“Sometimes people surprise us. People we believe we know.”
Joyce Carol Oats
Aren’t surprises wonderful? Well, sometimes they are and sometimes they’re not. Receiving an unexpected phone call or text message from an old acquaintance – well, it depends right? Getting a perfectly appropriate and awesome birthday gift from a special friend can be both heartening and exhilarating. What does it mean when WE are surprised by certain actions, words or deeds from within our circle of friends, family or acquaintances?
We lead busy lives, and depending on the phase of our life at any given point in time, it can be excessively consumed by our studies, building a career, looking for a “life” partner (first, second or third time around), raising children and often times our busyness is a simultaneous combination of more than one of these key life stages. Compound all of that with the instantaneousness of our social media frenzy – we have an increasing proclivity of missing beautiful moments and people in our lives because we are just so damn busy.
I had a delightful opportunity recently to enjoy an evening out with several colleagues. We had a few beverages together before heading out for an elegant dining experience. “Letting our hair down” is an oft-used idiom implying foolish behaviour possibly induced by the consumption of alcohol or other substance yet it can also signify the lowering of personal walls that we build up and use as a protective barrier surrounding our interactions with those we encounter. These walls conceal who we truly are or mask our intentions deluding others into believing we are someone we are not. But on this evening, some of us exposed ourselves – not in a lewd or illegal manner of course, and it is entirely conceivable that the beverages induced this relaxed state, but I think it had more to do with slowing things down and providing our complete attentiveness to those surrounding us. And guess what? Many of us learned new attributes of character in the other that we never knew existed before. I for one was surprised.
Think of a normal day, with typical interactions with the usual cast of individuals within our circle of influence. What do we all talk about? Often it is about other people. People we think we know and we freely judge in discussion. Did you hear what so-and-so did? How dare they do that – who do they think they are? And we think we know of whom we are speaking – at least well enough to cast aspersions and judgment. Or it can be more subtle and less negative by having only a surface understanding of one’s character. People we think we know.
“Sometimes the most shocking surprises are also the most beautiful surprises.”
So, is it worthwhile to get to know one another in a deeper manner? Perhaps we are still too busy for that. Sometimes it is blissfully too easy to continue our steady and familiar behaviours. Just moments ago on Facebook, a friend announced she was doing a “social experiment” to be nice to people on Twitter who disagree or have been mean to her. Imagine that – in this politically charged environment where we are often facing fiercely opposing viewpoints, to be nice to your antagonist? One of the first responses she received from one such individual was a lunch invitation.
I believe that we need to figure out how to slow things down or approach people differently, allowing us to better appreciate and respect one another, to judge and criticize less. Maybe by choosing this attitude, we will get to learn something new – not just about other people, but even more importantly, about ourselves – and wouldn’t that be the greatest surprise?