I once attached my heart to a man after seeing him cry as he told me about the day his dog was euthanized, a decade before.
What I saw as his tender heart spoke straight to mine, and what I understood as his depth of feelings won me over.
Years later, the same man berated me for wanting to postpone our Sunday breakfast by an hour so that I may go support a friend as she took her own dog for a last, heartbreaking visit to the vet.
This man often teared up when hearing about acts of kindness - yet was reliably sharply unpleasant to waiters and waitresses.
I have a dozen examples of what I considered crazy-making inconsistencies of this flavor, over the years. Some of them unsettling.
They puzzled me and I often wondered what I was missing, what I was not understanding. Really: what was wrong with me?
How could someone who felt so much ... feel so little?
Over time, too many forays on that not-so-sensitive side took their toll and I eventually took my own heart back. Something I do neither well nor fast.
But still, I did not understand.
Until just a couple of months ago, in my kitchen. While making breakfast.
We were discussing a movie we had watched the night before and I was grappling with trying to figure out what had been clearly missing for me, from a movie that seemed to have touched so many people.
Thats when my son, while making fresh orange juice said: “well, it’s important to not confuse depth and sentimentality.”
Depth and sentimentality.
Bam! That was it.
Not only did it explain what was missing for me in the movie, but it shone a big bright flashlight on that other nagging question.
In the early days of that long ago relationship, I had confused the two. I had confused depth and sentimentality.
I had seen the sentimentality, had kissed the tears, and had decided that surely, they were merely the tip of a big, miles-deep glorious iceberg of depth and empathy.
“it’s important to not confuse depth and sentimentality.”
I love this. I love distinctions that make us stop and think. And then stop and think about our own actions, our own ways of being in the world.
Ever since that conversation, I’ve been checking in with myself when my heart does a little stirring.
“Is this depth or sentimentality?”
Not judging, not making one good and the other one bad.
Just simply, importantly, not confusing the two.
And definitely not making big decisions based on that confusion.
Here’s to Clarity, to learning, to growing - and to being darn nice to waitresses.