I was about 17 and had only had my driver’s license for a few weeks. It was dinnertime, but it must have been winter because it was dark outside. The road was poorly lit and twisty. I was driving the speed limit and singing along to the radio. I remember being excited to see my friends and happy that I now had the freedom to drive myself somewhere.
All of a sudden a blur went across the road. I tried to stop, but there was not time. I hit whatever it was. I came to an immediate stop. My heart was beating so fast in my chest and I immediately started shaking all over. I remember just sitting there. Helpless. What am I supposed to do?
I got out and walked behind my car. I saw it about 20 feet away and didn’t want to believe it. Even in the dark I could tell it was a cat. The tears flowed as I got closer and I silently prayed he was all right. He was not.
I sat next to its little tabby colored body and sobbed. I had never felt so unsure of what to do. I kept picturing a little girl standing at her doorway calling her kitty to come eat. She would go to bed that night wondering, “Where did that silly cat get off to?”
I imagined her walking to school the next day and finding her cat’s body on the side of the road.
“What kind of monster would kill my cat?” she would cry. “Why would they leave her out here? What is wrong with that person?”
But I didn’t know what to do. I just sat there and sobbed. Should I knock on people’s doors? Should I bury it?
In the end, I left the cat there. I wish I had left a note, but I didn’t. I was scared, sad and felt overwhelmed with what had happened.
That feeling is one that I have come to know all too well.
I have friends and family that have been dealing with some heavy stuff – loss of close family members, house flooded with sewage, cancer everywhere, surgery, comas, divorce, mental illness and sick children. I am surrounded with this and I feel the exact same way I did that night at 17.
I talk to myself a lot about what I could do.
I could just show up with coffee…but what if they don’t want company?
I could send a card…but what would I say?
I could offer to help…but what do I really have to offer?
Despite my self-doubt and fear, I do a lot of those things. Sometimes I do all of them. Sometimes I freeze and do nothing. Whatever the case, I never feel like it is enough.
What I really want to do is take away people’s pain. I want everyone to be happy. You know, sunshine and rainbows and kittens frolicking in a meadow of flowers.
However, pain is a part of life that just isn’t going away. How we react to and deal with pain says a lot about us.
This week I was forced to face some truth that I am not very proud of.
That helpless feeling provokes such strong urges in me to DO SOMETHING. And sometimes that “something” is pretty deplorable.
Then I do something even worse.
I find myself talking about the situation, often going in circles, with friends and family. It’s like if I keep talking maybe I could somehow break the code and solve their problems.
This is something I don’t want to do anymore.
In the past, if someone had confronted me and asked me about things I’d said, judgments I’d made, I might have ran away. Not literally, but I would distance myself from them. I’d feel shame and move on.
This week I had to own up for something I said. I didn’t run away. I didn’t lie. I told the truth. I faced my words and judgments. I owned it.
It’s a baby step, I know, but it’s movement forward.
That family member forgave me and I am humbled more than I can express by that.
But I have a long ways to go.
Just this week at karate, I saw a dad with three young children. I have seen this dad many times before and I always leave being irritated and judging the crap out of him. He sits on his phone and yells, very loudly, at his children to just “sit there and be quiet.” I try to read my book, but inside I am lecturing him.
“Really? You expect your LITTLE kids at 5 and 3 years of age to just sit there and be quiet? You, a grown man, are not doing that. You are playing a game on your phone and voicing your annoyance at your children for all to hear. It is inappropriate for you to expect that of those kids you jerk. How about I yell at you to ‘be quiet’ and ‘sit still’ for an hour and see how happy you are? Shut up and bring something for them to do next time.”
I try to stop myself, but I just can’t. I don’t know this man or his situation. I could make all kinds of assumptions about him, and I do, but really I have no clue.
Someone posted this on Facebook this week:
I love this. I have done way too much assuming, judging, hurting and speaking.
A family member said something very poignant to me this week. Often we get judged on ONE moment of our life. One time when things are at their worst and we might be at our absolute lowest. It is unfair to judge. We are so much more than just the one moment and one choice we are in.
I am 36 years old and I have lived so many moments. I would not want anyone picking just one to judge my entire life upon, good or bad.
I don’t know how to stop judging, but I can be responsible for what I say. I need to learn to stop talking about people’s problems and making my sweeping judgments.
That includes judgments on myself.
I might still feel helpless and frozen at times. But that is OK.
So I take another humbling step forward.