just like us

Yesterday, when I darted out of my house leaving a crying four-year old with her grandmother Nanny, my incredibly helpful and awesome mother-in-law, to get bath bombs and Lucky Charms (because my four-year-old only bathes when there are bath bombs and my 10 year-old-daughter’s birthday is today and she knows this is the only time I buy that magically delicious cereal with the crunchy marshmallows) I may also have picked up a bottle of wine for myself. There, at the grocery store, not showered with a stained white tee shirt, standing by the cinnamon brooms whose sole purpose is hiding the scent percolating in a pre-school bathroom, I felt like the picture of a stay at home mom about to lose her marbles. Oh no I don’t need a cart, I just need a few things. Ten minutes later: A bottle of Chardonnay cradled in my arms, a balloon, a plant with spiky leaves ready to gauge out my eyes, and groceries spilling out the top of the basket, I head to the check out line.

It had been one of those days. When my son got home, I asked him if he was going to dress up for Spirit day the next day and one may have thought by his reaction that I told him he had to dress like Whitney Houston in a leotard and sing How Will I Know in front of his entire school. Then, minutes later, when asking my youngest if she wanted to take a bath, a full on monsoon proportioned melt down ensued, “I don’t want to take a baaatthhhhhh.”

It had been a heavy day. And I wasn’t the only one. I bumped into an acquaintance going through treatment for breast cancer and saw a dad whose daughter was home from school after her high school had been on lock down because a threat “to shoot up the school” had been made by another student. Another friend lost a childhood friend that morning to a complication from an illness. Another, had a shitty fight with her family that left her reeling and our friends sighing as we related to the regret and worry. This, all before noon.

It reminded me of the quote I see often about everyone fighting a battle - in essence - we don’t know what other people are going through so tread lightly. If you are like me, you may ruminate over weird interactions with people, playing conversations over in your head only to arrive at a destination, most likely, that is furthest from the actual truth.

Last week, I met a woman who worked at the book store where I was buying a gift. She told me she was lonely. “It’s not the same, she said, we used to all know what was going on in each other’s lives as we sat in the break room talking but now everyone is on their phones.” We hugged when I said goodbye. When I walked out of the air conditioning, I was greeted with heat, humidity and a sense that my soul was whimpering in a corner.

There is a lot of loneliness and isolation in our world and people are coping with an awful lot of hardship. Some of it is circumstantial, some, internal and personal. Whatever, it is, I wish we could be more gentle with one another. I have witnessed moms recently yelling at one another at school in front of kids and snarky replies on group texts. It makes my stomach turn and feels like I am right back in middle school trying to make sense of it all.

We are entitled to make mistakes. And weird nonsense comes out of our mouths that we may not really mean. So when it does, we can be gentle with ourselves, first, knowing that we are only human and forgive ourselves wholly and lovingly. We can also try and forgive each other, letting one another off the hook every now and then. I think most of us are walking around with hurt in our hearts. Or maybe we are just about to get our periods. But all of us could use a hug, a smile, a compliment. Maybe a glass of wine with a neighbor (Thank you boys). Most of us could use a break. No one is immune to heartache.

Sometimes when we feel thrown off by a comment someone else makes and we just KNOW that it was directed at us or we KNOW that they didn’t invite us to their party, in reality, the comment may in fact have been for someone else and the invitation was sent but went to the wrong email address.

Before we get too rattled, we can take a deep breath and look at the four questions from The Work by Bryon Katie. When a situation arises that stresses us out or a persistent thought permeates our consciousness, ask the four questions to help gain insight, clarity and a bit of distance from the staggering emotion: 1. Is it true? 2. Can you absolutely know it’s true? 3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? 4. Who would you be WITHOUT that thought?

We may find that the story that we are so craftily weaving has absolutely no basis in reality. And without it, we may feel freer, lighter, less judgmental, and more compassionate. We are more likely to be able to see the other’s point of view and then decide from a less reactionary place how to proceed.

The other night I watched a video of Oprah interviewing Pema Chödrön. Pema was talking about an exercise she uses when waiting and looking around the room at all of the people waiting too. She simply says to herself, “Just like me.” When you see something going on or when you feel irritated or confused, you can say, “Just like me.” We are alike. We all want the same things. We want to be loved, heard, understood. We want to avoid suffering and pain. Just seeing the humanity all around us, she’s says. It can be so helpful. We are all trying.

Just like me.

Just like us.