Fishbowl

In which ugly naked guy is real.

“Do not judge my story by the chapter you walked in on.” 

Anonymous

I am currently rewatching all the “Friends” episodes from season one all the way through to the end. Call me old and lame but there it is, I love that show! It’s mindless and perfect for an evening when you’re done being “on” and need to just relax. 

I don’t know if I’m the only mom who walks away from their kid at 9 pm going “nope! I’m done! I’m out! You can talk to me in the morning!” Their shameless bid for attention falls on deaf ears and hard hearts. 

I do not want to hear about snails or proton particles or who said what at school or how you’re not feeling well (classic..) at 9pm. I am officially out for the day.  Done. Do not disturb on pain of death…or at least on pain of being yelled at and having your feelings hurt and your needs unmet…

So anyway, if you recall your former “Friends” glory days, you will remember Ugly Naked Guy. Thankfully  in the show we are blessed enough to never actually see Ugly Naked Guy. However, we had our own next door neighbour Ugly Naked Guy experience the other night.

It was not pleasant. It was not entertaining. 

Yes, you should be allowed to cook your supper in pure, unveiled form if you so chose (what about burns!!!), but for the love of all things holy and pure, spare us the exhibition and close your blinds! 

I don’t think G’s eyesight will ever be the same, poor man. 

Our not-so-modest neighbour and our accidental beholding of him strangely reminded me of what it feels like to live life on display. 

When we became foster parents, and later adoptive parents, my ex- husband and I were told we would forever after be living life in a fishbowl of sorts. Everyone peering in at us whether we liked it or not. 

Boy was that the truth! 

I now have two adopted kids, three out of four of my kids have special needs, plus I have three step sons. The fish bowl, my friends, has gotten larger but has stayed just as transparent. 

It’s funny how we go about watching other peoples lives and making our own judgements. My one son has Tourettes syndrome, among other things. He gets some freakishly out there tics that make people think he’s possessed or something.   I also have one daughter with some pretty major global delays, and a severe lack of any and all ambition. I get to be the super fun mother who MAKES her do everything the first, second and third time while she screams and cries and acts as though she’s being tortured. After a few hellish sessions of this she figures out she can do it and it’s fun, and off she goes. This has been the pattern of learning to go up stairs, down slides, going skating, swimming, washing her hands, cleaning up, riding a bike and so on… 

People stare. People judge. People don’t know. 

I tried a church bible study again for the first time in years. The topic was on holiness and the question was “how do you feel about your responsibility to hold others accountable in their own personal walk with God and their call to holiness?” 

Religious ladies numbers one through six all supplied varying degrees of the same answer:

I pray for them, try to share with them where I see them backsliding, encourage them with my own life, come alongside them and show them where they are wrong,..

And my personal favourite: “I don’t need to do anything. I told them what the Bible says and the Holy Spirit will show them where they’re wrong, so I’ll just continue to believe what I believe and in time they will see that I’m right”. 

Cue my turn…

I collected my seething mass of emotional self and answered very quietly and kindly.

“I think the important thing to remember is this. You don’t know. You just don’t know. You are looking in from the outside (cue fishbowl analogy..).You have one piece of the puzzle. One limited perspective.  Remembering that is important. Ask questions, with kindness and respect, but do not judge, do not condemn, do not be quick to think you know the whole story. Because almost one hundred percent of the time, you really just don’t know.”

I learned this lesson the hard way, not only with my children and with my divorce and remarriage, but also because I have been guilty of thinking I knew the whole story with other friends. I spoke where I shouldn’t have spoken. I judged without knowing the whole picture. 

“There’s a story behind every person. There’s a reason why they’re the way they are. Think about that before you judge someone.”

Anonymous

I have lost friends that I dearly miss because I was too quick to think I had all the information.  I was too proud in my thinking that I needed to tell them where they were wrong. I thought I was doing the right thing, but in fact all I did was hurt them and lose their friendship. 

This, dear readers, is something that I wish to never do again. Some life lessons are hard and bitter and full of sorrow. 

I hope this post will remind you to take the time to listen, not to judge. To ask questions, not to condemn. 

We all live in a fishbowl of sorts, some of us more than others. Let’s remember to be kind to other people and have the humility to know that what we see on the outside probably isn’t the whole picture. 

H.

Photo by Sri Lanka on Unsplash

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