You Get What You Give

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“Three turns to the right. Alright everyone up for the count of eight. Tap it back, two -three- four.”  There is a typical dialogue from a Master Instructor at Soul Cycle.

Along with direction on how to perform on your bike, is the instructor conversation about living life, finding your best self and optimizing a healthy lifestyle. Sometimes, the advice strikes a nerve, resounding over and over in my head. Laurie repeatedly says, “…you get what you give.”  That makes sense.

Getting what you give is important on so many levels. There is a profound difference between believing in karma, and understanding, “you get what you give.”  On a most basic level, there is the treatment of other people.  We all grew up understanding the Golden Rule – doing unto others as you want them to do unto you. It is quite basic.  But this extends fundamentally into compassion, affection and kindness. However, I would like to explore another aspect-judgment.

I have determined that being judgmental is a natural reaction in human behavior.  It is the ability to counteract that response that elevates us. Having endured some major obstacles in the road, I believe, often jolts a person to adjust their vision to a less judgmental posture. The exploration of why someone reacts one way and accepting it for who they are is not only freeing but uplifting. Understanding that judgment is an initial human reaction, the importance is how you react and process the information. It is far more insightful to appreciate the differences of another, rather than try to make them fit into the box that makes you comfortable.  Much like appreciating friends for their circumstances, limitations and expectations, holding judgment and using their lens can enhance your understanding. We are far better unique than homogenized, and not housing others in your box of values, norms and ideas makes us more interesting and varied.

“Now take off all the resistance and RUN,” Laurie says with excitement at the prospect of running on your bike.  As we are all gasping for a bit more air in our lungs, she expounds on the need to be facially welcoming and approachable. “How many people approach you on the street and ask you directions?” she says.  With that comment, a smile crosses my face.  Living in New York City, I must be asked a question or directions several times each week.  I have manipulated my speech and used hand signals to help describe public transportation or the direction of Central Park, on an on -going basis. Why me-I suppose because I give an air of being accessible. Maybe, am I that way because of what I have endured. My journey has taught me that kindness trumps indifference, that one ever knows what goes on behind closed doors and people can mask pain so easily.

In this conversation it is important to understand that often, people’s actions or reactions are due to “the other thing.”  This can often be seen in relationships when people are not “using their words.” We are instructed to be non confrontational- let it go. However, this will frequently build the volcano of emotion that explodes over the wrong issue at the wrong time. Stay open, stay approachable, the difference in the world is kinder and gentler.

So, how does this involve relationships and dating? I have heard so many single people, men and women alike, jump to swipe left solely based on physical appearances. The second round of dating over 50 is most successful when the judgments and preconceived notions are put aside.  Certainly, in our life journey, it is easier to see the positive attributes that contribute to happiness. With experience comes wonderful peripheral vision. Rarely will someone explain that their perfect relationship was singularly hinged on the facial beauty or the body dynamic of their companion. It is so important to look deeply for the values and principles that will make you happy and content. Putting judgment aside on secondary issues that are more superficial will allow you to find a better match and someone that meets your emotional expectations. Take a good hard look in the mirror.  Are you portraying in yourself what your expectations are for others?  Be honest with yourself, and be sure that you are in sync with the judgments you are making on someone else. Be consistent with self -evaluation. Are you the person you are looking for, and would you rebel if someone judged you for what you are judging? This goes back to the shiny penny theory. Approaching the decades of 50/60/70 there is best an acceptance of seasoning; of finding that person that has experienced, endured, witnessed life’s encounters and has grown and appreciated the weathering.

Recently, a friend was discussing her father’s relationship with his companion of several decades. The family had criticism of her. Listening, I was certain that there was another side to the story and that the children needed to understand the dynamics. Even though the children are in their 50’s and 60’s, their viewpoint was that of a child to a parent. I pointed out that the relationship their father had with his companion was not to be compared to their mother. He had changed, life had changed, and circumstances were definitely different. The judgments they were making were based on the limited knowledge of what their parents allowed them to see. They were incapable of walking in either their Dad’s shoes or their deceased mother’s shoes. A parental relationship with an adult child really needs to try to be judgment free. Of course, as always, kindness and respect should prevail. But judging his relationship with their mother, and his current relationship without total transparency is probably inaccurate and unfair. The lens must be honest and true, not memory or preconceived notions, motives and suppositions.

Light attracts and darkness repels. Be the light. Look at life’s experiences as if it appeared in the light for the first time. If the one judgment we must encounter is at our final call-than as it is said: In the future, when each of us is judged for the final time, we will have to justify ourselves for every opportunity of joy that we saw, but did not partake. Look to the joy, to the positive, to the light.


  • Susan Warner

    I am an educator, wife and mother. My journey is a perfect example of life’s contradictions. A storybook marriage of 38 years and two magnificent children, I existed in the comfort of an extraordinary cocoon of family and friends. Enter the devastating suicide of my 32-year-old son and then the subsequent death of my husband 6 months later of a virulent cancer in an eight-week diagnosis to death, my story is of acceptance, pushing on and not being defined by social emotional norms. I am living my best life, making choices that define my “right turn” after my catastrophic loss, and characterizing a journey to self-actualization and a commitment to help others who have experienced loss. Rediscovering who I am, what lies ahead and the adventure at hand.

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