The Perils of People Pleasing, or Influence Apart From Manipulation

“Focus on your intentions.”

That is some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten.

In addition to (or perhaps in conjunction with) being a recovering nice girl, I’m also trying to kick the horrid habit of being a people pleaser.

I used to cringe at the thought of letting someone down or not being who someone needs me to be.  I was adept at reading a social environment and chameleoning my way into the version of Allie I thought fit best.  And I would so much rather have deferred to someone else’s preferences rather than mine to avoid any conflict or hard feelings.

About a year ago, I talked to a very wise woman about my addiction to people pleasing.  She gave me this simple advice.  Focus on your intentions.  People pleasing is a form of manipulation– trying to act in ways to control others’ opinions of you.  And Lord knows, you cannot control another human.  Attempting to coerce the reaction towards you that you want (preferably: ooh, I like her and want to be her friend and make her feel loved and known!) is not a worthwhile endeavor.  It’s a slippery slope and it is exhausting and it breeds inauthenticity.  Let other people be who they are (in all their various dispositions, life experiences, personality types, and opinions) and where they are (whether it be hurt, busy, angry, disagreeable, or disillusioned).  Living a life as an elaborate chess game of trying to anticipate another’s counter move to your move and subsequently trying to finagle your actions in response to your predictions is a half lived one, full of worry and eggshell stepping.  And who wants that?

When I let go of being in charge of how other people respond to me (which I never had any control over in the first place) I am immeasurably freed up to discover what it means to be wholeheartedly me.  It simplifies the process of living life when you don’t have to factor in whether or not your choice will be acceptable in the eyes of the numerous pedestal dwellers.  Rather, simply focus on your intentions.

This is such a helpful thing in examining my motives before making a choice.  Am I doing this thing because I truly want to? Because it will bring Life? Is this best? In the moment, focusing on my intentions can help me speak the truth bravely and simply. It gives me something to focus on rather than fearing any collateral damage (real or perceived) that might sway me towards inauthenticity. To lean into inevitable friction, knowing that my identity is not up for grabs and that sometimes conflict is a healing and life giving thing, not something to be fearfully tiptoed around. And afterwards, in the face of that tempting but horrible habit of repeatedly hitting the replay button on an event, conversation, or an interaction, finding solace in my intentions helps me let go of the fearful wonderings of how someone else has reacted to my choice.  It helps me to let go and give others permission to be themselves as well.

Deeply rooted in the motivation of people pleasing is a lie of not being worthy, just as we are.  This is a lie that I think a lot of women believe.  (Somehow I can see the lie for the preposterous and parasitic thing it is when I hear other women voice it, but it is much harder to wrench that weed from my own heart.)  In fact, I think this is at the root of at least 97.5% of my battles.  When our hearts are gripped with the fear of not being enough, we can diverge into this ugly combination of gripping at control and hiding in shameful passivity.  We try to take control of any external factors we can, manipulating that which is around us to attempt to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps to a feeling of worthiness.  In failed attempts we are quick to distance ourselves, hiding in shame.  Oh how we take after our mother- Eve.  Wanting to grab onto something– not believing that who we were was enough to begin with.  Trying to take control, manipulating those around us, and at the horrifying discovery of our brokenness, we run and hide.  It’s a cycle that we sorely need to be saved from.

What good news to discover that, even in the depths of these shame cycles, we have One who, knowing the deepest parts of us, enters into our mess and declares that we have been made new.  That He is inviting us into the process of becoming who He intended us to be.  A woman resting in an identity that is secure and able to speak the truth bravely.  A daughter who was created, for such a time as this, to be an agent of reconciliation, a Truth Speaker, and Beauty Maker, a Glory Giver.

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This post is a continuation from last week’s post-– thoughts inspired by Darling Magazine’s mission statement.

“Darling is a catalyst for positive change, leading women to discover beauty apart from vanity, influence apart from manipulation, style apart from materialism, sweetness apart from passivity, and womanhood without degradation.  Darling leads women to practice the arts of virtue, wit, modesty, and wisdom— all the while creating beauty and embodying love.  Darling says women are not only interesting, but original, not only good enough, but exceptional, not just here, but here for a purpose.”

 

Confessions of a Recovering Nice Girl, or Sweetness Apart from Passivity

“She was free in her wildness. She was a wanderess, a drop of free water. She belonged to no man and to no city”

Roman Payne, The Wanderess

I used to be a “nice girl”.

