Not sure why, but today I remembered something that happened shortly after Ralf passed away, once Mason had already been born. I was at the nail salon with my brother’s girlfriend and we were having a pretty deep discussion about religion and spirituality. Several minutes into the conversation, my nail technician uninvitedly chimed in and said, “You girls are way too young to be talking about such serious things. You should be worried about going out and having fun.” I casually responded with, “Actually, I’ve been through a lot.” He then gave me a patronizing look and asked, “Oh yeah? What’s a lot?” I guess he was expecting me to say something trivial or insignificant. I did my best to suppress my raging postpartum hormones and said, “My husband died when I was 7 months pregnant.” That poor man did not know what to do with himself. The expression on his face made it quite clear how much he wished the earth could swallow him whole in that moment. He apologized and avoided eye contact for the remainder of that manicure.
We are all guilty of this and more often than not, we don’t even realize we are doing it. I think as human beings we are inquisitive by nature, and unfortunately this sometimes causes us to be quick to judge or assume. It’s not something that is necessarily done maliciously or even consciously. We need to remind ourselves that we never know what someone might be going through. You may think you have an idea and be completely wrong. It’s a lot easier to ask yourself, “What the hell is her problem?” when a stranger doesn’t return your smile or when a quiet coworker keeps to himself and doesn’t mingle with everyone in the office. But that’s just it – you have no idea what he or she might be dealing with. By the same token, we shouldn’t assume that those who always appear to be happy or that seem to have a picture-perfect life are not actually fighting a silent battle. We ALL have our demons.
We need to be less critical of each other. To offer more empathy and less judgment. To understand that we all walk different paths and that even when those paths seem very similar, that we are all individuals who react to situations differently. To stop assuming we know what another person is thinking or feeling or suffering, or to think we know what’s best for them. To offer a listening ear and shoulder to cry on rather than a condescending lecture or unsolicited pep talk. More listening, more love, more understanding. Especially in this world we currently find ourselves in.