I had a crazy busy weekend, at least it felt full. Saturday morning I cleaned the house, got a pedicure, had the most wonderful tea party bridal shower, hung out with my cousin at my house so she could meet the puppies and then went to dinner with her afterward. On Sunday, Jeffrey and I went to my parents’ house to help clean up their yard for the wedding. And while I so enjoyed all the time I spent with family and friends, it was a lot. Every Sunday evening we go to Jeffrey’s aunt’s for Family Dinner, but this week I tapped out and stayed home. As outgoing and friendly as I am, I get “peopled out” relatively easily and just need a break to recharge on my own. Dani, Jeffrey’s sister, has helped me to understand that this is okay. It’s okay to take time to myself. It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to block the whole world out for a moment. So that’s what I did. The beauty of it all is that despite what I may think sometimes, the world does not revolve around me. It goes on whether I show up or not. Which brings me to my next point.
n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
I hope everyone has a favorite word. This is mine. It took a long time to find this word because it was always a feeling but never something I could identify and express verbally. So one day I finally googled this feeling I had and viola’ apparently I’m not the only one. Some days, like today, I’m super emotional for no apparent reason. And it almost always comes down to this: sonder. A lot of times people associate emotion as a negative thing. But the emotion I feel is not a sadness, rather just a super heightened awareness of everyone around me.
Instead of making New Year’s Resolutions, Jeffrey’s family chooses a word of the year. The idea is to choose something that you want to focus on throughout the year. For example, Dani chose “unplug.” What she wanted to achieve was unplugging from social media and focusing more on the things happening in real life. Jeffrey chose “service.” He wants to live a life of service to others and makes a point to consciously do things that are in the spirit of service. I chose “sonder.” We come into contact with so many people on a daily basis, even if just for a moment. Why not live to brighten up the lives of those around us?
Narcotics Anonymous and the steps have given me empathy. I am not perfect and still fall short, but more often than not I typically do not take things personally. If something happens, it’s very easy for me to quickly see that everyone has something going on behind closed doors that I don’t know about. If I get cut off on the highway, if someone is rude with me in line at the store, if someone snaps at me – my first instinct is not to take it as a personal attack, I try to step into the other person’s shoes and think about what could have caused it. Distraction about something going on at home? A marital problem? A death in the family? Problems at work? Hell, even just an unintentional mistake. When I live life in a constant state of being a victim, I am powerless. Playing the victim and sitting in self-pity is like putting a loaded gun in my mouth. It’ll take me back out quicker than any drug ever could. Taking responsibility for my actions puts the power of choice back in my hands. If I pick apart the word “responsibility” it literally means my ability to respond. I find that when I don’t react and instead choose to give people the benefit of the doubt, I feel better. It’s just that; a choice.
One of my favorite things about Jeffrey and my relationship is that whenever we go out to eat, to the store, to Apple to fix our phones, hell, even to do our taxes, we make a new friend. In the beginning when we were just friends, I noticed Jeffrey was always super nice and friendly to the wait staff wherever we went and I remember asking him one day about it. He said that a server’s job is to make our dining experience a positive one but quite often they are overworked and struggling to keep up with what’s going on, dealing with so many negative un-thankful people, so why not try to make their experience with us an entertaining one instead? Ever since then, we’ve had so much fun bantering back and forth with those we encounter in public. I’m not sure what it is about us, but people seem to find us easy to talk to and more often than not we get told some life stories. Our tax guy told us about his nephew that’s struggling with addiction. We hadn’t even mentioned that we are in recovery. How humbling is that? For a man that we had met just minutes earlier, to feel safe enough to share with us his most personal happenings, that is an absolute honor. I’ve found that most people just want genuine interaction with other human beings. And who says that we can’t do this with strangers we meet in everyday life? Why not go out of my way to put a smile on someone else’s face? And if you can’t produce a smile, then at least be a listening ear.
Because everything in my life is subjective to my lenses, I get to choose which lenses I want to wear. When I change my perspective, my attitude follows closely behind. This allows me to live more in the moment and spend less time dwelling on something that happened yesterday or worrying about something that might happen tomorrow. Even though I need my alone time to recharge, it’s because I spend quite a bit of time and effort giving pieces of myself away to others. And that’s okay because that’s what makes me me. Today I choose to go out of my way to make others’ interactions with me a positive one. Today I choose to live in love instead of hate. Today I choose to live with grace rather than judgment.