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Home / Articles / Columnists / On the Bright Side /  A Walk in the Park
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Tuesday, May 6,2014

A Walk in the Park

By Jonna Shutowick. M.S. Ed.  

The old adage about one door closing and another opening proved true. After my rejection from graduate school, I started looking in other directions for ways to continue my quest for growth. I stumbled upon a fellowship opportunity to study at Oxford this summer in England and **spoiler alert ** I got it! My inner critic reached for her bull horn, but changed gears and merely whispered instead, maybe just don’t announce this pipe dream... let the chips fall where they may, but GO FOR IT! I have to say I’ve become pretty adept at redirecting the negative talk. Go for it was about to be followed up by you probably won’t get it anyway and, like a New Age Ninja, I swiftly cut that thought off at the pass. The funny thing was how I did it.

I’d been sitting at the park with my dog. It’s become a favorite meditation practice for me, practice being the operative word because stopping the inner chatter in this head is like herding cats. The battle between my positive side and my negative side had been occurring under the mantra “Breathe in, Breathe out” which I do quite loudly and regularly as I struggle to bring myself back to my center and be still (while also keeping an eye out for the dog and reminding myself not to judge the teenagers that are probably completely innocent but look guilty of anything by their mere appearance). Amidst all of this chaos, I notice that the Oxford thoughts are about to take a turn toward doubt and I pretend to sneeze. Loudly.

It worked! That thought was not able to manifest completely and make its way into the universe. I blew it away with a powerful fake sneeze. To the naked eye the scene was simple. A peaceful, content woman relaxing (or possibly having an asthma attack, depending on how the mantra was going) on a bench, watching her dog play. “God bless you,” says the passerby. “Thank you,” I reply. We both smile. The dog checks in for a moment before taking another lap around the picnic tables. Meanwhile, I am silently cracking myself up because only I know what kind of Crazy Town is going on inside this mind of mine. Which reminded me that at any given moment we have no idea what is going on with another person.

Each of us contains a vast universe inside of us through which we walk alone. We choose to share certain aspects of ourselves with those we trust and love. Intimacy is that sharing and is an important part of being human. But we come into contact with dozens of people every day with whom we are not intimate (thank God, that would be another essay completely!) All day long, individual universes of people walk this earth alongside each other. Sometimes we interact, “Morning -”...”Morning.” Many times we ignore each other, busy on our iPhones or with our own thoughts. Sometimes there is a bit of connection due to roles being played out: “Can I get you anything else?” ... “No, that will be all, thank you (smile).” But at the same time we are all constantly experiencing our own reality separate from anyone else’s.

We choose how much of ourselves to share and with whom. That is the art of being human. And it is a skill that many struggle with. For those of us who are comfortable in our skin, let’s remember to be grateful and to encounter others with compassion and kinship for our shared human experience. And for those of you who are not, be kinder to yourself. You are perfect just the way you are and you are not alone.


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