For much of my life I was an unpleasantly judgmental person. I’d shoot a glance at someone from afar. I noticed their garb, their appearance, their aura, synthesize it all and without hesitation, as the sound of a gavel banged inside my head, I passed judgement. I know, there is nothing unique about noting first impressions. In my case, however, I suspect it went further, a combustible combination of my penchant for noting minute details, and an overactive imagination eager to fill in blanks.
By the age of 23 I had figured life out. I could explain anything and anyone. For example, at the happy hours I frequented with friends and workmates, I could merely glance down the bar and spying the one old guy, I knew his story. Fortyish, a bit disheveled, it was clear to me, he was divorced, disillusioned, and looking for something he was not going to find in a bar full of blithe spirits for whom life was an orange grove overflowing with ripe fruit waiting to be plucked.
At the happy hours I’d look around the rowdy bar. While admiring beautiful faces, slightly out-of-focus, carefree faces, the man’s melancholy stood out like a scarlet cloak of invisibility. Later in the evening, when for an unlucky few, no amount of alcohol could squelch the terror loneliness represented, the old guy might emerge as a viable possibility, but that was later, much later, after an unhealthy and regrettable number of rum and diet Cokes had been downed.
“Judgmental” may not be the best word to characterize the point I’m trying to reach, the process by which I perceived my world for so long. I created backstories. Intellectually, I could appreciate my filling in the blanks, i.e., my creative process, as an exercise in imagination. Emotionally, the process went to my need to categorize and classify my universe. I have come to understand that at my core, much of my anxiety stems from a desire to bring order to the chaos of my mind.
I’m finally beginning to learn to live with chaos. In middle age, I have come to relish how little I understand, When I knew everything I had no excuse for failure. How could I forgive yourself for making bad choices when I knew they were bad ahead of time? Through compassion, I’ve come to appreciate I don’t need to “make excuses” for myself. I am learning to look at my path in context, a simple luxury I’ve always afforded everyone I care about, except myself.
With my newfound lack of knowledge comes a softening of judgements. Part of the softening is a reflection of the compassion I now nurture. A large part of the softening, however, reflects what has taken place in my own life, my own unexpected turn of events, the new chapter I never imagined I’d be living. My hope is I am not judged by appearances, knowing that whatever impression I make superficially does not reflect who I actually am.
While I’m not sure who I am, I know who I am not. I am not one who writes anyone off at first glance.
Thanks for listening. Stay in touch. Connect.
P.S. A clip that’s a complete non-sequitur I guess.