I recently realized something.
I didn’t notice before because, generally speaking, I believe I live in a musical wherein I am the lead (with the best voice), and everything is amazing and the so-called “strangers” around me at the gas station or the grocery store are in actuality extras–supporting cast, if you will–just waiting to sing:
“Look there she goes, that girl is strange, no question! Dazed and distracted, can’t you tell?”
I am completely serious.
So, I tend to not really care what other people are thinking about me, because I am the star.
And also, because I assume people are just as excited as I am to have any part at all in “Misty: THE MUSICAL”.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to get a piece of that action?
So, it always comes as somewhat of a surprise to me when I discover the dark underbelly of first world suburban America.
This is a problem that is pervasive throughout store aisles and restaurants and historic downtown walking districts and parks and well, just about everywhere that people have been educated beyond their intelligence.
Complete strangers feel they are obligated out of some perverse sense of duty to tell others that they are doing it wrong.
Whatever “it” is, I guarantee, you are doing it wrong.
Here are just a few things I am doing all wrong in no particular order:
- Food. No matter what I feed my children, it is wrong. According to popular health blogs, the only thing I can feed my kids is free range, gluten free, dairy free, vegan, non-GMO, cruelty free, fair trade oxygen from the Fiordland region of New Zealand.
- Exercise. I am doing it wrong. And, even if I am doing it almost right, I’m not doing enough of it. Also, I’m not enjoying it enough.
- Helping other people. If I donate to help a person in another country, what about people here who need help? If I want to help people learn to read, what about people who don’t know how to cook healthy meals? The list goes on and on. I think that it is pretty clear that no matter how I choose to help people, someone, somewhere, thinks I’m wrong. And they are not going to be quiet about it any longer.
- Parenting. Attachment, cage-free, whatever–someone thinks I am wrong. And others who don’t agree with me will give me snide, condescending looks in the Target Dollar Spot area.
I know this is not a surprise to anyone but me, because I don’t often pay attention the social media stuff or people in Target (because, the musical thing), but it was surprising to me that people can be so ignorant.
I did want to take a moment to make it clear how right they are.
Often, I am doing it wrong.
Sometimes, epically wrong.
You know why?
Because I am willing to try even though I know I will fail sometimes.
And, sometimes you are doing it wrong, too.
Because we’re going where the snarky people aren’t willing to go: we’re willing to risk falling on our faces and looking like idiots because we know that’s the only way we get better and make the world better.
We are being unique. True individuals. And that’s what the naysayers are terrified of.
They’re scared of different. Afraid of trying something new.
I watched some of them at Arches National Park a few months ago. After giving condescending looks to all the people around them, they came to the edge of the paved sidewalk.
There was a clearly marked trail going down into a canyon. The parking lot was visible from most of the trail.
The three cool people just stood looking at the unpaved rocks and dirt and squirmed.
“Do we walk down the trail?” they asked each other uncomfortably.
“It’s not really a trail, is it? There is, like, dirt everywhere.”
In the end they gingerly tip toed along the first three feet of rock and dirt and took a selfie to prove they had been adventuring at Arches.
I’ve thought about that a lot. I think they really were afraid of trying something new.
Afraid of different.
Afraid, of, “like, dirt…everywhere.”
So I’m not upset when people mutter under their breath about my weight or the kids or my poor food choices at Costco (I am NOT the one eating the case of Twix bars. No one there would guess that “family size” for us is actually at least two cases of anything. And no, I don’t usually condone corn syrup, but it was a special occasion. They were all out of non-GMO, free range pure oxgen).
I’m not upset because I realize, just like the villagers in Beauty and the Beast, that most of the time when people are critical it’s because they are either ignorant or afraid.
And being mad or offended back at them will never help ignorance or fear.
I find the cure is to be kind and, at times, act oblivious.
I just pretend I didn’t hear the comment about how my kids are hogging the swings (we have a 90 second time limit if others are waiting). Most of the time, I get that people are scared of seeing ten kids rushing toward the swings. I know I would be.
I keep smiling when the person behind me in line at the grocery store shoots me death rays because I always have at least 3,000 items. And then I sincerely ask if they’d like to go in front of me.
I’d like to say it’s just out of trying to build bridges, but it’s also because I don’t want to get home faster. I am alone. Outside. With unlimited fair-trade dark chocolate and Fiji water. Around adults. I am in no rush.
I don’t worry when people snicker at me when I am out “walking”. Yes, I look ridiculous. Yes, I am huge. The people snickering don’t know my story. That’s okay. Sometimes we end up friends, because I am willing to share my story and be oblivious to the snickering. Sometimes, I just keep moving.
What’s important is that I am attempting the impossible.
Like a star.
In hot pink Altras.
Don’t worry if you think you’re doing it wrong, because at some point you probably are.
I promise, you are doing better than you think.
Because you are still here, realizing you make mistakes, still learning and still trying.