Assume Nothing

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My mom recently visited me from out of state and gave one piece of advice to my partner and I. She said, “Sweetie, no matter what you do, do NOT make assumptions that you know what each other is thinking.” My mom reminded me this was one of The Four Agreements, a book by Don Miguel Ruiz. She shared her own stories of how it hurts when others put words in your mouth and do not take the time to actually talk with you and listen to find out what you are truly thinking.

The old saying rings true, “To assume makes an ass out of you and me.” At least this is how I feel when I wrongly accuse or guess something on which I have no grounds to stand on. There have been several instances where this advice would have come in handy since it was given to me, but did I listen? Noooooo! Okay. No. I didn’t. But did I learn my lesson? Yeeessss!

I’d like to dive into the idea behind making assumptions. Where do we get these ideas in the first place? Well, I know for me, my thoughts about what will happen or how someone else may respond to something has always come from my past experiences. Even though, sometimes we are often accurate in our guesses because of the past, this does not mean that every time we will get the same result.

Another way that people make assumptions is based solely on appearances. Let’s say there are two students in a high school science class that you can choose between to pick as your lab partner. One is dressed in sweatpants and a concert t-shirt and their hair is a mess like they just got out of bed; while the other student is wearing glasses, has their clothes neatly tucked in, and their hair is styled and combed. Just by this alone, one might assume that the student wearing glasses is smarter or cares more about school because they bothered to look nice. For all that we know the student who looks nice may be smart and well dressed but maybe their best subject isn’t science. For all that we know, the one that looks sloppy is super tired because they stayed up all night reading the science homework and is ready to ace this project. Why do we make judgement on appearances? Perhaps, if we took the time to talk to each student and ask them the same questions, it would be clear which student we would want to pick as our lab partner.

Silly example, maybe. But we do this as adults all the time. We make assumptions because of appearance, cultural background, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc. We label and name call, we judge, and make generalizations and stereotypes. It has become second nature. Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we? How do we change something that is so ingrained in us?

Well, where does anything begin? It can only begin with yourself. Our judgments come from our own personal beliefs. Some of these beliefs are passed down from our parents and our grandparents, others from mentors like teachers, and then of course our peers. These are our influences as we grow into adults and then it is simply through our own experiences that we develop new thoughts, but most often we hold on to our deeply-held beliefs from childhood. So one very important tool that we must observe constantly is our mind. Besides judging others, are we constantly judging ourselves? Listen to your “self-talk” and what you are saying. Are your thoughts self-defeating or self-empowering? Do you put yourself down or build yourself up? Are you judging or honoring yourself? Again, if we can learn to understand where these thoughts come from and why we might be thinking them, then we can begin to re-train ourselves to stop doing that or to re-place the negative thoughts with more positive ones.

Let’s move on to the scenario of our interactions with others. Let’s say the interaction is with a significant other (or a family member). Are we making assumptions because it is easier to guess what the other is thinking and so we put our own twisted thoughts into their mouths rather than actually walk over and talk with another human being? Are we afraid to be vulnerable, to be wrong, to bruise our precious egos? Sometimes, we think the worst and so we try to avoid conflict all together and decide it is best to just keep it to ourselves, but as a result we turn passive aggressive and resentful when we don’t ask questions and vocalize our concerns. Often, it turns out the other person was not thinking anywhere close to what we assumed they were and if they were it is usually good to get it out into the open where both people can feel better once they are each heard and take time to listen to each other. The best option of all is to just talk with one another and find out the truth instead of  talking about the problem to everyone else or making assumptions about our distorted reality.

Lastly, I’d like to discuss the idea of mindfulness. Something, I am eager to practice more of. The practice of mindfulness is to observe without judgments. We may be sitting on a park bench and notice someone is walking past us with white tennis shoes and a red backpack, but we make no judgment about who that person is or where they are going. We just notice. We see geese eating in the grass and squirrels running up and down the tree trunks, and kids playing in the park, but we make no judgments. We see couples holding hands, many cultures coming together to enjoy one park, but we make no judgments. This is a wonderful practice to clear your mind of all judgments and just notice everything around you without assigning thoughts and stories to them.