It was somewhat inescapable, being a middle child growing up in small town Iowa, in a Christian home.  I avoided conflict like the plague.  Keeper of the peace, non-boat-rocker, good natured, agreeable, dependable, and… Nice.  

Being nice is exhausting.  

Bearing the weight of everyone’s perceived expectations.  Feeling the constant undercurrent of pressure to be Liked threatening to pull me out into an fickle ocean of insecurity.

There is something fierce, something wild and untamed in the depths of the feminine spirit.  It is not always nice.  Something that should not be squelched or corseted.   My soul is an unkempt field of wildflowers, not a well manicured symmetrical and unimaginative English garden. And that’s ok.  The wildflowers should not be mistook for weeds.

I am wild, reckless abandon dancing in the rain with arms outstretched.  And I am gentle, quieted beneath a blanket of stars as I lay on the roof.  I am a brooding storm cloud, unrelenting as I pass through.  And I am a straight downfall of rain, grieving an ache I can’t put into words.  I am brave like the dawn, pushing aside darkness to reach for hope.

We are meant to be nurturers, encouragers, empathetic and compassionate.  It comes to us, easy as breathing.  Underneath the surface however, that reflex gets poisoned ever so slightly with the lie that perennial pleasantness is the definition of Good.

Good goes so much deeper than nice.  

Love goes so much deeper than warm fuzzies.  

Femininity goes so much deeper than Miss Manners.  

Compassion should not stop at smiles and pleasant conversation.  Because when we peel back the layers, when we are honest with ourselves, that kind of niceness is more about being liked and seen as desired company than the other person.  It can be a cowardly avoidance of the the kind of messy and discomfort that brings about freedom.  It is selfish.  It is ugly.  It is a sham.

I’ve come to realize that there is a difference between peace-keeping and peace-making.  I have always been a peace-keeper.  Do what is needed to make others around me happy.  Be who is needed to be liked and appreciated in the circumstance.  Avoid anything that would cause friction or disagreement. This isn’t peace.  It’s conflict avoidance.  Peace was the farthest thing I was feeling in my soul.  Anxiety and insecurity were eating me up.

I needed a new operating system.  To be transformed by the renewing of my mind.

It is a slow process, and sometimes, from my vantage point, I don’t see any change at all.  But when I look back, I can see I’ve come quite a ways.  It’s not that I’m no longer nice, but that I’m in the habit of reminding myself that Nice is no longer the reigning dictator of my identity.  I am free to speak the Truth with purpose and poise.  I am free to let go of who I think I’m supposed to be and enter into the mystery of who I already am.  

So when my friend, Bill Rose asked if he could paint me, simultaneously flattered, embarrassed, curious, and uncertain, I said yes.  What he captured on canvas surprised me.  It was me, but not the me that most people see.  It was intense.  Not nice.  But, it was me.  This painting… it’s a thing that I feel so much hesitation to admit to others.  Worried about the reaction, the response, the raised eyebrows, only a handful of people know about that three foot square painting hanging in his Crossroads studio.  I am scared to share it with you now… but it fits.  This is me.  Unapologetically and ferociously me.

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This post is a continuation from yesterday’s post-– thoughts inspired by Darling Magazine’s mission statement.

“Darling is a catalyst for positive change, leading women to discover beauty apart from vanity, influence apart from manipulation, style apart from materialism, sweetness apart from passivity, and womanhood without degradation.  Darling leads women to practice the arts of virtue, wit, modesty, and wisdom— all the while creating beauty and embodying love.  Darling says women are not only interesting, but original, not only good enough, but exceptional, not just here, but here for a purpose.”

Lost and Found: Femininity

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I catch these glimpses of strong-willed, brave, passionate women and it is undeniably moving.  True Femininity is a beautiful and gravitational force.  It’s enigmatic, hard to put into words, but when I see it, my heart leaps up.

The feminine concept has had a tough go.  More often, it is either shrouded in cheap gaudy imitations, poisoned with reactionary fist shaking, or reduced to an impossible list of Martha-Stewarty perfection that no one can attain.  Lost in the cacophony of voices telling us what it means to be a woman, most of us get the vague sense that we aren’t doing it right, somehow simultaneously not enough, and too much.

