“Be Kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” — Plato
One of the biggest mistakes we make is mixing up other peoples’ outsides and insides.
I have learned the hard way that there exists a vast gulf between what we assume about someone and what is true. It can be perilous to imagine that these two things are congruent. I’ve been on the receiving end of judgment more than once, and each time I’ve been shocked and startled, amazed at how differently I can come across than I intended. This has taught me to question my own assumptions about others.
I know it sounds hokey, but I really do believe that we live in a benevolent universe, and that most people are truly doing their best. In moments of aggravation and frustration I try to remember that, and to be kind instead of short or snappy. Believe me, I fail as often as I succeed. But sometimes I’m able to remember how wildly I have been misperceived in the past, and this helps me reframe my instant judgment of someone into a less hardened frame.
This truth dovetails with another that I am still learning, even as I try to teach my daughter: it is almost never about me. Most reactions by others, even the most hurtful, are about those internal battles others are fighting, and not about us. This is for some reason incredibly difficult to remember – to know – but I believe it completely.
“Not when you last did, but when you next can.”
This principle, which I use to guide a few important parts of my life, certainly doesn’t qualify as rocket science. The place I find this mindset most helpful is in fitting exercise into my day, but I think it can be applied to other activities and choices too.
When I consider when I’m going to exercise, I never think about when I last ran. I think about when I will next be able to. So, it’s irrelevant that I ran yesterday if I know I won’t be able to for the next four days. In that case, I run again, even though it’s two days in a row. I explained this logic to my husband and was surprised to see how much it changed the way he thought about when he might exercise.
Just Between Us: A No-Stress, No-Rules Journal for Girls and Their Moms by Meredith and Sofie Jacobs, has been a terrific tool for facilitating communication with my 10-year-old daughter.
As she gets older, keeping us talking feels like my highest priority. And Just Between Us, which has blank pages with prompts and questions for mother and daughter respectively, is a great way to talk back and forth about some things that are hard to discuss in person.
We take turns filling out the pages, some of which are blank and some of which have prompts. I always enjoy the funny and unexpected questions or phrases which trigger reflection. Some are the same for mother and daughter, like “my top 10 favorite songs.” Others vary slightly, like “what I wanted to be when I grew up” and “three things I might want to be when I grow up” or “who my friends were when I was growing up/how my friendships have changed/what I’ve learned about friendship” and “my best friends are/what I look for in a friend/ the challenges I face in my friendships.”
We don’t write in the journal every night, so it’s a treat to find it on the bedside table. I highly recommend Just Between Us as a channel for special communication with a daughter.