People are interesting, aren’t they? I mean all of us. We each have our own unique characteristics, idiosyncrasies and personality quirks that make us, well, us. They are varied and infinite, some more mainstream than others, and they make themselves known to those around us in myriad patterns – a small ripple, a steady flow, or a tidal wave.
It is an unconscious, basic, human reaction to greet those ripples, flows and tidal waves with a reaction, an assumption if you will, about the person. Our past experiences, attitudes, beliefs, values, as well as our own characters, color and shape those impressions. At times those ripples and waves break upon us forcefully; other times they giddily carry us up; and, sometimes, they just pass around us, leaving us relatively unmoved.
And so it was with the twenty-two unique individuals who I met at the retreat.
While it’s easy to gravitate towards the individuals with whom one shares an instant rapport – a person who ‘speaks’ to us – it is almost always worthwhile to take a closer look at individuals who might leave us with less positive impressions.
Like one person whose seemingly lack of self censorship caught me by surprise. Like a child or an elderly person who tend to blurt out whatever is on their mind, either from too little or too much social experience, this person – who is neither a child nor elderly – seemed to say the first thing that crossed their mind, wanting to know the motivation behind generally accepted get-to-know-you inquiries and pointing out the obvious fact that it had been a while since my highlights had been tended to.
(Yes, it’s true I am not a natural blonde, at least not in terms of follicles; personality-wise, however, that’s another thing…it’s a state I blame on having children (the follicles, not the personality)…ditto with the now-curly hair that used to be poker-straight…oh, and the stretch-marks...and the…well, let’s leave it at those things for today, shall we?…in any case, you wouldn’t normally draw attention – in public, at that – to one’s obvious neglect of hair care – neglect for which there are some very good reasons, I might add – would you?)
Or the person who took to heart our instructor’s mild, passing comment that it would be nice if people would not always pick the same spot to practice yoga but mix things up a bit…so when I – more intent on getting flexible than where I was spreading my mat – gravitated to the same location (as did most of the class)…and this person reprimanded me…I was left less than favorably impressed.
Or another whose unconventional appearance and African-inspired tribal chanting had me raising my internal eyebrows.
But, of course, as is the case with human beings, the surface does not reflect what lies below it. Kindness. Warmth. Shyness. Curiosity. Intelligence. Humor. Wit. Empathy. Insecurity.
And simple assumptions about complex human beings are proved wrong.
Like they have been with the above individuals.
Rude morphed into eager. Rigid into warm. Different into nurturing.
(And when our unconventional friend, who has a beautiful, deep, resonant voice, organized the group into a nighttime sing-along that I was too tired to join one particular night, he had them sing a special lullaby just for me. : ) )
In other words, my first impressions are as imperfect as I am.
(Okay, no surprise, I am sure, but let’s not make a point of it. Especially to my husband. Or to my children. Anyway, they, no doubt, already know.)
Bottom line: People are interesting. And strange. And wonderful. And unique. We are all one-of-a-kind works of art. A piece of art won’t appeal to everyone. Especially at first glance. Often it takes stepping closer, lingering a bit longer, getting to know the story behind the work, and taking in all the textures and hues before the beauty of a piece can be seen. And so it is with people. All it takes is a closer look.