Festival: Judgy McJudgerson

Marni’s version
My version

I was bothered by our night at the Festival even as the next morning dawned. Regarding our interloper, I was incensed. I was indignant. I was irritated way out of proportion to anything Marni had done, any fallout that came from our interactions with her.

So why the lingering, massive annoyance? The only thing Marni may have been guilty of was an astounding (but harmless) ignorance of social boundaries. According to me.

As I drove the kids to school, I mentally listed her transgressions:

  • She made arrangements with Tessa rather than with me.
  • She smoked.
  • Her boyfriend was intoxicated.
  • My children viewed their affection as a prelude to “doing sex.”
  • Once we got moving, she delayed us with popcorn.
  • She left her kids in my care. Twice.
  • She bought things for Tessa and Reed that I would not have bought them.
  • She indulged my children at every turn.

And yet. She was nice. She was guileless.

Hers were sins of a young, eager puppy — untempered exuberance. A zest for life. What’s so wrong with that? Living in the moment is something I strive to do. I meet someone who does just that and…?

I feel superior to her.

Slowly, the accusatory finger that made me feel so self-righteous began to point toward me. What about my sins?

I may have seemed, in contrast, to be a snobby, uptight, fun-dousing wet rag. My sin was one of arrogance. Yet she didn’t judge me.

After I deposited the children at school, I reviewed the evening in my mind, this time from Marni’s point of view.

And doing so gave me clarity.

I concluded that the nagging feeling I’d carried into the new day wasn’t due to Marni’s behavior. It was that my sin far outweighed hers.

And once I was able to coalesce that thought, to bring out that feeling with awareness and examine it in daylight, I could forgive the sinner inside me.

And be grateful to my interloper.

guide to living in open adoption

Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, writes from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life. Catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

Lori was honored as an Angel in Adoption® in 2018 by the Congressional Coalition of Adoption Institute.

22 thoughts on “Festival: Judgy McJudgerson”

  1. I think it’s good to see this from all points of view — Marni’s, yours and from Judgy McJudgerson’s.

    And, I think it is wonderful to look at the part you played in this and possibly being judgmental.

    But, I still vote for erring on the side of going with your gut instinct with “interlopers,” especially when your kids are involved.

    My neighbors give self defense classes and one of the things they preach is that you don’t have to be nice to everyone. “Bad” people may not look bad and one of the biggest reasons for abductions, etc. is that people have been too nice when they didn’t need to be.

    I applaud how you stayed cognizant (and safe) when your gut instinct was flaring up and giving you warnings.

    Who knows what your intuition was trying to tell you? It’s better to listen than to find out.

  2. But that’s the thing. In reviewing the situation, it wasn’t intuition going off, it was preconceived notions about “people like her.” That’s the opposite of intuition.

    I was on automatic,ill-at-ease only because I was out of my comfort zone. If I’d tuned into my intuition, I think it would have said, “let loose; let her show you how to have more fun with your kids.”

  3. There’s such a fine line to walk while protecting your children. The only thing that stands out in your list (for me) is the intoxicated boyfriend. I would hope that I would not hold that against her, but I can’t say whether or not I would.

    This is a fascinating story and a great lesson about walking in the other person’s shoes. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I give you credit for looking at both sides of it, cuz I think I would’ve just been pissed and stayed pissed. I’m not so good at that stuff.

  5. Lori, you rock my world. It takes a lot of guts to look so deeply at your own reactions and behaviour. And then to admit it to the world. The judge in me is strong, too, and it can be really hard to know when she is telling me something useful and when she is trying to keep me from changing and being open to the moment. Thanks for sharing this.

  6. Excellent story and insight, my dear friend and also a reminder of the lesson when I am feeling Superior and “All That”, that’s when I’m in deep weeds. Thank you so much.

  7. See, that is what I admire so much about you. You truly have the ability to look at things from another’s perspective. You truly put yourself in their shoes. Kudos to you my friend.

  8. The only thing that stuck out in my mind the 1st time i read the story (from Marni’s pov) was that she left her kids w/ strangers while she went to get tickets, popcorn, whatever. Thats something that I dont understand. Im not a parent but for example, while baby siting my nephews, I cant even imagine leaving them in the care of someone I just met, regardless of how nice they seem… Its great to make new friends I just think a person needs to be careful how they do it..

  9. Making quick judgments comes naturally to most adults, and part of it is about protecting the children from “those” kinds of parents who may have “those” kinds of kids.

    But, at least right now, Tessa and Reed are both unusually non-judgmental people.

    This would seem to call for some combination of vigilance and open-heartedness on your part, which sounds like a tough line to navigate.

  10. Hey, I’ve got a question. If you consider going back to the place where you met Marni (that sounds like a cool place, by the way!), do you feel dread that you might meet up with her again, or anticipation?

    And, I suppose we have to be really really skillful, to know when the moment presents itself if we are feeling our intuition, or our prejudice.

  11. When I read Marni’s account, I had a similar feeling. I found I felt sorry for her – seemingly trying to buy friends – instead of really seeing it from her side.

    Part of this is also that feeling that you are being corralled into something you wouldn’t have chosen, don’t you think?

  12. This is a really interesting series, and I’ve been admiring your power as a writer.

    I’d be interested in whether or not your perspective continues to evolve–if late you may find you judged yourself too harshly in judging that you were a judger? Was the “lingering, massive annoyance” at Marni, or was it really displacement of areas of growth inside of you?

