Talking to Strangers

I’ve been trying every week to set intentions for myself. I’m still going for the overall goal of increased happiness, but since I get overwhelmed very easily, I find that it’s easier to start with small things- and if they work-maybe they’ll stick.

Mindfulness is one of the things that I’ve been trying to improve to meet my overall goal, but so far I just keep getting discouraged at not being able to see any     quantifiable improvement. So now I’m breaking down even further.

Long story short, this week my focus has been on opening myself up to new experiences and people.

I realize that like many other people, I find it difficult to disconnect from technology, which has in turned made me more disconnected from real people and things. I complain about not having much of a social life or many close friends, but I rarely open my eyes or mind enough to even try. I walk around with earphones in my ears constantly, I avoid interactions with people whenever possible, and I’ve gotten accustomed to only doing the things that I’m comfortable with.

So I decided that has to change.

This week I’ve been making a concscious attempt to put technology away when in public. To be honest, I found that it was easiest to leave my phone in my car or at home whenever I have that option. The most difficult part for me has been during my walks, when I’m so used to having constant background noise.

I have to say though, this experiment has been pretty eye-opening. I’ve had more interesting experiences this week than I’ve had in a long time.

i-am-a-stranger-learning-to-love-the-strangers-around-me-quote-1

For instance…. Earlier this week (before the weather turned to crap) I took Stevie for a long walk on the boardwalk near my house. There are usually plenty of people and pets around, so I knew I would have ample people-watching opportunities. I should also mention that Stevie has to be the center of attention at all times. This means she’s constantly running up to strangers and demanding them to pet her and love her and tell her she’s adorable. (How is she my dog!?) My usual response is to gently get her back on track and apologize on behalf of the dog that just howled in their face. (One time I got yelled at for Stevie jumping in a puddle and splashing mud  on a lady.) (Also, this was at the Green Belt where it is almost impossible to not get muddy).

This day though, I obliged when she tugged me over to go say hi to a man who was standing beside the water alone. I know that approaching a stray man while without a phone or a bottle of mace or a bodyguard probably isn’t the smartest idea, but he looked kind. He also looked really sad. I try my best not to push people’s boundaries because I know how it feels to want to stand alone outside, gazing out into the horizon while crying and pretending no one can see me. But he looked like he needed company, so I decided open myself up.

It turned out he did very much need someone to talk to, as well as a sweet puppy dog’s head to pet. During our ten minute conversation he told me that he had just come from putting down his own dog, who was his best friend and main companion since his wife had passed away a few year’s back. I held back my urge to try to comfort him by telling him my own sad dog story. It literally may have been the first time in my life that I just listened. And it was nice.

I have no idea if we helped him, but I’d like to think we did. And I forgot the rule about whether not feeling good about the nice thing you did negates the nice thing. Either way. He was a really nice man and I truly hope something amazing has happened for him this week.

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As the week went on, talking to strangers has gotten easier and easier. Now I don’t even call them strangers… I call them peersons. Because we’re all peers in this crazy life after all. And I’m not the only one who has emotions and trials, so we might as well commiserate.

In addition to the sad man on the boardwalk I got some excellent advice on teas from a man at a pho restaurant; I laughed so hard my flabby abs hurt at a kid in line at the grocery who was annoying her mom by talking in a robot voice, and had a great conversation with a newly trangendered woman about hair dyes which ended with her showing me her new boobs, in Walgreens!

The moral this story is that in only a few short days of consciously paying attention to the people around me, I was able to lend an ear, learn some things, and see some titties. And none of this would have happened if I didn’t open my eyes.

This whole experience has honestly made me feel a lot more excited about life…  anyone could end up being my friend!

PS Please don’t write to let me know about my grammatical or spelling errors. I wrote this on my phone. :)

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  • http://www.lifeaccordingtosteph.com/ SMD @ lifeaccordingtosteph

    I am very much a leave me alone type of person most of the time – I don’t dislike social interaction, but it does drain me, and I need alone time to recoup after. However I also find joy in engaging with strangers. It’s like two polar opposite versions of myself. I’m so glad you trusted your gut and stopped to talk to that man. I’m sure you guys helped him.

  • TJ

    What I love about living walking distance to a park, gym, a few restaurants, grocery store, is that I can leave without taking my phone. It’s very refreshing. I don’t like how we as a generation has defaulted to technology, or at least me specifically. It sounds like you had a great experience, hopefully more will come. 😀