It’s my first week of what I thought was going to be a regained freedom. I should have time to spare now that all of my children are in school at least part of the day, every day. Instead, it’s 3:42 AM, and I’m finally finding some quiet time alone to write. Needless to say this week didn’t pan out as I expected.
I’ve been on a topsy-turvy, roller coaster ride all week. There have been exciting, super-fun and emotional highs; and tragic, frustrating, and terrifying lows. The Tornado started preschool (Yippee!). R was home sick (already?!?) with a cough for nearly two days (Boo!). Some wacko shot a doe with an arrow and then let her roam, suffering until she finally collapsed and died in my yard (Ugh). We celebrated the 7th birthday of one of my favorite little boys and the (not-going-to-say-numbers-here) birthdays of my sister-in-law and my Mom (Woohoo!). One night our wonderful, forever friends made time to see us on their travels to vacation, and we had a date night out on another (Yay!). I was inspired by speaker and fellow blogger, Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery.com (Amazing! Check out her blog). And, the tragic murders of the Virginia reporters, the shocking death of a neighbor, and the genuine fear that one of my loved ones is considering suicide, sucker-punched me and have left me hollow (Long, deep sigh).
All in one week, to fly to such highs only to drop to unbelievable lows, has been a challenge to my spirit and my strength. I feel like I’m walking around with my shoulders up to my ears and bewilderment in my eyes.
And, I’ve listed just the biggies. TONS of other good, bad, and inconsequential “stuff” has happened, just like for all of us. Our days are filled with challenges, questions, joy, anticipation, fear, and hope. But here’s the thing: none of us really knows what’s happening to anyone else. We pass each other as strangers, acquaintances, friends, coworkers. Sometimes we don’t even take the time to acknowledge one another. A smile, a hello, or even eye contact is too much. We operate in our independent bubbles, too busy, too caught up in our own lives to see or engage. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t even know my neighbor who died. I’m squirming in my seat right now, because I’m so disappointed and embarrassed in myself. How could I live on the same street, a few houses away from someone and not take the time to learn anything about them, to build any sense of community?
Other times we encounter people and judge them. Too often, we write someone off as being snobby, inconsiderate, selfish, flighty, irresponsible, or just plain mean. Yet, we have no idea what burdens are being carried; what someone is dealing with on the inside. Who knows what that person is going through in that moment, that week, month, or this lifetime? He may have lost his job and can’t find a new one. She may be worried about her ill son. He may be separating from his spouse, forever-altering the course for his children’s lives. She may have had to say goodbye to her beloved pet. He may be wondering where he will find his next meal or sleep that night. She may be in an abusive relationship. He may be feeling like his life is not worth living.
There are so many realities for each of us, and as humans we have mastered masking who we are, what we are feeling, and putting up a front to fit in and simply coexist. Sometimes though, we crack and allow a touch of the hurt, the fear, the anger to sneak out. When that pain oozes out we can act snide, quiet, bitchy, aloof, or lost. Our zings release some of our own stress. Maybe it is a call for help or simply to be recognized in some way. Maybe the feelings just become too much. No matter what the reason, ultimately we need to recognize that we are all in this together. We need each other. We need understanding even when we don’t know why someone is acting out; and yes, even for strangers. We need to give each other a break. To offer a smile, a hand, or at the very least a pass. We need compassion.
As we go forward with our tasks, commitments, and life, let’s remember, we are all people. Pure and simple, we are all the same. We all have our unique inner-battles. No one wants to be mean or rude; we are all just trying to survive our own challenges, to deal with the emotions, expectations, dreams, and responsibilities. So if someone brushes you the wrong way today, choose to greet anger or indifference with love and kindness. Choose to be the smile, the hello, the hand that helps. Choose to be the spark that makes a difference, and possibly, hopefully, ignites more compassion, more love, more connection to all the rest of us who so desperately need it.
“In separateness lies the world’s great misery, in compassion lies the world’s true strength.” ~Buddha
Learn more about cultivating compassion at the University of California, Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.