Recently, I was watching an episode of Gilmore Girls. Yes, I am a Gilmore Girl junkie. I love it – the quick wit, banter, literary references, and subtle wisdom. Who knew lessons could be learned while watching a simple television show?
In the last episode I watched, it was Lorelei, the wise-cracking, adorable mom of a teenager, who taught me a few things. I guess I knew them all along. Perhaps I just needed a reminder.
Before I tell you what I learned, here is a rundown of the characters:
The Gilmore Girls are a mother-daughter, and best friends, team that live in a tiny town called Stars Hollow. Lorelei is the mom, Rory is the daughter.
While Lorelei and Rory are a story in themselves, there are many colorful characters in this show, two of which are Lorelei’s parents, Richard and Emily Gilmore.
Richard and Emily are well-to-do snobs (though totally lovable), living in a large home complete with servants.
In season 3, episode 10, Richard’s mother, Trix (played by Marion Ross), comes to visit. Trix is snobbier than any of them, uptight, in everyone’s business, and isn’t afraid to speak her mind.
Trix wants to see Lorelei’s house, and whatever Trix wants, she gets.
Emily freaks at the thought of Trix walking into her daughter’s home, an average size house with furniture and knick-knacks that are, shall we say, quirky.
Emily speeds to the house, and as she is in the process of moving a sofa across the floor, Lorelei walks in.
“Hold it right there. Stop,” says Lorelei.
“This couch cannot stay. It’s awful ….we have to do something.”
“What is so horrible about this room?” asks Lorelei.
“You may like it, but your grandmother will not. She will take one look at this junk-store collection of hobo furniture and she’s going to blame me.”
“For letting you live like this…”
Lorelei instructs her mom to sit down. “I’d like to give you some advice….you need a new mindset….there are many things in my life you don’t approve of.”
“Like what?” asks Emily.
“Like this couch.”
“Well, this couch is terrible.”
“You think the couch is terrible. Now at one point in my life you saying that a couch that I carefully picked out and had to pay off for eight months is terrible…. One day, I decided instead of being hurt and upset by your disapproval I was going to be amused. I’m going to find it funny.”
Lorelei goes on to tell Emily how “this idea could set you free.”
Think about it. Freedom from others, their thoughts and disapproval, their judgement and criticism. Freedom to not worry what others think.
We live in a world where we are judged, not by who we are, not by our generosity, kindness, or sincerity, but by what we wear and drive, and what we have, like the sofa in our living room.
Sometimes, we are even judged by what we don’t have.
I’ve told this story before, but it is one worth repeating:
My son was about eight, and had a good friend whose parents owned a lot of ‘stuff.’ Their living room was filled with furniture, and every wall held a picture. Ceiling-to-floor shelving sat between the kitchen and living room, each small shelf holding books, vases, frames, and miscellaneous knick-knacks. I never did see inside their children’s rooms, but I vaguely remember the parent’s bedroom, and the many pieces on the dresser and bedside tables.
I also remember the parents walking into our house, and making comments like, “You need more furniture,” and, “Where are all your pictures?”
My son came home after a visit to his friend’s house, looked around, and innocently asked, “Are we poor?”
What a funny question, I thought. Our children were well-fed, owned plenty of clothes, ate good food, had enough toys to keep them, and the neighbor children, busy for months. We vacationed, camped, dined out, and our children participated in every sport known to mankind. Poor? Hardly. But I wondered why he asked.
I looked around the living room, at the sofa where we sat each evening, reading books and laughing, and at the loveseat next to it, where I curled up on chilly winter days. At the end of the room sat a large piano, one my oldest son played nearly every night. Near the entry were two small chairs where my boys tied their shoes before bounding out the door. Two pictures adorned the walls, one bought while on a family vacation, the other one my husband and I picked out many years ago. Except for one small vase, the room was void of knick-knacks.
“No, we’re not poor,” I said.
Never Change for Others:
I never changed our house, it remained the clean, simple home it always was. I didn’t add more furniture, or place books on the table. Because that day, I learned something. No matter how much others judge, no matter how much they criticized and condemned, my life was mine. I only needed to smile and laugh to set myself free.
Another Reminder Needed:
Life has a funny way of turning around and making us forget the very lessons we were once so passionate about. I’m not sure when it happened, or how, but one day, I realized I was once again trying to please others.
I was shopping to wear what society and the current fad said I should wear. I was wearing my hair in the latest style, and dressing my home in the nicest pieces. And I wasn’t always happy. (It’s a lot of work to try to please others.)
Even when I began minimalism, I think, at times, I was doing it to belong, to feel part of a group that would not judge. The funny thing is, no matter what we do, wear, own, or don’t own, there will always be someone to judge, criticize, condemn.
One More Lesson:
That wasn’t the end of my lesson that day. There was one more: Don’t judge others.
How unfair it is for me to ask others not to judge. How unfair to ask others to accept my possessions, or lack of. How unfair to ask others to accept me as I am if I do not do the same to them.
I can’t say I never make mistakes, and sometimes look for acceptance. I can’t say I’m never judgmental or critical, I am too human for that. But I can say I am trying, to accept others for who they are, and not by what they own. To laugh and be free in the face of criticism.