It’s here! The last day of 2016. If we judge by what we’ve been seeing on social media for weeks, today is a day eagerly anticipated by so very many people, those who can’t wait to kick this year out the door with the hope 2017 will be better.
Even before I got sober, one thing I was pretty good at on New Year’s Eve was reflecting back on the past year. There were years filled with things I’d rather forget – deaths that came too soon (and I’m not referring to celebrities), financial struggles, and more. But, I always found a way to muster gratitude for the challenges presented and lessons learned.
I’ve never judged a year based on things I knew about it. I’ve never blamed a year for doing anything to me, never acted as if a year was out to get me personally. It’s 12 months on the calendar. I control what I can. I remain present. I treat those around me with love, kindness, and respect. I work for change where I think it’s needed. I respect differences – personal, political, cultural. I aspire to be the best possible version of myself and help others do the same. I live. I am not perfect.
A year ago, I wrote about not making New Year’s Resolutions. It’s a plan I stick by today, even as I sit here at the keyboard carrying many extra pounds and having not gotten a smidge of exercise in months. I’ve almost given up coffee. Almost. I’ve ditched it enough to feel good about the accomplishment. There are things I’d like to do differently in 2017. Once again, they are not resolutions. They are intentions.
In 2017, I’d like to:
- Meet more people in recovery – not online, but in person. I plan to attend the She Recovers event in May.
- Become physically stronger.
- Fuel my body wisely.
- Continue to succeed in my business.
- Write more.
- Judge less.
Pause and hang on that last one for a moment. Judge less.
I am one of the least judgmental people you will ever meet. I think. I like to consider myself the Switzerland of judging, a judgement free zone. But, the truth is, I am always judging. We all are. Whether we realize it or not.
I hadn’t given this much thought until Christmas Eve.
On Christmas Eve, I joined my parents for the late service at their church. Well, the church they attended for many years before they moved away and the one they always return to when they visit a few times each year. When my parents attended regularly, I made this church my home as well. But, it had been many years since I’d attended on Christmas Eve – our family celebration on Christmas Day takes place at my house so it’s usually tough for me to get out for Christmas Eve church an hour from home at the time I should be reading “’Twas The Night Before Christmas,” tucking in the kids, and finishing up preparations for the next day (8:15 p.m.-1:00 a.m.).
But, this year we didn’t host. And, the kids are older now, with only one still barely hanging onto a belief in Santa, so I felt slightly less guilty about abandoning ship. (Why didn’t we go as a family? That’s a story for another day … I’ve written a little bit about it before).
Christmas Eve church is my favorite. From the hymns to the prayers to the sermon. The sermon. Oh my gosh, the sermon. It was wonderful. It’s stuck with me all week. I knew it would. At the time, I wished I could have taken out my phone and started typing notes. To be able to share here exactly what the Reverend said would be magnificent, a gift. I’ve even looked to see if he posted it on the church website, but it’s not there.
The very rough synopsis is this.
When we see someone, we immediately form an opinion of them based on things we know by looking – gender, age, race, weight, the car they drive, etc. We see ourselves (whether or not we truly know ourselves), we see them, and we think we know them. We decide things about them. Think we have them all figured out. We judge them.
He said so much more, but this is what has stuck with me. How dare we be so bold as to assume we know someone we truly do not?
When we make assumptions based upon what we observe and perceive, we judge. Whether negative or positive, we judge. And, we do it without any sort of true knowledge.
We do it because we see something we think we want for ourselves. Her perfect teeth. Her style. Her book deal. Or, we see something we know beyond a shadow of a doubt we want nothing to do with. Her double chin. Her job. Her dirty fingernails.
But, what if the one with the gorgeous smile and amazing wardrobe is fighting the biggest battle of her life and craving friendship? What if the one who looks like she’s been through a war without any evidence she cares about herself is quietly helping underprivileged teens pay for college?
I got judged this week. White female, 45 years old, engagement ring and wedding band, clean yoga pants, lovely long cardigan, perfectly coiffed hair, manicured nails, freshly cleansed face, expensive handbag. First thing Friday morning, I had a medical procedure. As the nurse looked for a good vein for the IV, I told him he should have no problem as I had been out to dinner for my brother’s birthday the night before and had way over hydrated with water. He looked at me with a little smirk and said, “Are you sure it was just water? You didn’t maybe have a glass of wine or two?”
Ha! I loved the look on his face when I proudly told him I have been sober for almost two years. In my mind, I heard Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men” when he says, “Don’t I feel like a fucking asshole?” after asking how a man who passed away years earlier was doing.
Throughout the course of the week running errands, etc., I’ve been sharing “Happy New Year” wishes like they are precious gems. Not just in passing because it’s what we’re supposed to do this time of year. But, because I truly mean it. I wish for 2017 to deliver not just happiness, but whatever it is that people need or want. I’ve engaged with people in a meaningful way, and they with me in return. I’ve given them a smile whether or not they gave me one.
Maybe it’s because I’m on staycation and I’m completely relaxed. Maybe it’s because I’ve held the Reverend’s words in my heart. I don’t know. But it feels good. And I like watching people’s faces light up. I think about how, for the most part, I don’t know anything about them. I think about how much I hope they feel as blessed by life as I do and, if they don’t, I hope they find what they need.
This is more than just another “be kind because everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” It’s definitely that, but it’s also a bigger idea.
As we say goodbye to 2016 and welcome 2017 with all sorts of grand expectations, let’s not judge anyone based on what we see. If we truly know ourselves, then we can absolutely make an attempt to know others. I intend to try to figure out who people are and what makes them tick, to understand them more deeply than their physical and social appearances allow. Who’s with me?
Also published on Medium.