Last night I had a strange dream - OK, let's face it, most of my dreams are strange. This was not a "people-walking-around-with-heads-cut-off" strange, nor was it a "Pink-Floyd-on-acid" type strange, but rather, it was an "I-was-dating-Ashton-Kutcher" strange.
Why am I bringing this up? Because in my dream, I was dating Ashton Kutcher. But that's not the main reason. While the details are a bit fuzzy (as dreams tend to be,) I can tell you that I was with Rob (married, kids, etc.) and then for a brief time frame was with another guy (Rob, nowhere to be seen) and then towards the end of the dream, (before Brooklyn came in to ask if she could wear a particular shirt to school) with Ashton. It wasn't just that I was with him, it was how I got there. As myself in my dream, I realized at one point that I could not remember the past few months and it was within those few months that I had gotten rid of Rob and ended up with Ashton. (Isn't it interesting how time moves in weird fashion in a dream? In the course of one night's sleep, I went through several months of life. I told you it was strange.)
My point. What was it again? Oh. As I began to piece together what had happened over the 2 lost months, I realized that my friends and other people that I knew were judging me for being with Ashton. Some were judging me for the way that I broke things off with guy #2 (which I didn't remember) and some were questioning why I was no longer with Rob. The people who were around me and questioning me and judgment me were friends from both high school and college. I felt like a pariah and couldn't walk through a room without peoples' eyes on me, accusing me of being less than socially acceptable.
At one particular point, I sat down next to a friend from college (who I don't see or talk to often in real life) and asked her if she was mad at me too. She replied that she wasn't angry or upset with me because of what was going on with the men in my life, but she was upset that I hadn't called or gotten in touch with her over the past several months. I confided that I had no clue what had gone on the past few months, that it was almost as if I had fallen asleep with my life being a certain way and woken up with things all messed up. (If you could call dating Ashton Kutcher "messed up.")
A little later in the dream, he and I were supposed to be playing in some kind of a golf tournament and he was getting more of a cold shoulder than I was. Apparently people were holding him more responsible for the state of our affairs than they were willing to hold me. I could feel the stares at my back and hear the whispers all around me. At one point, he put his arm around me and told me to ignore everyone - something often easier said than done.
Sadly, I don't know how my life with Ashton turned out, as the shouts and calls of real life invaded my sleep and I had to open my eyes to face the world (and the 6 year old standing next to my bed holding up a shirt.) But the dream got me thinking about human nature and what it was to judge our fellow man (and woman.) We see things in the paper every day - stories about celebrities or sports figures, information about what they are doing or have done, and we judge. We place ourselves into their lives and make statements based on how we think we would have handled a particular situation. But are you ever really equipped to make such a statement without actually walking in their shoes or standing where they stood?
A cousin once said "you can't be a parent without being a hypocrite." I couldn't agree more. I used to stand in judgment of people who put their children on leashes. I said that they should know better how to control their children and a leash should not be necessary. I judged them and I said things about how I would act in the same situation. Then I found myself with a 2 year old who would not stay with me and would run everywhere. Yes, I put a leash on her. Granted, it was a cute, doggy back pack with a handle that she wanted to carry, but it was a leash. And it was the only way that I could keep her from running away from me, into traffic or around a corner to get lost.
Another judgment that I used to make was of parents out late at restaurants with young kids. I would see them sitting there eating, children in high chairs struggling to stay awake or throwing food because they were upset. I would judge and say that the parents should not have kids out that late, that they should be home in bed. And then I had kids.... and a job... and a husband with a job... and gymnastics class or t-ball or soccer after school. Then I would blink and it was 7:30 at night and we hadn't eaten yet. With no food in the house or no energy to make dinner, the nearest restaurant is a great option.
It is always easy to say how we would handle things ourselves, or to judge someone else for what they did. The tough part is to actually be in those situations and figure out if you really would do something different. I sometimes get comments from people about how much stuff I have in my house. It's frustrating because I do notice the piles and I do wish that they would go away (the piles, not the people.) Part of the problem is that I don't have a place to put some of the things that are filed up (like baby stuff that hasn't been given away or put in storage yet.) Sometimes it is just a function of not having time - I could read the girls a story before bed, or I could put away the clothes. I could put my clothes away or I could get some sleep. Things are a trade-off. But I wonder how these people who judge my stacks of books or clothes or other evidence of daily life would do in my shoes, with my pressures of life. Many of the ones who comment don't have children and I wait to see how they will handle kids of their own. Maybe they will be one of the lucky ones who can manage to keep a house clean and clutter free even with two children running around. Odds are, they will find themselves staring at a staircase full of books and things, just like at my house.
The point, if there must be one, is to be careful about who and how you judge. You never know when you might find yourselves in a similar spot. The man with the sign at the freeway off-ramp might have been a corporate executive yesterday who was laid off. The person handing you your McDonalds on a tray might have a PhD in astro-physics but can't find a job. The tired looking mom at the table next to yours with 3 kids might be struggling to make it through the day. You simply have no way of being able to tell.
And one final note - I myself am still guilty of sometimes passing quick judgment on my fellow man and woman. On the plane home on Sunday afternoon, I took a seat next to a woman who was traveling alone. I recalled seeing her boarding the plane ahead of me with some help, but didn't think anything of it. She asked me a few questions as we prepared to take off and I wasn't sure what to think of her. My mind started to filter through possibilities and hoped that it wasn't someone who would "bug" me the whole hour and 15 minute flight. Then the woman turned to me with a confused face and asked for help with her seat belt. She told me that she had a stroke recently and that her memory wasn't what it used to be. She also could not remember if the bag sitting in the seat between us belonged to her (which it did.) All of my judgments flew out of the window as I helped her with the belt and confirmed that the bag must be hers, as it wasn't mine, and I returned her smile of thanks.
Before you pass judgment on someone today, stop and ask yourself if you have all of the facts. Do you know everything that there is to know about this person and their particular situation, that would allow you to judge them. Odds are that you don't and that you shouldn't. Think about this as well - just as you are judging someone near you, what are the odds that someone else is judging you?