Since everyone struggles with making assumptions, I knew it would be good to get more insight on the subject, so I discussed it with my partner and the ideas came pouring out as we talked. We too struggle with communication at times until we choose to be vulnerable about our thoughts and our feelings. Once we do tell the other what our needs are, we make a lot of effort to meet each of our own needs either together or separate so that once again we feel valued and whole. When you feel afraid to speak with someone, remember that the best result will come from talking with each other and asking questions instead of making assumptions. Go to the source instead of asking everyone else what they think, besides the one person. I struggle with this one when I am wanting to avoid conflict, but in return, it comes out as gossip when I am simply trying to work through something. I need to go to the source and ask or talk instead of worrying about all the thousands of things it could be. Assume nothing. THE END. 🙂

De-Clutter Your Life (Part 3)

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I suppose this is the post where I tell all of my wonderful discoveries and amazing inside secrets that will change your lives forever, right? That is what is expected when there are sequels with anything. Whether it is a book, a movie, or a blog, in the final part, sequel, or section, there is a conclusion, there to wrap everything up in a neat little bow. Well, unfortunately I’m here to report there is no conclusion. Surprised? Me too. Sometimes I have an epiphany and all of a sudden I think I have things all figured out. Life becomes clear and simple, until of course when it doesn’t. Here’s the absolute truth: Life is a process, followed by a process, oh yeah and then there’s a process. It rather kills me to say that, but no matter what, we cannot fight the truth, because it will always be there staring us right in the face. Even if at first we choose to ignore it, it will always just be there patiently waiting for you to arrive.

There are many times in my life where I am learning lessons. This one is that everyone has their own way of being happy, their own process, their own methods to de-clutter. I often seek advice from friends and family, but this time is different. I realized that I need to start to trust my own inner voice and what it is telling me. I need to learn to be still with myself and push away all of the chatter. I need to tell the mean little girl in my head that tells me I am not smart enough or good enough or talented enough to take a hike because I don’t want her in my life anymore. I only want people (including myself) that believe in me and my journey, my process.

In the process of attempting to figure out how to de-clutter my life, I feel like it is happening from the inside out. For the past two weeks, I have felt overly sensitive and emotional. I have felt lonely, angry, and hurt. I have cried more in the last two weeks than I have in a normal year! I know that is my soul yearning for purpose and change. Even though I don’t know exactly what it will look like, I know that I am being blessed everyday and one step closer to my next change, my next process.

I choose what to fill my life with and how to spend my time. I choose what I value and what I don’t, what is good for me and what is not. I choose to listen and dwell in negativity or to look for the good. I choose to be at war or to be at peace. You choose for your own life and if you see someone else struggling, remind them that they always have a choice and remember that you cannot do it for them. You can be supportive for someone else but you cannot live for them, only they can. My analysis, that you have to get through the tough shit to get to the good shit and it is a cycle and it is process. Learn to trust the process. Learn to trust in yourself. Learn to accept yourself for who you are and where you are in life and be excited for what’s to come.

The Road Less Traveled

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(Actual  path – picture taken by me)

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.” 

— Robert Frost 

Yesterday, after a rather frustrating day of work, I decided to go to a nearby lake to relax and rejuvenate. I sat near the water, away from others, and watched the water roll into small, rippling waves. I felt the cool breeze on my face and breathed in the fresh air.  Across the street there is a park with a walking path that goes into the woods. When I walk there I typically stay on the paved path, because that is what is set out before me; that is what I know. As I neared the top of the first short hill I found myself at a crossroad, that actually looked more like a piece sign, instead of a “T” or “Y” shape. I looked to my left and there was a shorter paved path that simply looped back to the beginning of the trail, for those who perhaps wanted a quicker loop. Then, to my near right, was a longer paved path which would allow others to keep walking for a bit longer. Finally, to my right, there was a narrow dirt path that led to…Well I don’t know. I often wondered where it went. I decided that I didn’t want to walk the same path I often walk, but to take the new path and explore. So I did.

I began to walk along the dirt path and the first thing I stumbled upon, after going down a small hill, was railroad tracks. This actually reminded me of my childhood when I used to walk along train tracks and think by myself (Yes; even as a child I was pensive). I kept walking onto the trail again and for some reason, being in the middle of the woods, I started getting nervous after hearing rustling sounds and strange noises coming from the trees and the bushes. My thoughts turned to irrational things like being attacked by a wolf or a coyote! All of a sudden I came to a clearing and in someone’s yard a frozen wolf was staring at me! I stopped suddenly (and so did my heart) staring wide eyed back and frozen myself. And then I saw this “scary wolf” was only a yard ornament. Whew! So I started to relax and enjoy my walk full of noises and creatures. I came upon a clearing and saw a couple of bunnies hopping across and one was chasing a bird. I continued to walk on this dirt path, back into the woods until I saw another opening and I realized it was the paved road. Knowing this paved path was less interesting and rather predictable, I decided to turn around and go back the way I came.

