May I Have Cold Apples and a Nonjudgmental Heart, Please?
In a ten-minute time span while washing fruits at the kitchen sink the other day, a memory popped in mind and, like a movie montage, sent me on a train of thoughts and recollections that eventually carried me into an unexpected space.
Caring for the apples and pears before me, in an attempt to make it that much easier for my offspring to choose a healthy snack, I remembered chatting about apples with a fellow mom at her house several years ago while our young children played together.
It was Fall and, as the discussion turned to apple picking, she proclaimed the juicy fruits were better left at room temperature.
“I prefer them cold,” I volunteered. “I like to keep them in the fridge.”
In what looked like a subtly superior way, she pressed on with their finer taste at ambient temperature, longer shelf life and I forget what other benefits gained by leaving apples in a basket on the counter.
A vague, spontaneous defense mechanism activated in me, feeling indirectly judged for what I put in my body and both of my children’s by the seemingly faultless woman standing across the pristine kitchen island.
“I like apples at room temperature, too,” contributed my then nine-year old, walking in, unknowingly scoring for the opponent’s team while shaking any dormant insecurities about my maternal capacity.
“Aren’t they yummier this way?” responded the matron, triumphant. “Would you like one?”
Overly caring and attentive, she grabbed a freshly picked apple from her basket and added, “I’ll wash it for you,” before proceeding to the sparkling sink, modeling exemplary motherhood.
My son thanked her for the shiny red fruit and went back out to play.
Deep in thought over this bygone playdate while tending to the produce before me, I realized I was often self-conscious around this woman, adjusting my demeanor to meet my idea of her standard, feeling observed and potentially criticized like others were sometimes dispraised around me: for their diet, their marriage, their parenting skills.
The memories of these adjusted behaviors were now resurfacing in my mind: preventatively dropping manner-reminders to my children, concealing the occasional grilled cheese sandwich dinner, justifying an untidy living room or feigning unison parenting with my then husband.
Why was I granting this woman so much power over my life?
Glancing out the small kitchen sink window onto a neighborhood squirrel scouring our thawing backyard, I paused: and what if she never judged me in the first place? What if I was the one doing the judging? Could I have been measuring myself against some self-made scale of the ideal mom, ideal wife, ideal woman?
In the end, perhaps I was judging myself. Perhaps this was about my expectations.
I took a deep breath, dropped my shoulders, relaxed my jaw, watched the squirrel. Suddenly, life seemed very simple: I only had to answer to me.
Peeling off a layer of internal pressure, it felt like I could just be: no need to fit in, no pleasing, no comparing. The occasional grilled cheese dinner was just fine.
Aside from the random encounter at the local supermarket, I haven’t seen this woman in quite some time. Clearly, with judgement in the way, we didn’t stand a chance for a lasting, authentic relationship.
As I continue to grow along the forgiving road of acceptance, I vow to try and ask myself next time I feel judged by someone, “Is this person actually judging me or might I be self-inflicting this treatment?” The former really doesn’t matter and, fortunately, I can do something about the latter.
Thank you, fruits, for this insightful interlude during which, it seems, I also cleansed a little of myself.