Chicken Wings and Judgement
Ok, picture this: you are sitting at a bar table with two of your friends. You order chicken wings (let's be honest, everything comes down to chicken wings for me). You like them spicy, so you order them extra hot. One of your friends makes a face, and says "ooooh can we get half with a different sauce?" Sure! The wings arrive, and your third friend says "I really only like the drumsticks". Awesome. You eat the spicy wings, your friend eats the spicy drumsticks, and your other friend eats the mild ones. Maybe there are some questions around why the other one doesn't like what they like, but it's just a question; one that results in a little bit more understanding of the other. All are happy. No one freaked out. No one made a scene or bashed the other person for not liking hot food on social media. You eat your wings, have a great time and leave happy.
I don't know why my brain makes everything in life about chicken wings, but it does, so I let it go where it goes. Wouldn't it be cool if we could all approach life a little more like we would approach chicken wings? Don't eat chicken wings? Cool...replace green smoothies, or açaí bowls or whatever healthier thing you'd like here.
You know how it's so easy to say "If I were her....I'd do this", or "I would never do that". I do it, and have to check myself on it a whole lot. I remember a few years ago, I was at the bus stop chatting with the other moms.I've never been good at small talk. I tend to make it awkward. If we can dive into some real, vulnerable conversation, I'm great...but if we talk about small things, I make it weird. We lived in a neighborhood full of other military families, but by the nature of my husband's unit, there were not a lot of women that had themselves served in the community. I had been out of the Army for over a year at this point, but it still felt so fresh, and to be totally honest, alone. There was a general lack of understanding of what serving as a woman meant and it at times, felt pretty isolating. It came up that I had deployed and had to leave my daughter behind multiple times with family and friends. Another mom at the bus stop quickly jumped in and contributed "I would NEVER do that". I replied that she would if she had to, and she was quick to come back and say "No. I wouldn't do that. I don't think it's right for a mother". There was something in her tone that insinuated to me at that time that I wasn't as committed to being a mother as she was because I had left my daughter to serve. Now, I will say with total honesty, that I have zero feelings of anything negative towards this woman. Let that be clear. She has her experience and her beliefs on things, and that's all she can speak to. I understand that. What her reaction brought up in me had far more to do with me needing to feel "seen" and also heavily with my own feelings of guilt for leaving my little girl. It wasn't about her at all, but me. I chose to feel isolated in that moment, and I chose to become the "victim" in this conversation, instead of stepping back and meeting her where she was. She couldn't' have known or understood my experience.. I see that now.
I have seen this sort of situation come up a lot recently, in conversations as large as sexual abuse reporting, and as local as whether to evacuate for a hurricane. I have seen words slung at one another out of reaction as opposed to inquiry. I have watched these conversations occur with little thought to understanding the others' side. I have watched women choose to separate themselves from other women out of fear of being "lumped in" with another group of women. I have watched us lose our power, and divide. When we react to something, it very often is more of a reflection of what we have going on, as opposed to what the other person is saying to us.
The reality of this is that we NEVER know how we would handle a situation unless we, ourselves are in that situation. We cannot possibly step into someone else's life and say without a doubt that we would do something different. It's literally impossible.
Today, take the time to step back from the keyboard. Take the time to ask a question and listen; to truly hear the other person on the other end of the conversation. It's ok to not agree. It's ok to think that the decision they made wouldn't be right for you. Offer support in the form of what the other person needs, as opposed to what you would need. Ask, and listen.