He said, “For example, what do you think that I think about your decision?”
I just laughed and told him I didn’t really know, except that he wishes he could make it go away. Then he laughed and we both went about our day, but later I did start thinking about it. Not just what he thinks about that, but what kind of things does anyone think someone else thinks about them.
In the eight years we’ve been married, we have been through so very many things that sometimes it feels like we both should have collapsed under the pressure and the sorrow. We lost three people very close to us that first year we got married―his best friend’s wife, my brother and, another dear friend. The next year both my grandmothers died. Then two years later the day after we returned home from a dream vacation to Hawaii came my MS attack and diagnosis which threw both of our lives in a completely different direction.
The following year, his father passed away and a close friend died suddenly. During all of this his mother ended up in the hospital and when she came home, she needed constant care. This put a strain on both of us. We decided we needed a break and soon after we left on a trip out West. On our way back, my husband had a seizure while we were in a hotel in Iowa. He’d never had a seizure before! I think then I must have felt as terrified as he did when I had my first MS attack.
Not long after we got home, I took a bad fall that was again scary for both of us. Last year I lost one of my best friends to cancer. And now we are living through a pandemic.
As you go through all that life throws at you, people tell you you’re strong, you’re resilient and time heals all wounds. Are you? Does it? How do I think my husband feels about all of this? What do I think he thinks I feel? I know how I felt as each thing happened – did I really take time to think about what he was thinking? I believe I thought I knew, but truth be told, I only scratched the surface. I didn’t tell my husband everything I was thinking. I still don’t all the time. We all keep a lot of our own thoughts to ourselves. Sometimes I do it to protect others from being hurt. Other times I need to think it through myself before I share. I know there have been times I didn’t want him to know what I was thinking – I thought it might make him angry or sad. Sometimes it’s just because it’s personal to me and I don’t want to share. Other times it’s random pondering. But that’s me, what about him?
Back to his original question “Do you ever wonder about what I’m thinking?” I still say my answer is of course adding only about 50 percent of the time.
His question took me back to all I’ve told you that we’ve been through. To be honest, some of that time I was too wrapped up in my own feelings to consider what he must be thinking too. Selflessness means being more concerned with the thoughts, feelings and well-being of others – forsaking oneself for their benefit. The definition is tricky. Some believe no one is truly selfless because even if you’re doing something for someone without expectations of a reward or recognition, you are still gaining something yourself. It may be something as simple as a warm feeling. I mention this because my husband asking me this question is one requiring my selflessness. I’m a little ashamed to say that often I get too caught up in my own feelings, whether they be of happiness, sadness, anger or inquisition, to think about what he is thinking.
The point of my sharing all this with you is that I learned a lesson today. I may be 56 years old, but I like nothing more than a good lesson! From now on, I am going to strive to be more selfless. Before I make a decision that not only affects me, but others as well, I’m going to remind to ask myself what I think others think. I’m going to try to be more concerned about other thoughts and feelings than my own.
I can still think back to hearing myself saying “I don’t care what they think!’ or “I’m doing what’s best for me!” I’m pretty sure most of you have said those things too at one time or another. Yet selflessness shows giving, love, empathy and compassion. Isn’t that how you want others to see you? To think of you?
Practicing this improves relationships, helps you gain perspective, takes you out of your own thoughts and away from your troubles―if only for a moment. It can be therapy toward inner peace when you do get stuck in your own thoughts, because you know you’ve considered others. After all, wouldn’t it be the best ever compliment if someone said, “She’s strong, resilient and selfless” instead of just “She’s strong and resilient.” I think so…what do you think?