And in the hiding and striving, we’ve lost a core part of our identity.  

Henri Nouwen said that

“A person becomes a person only when (she) is capable of standing open to receiving all the gifts which are prepared for (her).”

I feel the call- the invitation to release my tight fists, grasping at who I think I’m supposed to be- to open my palms and receive an identity He has for me.

I came across this magazine, Darling.  It is a refreshing call to Something New- Good News for a girl exhausted by the endless striving. It has fueled some mind-shifting thoughts that have inspired a quest for true femininity; both discovering how that plays out in my own identity, as well as calling it out in others.  On the back it claims:

 Darling Mission

Darling is a catalyst for positive change, leading women to discover beauty apart from vanity, influence apart from manipulation, style apart from materialism, sweetness apart from passivity, and womanhood without degradation.  Darling leads women to practice the arts of virtue, wit, modesty, and wisdom— all the while creating beauty and embodying love.  Darling says women are not only interesting, but original, not only good enough, but exceptional, not just here, but here for a purpose.

Beauty Apart from Vanity

The long scrutiny in the mirror.  A staring contest with my reflection in the mirror, brows furrowed and ending in a big sigh.  It’s astounding how much my confidence, my mood and the trajectory of my day is based on how I feel about my reflection in the morning.  If I feel like I’m having a good hair day, or like the way my outfit looks, it’s a much better day.

On the one hand, I am annoyed at this shallow thought process.  Why am I allowing external and fleeting circumstance to dictate my self image?  Why do I care so much?  Surely more “holy” women didn’t waste their time on such frivolities.

And yet… there is a still voice inside that is insistent:  beauty Matters.  We do not live in a universe with an infrastructure of sterile functionality, but rather an extravagant symphony of complex artistry.  As a reflection of the Creator, we have the impulse to create; a human desire that has been playing out in a myriad of ways since the beginning of time.  I’ll admit, something in me delights in wearing red lipstick, or the feeling of a silky dress on my legs.  I’m not doing this as a peacock, a vain attempt to be noticed or applauded.  There’s just something that delights my soul in creating beauty, whether it’s on a blank canvas, arranging food on my plate, or getting dressed for the day.

The snare is in thinking that beauty is solely an outward affair.  Something to put on.  To cover up and adorn so as to transform into something aesthetically pleasing for the purpose of outward approval and validation.

I’m coming to discover the reverse to be the case.  Beauty indwells every woman.

When I forget

my sisters remind me

that I come from love

and go to love: the only mirror;

that to be called beautiful

is a birthright

as united to me as my own shadow,

handed down

from woman

after woman,

like a chain of living paper dolls,

with joined hands

and unruly hair.*

Coming to Know our own beauty- to claim it and reveal it in our own way is a life long process. One that we must embark on, taking the hands of our sisters along the way. Our Beauty is not up for the evaluation of others for validation.  It exists already, as is.  True beauty shines brightest from the illuminated souls of those who are deeply aware and quieted by the knowledge that they are enough.  Celebrating it without needing it to be applauded.

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*This was a poem in a recent Darling Magazine– I didn’t write down the poet’s name, but LOVED it!

I Fear A Life Not Lived

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I fear

A Life Not Lived

(to the fullest)

 

that I will have chosen

the Comfortable Cage of

Complacency 

in exchange for the

wild and 

untamed Unknown

 

unable to let go of 

Control, 

I will settle into

Good Enough &

Playing it Safe

will become my 

Advisor

 

Trading for 

trinkets of 

Acceptance & Security 

the Pearl of 

True Freedom

I will swindle myself

 

I am so afraid

that I will come to 

the end

only to find out 

it was the 

mud pies in the slums

I had chosen 

over the 

Holiday at the Sea. 

 

Finding Inspiration: Something Blue… and Green

Our lives are found in the cadence of a rhythm. Alarm clocks and to do lists, chores and appointments, social media and weekly shows. Breaking from the routine— away from the daily scene, tasks, and environment, can be exactly what we didn’t even know our souls needed.

The annual Heemstra Vacation commenced a few days ago.  We trekked up to the thumbnail of Wisconsin, to a cabin that brings a new definition to the word “secluded.”  No wifi, no TV, no neighbors.  Just a congregation of trees, Lake Michigan, and quality time with a family I love more than I can say.  

