the mapping of a life
why you'll never fully know another
Last week, I was chatting with a friend about the intricate web of relationships and heartaches and excitements that crisscross and interlock to make up the beautiful, messy lives we all lead. The man you see laying heavily on his car horn the exact moment the light turns green; the older woman at the grocery you can’t seem to get around, slowly mazing her way through the aisles; the five-year-old running circles around his mom as they hectically work through the bodega - they’re all juggling different roles with countless other humans, navigating the wilds of functioning in our society. Mostly they’re all just doing the very best they can.
Now, when I look at someone, friends and strangers alike, I imagine a huge web of relationships and activities and issues and joys sprawling, connecting, overlapping in the space above their head. It brought to mind genograms, a mapping technique I learned about in a Marriage and Family Therapy course many moons ago. Similar to a family tree, it’s a visual mapping system focusing on relationships between family members to see and understand interconnections, hereditary patterns, and psychological factors at play in the life of a person.
I began to visualize my own version of a genogram: friendships that mold into the familial over time; human heartaches; activities that bring immense pleasure; to-do items that leave me feeling anguished and uncomfortable; unfiltered emotion of our animals; communal traumas we’ve all worked our way through these past few years.
Creating our own mapping systems can help us grasp an understanding of what’s truly important to us during the time we have in our one precious life, helping us define the relationships we want to cherish and grow, and those that are healthier to part with. Uncovering what activities we would love to create more time for and at what cost, what we’re willing to let go of so we can feel as full as possible during the sweet time we have.
This sort of mapping practice can also bring a gentler perspective to our daily interactions, shedding the assumptions we may make about others, the stories we create in our minds that are often very far from the truth:
Maybe the man rudely honking his horn just lost his partner and is filled with anguish, in need of some way to let out the pain he’s holding in this tender season of his life; maybe the older woman is taking her sweet time mazing through the grocery store because it’s the only human interaction she has each week; maybe the five-year-old’s mom is working multiple jobs so she can put food on the table and give him the birthday celebration with his friends he so desperately wants next month. The only person who really knows the webbing map of their life is them.
May we all learn the maps of our own life, so we can grow the parts that work and release the parts that don’t.
May we all recognize we’ll never fully grasp another’s map. May we break our assumptions, and lead with kindness.
A new digital offering !!! custom home drawings (or other special buildings or sailboats etc etc) Perfect gift for: you just separated from your partner I’m proud of you for making space for yourself in your new home / you moved in with your partner look at the sweet home you’re building together!! / congratulations on buying a new home in this wild market / welcome to the world and your new home, little baby / you’re getting married at this cute inn here is a sweet drawing so you can remember this season forever <3
Some classic vases are available on my site now! They feel so timeless and you can find them here.
And my messy studio photo this week is one of the kilns working so hard in preparation for the holiday season!
The personal peace toolkit is your own catalog of accessible mindfulness techniques to fold into your life in 30 seconds, 5 minutes, and 10 minutes, bringing a little more calm to your days.
This week, we use mapping visualization to bring empathy, lead with kindness, and learn more about our own lives and relationships so we can grasp this precious time, including a map I drew just for you.
If you’re not already a paid subscriber, I hope you consider joining and building some peace and reflection into your life with me <3