    I know that for myself all hose pieces would have caused me a lot of confusion and uncertainty. “Does the feeling I have of affront inside have to do with me, or more with her? Should it? Are her boundaries too loose, or mine too uptight?

    I think you’re navigating that area of Occam’s razor where we need very healthy boundaries and self-trust to know where that cut goes. That is art, and that is where we create our reality.

    (I just went and looked up ‘Occam’s Razor’, and I’m still not sure if I used the term correctly in this example)

    I loved this, LL.

  13. Very nice. I had my suspicions (as you know).

    In the chaos of the moment, it is often hard for me to distinguish between my own prejudices and my intuition. That comes later, as you have so nicely illustrated. Hopefully, the lessons stick with us.

  14. I do agree we must not be nice to everyone, especially when our intuition is nudging us, I’d say this was a cultural difference.

    I’m hillbilly on my father’s side, and Marni’s actions are par for the course. Kind of reminds me when I hugged my host mother goodbye in Japan. Super faux pas- I crossed a cultural boundary that defines what interactions are “comfortable”.

  15. Being able to see from another’s point of view is such a valuable skill, and you do it so well. When I was a counselor, that seemed half the battle most times — helping the client to have empathy for others, to look at themselves in a new (perhaps more realistic) way.

    Well done.

  16. Though I obviously missed the point of the post which is looking for the good in people, and entering bitch mode, am only focusing on everyone’s negatives tonight.

    Going to go grrrrrrrrrr in the kitchen 🙂

  17. I love how you explored it from the two sides (and I enjoyed getting the story in three pieces even if I was a bit impatient with the third piece).

    This part was really interesting: “Living in the moment is something I strive to do. I meet someone who does just that and…? I feel superior to her.”

    Do you think you were responding to the negative side of living in the moment? Here’s an example: we have someone in our lives who one would describe as a free-spirit. And I have to tell you, as much as there is a good side to her (creative, zest for life, fun) there is also a side that totally sucks (irresponsible, undependable). Or I have another friend who brings with him this zen calm. And the good side to that is obvious. But the bad side is that he is also incredibly self-absorbed, puts his own needs before everyone else (he is so rigid with things that it can be impossible to actually do anything together) and he brings that to the table with him with his calm.

    Not trying to bring down Marni, but I wonder if you were responding to an aspect of her?

  18. Thank you all so much for indulging me in this self-awareness exercise. I have enjoyed all these comments making me look more deeply at this situation.

    Furrow: I think only that I will be more aware of my discomfort. My actions may not be different, but I will choose them more consciously.

    Great question.

    Excavator: I think I would welcome seeing Marni again. To be a little nicer and to make amends. But still not to spend family time with her.

  19. I’m not much of a go-with-the-flow kind of person, as much as I’d like to be. It would be hard for me to accept such a drastic aleration of my vision of the evening, especially from a stranger who is so different. And yet I’m also uncomfortable with that aspect of myself. That fixedness. And maybe superiority.

    Does this reflection mean you will automatically react differently the next time something like this happens?

  20. I agree with Sheri that you need to trust your instincts. She had a great post about instincts recently. The logical mind can make all kinds of stories up. Your reactivity to the situation may have confused your logical mind, but what was underneath the reactivity? A gut feeling that something was not quite right. When your kids get older, it might be ok for them to be exposed to this kind of supervision (or lack thereof), but not now when they are so trusting and easy to glamorize people that do not make good choices. I don’t think that’s being judgmental. It’s called parenting.

  21. Someone left a link to this post on my blog last week and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I am a self defense educator and mama, and I write a lot about the competencies parents and kids need to keep ourselves safe. I believe that it’s essential for us to trust our instincts and to say what is right for our families. I think we get to set boundaries just to practice standing up for ourselves, or just to keep ourselves from going nuts. (I would get so overstimulated in the environments you describe there is NO WAY I’d invite a new family to join me. It would be emotional overload—and not at all fun for my kid.)
    But: Is it possible to set boundaries for ourselves without judging the other person? I’d say that’s equally essential if we want to walk a spiritual path.
    Self defense begins by having compassion for oneself, ie: “What is right and best for me and my children in this situation?” But it includes having compassion for the world. The person who violates your boundaries may be benign, blameless, simply different from you—a Marni. Or they may be a person who lacks important social skills, or they may be a perpetrator with evil intent.
    We can endeavor to practice compassion for all these people. It is a hard road, but a worthy one. My spiritual path (Unitarian Universalist) speaks of “the dignity and worth of every human being.” That means the folks who want to hurt me as well as the ones who just annoy me. This is an awesome challenge.
    Thanks for really getting me thinking on this. I’ll be following from now on.

  22. Very thought-provoking final post in this series Lori! I am once again back from the future (I couldn’t resist saying that, so cheesy, I know) via Time Warp Tuesday! It may have been time consuming to *have* to read three posts to appreciate why you chose this as you all-time fav, it was definitely worth it to me!

    I found this last one especially fascinating and as is so common with such inspired blog entries that strike chords with others, the discussion in your comments here are as wonderful as your actual blog entry.

    That definitely seems to be a common thread in the posts those “doing the Time Warp” chose this week, as most of them had lots of comments and had been clearly appreciated by their readers the first time around.

    I agree that their is a fine line between been open minded and mindful, trying not to judge and following our instincts and respecting our own comfort levels, especially when it comes to our children.

    You certainly have a gift for getting me to be more mindful and think about situations and encounters from different perspectives. Thank you my friend and thanks again for doing the Time Warp again!

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