My legs wouldn’t stop shaking. They do that when I’m anxious — involuntarily I might add. My legs seem to have a mind of their own.
I just wanted to see him, to know he was all right, to hear his voice. Brain surgery. Never did I think these two words would affect me and my lovely boyfriend of seven years. Would it be successful? After a year and a half of pain, would this fix my suffering partner?
As I waited in the hospital lobby outside the ICU, I thought about what the two of us have been through these last 18 months. The endless doctor visits, some with professionals who didn’t seem to understand or care about how much pain he was in. The healthcare bills pilling up. The sadness and depression. Compounded with other personal issues, it felt like we were one crisis away from spiraling out of control.
And as my legs continued to bounce up and down faster than my heart beat, a moment from last summer popped into my head.
It was a beautiful summer day, although I don’t remember much about the weather. I was working long hours at a full-time job and volunteering the rest of my time planning a local convention in Seattle. My partner was spending time at home trying to study for school, while also dealing with pain in his face that varied between feeling like someone was inside his head digging at his sinuses with an ice pick and feeling like someone was inside his head shocking him with a taser gun.
What did this all add up to? House chores that were half finished and a neglected back yard. But these things seemed so trivial in the moment.
Our dogs’ crazy barking alerted us to someone knocking on the door. It was our neighbors’ parents who were visiting for the week. I’m sure they meant well, but they wanted to know what we could do about our morning glory weeds growing under the fence and into their backyard. It felt a little passive aggressive, and it was just not something we had the capacity to deal with at the moment.
Their comments hit me hard. I felt like I was being unfairly judged without these people knowing the circumstances. They didn’t know what we were going through. They didn’t know money was tight, our time was tight, and frankly, the last thing we cared about was the weeds in our backyard.
This probably seems like a minor thing to get upset about, but I always remember it when my mind starts to wander into that bad territory — the place that tells me it is okay to judge other people’s decisions and actions. The place that makes us think we are superior to others.
Just remember: those who we deem too large and lazy might have fibromyalgia, or some other debilitating disease that makes even walking painful and makes weight loss virtually impossible. (And, frankly, who are we to tell any acquaintance or stranger they are not living their lives in a way we approve.)
That woman who seems to crave attention from men through skin-tight clothes might just need the right man to tell her she’s smart and thoughtful and beautiful — and deserves better.
That man who prefers to speak in Spanish might be tired of getting made fun of for his broken English, which he has tried so hard to perfect.
That woman and her child might have been homeless for a period of time because she lost her job after donating a kidney to her aunt and needing more time to recover from this selfless act.
That young boy might act out every day in class because he just wants somebody to notice him.
We just do not know “the rest of the story.” It is possible we never will. So instead of casting judgement, all we can do is be their for our friends and family. All we can do is choose to move our thoughts from a random stranger we have never met, to something more positive or productive. All we can do is choose to offer help if it is needed, and advice if we are asked.
I am beyond thrilled to say that the brain surgery was a success, and a week and a half later my partner is pain free. We have so much to be thankful for, and I pledge to pay it forward by always choosing kindness, support, and love over judgemental behavoirs. I hope everyone else will pledge to do the same.