The Lives of Others
What is it about the lives of others?
There is this sudden and profound feeling of realizing that everyone—every stranger passing by—has a life as rich and complex as one's own. If you haven’t heard, there’s a new word meant to describe th
is feeling: sonder.
I am hit with this realization constantly, and yet, it never ceases to take my breath away. It is overwhelming that these other centres, living their own lives, are just all around, in every direction, constantly living and navigating their decisions and feeling much of what I’m feeling—longing, loneliness, hope, sorrow, anxiety, delight. All of it, as deep and real as my own.
I am constantly fascinated and fiercely curious about what goes on in the homes and minds and hearts of others. Oh to be a fly on their wall, and observe their private moments. Better yet, to step inside the skin of another, and taste the flavour of their interiority.
Or is it less curiosity about what it’s like for them and more what it could be like for me? Is it a wondering about the lives I could have had? At the cafe, I spy a family at the next table over. Where is my sweet daughter and what would the weight of her soft warm sigh feel like against my ribs? Where is my husband and what is the sound of his voice, calling to me from the other side of the house, our home, in that other place? I know they are all there, with the other me, living their lives, around the corner from a thousand different decisions.
Underneath it all, there is a quiet, nagging question: Which version is the best, the one I’d like to be in? Is this life the one I want, or did I make a wrong turn somewhere?
Wisdom says it is natural and perpetual to crave the grass on the other side. Perspective reminds us that to someone out there, we are standing on the very grass they are longing for.
In my experience, the craving never ends. Grass that’s tall and unkempt, bohemian and carefree. Bright and crisp, and neatly suburban. Just a few shades different, a bit exotic or European.
If you have any grass at all, or even seeds and a patch of land, stay on it. If you have time to pause and look at it, and look around, consider yourself lucky. Stay here. Water it, tend to it, run your hands over it, lovingly. Nurture it to full health. Learn to love it. (And let it care for you, in return.) Rejoice in its evolution as you watch it grow mature, and notice shifts and glimmers that are a gift to eyes that have stayed with it, through storm and drought.
There is nothing better than your grass. And there is always better grass somewhere else.
And if you still want to live other lives and more lives, if you’re still thirsty to know about the lives of others, read books, and make friends, and get to know them, truly. You’ll learn two things, at least: books and art can multiply and enrich your life experiences. And you’ll find there’s nothing to envy about others, for underneath the skin, everyone is a mess of joys and sorrows. And everyone gets tired of their own grass.