Humans are, by nature, social animals. We have an innate need to interact with others of our species. We talk, we touch, we exchange thoughts and ideas, we disagree, we fight, and sometimes it gets down-right ugly, but at the heart of it all is the interaction with another human. We weren’t meant to be alone. Sometimes though, those interactions have unexpected results.
I had breakfast with a dear friend the other day, and we spent several hours “catching up,” discussing the various aspects of our daily lives and the troubles we are facing and how we are handling all of it. Of course, the occasion began ominously, with the wait staff giving me the evil eye for bringing Starbucks into their restaurant. The one lady finally came over to seat us and said, “We’ll let you do this this one time, but we really can’t have you brining Starbucks in. It’s like advertising for another restaurant.” I never knew Starbucks was a restaurant. I always thought it was a coffee shop. ANYWAY . . . this particular friend is the one I would consider my “best friend.” No topic is off limits, and all discussions are met with respect and a healthy dose of frank, in-your-face honesty. I know that if I share something private with my friend, it goes nowhere, and she’ll be the first one to tell me I am being a idiot or an ass, as the case may be. She will also be the first one to share a shoulder to cry on and be at the ready with a supportive hug. Even though we are not related in any way, I could not ask for a better Sister (we informally adopted each other years ago).
Still, every now and then, when we get together, I feel a twinge of jealousy for the things she has that I don’t, tempered with a thankfulness for my own situation. Being able to compare our joys and woes lets me take a good look at what I have and how I am coping with it. Today was one of those days. As our discussion progressed, in the back of my mind I could occasionally hear a little voice saying, “Oh, to be so cursed . . . ” At other times, I would listen to her talking about her situation with her family and parents and think, “Man, am I lucky.” Ironically, I could see the horror/compassion on her face as I told her about some of the difficulties my family is currently facing. All in all, it was a typical get-together for us. And yes, I did tip generously, despite (or maybe because of) the Starbucks flap. But the point is, it is only during those times of social interaction, where we compare ourselves to those around us, that we look outside ourselves, and then look back at ourselves from the outside, and make an honest appraisal of our situations. Not everyone is willing to go there. Americans do have the tendency to be overly self-critical, but not in the ways we need to be. Not everyone can accept honest criticism, especially when it means accepting the truth from the one person we trust the most – ourselves. I continue to learn about myself every day. Sometimes I may not like what I learn, but that is when I have to take a step back, and put it all into perspective.