Engaging Each Day with Action Words

Think. — A Lesson from a Walking Path

on August 11, 2013

There is a little walking path in our neighborhood. It is a great path and it makes for easy family walks and great bike rides. It winds around houses and through an open field, passing a couple of gazebos on the way. It was one of the things that I loved about this house and neighborhood when we first moved in four years ago.

I’m a little embarrassed to say that it also can cause me some … shall we call it, angst? or maybe just some moments of … awareness … at times.

You see, this beautiful, simple little path goes right through our backyard. Well, it borders the property, follows the edge of our yard.  Lots of neighbors, and even other folks that are not our neighbors, walk along the path at the edge of our backyard.  I watch them walk by with their families, pushing strollers, dogs on leashes, talking with friends.

And as they walk, they look, they notice. And I can’t help but wonder if they are thinking things like:

“Wow, they need to cut their grass, or trim back their weeds.” Or. “Wow, Their kids can’t keep the toys and shovels in the sandbox, can they?!” Or. “Wow, Their deck could use some staining.”

When really, they are probably just going for a walk. Thinking about the nice weather or the blue skies or the cool mountain breezes. They probably only notice the state of our truly lovely backyard for a fleeting second, because most of us are walking around too busy thinking about our own stuff to really spend time noticing others.

And if they do notice, the truth is…that is what we all do. I think those same things when I walk by their houses. I notice their imperfections, too. But only for that same fleeting second and then I’m on to the next thoughts.

So yesterday, while I was outside cleaning up this same lovely backyard a little…the good intentioned, but neglected garden, the sandbox, pulling some weeds…I mentioned this random thought to Felix.

And then he did that thing he does with a simple question: “Why do you care what they think?”


Good question. Valid question. Thought-provoking question. (I hate that.)

Because I do. Because we all do. In one way or another. We all care about what other’s think. We just do. Even those that say they don’t, really do.

I have always cared what other people think. But…Pay attention here … This is important. It is not about any insecurities or low self esteem. It is not because of some ‘thin skin’ or misplaced value in other’s thoughts over my own. It is not just about what other people think about me or mine.

No. I genuinely care about what other people think. I’m curious about points of view. I try to understand people, what makes them tick, why they respond the way they do. I’m not empathic or anything, at least not officially. But I’m a good reader of people. I’m gifted at reading faces, body language, tone of voice. I pay attention to others. Maybe to a fault. Sometimes I can get so focused on managing the emotions of a room, that I can miss the moment.

I’ve always done this. Forever. Since I was a kid. I think I may have even done this when I was in the womb. I must have thought about this for the entire nine months because I was born with this little wrinkle above my nose. (A little wrinkle that says, “I’m a noticer. I’m a little bit of a fretter at times. I pay attention.”)  As a matter of fact, that’s how my Mom identified me in the hospital nursery. “Um…I’ll take the baby with the wrinkle above her nose.”

Caring about and noticing what other people think is both a blessing and a curse. I think it is part of what makes me a good friend. It helps make me an efficient professional development facilitator, which is part of my job. It is what makes me a good health coach. But it can also leave me with a little worry, a little fretting about other people’s thoughts and feelings.  It can lead to some over-thinking and hyper-awareness, which can be distracting and exhausting at times.

So, I’m letting this little walking path be yet another lesson in this life. As we pass by, let’s notice, but not judge. Let’s notice the good, not the bad. Let’s see the mess on the table as a sign of a good family meal instead of garbage left behind for a moment. Let’s see the toys underneath the swingset as a sign of neighborhood kids who know how to play outside and have a good time in the sandbox, instead of irresponsibility. Let’s see the too-high grass and weeds in the flowerbed as a sign of a family who is busy, probably with equal parts working and playing, instead of a sign of neglect.

In other words, …

path weeds


5 responses to “Think. — A Lesson from a Walking Path

  1. Jan says:

    The little wrinkle above your nose was adorable. 🙂

  2. Lead Our Lives says:

    Great post…and very full! There is so much here…and many layers. Curiosity, listening and seeing with compassion are quite different and I’m guessing that is what your lovely wrinkle is about! Caring or rather worrying about what anyone thinks or says about us, our property or anything else about us, is about giving up our power and therefore our lives to someone else. Why ruin a good life giving it fully to others? Loved this one. 😉

  3. shannon says:

    You know your are right on the later because when we are walking we truly are thinking about the beautiful day or how we’re going to make it up that hill without being completely out of breath 😉

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