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Five nights of smack talking card games and “OK, I guess I’ll have another slice of dessert.”  Misty dusk bike rides into the quaint little village, ripe with people watching.  The list of to-do’s has been replaced with the task of watching the light dance on the trees, the occupation of getting lost in a book, and the career of watching my four month old twin niece and nephew simply be alive.  Five days of belly laughing and adventures.  Mornings that come with the kind of quiet in which the tangled thoughts laying under the surface are combed out easily and laid bare.  Distance can bring clarity, and with clarity comes a fresh perspective. 

 The bruised sky and slate gray waters that the last two rainy days has produced has been upstaged by a radiantly blue sky and trees that shout green.

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While it’s true that inspiration often finds you working, I think it is equally true that the creative muse is rediscovered in the solace of a vacation.

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 (Views like this demand to be seen in panoramic.)

Finding Inspiration: Something Borrowed

Sometimes inspiration comes from a spark within. More often, it is ignited by another soul that is glowing with courageous and beautiful truth.  Something will speak to my heart in its native language, causing it to be filled to the brim with joy and longing.  

Sabrina Ward Harrison is one of those souls.

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I came across her art through a friend in college.  I was at her apartment one evening and happened to glance at the books she had scattered on her coffee table.  Opening up the pages, I saw this gloriously messy writing scrawled out gracefully onto photos and scribbles, paintings and doodles.  Thoughts and quotes that put into words things my heart had felt but never been able to express.  (What is it about seeing another soul express that which we feel in the deepest places?  There is always this flood of giddy relief: Oh my!  I am not alone after all!)

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I fell in love with the way that Sabrina wove together her raw and unedited musings with a melange of art mediums.  Her book, Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself, often became my muse as I started to do more and more art in college.  Her bold messiness and honest vulnerability inspired my own breaking free from the mask of attempted perfection.  

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Sometimes, the inner critic sneers that my creations are not valid.  I am an impostor: a copycat artist.  I can’t really claim my art as my own, as I often use other people’s illustrations in a collage or as a reference for my own.  To which I reply, defiantly in the face of those self-doubting moments:

 

“You are art.  You are a living breathing perfect example of art.  You are color, light, form, words, song, sound.  You are a unique, ever growing ever changing masterpiece.  Let go of expectations— in yourself, in others, in plans— rules to be followed and a standard to live by.  Rather live in a  state of expectancy— joyfully watching for beauty to come.”

 

I just came across this written in a journal of mine from a couple of years ago.  Honestly, I don’t know if this was my own thought or a quote, but I loved it.  It is such a beautiful perspective.  Allowing the inspiration around us to enter in and change us truly makes our “very flesh into a poem,” as Walt Whitman would say.

So who is it that inspires you?

Finding Inspiration: Something Old, Something New

“You can’t wait for inspiration.  You have to go after it with a club.”  –Jack London

Oh how true this is.  I have dabbled in many mediums as an artist.  I went through a photography phase.  I tried my hand at painting and often doodle in my spare time.  The type of art that I find myself most enjoying is a mix of all of the above.  I guess I can’t make up my mind.  There’s something about having a juxtaposition of art and textures and colors one one canvas that I am drawn to.  

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This also opens up the artistic process to a treasure hunt of sorts. I am always on the lookout for unexpected pieces of art, whether it’s a box of maps from the 50’s in the attic of my church, a quirky children’s book I find at a garage sale, or an ad in a magazine that catches my eye.  Consequently, I have accumulated quite the assortment of materials, waiting to be used in whichever artistic expression I am inspired to do in the moment.  

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I love the perspective that I’ve grown to have because of this.  Ordinary and forlorn objects sitting on the dusty shelves of thrift stores are seen not as what they once were, but in the possibility of what they could become.  Possessions that someone, somewhere once treasured are now repurposed to become a collage of something beautiful, whimsical, delightful.  Reminiscent of the past with a fresh new perspective.  

I’m sure that there are librarians that would be turning in their graves if they knew what I was doing to some of these books.  But I’d like to think that the books themselves are delighted to be rediscovered in a way they never thought of before.  

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Sometimes the creative process means letting go of the past.  Unashamedly tearing up what was to make way for something new. Having the vision to see the possibilities.

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Imperfect Creativity

I don’t think she knew what her words would set in motion.

