Thursday, September 16, 2010

Don't make assumptions....

I got a call an hour or so ago from my beloved Aunt Margie. She's my mother's younger sister, and in the last ten or so years, she's become more like a mother to me than an aunt.

That said, I do not keep in touch as well as I would like to. I think about her almost daily, but almost never pick up the phone to call, and rarely write. And she doesn't do those things, either. It's like we have all these good intentions, but never seem to act on them.

I've never understood this behavior. My mom and I did it, too, and Mom and her sister, and probably on and on through the whole family. Not just Mom's family has this behavior pattern; my dad's family and I do the same dumb thing.

All my life I've felt guilty, like it's my personal failing that I don't keep in touch. Only recently has it become obvious even to me that phone lines work in both directions, that the mail delivers letters to and from people....

And once I realized this fact, I started wondering even harder why the gap between thinking of someone and acting on that thought exists, seemingly everywhere in life. How interesting.

No universal answers have appeared to me yet; if they do, I'll share them! But I have gotten some clarity about it in the last few days. And as usual, the process that led to that understanding is kind of interesting, at least to me.

I think that for my mother, Aunt Margie, and me, it boils down to insecurity. "If you really loved me, you'd ..." (fill in the blank). In this case, "you'd write or call more often." "If you really loved me, if I were really important to you, you would keep in touch." The fact that we don't do the writing or the dialing allows the other person (and ourselves) to reinforce the false belief that we really aren't important to the other one.

Interesting. I've been reading Don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book lately. At first I got completely and utterly stuck on the First Agreement: "Be impeccable with your word." Well, of course! But as I read past the first couple of pages about how our word affects others, I came to the part where he asks that we love ourself.

Um, yeah.... And then I got stuck, realizing that for whatever reason deep in my psyche, I felt incapable of actually loving myself. Why on earth not? The myriad reasons I came up with are grist for innumerable future posts. I'm still not able to say it and mean it, but I'm at least able to entertain the concept. Progress, eh?

But then I started reading more. The Second Agreement is "Don't take anything personally." That one's helping--it allows some distance from the icky things that happen (real or imagined). The third one, "Don't Make Assumptions," is the one that really brought some insight into this business of "if you loved me, you'd ...." For example, here's what Don Miguel says:

In any kind of relationship we can make the assumption that others know what we think, and we don't have to say what we want. They are going to do what we want because they know us so well. If they don't do what we want, what we assume they should do, we feel hurt and think, "How could you do that? You should know." ... A whole drama is created because we make this assumption and then put more assumptions on top of it.
I haven't gotten to the Fourth Agreement yet. But just these first three have helped me make some changes in the way I think, the way I operate. I am not beating myself up about not calling Aunt Margie. I feel sad that this is the pattern we've been following, but I am able to see it as one that's profoundly human. And I can choose a different way.

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