“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Our face is a mask, sometimes opaque, sometimes transparent.
Recently a friend of mine was taking an online test about reading emotions, and not doing too well. She was frustrated. I suspect the test was flawed in multiple ways, and even if she did read the emotions correctly, there’s never any way to be certain of the reason for the feelings. We can’t read minds, and we don’t know all that is happening in anyone’s life.
Someone may smile at something we said because it ties in with a conversation they had only a moment before. We’re unaware of what was said, however, and think they’re smiling inappropriately at our tale, and become frustrated. It happens everyday.
That’s a simple misunderstanding. Just as we don’t know what is spoken in the moments before we join a discussion, we most often have no way of fully knowing what’s happening in the lives of those around us. People are discreet enough generally to keep their private lives private, and sometimes they do so almost to a fault.
I have a friend who was dealing with her mother’s Alzheimer’s last year, and I never knew until shortly before her mom died. She and I had been working on a project together and I’d wondered why she’d lost her enthusiasm for it. Was it something I said? Had I been too controlling? I can get stuck in my ways. Now, that could have been the case, but more likely, she simply had other priorities.
She kept up a brave face around me, and maybe wondered why I never asked how her mom was doing. You see, others knew. I didn’t. Perhaps I should have known. We live in a communication age, but our own personal interactions frequently suffer from presumptions and assumptions all around. We rely too much on expectations and, as I alluded to above, expressions of emotion.
How we view our peers and others around us is more than just reading facial expressions, of course.
As well as how they view us. We’re born with a look that defines us, or helps others think they can define us. We grow and mature and that look changes and develops with us, but never truly reflects all that we are. It limits our definition of ourselves to other people.
When I was in high school, I peripherally was friends with a young woman, a year older than I, who to this day I’d have to say was the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. Another woman in my group described her by saying, “she looks like a cover girl, only she hasn’t been airbrushed.” The only person to come close to matching her beauty (and it may be a tie) was her younger sister.
But beauty had its price. Let me add here these were two of the nicest, most sincere women you’d ever meet as well, and their parents were great people. Yet despite all the kindness they’d show to others, they were subject to vicious rumors and gossip simply because of petty jealousy. They faced other problems directly related to their looks, such as expectations from men when they were far too young to handle that sort of thing, and so on. It wasn’t fair.
The older girl, my friend, was often cautious around other people, knowing what they would be saying as soon as she left the room. That in turn led to talk she was “stuck-up” because she’d be reluctant to open up to someone new, or even those she knew well enough already.
We make judgments sometimes to feel in control of a situation. If we understand what’s going on, we can deal with it, so we seek an answer — and run the risk of being horribly wrong.
How do we discern a person’s heart?
Respecting another’s privacy is an important value to many of us, and in doing so, we also must respect we will likely give up some knowledge we may find useful, whether we have a right to it or not. That knowledge includes the ability, at times, to fully understand someone’s painful history and appreciate their distant behavior as a symptom of that aching within themselves.
I do believe we should, in general, live with an attitude every person is far more complex than we can recognize when we first meet them. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt, understanding we don’t know what secret sorrows they face, is the gracious thing to do.
Having that open mind and open heart, giving others a chance to reveal themselves, will help teach us the perception and insight we seek. It is immensely rewarding to be the one who discovers the cold and bitter outsider is a warm, kind person waiting to be loved.
Yes, we must always use discretion when reaching out to others to save ourselves from being taken advantage of by manipulative and greedy people. A slow and steady approach of grace with the counsel of others is always wise.
Grace, wisdom, warmth of spirit. Gifts of human kindness that can change the world.
Image Credits: (Masks) © tereks — Fotolia; (Face) © jozefklopacka — Fotolia; (Flowers) © nongkran-ch — Fotolia
My babies are five years old this month. I don’t know the exact day, so we’re celebrating today!!
At the age of 18, I went canoeing for the first — and last — time.
