When you read this I’ll hopefully be driving through the countryside of Ireland. As I write, Lacie and I are sitting in the airport waiting to leave. There’s something about public places, particularly where people are waiting, that fascinate me. Like the hospital a few weeks ago, I’m surrounded by so many stories.
There is a Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart version) looking character eating a bag of Skittles a few seats down. Something on his phone is making him smile. Maybe it’s a picture of his grandkids who he hasn’t seen in months, and he’s now one flight away.
The guy sitting closest to me is taking an online course. His hair is cut like he’s in the military, and his build and posture suggests that might be the case. I wonder where he might be stationed next, what war he might be called to, what pain he might one day experience—or just what career he’s studying to pursue.
The man who just walked up is arguing with someone on the phone. Apparently he’s not putting up with their fecal matter anymore. The more I listen the more I realize he’s probably just a talker. You know those people that sound like they’re mad but it’s just how they communicate?
One woman walks up to the counter and asks, “Am I in the right place? I honestly haven’t flown in thirty-seven years. Do you think I have time to go grab some coffee?”
It’s refreshing to pay attention and realize there are a million intricate lives all around you, serving as a backdrop to the one narrative we call our own life. I’m so often reminded of a word I’ve written about before--sonder.
n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
So look up every once in a while. Life has a surplus of simple delights if we are willing to pay attention. And who knows, you may go from being the extra in the background to a new character in another’s story, as lives entwine and become even more vivid and complex.