One fine morning about two years ago, I met a guy on a blind date at Cafe Patachou.
We both ordered the omelet of the day and went through the whole “give me the clean, short version of your relationship history” spiel, which often occurs on a first date.
Then, we started to talk about random crap, which just so happens to be strength of mine.
I told the story of a couple I knew who had a larger number of children, and were continuing to have LOTS of babies, like seven kids or something. As I continued to tell the story of this couple, I found myself getting really fired up. And three minutes into this story, I was suddenly giving a scathing diatribe about how some people have babies just to fill a void or because they’re bored, and it’s at the expense of the children, when they aren’t able to provide the necessary support (emotional, monetary, etc.) that these kiddos need, and OH MY GOSH I JUST HATE IT when people do this, or something like that.
And the gentleman across the table thoughtfully looked at me and said, “it’s sounds like you’re really angry about this subject.”
“Yes, I am!” I quickly spat out.
And then I realized that I was actually exhibiting the physical symptoms of anger–I was tightly grasping my fork and my face had gotten unattractively puffy and red.
“I don’t know why this bugs me so much. But it really bugs me,” I said, a little bit more calmly.
“Perhaps it’s related to something in your own childhood,” he said.
“Who are you?? Are you like an undercover therapist or something??” I asked, trying to lighten the conversation.
“No,” he said laughing, “but I’ve been in therapy before and am pretty good at making an observation.”
So I did what he said. I began to think about my childhood. I began to think about some of my emotional needs that weren’t met, despite the fact that my parents were, and still are, amazing parents.
I began to think about the times where I haven’t met the emotional needs of my own child, because I was exhausted or sick or distracted. I thought about how frustrating and upset I was about those times.
And then I thought about why I am so angry. And it’s because I’m afraid. I’m afraid when I’m not able to be the kind of parent my daughter needs at certain moments.
The truth is, no matter how great of a parent you are, no one is capable of meeting every single one of his or her child’s needs 100 % of the time. It’s simply not possible. We are not super humans.
But, I realized that my anger at the couples who were having lots of children was actually fear–fear for their children. Fear that they won’t get what they need.
I am reminded of this story today when I find myself in a situation where I’m angry at someone–when I’m feeling judgmental about something they said or did. I personally don’t care for the expression, “put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and try to see where he or she is coming from.”
Because sometimes you have NO FREAKING CLUE where the other person is coming from. In fact, you may think the other person is a complete idiot. You may think, “I can’t put myself in his shoes because I would never, ever DO what he did.”
So it’s during times like that, that I am reminded to turn inward–not out.
When I’m feeling judgmental or angry with someone, I try to be still. I begin to ask myself, “why does this bug me?” Or “what is happening or has happened in my own life that plays a role in how I’m responding?”
If I am not aware of my own values and the events or experiences which shaped them, I can easily become angry and judgmental towards others.
We are all SO different. Our stories have unfolded uniquely and our pain plays out in different ways. Empathy and/or sympathy are not easy emotions to access at times, especially when a person has hurt us, or we don’t like to see them making choices we think are hurting themselves or others.
But at the very least, if we can turn in–turn in and tune into our own experiences which have shaped what we believe about ourselves and others–it’s a start in the right direction. It’s an acknowledgement that there are prizes of STRENGTH and POWER and KNOWLEDGE to be won from our stories of adversity.
And now I’m going to stop writing here. Because it’s 4:30 am, and my insomnia finally wore off. ❤️ Back to sleep.