I love people watching. Strange hobby some might say, but seriously I just love it!! I could whittle away hours nursing a venti decaf black Americano whilst the world passes by under my watchful eye. I don’t get to do it as often as I used to, I mean, let’s face it as a single mother of two it’s a bit of a luxury to even contemplate giving myself the time to sit and just be, let alone to enjoy this “me time” outside of the home with a steaming hot cup of deliciousness as my only companion. Now bubba’s in nursery part-time, I feel like I’m finally getting my house in order, so I will, without regret or hesitation allow myself this luxury (and so should you!)…I’m getting my people watching mojo back! And as with every little step I take, each milestone I hit on this crazy journey of mine it feels good. Different but good different.
At one point in time… (Pre D day) I have to admit, my people watching had, well, a judging tone to it. Ok let’s be honest here, I was a complete bitch!!! I just couldn’t help myself, sneering and commenting on the unsuspecting beings going about their daily routines just outside the dirty Starbucks window… what is she wearing? what’s he doing with her? Worst of all “oh my god that kid is ugly”… ( I know as a mother that’s a terrible thing to say, but let’s face it some kids just are aesthetically challenged.. Fact!!). Now on reflection maybe that harsh critiquing of people whom I know absolutely nothing about, (and I mean literally nada) was my own unconscious unhappiness untamed and unleashed on the unsuspecting, undeserving general public! I guess hindsight is really a wonderful thing in teaching us about ourselves.
Anyway I’m pleased to report that these days not so much criticising happens during my fav past time (once again, maybe this is a reflection of my own new peaceful, positive state of mind?)
So with my (large) mug of joy in hand I claim my spot on a soft and soggy velvet armchair, get comfortable, and watch. I ponder the individual stories of those who catch my attention.
To set the scene of today’s vigil, It’s a couple of weeks to Christmas. Lights sparkle with festive gloriousness casting a warm, hug like glow on the marble floors of the usually stark Trafford Center. The shops won’t open for another hour yet but already there’s a soft buzz of activity as the more organised of us “get in early to beat the crowds” hustling to stock up on the perfect gift for that special person. The shop workers rushing around setting up for another day greeting and serving the foot soldiers of consumerism who undoubtedly won’t take the time to say thank you!
I sit, now slightly cooler decaf in hand and watch. The man on the mobility scooter, the pretty (overly made up) young lady talking animatedly on her on her phone.
The man with his son. He’s kept occupied watching him play mischievously up and down the walkways. He’s tall and dark, handsome in a rugged unkempt way, the little boy white blonde, a toddler with an infectious smile and giggle that would melt the coldest of hearts stumbling as he perfects his new skill of walking. He is so, so happy playing with daddy. From my corner I feel their love. It makes me smile but inside a pain threatens to claw through my chest. I look away and my gaze is caught again. Yellow and blue polyester. Necktie and waistcoat, smart and clean. In fact perfectly turned out. She gently passes me by pushing her massive utility trolley adorned with cleaning paraphernalia; brushes, mops, sprays, bottles, bin bags you name it she has it. She sees me looking and we catch eyes. Almost immediately she looks away, looks down.
No!!! she thinks I’m judging her. I’m not! Guilt flashes though me. I’ve made her feel bad!
Only a moment passes until she looks at me again, I smile at her in a vain attempt to tell her I’m not casting judgement on her. This time she holds my gaze a moment longer, her eyes are tired, sad. She breaks away again and buries herself in her work.
Then it hits me. She doesn’t think I’m judging her at all, It’s all in her eyes. It’s shame! She’s ashamed to be seen. She’d rather be part of the fixtures, behind the scenes. Invisible.
I begin to wonder why. who is she, what’s her story is and what journey led her here, to this place of sadness and regret. Was she a high flyer, who for whatever reason fell off the corporate ladder and is now doing what she can to pay the bills, whilst being thankful she’s at least working. If so, I know she often wonders why this happened to her. Where did her life go?
Or maybe she is a single mum who has always struggled to make ends meet and although she is grateful for the wages she works so hard for she can’t help but feel there’s just no point, what’s it all for? Life never gets any easier. Maybe she has lost and love one and with it her own joy.
Whatever her story, whatever her reasons, to that lovely graceful lady cleaning the Trafford Center; you have no reason to be ashamed (if that was indeed what I saw in your eyes) or to be sad. You take pride in yourself and in your work, that much I can see. You work hard and I’m sure you are kind and honest, all things to be proud of. So you maybe down on your luck – (according to your own standard), or maybe life has just changed for you, who knows – I definitely don’t but what I do know is this. Whatever your battle, you are still standing and that says a lot. You picked yourself up and got on with it, you’re still getting on with it. Your doing your best and that’s enough, so take a moment to be kind to yourself, forgive yourself… you deserve it. X