The Corner House

house in Connecticut

I took my first foray into online dating the other day. I seriously nearly shat myself just downloading the app. It just feels so creepy but I felt like it was time. I’m not sure why I gave myself some sort of time ultimatum but apparently I had. “This is just wrong,” I thought. “Judging people on a few words and five photos. How shallow.” Before five minutes passed, I was swiping left and judging with wild abandon. “Is that really a photo of a grown ass man skateboarding? What in the actual fuck?” I thought. “An earring? And you’re 50? Dude, you lost that window a loooong-ass time ago.” I became super judgy super fast. Again, I took a spin class the other day in a studio that apparently thinks that if your elbows touch, it’s a more engaging experience or something. I was seated next to a guy who looked to be around my age and was pretty decent looking. “Are those earbuds in his ear? What kind of old man can’t stand loud music? Does he really think we can hang at the club?” I don’t go to clubs. And I really don’t date. But all of this has made me really think long and hard about how we judge people these days in a hot minute … myself included. And many times the old adage is right – you really can’t judge a book by its cover.

Not to take this too deep but my realizations had tied into something I realized on my recent trip to see my brother. I was in a super dark place that week. It was cold there and everyone in his family got sick. I didn’t get the family time I wanted and I was sad and felt ripped off. Not that they can control when this plague (that eventually took me down like crazy) got them, but I was bummed. My back was failing me and I couldn’t even get a good run in, which is usually my favorite thing to do in his gorgeous neighborhood. What it forced me to do though was slow down. I walked for hours through his neighborhood that week, shuffling like a little old lady. I took a bunch of photos of my favorite houses, as they are so pretty where he lives. I made up stories in my head and thought about what these families would be having for dinner. Would they make a fire? Would they eat together or would it be a crazy procession of tired athletes grabbing what they can as they get home from said sports? I inserted myself in various scenarios, as I really miss being an intact family. Like, really miss it. Ahhh, I don’t want to be single. I don’t want someone looking at my old, nekkid body! Sigh. I want to put my head in someone’s lap and get my hair stroked as I watch my favorite shows. This is what I pictured going on in each and every home, regardless of knowing that this couldn’t be true for everyone. In my head, these people had my life, right down the very dogs that were often sitting on their lawns.

When I got home from one of my walks, I made a comment about the corner house – one of the many I’d imagined happiness oozing from. My sister-in-law informed me that the woman who lives there just lost her husband to a heart attack. He left behind not only her but also three kids under five. She said they were the type of couple who were so apparently in love that it made others envious. Man, the news hit me as hard as if it had happened to me. You just never know, people. You never know what’s going on in the corner house. It’s not always sunshine and rainbows, even if that’s what you think or what is presented on Facebook. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 30 years (lol!) on this earth, it’s that everyone is going through some kind of struggle. Everyone. And if you’re not, you’re a unicorn and you’re about to be dissolved into a nasty-ass frap anyway.

I went through a similar experience in moving into this itty bitty apartment. It wasn’t that our old house was even big or beautiful but it was a house. It had a yard and flowers and multiple bedrooms. It held a family and a story and memories, both good and bad. Trying to cram everything in here – including my new and not-so-improved shitty outlook on life – was agonizing, both physically and emotionally. “What do I do with these family photos?” I wondered. What do I do with any of this stuff? I hated the good memories as much as the bad. The weird part is I moved into a place with another single mom across the way. Unlike me, though, she has her kids about 99% of the time. That was hard on me, too. Even though I could see her struggles getting them out of the apartment¬†every morning, arguing over breakfast and clothes and everything else kids make us crazy about, I wanted that. I was even jealous of a single mom!

Simultaneously, I found myself judging her. She’s been living¬†in that apartment for three years. “Three years,” I thought. “That’ll never be me. This is a temporary stop, thank you very much.” I even found out that she was dating a man from our apartment complex and judged that, too. Don’t get me wrong. I took a huge liking to this woman from second one, as she’s incredibly kind and thoughtful. But I judged nonetheless. The other day was her birthday. Her boyfriend decorated her apartment. He threw her a party with her parents and her best friends and made them all dinner. She asked me to come but I made some excuse as I often do these days. I watched her from my apartment, crossing the lawn and heading over to his place. Her smile lit up the world. She oozed contentedness. She often does, now that I think about it. And I realized I am the one who should be judged – sitting in my apartment, feeling sorry for myself many days. It’s a choice, and I’m going to make an effort. And I will never again assume what’s going on in that house on the corner.

Let’s be kind, k? When you ask someone how they’re doing, really listen. Ask the follow-up questions. Lend a hand. Don’t judge. Don’t assume. Dig deeper. There’s so much more to see beneath the surface and it’s often far more beautiful than you thought.

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