A world full of judges

“Empathy begins with understanding life from another person’s perspective. Nobody has an objective experience of reality. It’s all through our own individual prisms.”
~ Sterling K. Brown

I took this photo last year in Croatia. I was walking through Diocletian’s Palace when I saw this woman sitting on the doorsteps, quietly smoking her cigarette. Watching her sitting there, alone, with strangers passing by without paying her any attention, I find it quite poignant.

Of course, I dramatised it in my head. She’s probably just having a break from work and is happy not to have to talk to any annoying tourists for a moment. But I can’t help to think of a story to support the image that I see. I guess, that’s the storyteller in me.

What we see and what we think that we see, are two totally different things. But very often we are oblivious of the thin line between these two statements. And sometimes it leads to big consequences. Especially nowadays with social media controlling our judgment.

I think that we tend to see what we want to see and we convince ourselves that our story to the image is true. When a story is attached to an image, we are not objective anymore. Even though we have nothing to do with the whole situation. There are not many of us who can jump out of the story and be objective without making a judgment. Seeing things from a different perspective.

Here’s a recent example in the Dutch newspapers. Two guests were invited to a talkshow. One is a tv host who has been wrongfully accused of taking bribes and during the investigation she was treated like a criminal and nobody wants to have anything to do with her. The other guest was a father of a rape and murder victim. The tv host told her story, telling everyone how bad it was to be treated like a criminal and being wrongfully accused and how it affected her mentally. In her perspective, she suffered badly from it. Later, the host of the talkshow mentioned in an article how he was hoping that this tv host would’ve reflected her feelings on the feelings of the father of the murder victim. Implicating that what she has suffered is nothing compared to what the father of the raped and murdered girl has gone through.

A lot of people agreed with the talkshow host. They already formed a judgment after reading this article. They ventilated on social media how insensitive the tv host was, whining about her problems while the other person has suffered ten times worst. But, is this fair? Should she be the only guest that night or paired with a different guest who didn’t suffer such tremendous trauma, wouldn’t we have sympathy for her? Wouldn’t people have different thoughts about her situation? But yet, she was paired to somebody who’s lost a daughter on a very gruesome way and she has become the whiny, insensitive woman.

Is this a fair comparison? Both have suffered a trauma, but because in the eyes of the audience one is more severe than the other, does that mean that for the tv host it is not horrible what’s she gone through? And thus, she has no right to complain about it? Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s horrible what happened to the father. And as a mother, I, too, think that what happened to the tv host pales in comparison to losing a child. But I am aware that something tragic happened to both of them. And that they both suffer from pain. But just because we, outsiders, grade the sorrow differently, does not mean that the person who suffered the, in our eyes, less severe trauma is hurt less and therefore suffers less pain. By thinking this way only shows how insensitive people themselves are. Something that these people should reflect on, but they don’t see it, because in their eyes, they are right. Perspective.

However difficult it may seem, we all should learn to see things from different perspectives. How often do we hear that one opinion leads to disagreement and sometimes even causes unnecessary fights between two groups. Only because they see things differently. Let’s try to understand each other and understand the situation before we judge. Or even better yet; try not to judge. If we all start with ourselves, this world may eventually become an even more beautiful place.

Kindly request not to assume that your assumptions are true

“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.”
~ Albert Schweitzer

We all have experienced it once or twice or maybe even more often; you go to the store or a restaurant and the employee, who supposed to be kind and friendly, treats you like you’re an annoying person interrupting her at whatever she’s doing except working.

Well, it happened to me while I was at the cinema a few weeks back. Me and my daughter planned a day out as she had a day off from school. We left home cheerfully, looking forward to have some good time watching a movie and shopping. Once we arrived at the cinema and I ordered tickets at the ticket office, everything changed!

We arrived at the cinema just past noon. We wanted to catch an early show, so we could spend the afternoon shopping. The girl at the desk saw us coming in, but didn’t greet us. She didn’t even bothered to look at us. I just ordered my tickets, she printed them out and shoved it to me over the counter. She watched me swipe my card to pay and turned away. Not even a ” Goodbye!” or “Have a nice day!”. My daughter looked at me and shrugged. I couldn’t help to say something about it.

I felt quite offended at that moment. Maybe it was because I wanted so much for my daughter to have a good time. She just started at the secondary school and worked so hard the past few weeks to gain good results at school. I wanted to reward her and show her that I’m really proud of her. And besides, I just assumed the girl at the ticket office was just pissed to work and early shift.

So, I made a comment. I said that I find her very rude and that I don’t think her boss would appreciate her treating customers like that. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have said anything….

