FOUR THINGS TO ASK A STRANGER (almost a parody)

Welcome to Mary Anne Radmacher's blog.

One way to get to know a person you've just met is to ask them to tell you about their favorite friends. It's said that a person essentially becomes an aggregate of the five people with whom they spend the most time.

There's another telling question to ask a stranger. It's all about a book.

1) Is there one book that you have re-read and will read again (and again)?
2) What is the most recent book that you've read and what stands out to you most?
3) What is the title of a book you recommend most often to friends?
4) What was the last book you read that made you so sad when it came to the end? (Because you wanted to keep on reading, not because the ending was sad!).

If the person you are just getting to know has never re-read a book, can't remember what stood out from the last book they read, doesn't recommend books to friends and has never felt sad to stop reading an excellent book...

I suggest that you stop conversing with them. And, perhaps, run. Kidding (not kidding). Perhaps you might consider striking up a conversation with someone else that you might want to get to know. AND start THAT conversation off by recommending a book you've recently read...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Schooled By Judgements

Yesterday was populated with harsh judgement.  Judgements that I assessed about others and those that I served up to myself.  I was contemplating the process:  it is a truth that I resist.  That which I judge others by, most harshly, is really about me.  It’s  somehow, somewhere down the line, a judgement about myself.  I knew I needed to write about this.  It’s no surprise I sat in front of a white sheet.  Unmoving.  I did not want to attach words.  I did not want to make this part of myself visible to others and more visible to myself.  So I sat.  And stared. 

Increasingly the rise of a neighbor’s voice moved from a distant, unintelligible rumble to clear, precise words delivered loudly. Pft. Loudly?  She was shouting.  At the top of her lungs.  And here’s the punch line.  Her final delivery that persuaded me to write this.
“I’m just trying to help you and you always yell at me.  Why are you always yelling at me?”  Slam went a screen door. Boom slammed the wooden door.  She was even shouting with the architecture of her home. 

Judgements delivered up to others are usually about ourselves.  Bring it on home...how I judge others is a follow-the-thread-back-to-your-own-unraveling-garment assessment of myself.

Just three snapshots.  (Sadly, there are more but I’m sticking with three.) 1) Yesterday I observed the extraordinary dense population, by virtue of full parking lots, at every fast-food establishment I drove past.  Tsk tsk.  And I fed myself poorly and made choices that did not serve my best interests.  2) A young man (that looked every bit the part of one of the thieves recently reported as car-burgling on our island) was bent over, bobbing up and down.  Perhaps he was hurling some excesses of the night before I narrated to myself.  In my rearview mirror I observed the actual picture: he was picking up the trash on the side of the road.  He was doing what I do when I take a walk. Immediately “schooled,” I did manage to toss out a “Thank you,” before my car was too far past him for hearing.  3) “Hmpf,Pajama bottoms,” I remarked to my friend as a large woman was packing herself into a small car.   I’ve been more than critical of the cultural phenomenon of folks wearing pajama bottoms out and about in the world.  The voiced judgement led to a fascinating conversation about comfort and unconventional choices.  What we didn’t talk about was the judgement around weight and size.  Slowly schooled.

In these judgements I observed self-recrimination when I looked a little closer. And I heard the voices of my parents from childhood.  Defending their sense of propriety and judging others based upon the choices they made for themselves.

Dang.  It happened again.  I just became my mother for a little while.  And the sneaky truth taps me as I write.  “Oh Honey, you’re your mother more than you ever notice.” Yes.  Well, perhaps I will consider that another time.

If yesterday was populated with harsh judgement (and it was) then today is my own invitation to challenge my own norms.  Again.  (Really, is this a never-ending process?)
So on went my Joe Boxer capri length pajama bottoms.  And my Stephanie Schuster sweater and a pair of Keen shoes (“best pair of shoes” because they are a gift from a friend) and out I went, walking. Dog and dog leash in hand.  Not headed for the anonymity of the beach but the visibility of the Post Office. 

Remarkable.  I was met with smiles.  Greetings. A stranger held the door for me. People complimented my dog.  The earth kept spinning and no one seemed the worse for wear that I appeared in public in (PEOPLE don’t you see that these are pajamas?  Sleep wear?) quite unflattering, hard-not-to-notice, spring plaid pajama pants.  No. I am not going to provide a photo.  Please just take my word for it.

Well, stop the presses.  Even judgements can be an instructor if I let them.  If I care to
be honest as I can with myself and notice their remarkable breadth of presence. I can be schooled.

So.  When the judgement oozes out of my mouth about anybody or anything, the trick is to partner it with the question, “What are you really saying about you?” 

Judgement River does, meanderingly, ultimately return to the Sea of Self. 

Mary Anne Radmacher©  Author of LIVE WITH INTENTION, HONEY IN YOUR HEART and numbers of other books

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