Every once and a while, I have a peculiar feeling. You know the one – when you can’t shake the sensation that someone is watching you. Usually, it’s scary. Usually, you feel exposed and alert and vulnerable.
However, that sensation, or at least the thought of that sensation, can have a positive impact in the way we interact with our world and the ripples we send out to the world.
Bear with me for a moment.
I enjoy a wide repertoire of music – from opera to metal to folk and everything in between (except country – unless it’s Garth or from the soundtrack to Hope Floats. Don’t judge).
Every night before bed I listen to my Pandora Thumbprint station, in which I’ve carefully curated a blend of soothing tunes varying from Adele to Bryan Adams to the Wailin’ Jennys to Journey to Eva Cassidy to Norah Jones.
At one time, I intended to replace all of my cassette tapes. And I did sell most of them at a garage sale years ago. I only kept a few: an 80s rock mixtape; my various live state choir, college choir, and solo performances; and . . .
Bette Midler’s Some People’s Lives
Yes, Bette Midler.
At any other time than when I’m winding down before bed, I’m a mostly a 70s-80s rocker chic at heart.
It played on Pandora the other night (as it often does) as I was about to go to bed, and it made me think and think and think as I’m apt to do.
If you’re interested in the lyrics, you can find them here.
In “From a Distance,” Midler sings about a higher being who sees us – individually and collectively. Despite what seems a beautiful, peaceful world from afar, this “watcher” sees all – including the very worst of humanity. The lyrics aren’t judgmental. Instead, the words simply remind listeners that someone or something knows everything we do.
Whatever your belief or unbelief, the concept of The Watcher is a powerful one. Reminding ourselves that someone sees and hears what we say and do and even knows what we think can help us inhibit some of our more negative tendencies. Without it, where does our moral compass come from? What prompts us to filter what we say or do or think?
Keep in mind, The Watcher doesn’t have to be a god-figure or supernatural being (although for me it usually is). Sometimes, however, I think of my dad looking down or of my BFF hearing my thoughts. Think of who might be watching and learning from your words or actions: your spouse? your kids? the neighbors’ kids? the guy at the stoplight? What are you teaching them, and what are they learning about you? What messages are you sending to others? To yourself? What would your watcher think?
I’d like to believe that before all of our technological gizmos and electronic doohickeys our brains were less cluttered. Perhaps that smaller stream of stimuli gave us a split second to remember that someone may see and hear and know us – from a distance.
Maybe tens of thousands of years ago this pause before doing and saying is what allowed us to begin living in larger groups and eventually to create civilizations. I’d like to think that filter, that split second, that infinitesimal inhibition of our initial, raw responses makes us kinder, less crass, more discerning in our behavior, words, and thoughts. It’s what allows us to be more empathetic, less apt to make snap judgments, less likely to be nasty, less intolerant of opinions with which we disagree.
Can I say that’s still true? Not so much.
Find your filter
Unfortunately, I think we are losing our filters. More and more I see people give in to their baser impulses. Sadly, I see a whole lot of people who just don’t give a damn about what they say and do and who forget to consider how their behavior ripples outward into the world. I see people who are overwhelmed by negative self-talk, which creates ripples of its own.
Sometimes, I want to be that free, too. I want to say exactly what’s on my mind and do precisely whatever the heck I want and the consequences be damned. But usually, if I give it just a pause, I get that feeling again. Maybe someone’s watching me. And I try to do better. I wait, and I try to show more empathy to others – and to stop beating myself up in my thoughts.
I re-engage my filter.
If you remembered you were being watched, would you still say the same words? Hit post on Facebook? Send that email? Think that thought? Would you still raise your road-raging middle finger in the direction of the driver who took your parking space?
It’s important that in our world of instantaneous communication we take a second – just a heartbeat – and ask ourselves, will I regret this tomorrow? Who is this going to hurt? How can I reverse my inner dialogue? Would what I’m doing make whoever or whatever is watching feel proud of me or disappointed in me?
Take a moment. Breathe. Let your emotions settle and your filter kick back in. Choose kindness over nastiness in your actions, words, and thoughts. Re-start your filter.
Show more love.
Remember, someone just might be watching you – from a distance.