Monday, October 22, 2012


“Don’t Make Assumptions.
Find the courage to ask questions
and to express what you really want.
Communicate with others as clearly as you can
to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.
With just this one agreement, 
you can completely transform your life.
~ Miguel Angel Ruiz

As You Think (c) 2012
They stayed in the city that night instead of retuning home to the mountains, so they seized the opportunity to take a late night stroll through the neighborhood—past the restaurants and yoga studios, churches and schools; past the houses with lights on where people moved about the way they do before turning in for the night.

Thrilled to be out walking past 9 p.m. (something they rarely did in their mountain community), they walked slowly, hand-in-hand, savoring the night, as they moved comfortably between sound bites of their busy week and absolute silence.  Then it happened, one of those “Aha!” moments that brings understanding.  The exchange went something like this:

HE SAID:  You know, if we kept our place in the mountains and bought a house or condo in the city, we could go walking like this every night.

SHE SAID:  That would be fantastic!

HE SAID:  But once our child starts school we couldn’t do that.

SHE SAID:  Why not?  We could just go after dinner.

HE SAID:  No, that won’t work.  Once our kid starts school we won’t be able to do that!

SHE SAID (with growing frustration):  Well, why the heck not?  I mean, once the kid starts school he’ll be old enough to stay up past 7 p.m., so why couldn’t we just have an early dinner and go right after?

HE SAID (also with growing frustration):  What are you talking about?  Once the kid starts school it won’t even be an option!

SHE SAID (eyebrows cocked, hands on hips and evermore frustration):  What am I talking about?  What are YOU talking about?  It’s not like our kid has to go to bed at 5 p.m.—why couldn’t we just go after dinner?

HE SAID (voice raised, chest bowed and that tone he gets when he’s convinced he’s among idiots):  Once school starts we’re not going to be running back and forth like that just to go for a walk in the City!

They stopped in their tracks and looked at each other, their faces colored with a mix of amused irritation and a hint of understanding; something in their communiqué was amuck!

Turns out, she had assumed that if they had a second home in this lovely neighborhood that their child would attend the prestigious Academy, a charter school located right in the middle of the development, so there was no reason why they couldn’t make this walk every night after dinner if they chose to.  But she didn’t say that; not to him anyway; not out loud.

And it turns out that he had assumed that once the kid started school they would be staying at their mountain home during the week because that’s where he would be registered for school, in his home community.  But he didn’t explain any of that; not to her anyway; not out loud.

But the real kicker is that this “child” they spoke of, the one whose schooling would prevent these fabulous evening walks through the city—completely fictitious; an unborn idea between an unmarried couple dreaming out loud about the future.

All the while, she thought he was being uptight about their child’s bedtime and he thought she had gone mad thinking they would be driving up and down the mountain to accommodate a late night city stroll, neither making any sense to the other at all.  But as the hole in their communication cleverly revealed itself, real magic happened.  There, in the gap, they saw the unspoken assumptions that had led them down this path of confusion.  They laughed so hard it hurt!

Thing is, so much of our experience of life takes place in our heads!  Sure, we move about in our day-to-day existence, grounded in the physical.  Yet whole worlds exist up there in the space between, real or imagined—for good or ill—and our perception of the world and the people in it and what’s going on around us all come from that place; including our disappointments about the way things “ought to be,” which points the finger of our personal suffering right back at us!

We make assumptions and then we make assumptions about those assumptions—assuming others are operating with the same understanding—many of which are flawed and which, in oft surprising ways, trigger our emotional experience and inflame our hotspots.  Next thing you know, you find yourself in that heated debate over why you can or can’t take an evening walk in the city after dinner with your unborn child because of where he’ll go to school!

Fascinating and a little bit scary when you consider that on some level we’re all doing this—experiencing the world around us in our heads—which may or may not produce an accurate picture of what’s really going on.  The key, I think, is to ask questions.  

When we make clarity and truth a priority in our lives, it allows us to acknowledge when we don’t understand something, to ask for confirmation, without getting all tangled up in the ego's need to be right.  And as our young couple learned, when we seek to bridge those communication gaps rather than assume another’s intent when we feel confused or offended, real magic awaits.  The only dumb questions are those not asked, so go ahead, give it a go.  You'll be surprised at the outcome and, who knows, you might just have a good laugh! 

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