Seeing The MountainsBy Nan Russell
Bits and pieces of the man's life story emerged as two strangers, seated directly behind me, visited during the flight. After overhearing the reason why he was traveling to Montana, I was surprised when we landed to notice that the robust middle age man behind me looked like everyone else.
“I'm doing things now," he told his seat-mate, "that I've been pushing off for that proverbial someday." After working through the shock and anger of his diagnosis, he decided to spend his remaining time seeing parts of the country he'd not seen, and reconnecting with friends and family. He was traveling to Montana to see the mountains.
He had cheerfully given his seat to me so I could sit next to my husband. Yet, in the bustle of plane boarding, I hardly saw him. Just like I hardly saw the man who checked our luggage, or the woman who looked at our boarding passes, or the stewardess who served our snack, or any number of people I encountered.
I did see the distracted grocery store check-out clerk later that day when my impatience reached frustrating heights, but I saw her as the cause of my being late for an appointment, not as a fellow journeyer perhaps having a difficult day.
Still, she reminded me how distracted, irritable, or distant I can be on my heavy-hearted days - after an argument with my husband, a call about Mom's declining health, or more recession-dwindling finances. There is nothing stamped on my forehead warning others to what is occupying my head.
Thinking back to when my father died, I remember returning to work in just a few days. Those who knew offered words of encouragement and condolences, for which I was grateful. But most people I dealt with didn't know I was trying to get through a day without crying, and that my robot-like approach, lasting several months, was a shelter to my grieving heart.
You see, we rarely know what lives in another's heart, what challenges they're dealing with, what tragedies are touching their lives, or what coping mechanisms they're using to just get through another day.
As a sample of one, I know I'm quick at times to judge, assume, or render speculation. Yet with each passing year, I'm working to diminish my judgment-habit, realizing things are not always as they appear, in your life or in mine.
In the scheme of things, I think we need to be gentler with each other. We need to see others with more compassionate eyes. And, we need to understand that the loads we carry are often invisible, and the person next to us or behind us or across from us may have a waterlogged heart, a broken spirit, or limited days for seeing the mountains.
© 2011 Nan S. Russell. All Rights Reserved.
Nan Russell left the corporate world in 2002 to pursue a life dream to work and write from the mountains of Montana. Today she is the award winning author of Hitting Your Stride, a syndicated columnist, and motivational speaker. More about Nan and her work at http://www.nanrussell.com/ or follow her insights and tips on twitter @nan_Russell