Last week I was sitting at a coffee shop in Philadelphia waiting for my son’s med school graduation ceremony and was struck by how everyone was going along with their regular day. The young woman sitting next to me was doing homework on her computer. People were walking to work, enjoying the beautiful day. Some people were stopping to fuel up with coffee before continuing on, chatting with the people in line. And, I wanted to jump up and say, “Don’t you know that this is a big day??!!!”
Several moments like this came to mind as I was sitting there. My mom died over 20 years ago on July 1st and during the 4th of July weekend, people would smile at me and say, “Happy 4th of July!” I remember thinking, don’t you know that my heart is breaking? Then earlier this year as my dad was dying, I was at yet a different coffee shop (funny thing, I don’t even drink coffee) and Debbie Reynolds had just died. Someone was carrying on and on about how horrible it was, for about 10 minutes. Again, I wanted to jump up and say, “I feel bad for her family, but my world is shattering because my actual dad is dying.”
We often don’t show our inner self to the world. We keep things under wraps and show our “looking good” face to the world. I’m not saying that we should full-out live our emotions on our sleeve, but the challenge is that when we shut down our emotions in one area, it often leads to shutting down our emotions in other areas. It’s a balancing act.
It’s easy to see the impact of these examples, but this led me to think about how we create stories about many things in our lives. We create meaning about things that happen and then blithely go along as if they are true. We see an event or a person and make up a story about what it means about who they are or what they are doing. We then act as if the story we’ve just made up is true. We take it personally when someone slights us, only to find out that they were dealing with trauma in their lives and all of their energy was used up simply putting one foot in front of the other. It leads to fractured relationships as we assume the whole from only a small glimpse of what is true.
This week, notice when you jump to a conclusion about something. What stories have you created in your mind? Do you even recognize that you’ve created a story that may or may not be true? Have you become attached to your stories and judgments?
Following is a transcript of the stream of consciousness writing I did last week, pictured above. I’ll write on anything, including the bag that my croissant came in. You just never know when you’ll get inspired.
“Amazingly, I can’t think of anything to write. It struck me that the people around me are going along with their daily lives and have no idea that this is a big day for me. I remember having the same experience when Mom died and when Dad was dying. None of us knows what’s going on inside someone and in their lives.
We see what people present in the world and then make up stories about how or who they are. It’s a recurring theme and points back to kindness and grace. Maybe the question should always be, how can I be kind? I’ll start today, especially any time I’m prone to rolling my eyes. It’s often easy to be angry or judgmental. It’s a way to be self-righteous or to blame someone else. It’s other directed rather than looking at personal responsibility. The illusion is that it’s their fault and is satisfying to judge them.
There’s that divide between protecting yourself, standing up for yourself, speaking your truth and on the other end being reactive – proving, blaming, or justifying. What is the truth that wants to be revealed here? Be kind, be present and enjoy the moment, no matter what.”