cultivating empathy (full circle)

Things aren't ever exactly how they seem. 

"Seems like" is too easy, too facile, too shallow. "Seems like" is thinking someone's instagram shows you the actual details of their life, when really that's about five seconds out of one 24 hour day. 

"Seems like " is looking at that mom on the school pickup line who has her makeup done just so and thinking she's got her whole life completely organized and is doing far, far better than you in the adulting department. Or judging her for wearing so much makeup and thinking she must not be a good mom, because she's clearly more self centered than a "good mom" should be.

Either way, you're judging her based on what her life seems like from the outside, to you (with all your own filters). 

When the reality is, you have no idea, looking in from outside, at what that other person is experiencing. Looking at what a person's life "seems like" is missing out on a whole lot of information. 

And we know this. We *know* this. We know we aren't seeing the whole of anyone else's life but our own (even our most beloved spouse or child has millions of thoughts that we aren't aware of). 

We grok that even the people who aren't posting completely edited, filtered, 'shopped photos are only giving us the five seconds that they want to show us. 

And still. 

It's hard not to make comparisons. To think that mom who looks so pulled together is doing so much better. Or worse. Whatever our judgement is, it's just that, a judgement. Not based on reality so much as based on what that person "seems like."

It's important to step back sometimes and see beyond the "seems like" of someone else's life. 

That's what real friendship is. Seeing past what it seems like, into what it might actually be like. Keeping an open mind because we know - and we keep in mind that we know - that we will never really know. 

(We can't ever really walk in someone else's shoes, but we can walk beside them in our own.)

Whether the friend is in an upswing or a downswing, an ebb or a flow doesn't matter - well, it matters a lot, but that's not the kind of mattering I mean. What matters here is that you're seeing beyond the "seems like" into the heart of this other person, into the tiny world, if you will, of their lives. 

Start with friends and work your way up to seeing beyond the "seems like" of celebrities or people you don't like, or random strangers halfway across the globe. 

And voila, that's the basis of empathy, of compassion, of kindness. Cultivating awareness of our interconnectedness. 

Keeping an open mind. Quieting our judgement. Practicing opening our hearts to the realization that everyone else is just as human as us, just as "deserving" of love and support. 

Love is our core. No one deserves love, love is. 

Respect is fundamental, to me. Respect is my acknowledgement of the love at the core of everything. I respect life, so I respect the planet, the air, the grass, people, animals. Respect leads to kindness. 

Kindness is my way of practicing empathy. 

Full circle. 

Empathy starts with me, empathy has to start with me, because I'm the only one living my life. My kindness ripples out into the world. 

(Empathy starts with you, empathy has to start with you, because you're the only one living your life. Your kindness ripples out into the world.)

Full circle empathy. 

Is starts by looking past what life "seems like" into what actually is. 

It starts with you.