We can never know what’s going on for someone else.
I was at the Tuscon airport a couple of days ago, preparing to fly back home here to Montana. I sat down at the terminal, in close enough proximity to a woman who’s cell phone conversation I could hear very readily. She was an attractive woman. Shoulder-length blonde hair, middle-aged. She was sitting at the electronic port station situated in front of a large window overlooking the tarmac. Although there was little I could do not to overhear her conversation, I felt badly for eavesdropping, so I quickened my pace in getting the music going on my iPod. In the meantime, however, I learned that she was leaving her 20-something-year-old son behind, to return back home, after situating him into a rehab. He was not at all well – detoxing, incoherent, unable to care for himself. His girlfriend would be not be allowing him to move back in when he got out. And there was a real possibility, and seemingly well-grounded motherly consideration, that he wasn’t done yet “out there,” using. It was hard for her to leave. But she seemed sturdy in her composure and confident in the decisions she’d made.
In looking at her I never would’ve thought to myself: I bet her son is going through a ravaging, brutal detox right now. I bet she just spent the last few days forcing him into rehab against his will and supporting him at his bedside as he went in and out of consciousness. And I bet she feels hopeful/broken about the whole messy situation.
And it’s like this with everyone we meet. We see someone, whether a stranger or even a loved one, and think we have them all figured out. And we totally don’t. We have no idea what’s going on for someone else.
I wonder why it’s so common for us to think we’re experts when it comes to other people. When we attach ourselves too strongly to our perceptions, it’s a recipe for creating separation and misunderstanding. As Thay teaches: 99% of our perceptions are incorrect. And ultimately it’s our mis-perceptions about ourselves, others, and life itself that causes the greatest amount of our suffering.
Today: I will practice to look beyond the surface, in order to connect and engage with others in a way that opens and extends my understanding and compassion.