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Soft Reminders

In the elevators of my office building, there are always posters announcing various events or providing timely information. And then there is one poster that seems to speak directly to me. It captures my attention every time I ride up or down. In fact, as the posters rotate weekly, it’s become almost my compulsion to find mine. What it says is this:

Obviously, part of a Vanderbilt campaign to promote wellness, this poster became a subtle part of my daily routine, and I began to wonder what others thought of it. I did a completely unscientific survey to gauge the poster’s effect on my colleagues. Upon asking fellow riders, what I found was that an astounding number of people had never noticed it.

This got me thinking that either I’m extremely observant, or in crisis, or perhaps a little of both. Regardless, I wonder if that trivial poster’s message is not a mantra to live by in 2023.

Certainly our self-absorbed society needs more empathy for the downtrodden and marginalized in our world. I worry that our environment is often pushed off as someone else’s problem, perhaps even another generation’s concern. Obviously there are grave concerns we need to pay attention to. However, I also think we let ourselves be “weighed down” by situations beyond our control.

At least I know I do.

I feel other people’s problems too keenly; I search for fixes that are outside my wheelhouse. It’s not that my New Year’s resolution is to abandon empathy, but what if I focus on making myself the best I can be—solving problems and deficiencies within my immediate purview? How much of the time I spend worrying over other people could be targeted toward concrete achievements? As the poster says, how much is simply not mine to carry?

What if every day of 2023 I woke up striving to be the best I can be—without being weighed down and derailed by worldly problems beyond my control?

I love that the elevator poster used the words soft reminder. Almost like a friend reaching over to gently touch my arm. Perhaps in 2023 we need to not only focus on getting our own homes in order, but to offer soft reminders to those in our paths—those people worried about situations beyond their control, bogged down and burdened by loads that are not theirs to carry.

As I type these words, I realize how selfish they seem. But what my elevator rides made me ponder is that perhaps it’s also selfish to internalize and take on other people’s words or problems, because that leaves us no room to create, to innovate, to be our best selves. It allows no space for breathing in fresh air, noticing new blessings, truly living each moment.

Perhaps our greatest expressions of friendship in 2023 are to offer each other soft reminders: whispered assurances that it’s okay to say no, to worry about yourself, to focus on your own needs and struggles. This doesn’t mean we won’t be there for each other—but perhaps when we do respond to cries for help, we’ll do so from a place of greater equilibrium and self-awareness.

Here’s to elevator rides that make you think. And here’s to 2023.

3 thoughts on “Soft Reminders

  1. Sounds like great advice. If we become overwhelmed by problems outside of our control, then nothing is left to handle the situations where we might make a difference. Going to work on this myself. Thanks!

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