The Stories We Tell Ourselves

At a recent funeral of a family member, I found myself  reconnecting with someone who had come to show his respect for my family, someone with whom I had not spoken in several years. Though we had a very pleasant conversation at the funeral, I couldn’t help but be reminded of some of the more tense ones we had in the past. Later that evening as I was reflecting on the day, I was suddenly struck by how this person had hugged me, both in his initial greeting and again later as he was saying goodbye. Each time, as his arms went around my shoulders, he leaned in with his right shoulder and seemed to create a barrier or block. It was unnatural and noticeably different from his hugs in the past, and I couldn’t help but wonder what this new version was really about. Was he still trying to “win,” even after all this time? I had so hoped we had finally made our peace…

As I pondered, it wasn’t long before I was quite sure there was intentionality and a not-so-subtle message in the hugs.  As my annoyance grew, I considered sending a text to call out the behavior and let him know I was on to his game. But I was also perplexed. Our conversation that day was quite cordial and even kind-hearted. Why the mixed message?  So,  before sending my indignant text, I thought I would first try and recreate the so called ‘hug’ and see how he could have intentionally done it – TWICE.

As I draped my arms around an imaginary me, I realized I needed to bend my right knee slightly so my right shoulder would lean in and re-create the perceived block. At the same time, my left knee had to be locked and straight.  Yep, that was the move! If creating some sort of block was his intention, this move was definitely repeatable!

And then it hit me. I remembered hearing he had knee replacement surgery a year or so ago. Could it be he simply couldn’t comfortably bend his left knee so that his hug would be more natural?

Oh my.  I sure am glad I didn’t send that righteous text.

My habit:

  • I have a habit of taking action. Had I sent the text immediately, my habit would have been controlling the situation. My choice in how I could behave would have been limited.

My lessons:

  • It’s amazing how our stories, fueled by our history and more by our imagination, can so quickly become distorted truths.
  • How important it is to notice how those perceived truths can influence our behaviors and create a dynamic that can quickly take us off course.
  • Sometimes I just need to wait….

My practice:

  • When ever I find myself jumping to conclusions, I want to practice thinking of 3 possible stories that make the other person good instead of bad.
  • Be honest – could any of them be true?
  • What are the implications?
  • If I chose to act, what behavior best aligns with who I want to be?

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