Tuesday, September 1, 2015

     One of the best books I have ever read on coping with life’s inequities and finding balance is The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. One of the four deals with promising ourselves not to make assumptions. I re-read this book regularly because I tend to make the wrong assumptions, and through the years, these untrue thoughts have caused me great angst. They have framed situations in my mind upon which I have acted only to find out later that my assumption was totally false, and my reactions unwarranted. Seems like a simple error to fix, but the longer one indulges in assuming the negative, the harder it is to stop that thinking process. A colleague of mine said to me once when I was feeling low, “Just say to yourself, STOP.” Yeah, right. Works for me about 1% of the time. Despite the fact that I have an iron-clad list of resilience tools sharpened and re-sharpened over the years, I have determined that assuming the negative is my tragic flaw. As Brené Brown says, the bravest among us get up, show up and man up. Well, this morning I am “man”ing up to deal with one of my latest assumptions.

     I had scheduled a performance of my one-woman show for next spring. The Program Chair emailed me last night to tell me she had double-booked that month and asked if I would be available at a “future time.” I looked at the e-mail and said to myself, “Ok, here it is. Assume positive (she’s telling the truth”) or assume negative (she’s disenchanted with my program which she has never seen). Hmm. Sometimes when I am faced with the question of how I choose to frame something, it depends on where I am emotionally that day, that week, that month. If I’m feeling confident, I go with positive; if I’m feeling vulnerable, I instinctively default to the negative. The wrong assumption will lead me to angst, frustration and perhaps even to taking an action unwarranted by the thought. In this case, I might choose to give up my program altogether. Now why would I do that, you might ask. Because 100 retired ladies who have never heard me or of me won’t? Even if it were true and the woman who hired me decided that she didn’t like the promotional disc I sent her or maybe someone told her I wasn’t “good enough,” that obviously doesn’t mean that I’m not or that any of the women in the audience would agree with her. I am a Program Chair for another organization, and my choice of performer is the only choice my members have, as I’m the one doing the hiring. The Program Chair has the power to hire whomever she chooses, so her opinion is the only one that matters. This doesn’t mean she makes the best choices; they are simply the only choices while she holds the office. 

     The most important question, therefore, is how much power will I give to a woman (the Program Chair) whom I do not know, who after hiring me never confirmed receipt of my promotional material and suddenly, two months later tells me she is double-booked. If she is double-booked, what does that tell me about her decision/organizational skills.?And to think that I would even consider giving up my wonderful program because I am disappointed or my ego is bruised is totally absurd. Yet, how many times have I reacted like this in the past? I don’t want to go there.

     So, as I always said to my students, “Quel en est le but?” What’s the point? The point is be careful when making assumptions, particularly without all the facts and without clarifying. I have chosen to assume the positive: the lady is unorganized, and when she comes back to hire me after I’m very famous, I’m sorry, I will be booked.