Don’t get me wrong. It was an extremely successful venture. I was with my church youth group at a river in northern California, known for its great canoeing. It was perfect for beginner and advanced canoeists alike, as the more treacherous areas all had an alternate route (walking).
In particular, there was one rocky streak known as “WipeOut Curve.” No one — I mean no one — made it through WipeOut Curve. I was in a canoe with my friends Debbie and Russ; Debbie was manning the back of the canoe, I had the front, and Russ sat in the middle, sans paddles. Both Debbie and I were novices, and we were advised to walk the path that bordered WipeOut Curve.
We weren’t particularly adventersome gals, and knew our limits. We’d been doing well, handling the worrisome areas like experts, guided by Russ’s experience and our own common sense. It felt good, but the odds remained against us. But for some reason I have long forgotten (quite possibly we were too self-conscious to walk in front of all the picnickers in our bathing suits), we decided to go for it. We headed straight for WipeOut Curve.
We made it.
The crowd of a two dozen or so people were incredulous and cheered us through the treacherous waters. We were focused on the river, so only Russ waved back, but we were thrilled. We had conquered WipeOut Curve. The two of us, who had never canoed before, had done what the most experienced canoeists hadn’t been able to do.
We successfully completed the rest of the route and enjoyed the admiration of the others in our group, particularly the boys, for the rest of the day. It was a high point of my teenage years.
I haven’t been back in a canoe since. The opportunity hasn’t presented itself, and I haven’t sought it out. But that victory has stayed with me.
The truth is, both Debbie and I were scared of wiping out, and that kept us upright as much as any skill we may have had. I don’t remember if it was the embarrassment of looking like drowned rats or the fear of hurting ourselves, and being teenage girls, the former is just as likely as the latter. If I’d had a choice, I may never have stepped in a canoe to begin with.
Except I did have a choice, and I chose to take the risk.
How many times do we succeed because the fear of failure is so strong? Is the victory any less sweet?
Taking a risk doesn’t always pay off. That day, the worst that could have happened is we failed to do what everyone else failed to do, so the risk was nominal. However, something about it motivated us to try the seemingly impossible.
The motivation doesn’t minimize the success. Let your fear take you places you didn’t expect to go. Yes, pay heed to the warning signs, weigh the risks, but be willing to take the curve.
Success is just around the corner.
Photo Credits: (River) © Jason W. Rambo; (River with canoeists) © Steve Boyko. Both stock.adobe.com.
Cable companies want to charge us for using the Internet, based on what we watch. NOT ON MY WATCH.
Automattic strongly believes in a free and open Internet and it’s hard to imagine a truly open Internet without Net Neutrality.
What Is Net Neutrality?
“Net Neutrality” is the simple but very powerful principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. Whether you’re reading a blog post on WordPress.com, streaming Game of Thrones on HBO GO, or browsing handcrafted tea cozies on Etsy, your Internet service provider delivers the Internet to you at the same speed, without blocking, throttling, or charging extra tolls based on the content you’re viewing. You can learn more about Net Neutrality and why it’s important by visiting battleforthenet.com.
Net Neutrality gives all online businesses, large and small, a chance to reach customers and succeed. It also protects important free speech rights online by prohibiting Internet providers from slowing or blocking sites or messages they don’t agree with.
Net Neutrality means an Internet where…
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Frequently these days my friends in education tell me schools are no longer teaching cursive writing.
I can’t imagine. You won’t be able to sign your own name?
I’m hardly old, but I feel as though I’ll be judged that way when I say I “still” write notes or send cards to friends. An e-mail birthday card doesn’t cut it with me. You can’t save them and treasure them. Or is that the point? Do people no longer want cards & letters cluttering up their lives?
I came across a stack of letters from college friends the other day. They were written years ago, before e-mail, Facebook, or the plethora of other ways to communicate. I laughed a lot and cried just a little when I read them. We were so optimistic and idealistic, in love or embarking on new careers, moving across the country or across the ocean. We hadn’t faced the responsibilities and disappointments life throws at you as adults.