The girl fell out at me. She told me to mind my own business and that she is very capable of doing her job. I should just go in and watch the movie. Wow! My daughter and I, our jaws dropped wide open. We looked at each other and we were speechless. My daughter dragged me away and told me to let it go. But the more I thought of it, the more I felt the need to talk to someone about it. I decided to talk to the manager. Of course my teenage daughter warned me not to make a scene of it. But she did agree with me that the girl was very rude.

I found the manager, told him what happened and he could tell that I was not amused about it. We walked back to the girl at the ticket office just to see her being rude to other customers too. The manager was quite shocked about it. He told us that she’s his best employee and normally she’s very kind and friendly. The manager went over to ask what’s happening. The girl saw us with the manager and tears started to roll over her cheeks. Oops… That was not what I expected.

I instantly felt sorry for the girl. This was not my intention. Suddenly, things seemed to get more worse. My daughter shot me an ugly look and whispered to me that she warned me not to make scene. TEENAGERS! *sigh* While the girl sobbed heavily, she tried to say something. We couldn’t make out what she was babbling. When she’s calmed down a  bit, we finally understood what she tried to say. She explained to us that she just lost a close family member and that she’s very upset about it. And the emotions have clouded her mood to work.

All right, I did feel bad that I confronted her about her behaviour. I counted till ten and took a deep breath, then, when the girl was calmed down, I explained to her why I planned to file a complain against her. I told her that my daughter was excited about going a day out on a school day and that I was very looking forward to spend some quality time with my daughter. And that the way she treated us, I felt like she’s ruined our day.

The girl listened patiently to me and she was very reasonable. She nodded and said she understands why I was upset about her behaviour. She even apologised to us. I accepted her apology. I also told her that I’m sorry that she lost a close family member and that it’s okay to feel sad. But sometimes, we might want to think twice about how we act on our emotions. Because when we send out negative energy to other people, they will receive it and react on it too. And most of the time, that’s how misunderstandings happen. She nodded.

This incident reminded me of two important things in life; 1. assumptions are not always true and 2. always connect with people.

I saw a young girl acting grumpy and just assumed she didn’t want to work and early shift. I was wrong. My assumption was very wrong. I’m glad that I had a chance to talk to the girl. Maybe, connecting with her through the manager wasn’t the best move, I should’ve talked to her personally. But it still gave us the opportunity to explain ourselves. The best thing was, even though the start was a bit impetuous, at the end we’ve talked calmly and listened patiently to each other and cleared things out. Everything was fine after all. The manager even gave us free drinks and popcorn! So, my daughter, the teenager, who’s learned a lesson of life, was happy too!

I strongly believe if we all could just keep in mind that we must not always assume our assumptions are true and if we would ry to kindly connect with people we could all make this world a better place!

 

The feeling that you’re useless…FIGHT IT!

“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.”
~ Og Mandino

A few days back, while vacuuming the living room, I picked up the guitar of my daughter. I was tired of cleaning so I put down the vacuum cleaner and started to ping on the strings. Just for fun. I’ve always love the sound of a guitar and I will melt away at songs that are guided by acoustic guitar sounds. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to learn how to play it when I was younger. Now I’m compensating it by sending my daughter to guitar class. Luckily she likes it a lot and she’s doing really great.

So, I held the guitar that day and looked at the book with music notes. It’s a book for beginners, which my daughter left on the stand after practicing some old songs. The book lies proudly open, as if it intentionally shows me all its contents. It seems not too complicated so I decided to give it a shot. After a few attempts I almost want to give up. the joints in my fingers and my fingertips already started to complain after a few minutes. I feel them burning of pain caused by the pressing on the strings. My shoulders cramped and I couldn’t hit a decent music note. I thought about how well my daughter could play this instrument and I felt like a useless woman.

Okay.. now wait a minute! That’s totally not fair to think that way.

We all know the feeling when something doesn’t go the way as we’ve planned. And unfortunately, most of the time it works like that. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not capable of doing something right or making something to happen. It just means that you need more practice in what you’re trying to do. Perseverance is the key. That and a right mindset.

If you’re feeling bad because something didn’t go as planned. Then stop what you’re doing! Stop and take a deep breath. Let your mind flow away from what you’re doing and let it go for a moment. And then, think of something else. Think of something that you’ve done and that you succeeded in. Think of things that make you happy. For instance, think of that time that you’ve nailed a very complicated cake recipe. Or maybe you’ve once helped an old lady to cross a busy road. Or even think back at the time that you’ve passed you’re driving exam.

All those thing, no matter how small they seem to be, you made them happen. Those are your achievements! Maybe you forgot about them, but the people you shared that cake with, will always remember that cake of yours and admire your perseverance to make it. That old lady will always be grateful to you for your help and the fact that you steer your car so easily around these days, is because you once passed that exam!

