It’s always strange to me how certain moments in your life are especially memorable, and can be recalled again and again with complete clarity. I remember parking on a quiet, tree-lined side street, nearly nine years ago now, and since I was very early for an appointment decided to just wait in the car till it was closer to the time. It was early morning. Someone was already cutting their grass so the air was filled with that luscious green smell of fresh earth and chlorophyll sweetness. I was sleep deprived and close to tears (again) as it was not long after my husband had left. As I watched, I saw a pewter Subaru pull into the driveway of a well maintained older home with a tangled English garden in front and fat circular bumblebees drifting lazily in and out of hooded flowers. A woman with a blondish-grey pony tail (pulled sleekly through the back of a navy blue baseball hat) got out of the Subaru and balancing a Starbucks coffee cup, frisked up the steps in form-fitting running gear before absent-mindedly pointing the keys over her shoulder to chook-chook the lock. Then the house door whooshed open and she was gone from my view.
I can still see her now. And I am ashamed to report the rage and corrosive judgment that I felt twisting in my chest cavity, all about this woman.
Clearly, she had a gardener, money to burn and no cares in the world. I could not believe – I replayed it again and again – how she just effortlessly locked that car and entered this almost-mansion. Without even knowing, without even appreciating how privileged she was. Was there a doctor-husband inside there as well? I began to picture a lounging Chris Hemsworth with a stethoscope which by the way, if you have time to kill, is an excellent use of your time.
Anyway, a further torrent of tears (many of which may have been self-pitying) followed. But as I drove away, my mind suddenly (eerily, really) brought forward something I had once read by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn: when you are happily judging someone, or becoming angry with someone (for example, that rude server in a restaurant, on a most banal level) ask yourself this important question: Are you sure? This poor woman I was so filled with scorn for could have just received a devastating health diagnosis; she could have lost a parent; she could have been going through a divorce herself.
Or all three.
The point is, I had absolutely NO idea and I had made up a script simply to justify my own indignation and stinging envy.
Not my finest hour, for sure.
But I have never forgotten the insight and it’s what I try to focus on when I revisit the memory.