What about journal entries? I stopped writing in a journal a few years back when I was falsely accused of a crime. I didn’t want personal thoughts taken into evidence and made public record. As it turns out, there was never a real risk of that happening, but it frightens me it could. I miss the writing, though.
I have two blank journals I’d bought in anticipation of the events and feelings I’d enter in them. My fear holds me back from writing, and I’m deeply saddened.
I like the feel of the pen in my hand. I won’t give that up.
If I’m like my mom, my hands someday will fail me and writing will become a challenge I no longer want to take on. Until that time, I hope I don’t stop handwriting thoughts and letters.
Image Credit: © artender — Dollar Photo Club
I have an important decision to make…and what I’m thinking of doing doesn’t feel right.
I won’t do it, no matter how logical may seem. I’ve learned my gut, my soul, has valuable things to say.
It’s almost as if logic and reasoning is the lazy way out sometimes, although I’ll never dismiss the necessity to reason through a life-changing or costly choice. Sometimes, however, what the prevailing wisdom might say is the right thing to do isn’t right for me.
When you know, down to your core, what you’re doing or about to do is wrong, it can be difficult to justify sometimes. The logic points one way, but the logic is missing some vital information.
There have been times when I’ve been told to trust people or trust a system I’m not familiar with, and my soul has known better. I knew once I was being led in the wrong direction by someone I should have been able to trust, desperately wanted to trust, and instead of saying, “this isn’t right,” I accepted his decisions. I was afraid not to; I had lost faith in too many people.
I should have let go. Ultimately, perhaps only a very short time later, my faith would have been restored. I likely would have found someone to trust, a person who could have provided me with the support and power I needed to rise above an impossible situation. Instead I let this individual lead me down a path where even more people betrayed me.
It was a horrible lesson to learn. Rational thinking has its place, but you can never dismiss the weight of knowing you don’t have all the facts.
I’ll make my decisions in the future using all the resources available to me, the rational, the instinctive, and yes, the spiritual, for all of my major decisions need to be doused in prayer for wisdom.
Changing your life isn’t easy.
Images: © Geosap — stock.adobe.com
On Election Day 1996, my then-boyfriend and I deliberately misinterpreted the weather forecast.
“It’ll be a great day for voting!” the meteoroligist said enthusiastically.
“Should be a fantastic turnout at the polls!” the news anchor responded.
Well, maybe short two people. Mark and I both heard, “it’ll be a great day for boating!” and decided that indeed, we should spend the day on the lake. I was between jobs and Election Day was a holiday at his company (seriously), so we were free to do as we pleased.
We fully intended to make it to the polls, but I truly don’t remember if either of us did or not. My memory is better focused on the fact that Mark let me take over the wheel of his beloved boat for a time, in fact, until I no longer wanted to steer.
This was remarkable for two reasons: one, the law required I take a safety class first, which I hadn’t yet completed, and Mark was strict about those rules, and two, Mark didn’t let anyone, I mean ANYONE, save himself steer that boat.
Our relationship had already hit a rocky point, and we broke up a few months later, but that was a good day. We were one of a very few boats on the lake that afternoon, making the lazy, rocking feel of slow cruising ideal.
We had our routine with the boating; he would start out at the wheel, while I stood on the dock and tossed the rope that tethered the boat when it wasn’t in use. After the rope was in the boat, I would leap into the back as it was pulling away. There was no room for error, but I never failed to safely make that jump.
We each had our soft drinks, and I think that day I had brought a book. The sky was clear, and a light breeze added to the comfort. We talked about inconsequential things, stayed away from politics, although we were (excuse the pun) on the same boat there. After a couple of hours, we headed back to his place for a barbeque.
Memories are a funny thing. After a breakup, it can be easy to forget what drew us in to the relationship in the first place. But that was a great day for boating.
Photo Credit — Header (Lake View) © Kagenmi – stock.adobe.com