So, remember, the next time you feel bad about a thing that doesn’t work out right away, don’t focus on the things that went wrong, but think of the things that make you strong. YOU can change your mind, YOU can CHOOSE on what to think. So, choose the positive matters, because those things can make you feel better and let you believe in yourself. And that is the most important part! Believe in what you can do. Be determined to succeed!

As for the things that did not succeed today, there is always a tomorrow!

i kept practicing on the guitar and after a few days I can now finally complete playing a whole song. Check it out in my latest Youtube video.

 

The Walk

Old age

“Old age: the crown of life, our play’s last act.”
~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

I had a lovely vacation this summer. I went to Slovenia and Croatia. I’ve visited some beautiful places and saw some impressive sceneries. When on the last day I sat on a bench in a nice park in Zagreb, thinking how grateful I am to have the chance to make this journey, I saw two women walking by. One pushing a wheelchair and one leaning on a cane. I guess the wheelchair is meant for the lady with the cane. My educated guess is that they’re in their late 70s maybe even early 80s. I couldn’t help but to follow them with my eyes.

The women walked slowly. My impression was that the lady with the cane couldn’t walk too fast and gets tired easily. They set a few steps and then they will stop to rest for a minute or two. The lady pushing the wheelchair awaits patiently for the lady with the cane to take lead and carry on. I couldn’t make out their relationship. They might be sisters or just good friends. Best friends even, I guess. They’ve definitely known each other for a long time. It’s like they are willing to stand by each other no matter what.

When I look at them, I couldn’t help but to think how their life must have been. Are they married, do they have kids, what have they endured? Are they happy? Do they have regrets? What are their biggest achievements. Are they grateful? Do they visit church every now and then or did they gave up hope and belief a long time ago?

All sort of questions crossed my mind. I would’ve loved to have a chat with them. To hear their stories. To get to know the things that they have experienced. To listen to their achievements and share their regrets, if they have any. I always think of people of old age as one big treasure chest, full of inspiration.

When I was sitting there, watching the treasure chests, my mind started to wander off. Slowly, just like the lady with the cane and it stops for a pause, too, at my past. I’ve learned to let that go a long time ago. But sometimes it still hits me. Don’t want to waste too much time in the past, I urged my mind to carry on and it wandered to my future. What will my future look like? That’s the most mysterious question no one can ever answer. My mind started to come back to me and it accompanied me again at watching the old ladies. And then it told me: make sure you don’t have regrets when you’re at that age. Live today and enjoy life! Whether it’s good or bad. Accept the things that cross your road. Be grateful for the things that you have. And keep on learning. Keep inspiring people and be inspired by life. The past gave you a present to build the future. So, live the present!

Life’s a funny thing. We’re not guaranteed a tomorrow. So, we must get the most out of it today. And if we are lucky to live till the age of the ladies in my photo we have to make sure that every day counts and that we don’t have regrets on the last day of our lives.

The women went on their way. So did I. As our ways separated I turned back a few times to watch them. They became smaller each time I turned around until eventually they’ve disappeared into the distance. This was the best scenery I’ve seen this vacation. I wish them both the best last act of their play.

What is death without life

“Nothing is a matter of life and death except life and death.”
~ Angela Carter

Last week I attended the funeral of my cousin’s wife. Her death was totally unexpected to me. She was a brisk woman and always active. Although she was much older than I am (my mother took a gamble for a daughter after three sons and the result is an age gap of 18 years between me and my eldest brother) and we don’t see each other very often, but there was always some sort of connection between us. After all we are family.

Death is something that we don’t talk about much. People from my culture are superstitious. It’s bad luck even by mentioning it. But just because we don’t talk about it, doesn’t mean it won’t affect us. Even though my cousin’s wife was in her seventies she was still a very active woman with a lot of friends and busy social life. But one day she was hit by a cyclist and fell on her head. The accident didn’t take her life immediately. She suffered nine months before she past away.

One accident can change your life and the lives of your loved ones drastically. Life and death lie closer to each other than we think. So, live your life to the full. Stay positive even if life is hard at some times. Be grateful with everyone and everything in you life. Love your family, friends and even your enemies. For a feud has no meaning when life comes to an end. Right or wrong, love or hate, rich or poor, all of it doesn’t matter when your time has come.

Do the things you want to do. Don’t wait and think that you have plenty of time. Say “I love you” to your loved ones as often as you can. You can never show too much love, but you will regret it at the end when you’ve shown too little. Choose wisely when life hits you hard at some point. Remember that nothing is a matter of life and death except life and death. Make every minute of your life count, so you can leave without regrets when the end is near.

Carpe diem!

My heart goes out to my cousin and his family. I wish them lots of love and strength for the hard times they have to go through right now.