It was a sunny afternoon in the chaotic cluster that is an elementary art room.  The dusty canvas mats had been rolled out, crusty clay smeared into the rough cloth.  The foreboding amorphous hunk of clay sat in front of me as my classmates started in on their pinchpots.  I knew what I was supposed to do.  Press my thumb into the center of the glob and somehow mold it into a bowl, a perfect gift for a parent.  A task easier said than done, to my seven year old self.  Each attempt produced a sad looking lumpy and lopsided mess.  Certainly not something I would care to wrap up and give to my mom as a Christmas gift.

Our art teacher was a disheveled and zany lady, glasses perpetually pushed back in her unkempt hair and various pastel print dresses covered up by an paint-speckled apron; she gave the impression of being slightly frazzled and out of sorts at all times.  Buzzing around the room refilling supplies and checking the creations of my classmates, she stopped at my seat and looked down at my lack of progress.  “Allie, you just need to do it.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Come on!” she said impatiently before continuing to transfer crinkled art from the drying rack.

Her sharp words sliced through my frail attempts to hold my panicky frustration back.  One tear slipped, and it was over.  I silently let the tears fall for the remainder of the class as I continued my staring contest with the clay.  Shame sunk its paralyzing grip on my heart.  I couldn’t do it.  Whatever it is that gives one the ability to make perfect art, I didn’t have it.  As class ended and she directed us to start cleaning up, she glanced over and saw my tear stained face and said incredulously, “You’re still crying?”

I don’t remember how my pinch pot turned out.  My art teacher never came over to console me or inspire me to dive into the risky creative process, but somehow I moved on.  Art class became an intimidating thing for me in school, a series of elusive projects that I would have to “get right” or be exposed as a failure.  I avoided taking art classes in high school as soon as it wasn’t required.  And yet, as I got older, a love for creative expression took root in my soul.  I got a sketchbook for Christmas one year, and in the safety of my own solitude, I started to sketch and paint.  When it was just for me, without the pressure of being evaluated, I grew to love art again.  Because I hadn’t pursued it in school, it never was something I considered as a career, but more and more it became a hobby.  Slowly but surely, I found a voice in being able to create, whether it was in the written word, photography, or a collage of mixed media.

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Even though the calloused words of a scattered art teacher wounded me as a girl, her advice was solid.  Allie, it doesn’t need to be perfect.  You just need to do it.  Dive in.  The expectation of perfection inhibits us and stunts our ability to blossom into our real selves.  It prevents authenticity: how can we risk the unedited expression of our soul if we are gripping tightly to who we think we are supposed to be, the way we perceive we are to supposed to perform?  Brene Brown writes that “authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”  I have found that to be so true, both as an artist and a human being.  It’s the journey I want to be on every day of my life.

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So much of creating, as well as the simple act of living is about engaging fully in the moment– choosing to cast aside the need to “get it right” or to be perfect.  Letting go and letting my unedited, un-selfconscious side take the reins.  I love creating art that is a collage of different mediums, working together to form a mosaic of something that speaks the Truth in beauty.  The art I’ve been creating this summer then becomes an avenue for others to do the same– through a journal or notecard.  My Etsy Store, Jubiletsy has become a place to practice that authenticity, to do what I think my hands and heart were made to do, and to share that with others, as vulnerable and risky as that might be.

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Bloom Where You’re Planted

It has been an absolute blast to have Brazil as such a focal point in the media this last week, with the World Cup in full swing.  Last week, Google had street view tours of different Brazil cities.  Having lived there almost exactly 4 years ago, during the last world cup, I was eager to reminisce as I clicked through the festive streets of Rio and Manaus and Salvador.  

An unexpected pang of homesickness hit me in the gut.  The vibrant cacophony of colors and sounds.  The joyful celebration that was in the very DNA of the culture.  The graciously hospitable people who welcomed us with glee.  I miss it!  Yet, I only lived there for five months, so why homesick?

