I smiled at the young, very pregnant woman pushing a toddler in a stroller on this midsummer day on the Boston waterfront. I was taken aback by her “I told you it was too hot to take a walk” that she scowled at her companion, who looked down at his feet as they kept walking.
On that same walk, the “That’s not the right way. What are you, stupid? Can’t you read a map?” that I overheard, stopped me in my tracks. I watched as the older woman stormed ahead of her defeated looking companion.
It was a glorious afternoon in Boston. Walking around a bit before a wedding I thought back to my own Boston wedding so many years ago: thoughts of arguments and mean words never entered the mind of this nervous, excited bride. I was hopeful as I thought of the young couple getting ready in separate hotel rooms; wishing for them peace and kindness.
Don’t judge Karen, I thought after overhearing those two separate harsh exchanges. It’s hot. Everyone has a bad day. Everyone has stuff. You don’t know what’s going on their lives.
Be kind popped into my head as I remembered being a young mother, pregnant with my second child. Pregnancy hormones raged as I juggled being a wife, mother, and still-practicing attorney. I snapped a lot at my husband: “load the dishwasher! Take out the trash! DO SOMETHING!” A soft-spoken “you could ask me nicely” was met with an eye roll and heavy sigh.
I would justify and tolerate my young kids squabbling and being rude to me at home by thinking they have to hold it together all day at school, so at home is where they can let off steam. Isn’t that supposed to be the safe place, where we can do and say whatever we want and be our authentic selves? We need that space, but we risk hurting the ones we love the most.
There’s a tipping point where things get nasty. It was in the tone of my voice, the look on my face and the words that I chose. I always felt ashamed of my behavior.
I saw this quote “Love is being angry. Love is not talking for a day. Love is getting in each other’s face. Love is accepting that I’m wrong. Love is a 360-degree thing. It’s not linear.” Right, I think. That’s my push and pull. That’s what I would tell the newlyweds on their honeymoon in Bora Bora. And the hot, annoyed pregnant woman. Even the older couple and especially myself. It’s layered and complicated and hard and wonderful. Choose your words and tone carefully. They lay the foundation for years of communication and habits – some hard to break. Try to make the good ones now.
I got chills as the newlyweds said their vows, kissed and the congregation cheered as they strode back down the aisle, arms raised in triumph. (see pic below)
On the same day as I saw that quote, I also saw both of these memes. Is the universe sending me a message?
Later that night, at a Darius Rucker concert, he mentioned that his therapist told him he needed to “be nice.” It was that kind of day.