Close family and friends can be like your favorite pair of shoes — comfortable, familiar and predictable. This can make it difficult for us to notice the changes taking place in those closest to us.
A good example of this is the family dog. He’s raised up from a puppy, spends the next eight or ten years in status quo, then one day you look at him and realize he’s OLD. A colleague mentioned this not too long ago — she met with some high school friends after not seeing them for over ten years. She really couldn’t see the lines around their eyes or the widening of their middles — she said it was like they were in their teens. She couldn’t see past what she was familiar with.
This practice of mindfulness and awareness will help you to ultimately acknowledge who the people you care most about are becoming and what’s really important to them.
Enlist the help of a friend or family member so you can complete this successfully. Both of you will be writing down objective observations about the other one — you might notice a grey hair and think, “Wow, I bet she didn’t notice that! She never would let her grey show!”
Perhaps she’s decided to embrace that aging process and let it occur naturally. You could be making assumptions based on what you used to know. In reality, to practice the non-judgmental side of things, you want to just make note of the grey hair — describe its texture and tone, even.
- Sit down across from your chosen subject. Notice your connection with him/her. Write down what it feels like (i.e. amiable, tense, relaxed, etc).
- Now, starting at the top of his/her head, notice the color of their hair. Has it changed at all since you first met? Is it now curly? Straight? Thinning? Thicker? Shorter? Longer? Make any notes of how it is different.
- Next, move on to his/her face. Notice skin texture changes, lines, eye color — anything that you hadn’t really noticed before. When I ran through this with a childhood friend, I noted his eyes have become greener and less hazel — something I hadn’t noticed since we met years and years ago.
- As you’re talking to this person, has their voice changed?
- Make note of any other physical characteristics that have changed since you first met, highlighting the ones you HAD NOT noticed before.
- Once you’ve finished with the physical, move on to the other aspect — the inner person. Are they now married? Kids? New hobbies? A new religion or belief system? Write down anything that’s helped shape them into who they are now.
Now that you have both completed the exercises observing the other party, compare notes. You are going to find that you are seeing things in them that they don’t see in themselves, and vice versa. Ask them if you’ve missed anything that they think is important. It’s a fascinating process.