The way back on this dirt path was far less scary. I heard the same scary noises and saw the “scary wolf” figurine, but I wasn’t afraid. It turns out the unknown was more fearful in my mind than in reality. Before my walk was over, I paused to watch the flight of a butterfly. It migrated from flower to flower (rather a pretty weed) and flew all around really quickly until it landed on another. I was hypnotized by its bright orange wings and its delicate flight pattern. It was so serene. I finished my walk feeling clear-minded and reflective. I realized I was ready to take a new path, whatever it was and wherever it may lead. I am bored by my routine and safety. Though I may be scared to try something new, I think it will also be beautiful and adventurous along the way. I guess we’ll have to see where this new path will take me, the path less traveled.

De-Clutter Your Life (Part 2)

Hi there. I am back, with only slight progress. I am taking the advice I have received along with my own thoughts and reflections from the past week-and-a-half. So this is where I am at and what I have processed…

First of all, I have realized that lately (the past few months) ALL of my friends and family have become extremely busy and I have been only spending time with my partner (which is normal for most people, but not for me). At first, I felt hurt and lonely that no one was calling me or reaching out to spend time with me. I was contemplating that maybe I reached a new time in my life where I needed to find new friends that matched my current state of life contemplations or develop new hobbies to busy my new-found free time. Now, I am realizing that the Universe is simply allowing me to take time for myself and get back to figuring out what makes me feel complete and happy (even though I was not using this time effectively, until now). It seems I often rely on my connections and relationships with others to feel value or contentment in life; because love and relationships with people is what I value, but it doesn’t have to be what gives ME value.

I have never been good at “being alone”. I grew up as the youngest of three older brothers and an older step-sister. So I often had to play alone (since they always ditched me to hang with their older friends) if my friends were busy. I constantly complained to my step-mom that I was bored and she would offer to have me help with chores or find something else to do. I, of course, most often chose to find another activity (other than chores), but I always felt like it was hard to entertain myself. Why am I telling you all of this? I am telling you because I am in the exact same situation as when I was a child. I feel bored and lonely (as still a very social person who often fills my time with the people I love on a weekly basis) and none of my friends or family members are available to spend time together.

So this brings me to square one. My life stopped being chaotic with plans with people every day and week. I have the opportunity to choose how I want to spend my time. I have lately felt like going to work every day is very unsatisfying and I’m often bored as there are fewer customers that I have to help for the last few hours of my work day. I started poor eating habits when I went home and eating or drinking later and staying up watching Netflix. I realized that leaves me feeling tired and achy all day long. I haven’t been exercising my body or my brain. So while this may fulfill others, I cannot keep going like this.

From the advice I have received thus far, I am learning to meditate on things (situations that leave me feeling a lot of negative emotions) and then trying to let it go. Examples of this is the feeling of being alone and the feeling of abandonment when people are too busy to call me or spend time with me. There is deep rooted pain that comes along with this, that right now is not the time to go into, but trust me, there is more than what it seems. I have to remember to not take it personally and realize that this just happens sometimes people are just busy and they are not avoiding me or abandoning me and it is okay to be alone and rejuvenate. Often, in fact, it is a blessing in disguise.

The second piece of advice I am beginning to practice is to find out what feels good and if it does not feel good to me, I decide to no longer do it. An example of this is that I stay up too late watching Netflix and do not sleep well if I have a glass of wine too late or too much of it. So now, I am beginning to read the last 15 minutes of bedtime and in the morning instead of waking up to check my phone, I eat my breakfast and then read again for about 15 minutes. This way before I sleep and when I start my day, my head is filled with peace and quiet instead of electronics and excitement.

I have not completely de-cluttered my life, of course, and this is a process, so there will be a part 3 next week to sum it up a bit better. This week, I wanted to check in with everyone on my progress and see if anyone else is trying to change their habits, or stop negative thoughts, or de-clutter their personal life.

Thoughts, comments, more advice, shared experiences?

~ Karen

*Thanks again for taking the time to read my blog!