My morning walk in this new neighborhood has turned into a little fantasy walk lately. If I’m out before 8:00, lots of cars are heading out to work. Several head out on bicycles. What I notice is how serious all those faces are and that gets me fantasizing about their lives. And they’re probably doing the same about mine because I’m trying hard to start every day as Thich Nhat Hanh suggests, with a smile. No matter what your mood, a smile breaks tension and sets a good precedent for the day. I’m sure it looks like I haven’t a care in the world.
Sometimes a car will pull in a driveway as I walk by, but the driver doesn’t get out until I’ve passed. “Whew, don’t have to talk to her!” Sure, they might just be texting before they get out, but I notice because I’m overly eager to make contact with all warm bodies in a two bock radius.
Even though I remember well the grumpy mornings of a rote existence —taking the kids to school before you’re fully awake, going to a job you dread, making breakfast when it’s the last thing you feel like doing, etc. — I can’t help taking this avoidance a bit personally. After all, why wouldn’t you want to talk to me? I’m nice. ha. Actually, I’m just grateful for the waves and realize that the last thing you want to do first thing in the morning is have conversation with someone you don’t know. As a newbie in town, though, I’m over anxious for friendly faces and often forget that my life is no longer like theirs, tied to a timetable.
This 15 minutes in the morning is a constant reminder that everyone has a story behind their face. You just don’t know what went on in that little fragment of their morning, behind the front door. Grumpy faces have a hundred reasons. From missing their morning Jo to headache to a fight with their teenage son… or maybe even the insurance co. Or perhaps someone can’t find his pants!!! So many circumstances tighten our mouths and knit our brows: not enough sleep, upset stomach, spats, work pressure, teenage angst, toddler tantrums, sadness, worry, stress, time pressure, the list is long, varied and very personal.
I’m often put off by a surly food server and almost never feel like leaving a tip. But wait a minute… Are they signing divorce papers today? Is their mom in the hospital? Can they afford this week’s groceries? Does their knee hurt?
You never know what someone else is going through, so judging their outer appearance is misguided and definitely a waste of time. I haven’t conquered this judging habit, but happiness is at least realizing I should. Changing habits takes time.