Friday, August 15, 2014

Walking In Someone Else's Shoes

Daughter J & M's wedding shoes
Facebook has been inundated with myriad versions of the quote "Be Kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about." This week those quotes have been shared with respect to Robin Williams and his battle with depression and substance abuse.

Could you walk in these? My old school hiking boots!
I suspect the quote fits many of us, even if our battles are not as serious as depression and substance abuse. I'm fairly confident that it isn't even possible to truly walk in someone else's shoes. We are each shaped by a variety of our individual life two people, not siblings and likely not even twins, share the same life experience. It is simple, yet profound.

For example, I was born in 1954, the first born child of a 29 year old father and a 22 year mother and was the only child. My sister, born in 1964 was the third born child of a 39 year old father and a 32 year old mother. She had a 10 year old sister and an eight year old brother. She was born into a family that was dramatically different than the family I was born into.

Two weeks after my 18th birthday, I left for college. I left looking toward my future. My sister, seven years old at the time, watched me leave and was left behind. A very different experience.

Bought these 20+ years ago....could you/would you walk in them?
The year I was 24 and my brother 22, we were both college grads and out of the house. Both of my parents were working and there was only my sister, 14 years old at home. Mom and Dad had disposable income. The three of them took a family trip to the UK. My family vacations were two weeks in the car driving through the Western US sleeping in a tent trailer, all five of us. Different.

How about my cowgirl boots? Want to walk in these?
When my marriage ended 20 years ago this month, friends and family were dumbfounded.  We looked like the perfect couple.  We kept the issues to ourselves.

To this day, I think there are few people who understood the battle we were fighting, and that I was embroiled in.

It seems so simplistic. Be kind. Yet everyday, I come across moments and incidents during which I need to remind myself to be kind or patient.

Years ago, when daughter J was learning to drive, the car behind us honked (it was in Jersey after all!) because J wasn't jumping on the gas at the stop sign. I reminded her to "let it go", and to remember how it felt. The driver behind her had no ability to know that she was a new student driver, out with her mother for the first time.

Want to walk in these? My shoes for J's wedding!
Even our most intimate friends may not be able to comprehend our battles. I think few know how I feel about work. How much I still struggle with being divorced. How frustrating it is to be single at 60. How hard it was to grow up with my Mother. What my challenges with my siblings are and why. Is it my responsibility for not sharing? Is it theirs for not asking or listening? Or even with good communication, is it just nearly impossible to walk in someone else's shoes? And do I have the ability, the capacity to understand other peoples experience of the same event?

There is no reason not to Be Kind, Be Patient, or Be Accepting and Forgiving.  Life really is too short.

By the way, there is some controversy about who the quote should be attributed to.  Follow this link to find out more.

And, I have to report that daughter J, is a Jersey girl and a honker.  Guess that maternal advice didn't stick.

Photo Credits:  J & M's wedding shoes by Adam Houseman  If you follow the can see more of the wedding photos.  Best.Day.Ever!

All other photos were taken by me!!


  1. And, again NO notice to subscriber's. I am befuddled. The system worked twice in a row. I felt excitement that perhaps whatever I had done had corrected the issue. I guess not. I'll keep trying, y'all stay patient! Thanks.

  2. Dear Readers,

    Please accept my apologies for complaining! The notice did go out and I did receive it. Unfortunately it was delivered to my "junk" folder rather than to the "smart" mailbox I have created for all things Soudain Soixante. This will be the next mystery for me to solve.