Tuesday, October 07, 2008

other people's lives.

do you ever have the feeling that other people’s lives are so much richer and interesting than your own? even with all rational evidence to the contrary - we are, after all, surrounded by the pedestrian at every moment - do you find yourself imagining that other people are experiencing things in a thoroughly more fulfilling way than you are?

i find myself thinking this way sometimes. it’s such a subtle thought process that i have to catch myself at it red-handed. like the other day, i was reading a novel, and one of the main characters was home alone in his apartment while his wife was away. he got up, wrapped up in a robe, and made a pot of coffee and toast with butter and jam. totally boring, right? and yet, i felt like somehow he was getting more out of coffee and toast than i ever would, or ever do. the mere act of putting together breakfast somehow seemed enviable to me - like it was imbued with some type of pleasure that i’ve never been able to access. this is not restricted to fictional characters either. sometimes i’ll read a blogger’s account of an evening out or see a facebook friend’s photo album, and i’ll feel - loosely and faintly and with this vague, existential incomprehension - that i am missing some critical faculty, some way of living right.

it’s a strange thing, this impulse to overly romanticize other people’s lives and day-to-day experiences. i mean, on a rational level i am aware that the way they experience making a pot of coffee is probably, by and large, the same way that i experience it. so why do i give them more credit? why do i think they have access to some secret, some effortless method for infusing the mundane with meaning that i don’t?

when i see this in other people and not myself, what am i really looking at - what am i looking for? i do wonder about this.

7 comments:

Jared Goralnick said...

What I wouldn't give to get to stay up late watching the Sox and then catching Mad Men while living in a great place on the Hill. Mmm...so lovely are other people's lives.

browneyedgirlie said...

While at my part-time job tonight, I had the opportunity to talk with a mom and her two daughters - who were trying on clothes for an upcoming vacation - and I noticed, from the moment they came to the dressing room, how polite and kind all three of them were.

The two daughters - 10 and 12 - were so cheerful, so happy to be getting one new outfit for their trip. An uncommon occurrence, I'm sure, for this family of 8. The mom remarked at how genuinely cheerful her oldest daughter was...how she can always find the good in life. How she never (at the tender age of 12) says a bad thing about people or things.

Oh, how I wish I could live my life that way.

Do you ever come across people who strike a chord with you in that way and you find yourself wondering how they can seem so peaceful and calm?

That could've very easily been a stressful shopping trip - especially with two girls - but it was a wonderful moment to witness.
It was one that makes me strive to want to be a better person and to improve the way I respond to situations in my own life.

Toast said...

do you ever have the feeling that other people’s lives are so much richer and interesting than your own? even with all rational evidence to the contrary - we are, after all, surrounded by the pedestrian at every moment - do you find yourself imagining that other people are experiencing things in a thoroughly more fulfilling way than you are?

Nope.

Lola Mason said...

I am with Toast. No one is more interesting and meaningful than me :)
Seriously, we feel this way because other people will always be in some way infinitely more interesting than we are simply because they are "other people".
These are the moments that is important to take stock of yourself. Anything from hey I have a great apartment/husband/family/friends to hey I put on clean socks this morning works ;) For me anyway...

hetherjw said...

do you ever have the feeling that other people’s lives are so much richer and interesting than your own? even with all rational evidence to the contrary - we are, after all, surrounded by the pedestrian at every moment - do you find yourself imagining that other people are experiencing things in a thoroughly more fulfilling way than you are?

Yes. All the time.

lacochran said...

There is a real longing in this post. How you view other people is a reflection of how you view you. What do you feel you are missing in your life?

And, another perspective, the older I get, the more I realize that EVERYONE is carrying something that's hard to deal with in one way or another, whether you see it or not. Nobody has a dream life. Least not around here.

Lisa said...

This was a very nicely worded post, with an immense intensity. I think most people feel this way at least sometimes. And from the outside, we see what we think. I'm not explaining this well, but it's like how you can see a "perfect" couple from the outside and you just know they are so happy and having a lot more fun than you, and then you can be so shocked when they get divorced. You never really know what's actually going on with them.