I suppose I can look back at any season of my life and feel that same intense longing to be back in that place as the wave of nostalgic memories washes over me.  The cozy bright blue house I grew up in, tucked away in a cul-de-sac in small town Iowa, with the real fireplace crackling while we watched a Saturday evening basketball game, the hidden fort in my closet, perfect for getting lost in a book, and the spacious backyard, a blank slate for any imaginary world was the setting for an enviable childhood.  Or take the eclectic place I called my second home in college– Lampost Theatre and Coffee Shop.  Repurposed from an old funeral home. Coffeeshop in the front, theatre in the back.  Apartments in the upstairs.  Idyllic backyard, complete with oak trees and a stream… bordering a McDonald’s.  A constant shuffle of chaotic projects, shared meals and inevitable dance parties, soul wrenching and digging deep conversations that were a part of everyday life.  What can I say?  It was home.

I think our hearts are deeply connected with the places where our souls have set down roots, patiently and quietly grown, or bravely blossomed in some way.  Whether that was over the course of 18 years or a few short weeks, we feel a sense of belonging to that place, and naturally we can, at times desire to return.  

I’ve been back to visit some of my old places of belonging- and nostalgic as it is, it is evident that things have changed.  I no longer belong there.  Driving back through my old neighborhood, it is surreal to see a place that is so familiar seem so strange at the same time.  The house seems smaller, yet the trees are bigger.  So much has changed in my college town too, and even in the things that are the same, there’s an awareness that I have changed.  While it is right and good to come back to the former places of belonging, it is good to remember that it is in the past tense.  I belonged here once.  And it shaped me into who I am.  

Someday I will leave the my current place of belonging for a new adventure.  But I do know that I am planning on being planted right where I’m at for a while longer.  I want to have my eyes wide open to the ways this place– my home, the people I share life with, my job and this city is shaping me, cultivating me, pruning me, and helping me to bloom.  I don’t want to be stuck longing for a place that is no longer home.  Nor do I want to be pining after some future home that I think will bring complete and ultimate satisfaction.  I am where I am meant to be.  Right here.  Now.  

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Where do they all come from?

Verdant manicured hills stretch out to either side of the winding road to the country club.  The sun streaks through the oak trees, reaching out with golden afternoon light.  Jordan eases her car in between two Mercedes cars and with practiced nonchalance, we saunter into the gated, elite, and forbidden community.

“If anyone asks, we’re here to meet the Carlson’s.” she whispers.  Eyes cast down, we make our way to the corner of the pool and snag some of the ornate lounge chairs.  I survey our company at Kansas City’s swankiest Country Club we have just snuck into for an afternoon dip.  It feels like an Ann Taylor catalog; white slacked women sipping Chardonnay while their suited up with loosened tie husbands consult their Blackberry’s under the shade of an umbrella.  Jack Johnson strums in the background as the lifeguards slump in their chairs, half-hearted in their reprimands to the rowdy boys across the pool.

Jordan and I, feeling a bit more confident, plunk down in a corner of the pool to dip our toes into the water.  A mix of easy conversation along with contented silence flow as we are memorized by the incandescent sunlight dance off the cyan water.  A smile slides onto my face as I watch a carefree girl pirouette around the concrete, dancing with a combination of grace and abandon.  We imagine the backstories of the different well dressed strangers we see gathered around the pool.

After a long pause in the conversation, Jordan looks up at me and says “I think if I could have any superpower right now, I would want to be able to step inside of someone else’s shoes and just know their reality.”

I let the idea sink in.  “Best superpower ever,” I declare.

“I mean, do you ever think about how many people there are in the world?  Each one has a reality and a story that is distinct to them.  Those women,” she says, gesturing behind me,”  “Over there.  Don’t you just wonder what their history is, what fills their hearts and minds?”

“Yeah!  I have had that thought before!  It’s a staggering thing to try to wrap your mind around!” I say.  (I used to try and figure out the personalities of strangers I would pass on the street, often imagining unexpected quirks.  The tattoo covered teen who loves listening to Chopin.  The beefcake at the gym who has tea with his grandma every Tuesday.) After a few moments, I add “I think I would have a lot more compassion, if I had that superpower.”

“True.”

“I mean, we often only see the side of people that they choose to present to us, or we interpret what we perceive in their actions and interactions, and form our own judgements or opinions based off of that.  But if we could really glimpse who they are, unedited…  I guess it wouldn’t be always be that pretty, but it would help explain why they are the way they are.”

I love being reminded of the truth of our humanity.  To remember that we are all complex creatures, woven together with a myriad of experiences, relationships, painful wounds, and glorious victories.  Daily we intersect with the stories of so many others.  With what perspective are we choosing to see those around us?