Not better. Not worse. Just different.

This is the idea that dominated my thoughts as I navigated my first two days in Bangkok. I noticed that the persistent chatter of my “judging mind” had switched off, and this simple idea had taken its place.

Thousands of motorbikes swarmed around the traffic like busy bees in search of pollen. Tuk Tuk’s filed the cracks with millimeters to spare. No apparent rules. Therefore, no expectations and no gap between expectation and reality.

Houses with leaky corrugated metal roofs sat side by side with modern skyscrapers and luxury hotels. And no one looked particularly unhappy about it.

Concrete shops, barely a few feet wide, stacked one against the other, with no way to get to them but via single-file “sidewalks” (that disappeared without notice) or barely-there concrete rain gutters, with traffic whizzing within inches of our shoulders.

The toilets… Well, at risk of TMI, let’s just say they had a different way – and, surprisingly, I am missing it!

Negotiating the price of nearly every item, every ride – all without malice or emotional baggage. (Thank goodness for my badass daughter, who left this country never wanting to “bother” anyone, but who stood toe-to-toe with every taxi driver.)

And, of course, the lilting song (“s-wadicaaaa”) that rang out upon every entrance, and the sacred “wai” (hands in prayerful position) and bow on every departure.

Instead of judging, as I so often do here – too close, too loud, too intrusive, to poor, too dirty, too formal – my mind gently moved into dispassionate noticing.

“What if it’s just different?” I thought. Not better. Not worse. Just different.

This is worth remembering as I return to a world that strives to make every experience consummately safe and comfortable for me – and where the gap between expectation and reality is always lacking.

Exhausting, isn’t it?

What if that person/circumstance I am judging is just different? My new mantra.

Sigh… Feels good.