourself?”


He looked around, at the clear blue sky, at the brilliantly blooming tree beside me, before nodding and directing his gaze back at me, “It is a wonderful day, is it not? Which way you headin’?” To which I pointed out my general direction. “Alas, I am this way,” he sighed. As he walked in the opposite direction he paused, “Would you like a mandarin?” I nodded my head that I would—again, in awe of his openness. “They have seeds, but I picked them fresh this morning.”


There was really nothing I wanted more than that mandarin. I wanted to drink its juices just like I wanted to drink in this man’s openness, to exude such confidence, to experience life with such exuberance.  He handed me one mandarin, and before pulling his hand back, asked if I would like another. I found my voice, “Yes!” And then I sincerely thanked him, perhaps the most sincere ‘thank you’ I had uttered in months and continued on my way. My mother, who lives in Kentucky, was as baffled and delighted as I at such an interaction.


I feel you cannot experience such truly great moments as this if you are not open to the possibility of them. How great to receive something unexpected, without having anything expected of me in return besides my openness to finding the beauty in such a moment. I will eat those mandarins and look at the world, at every interaction, with an open heart.


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