I've talked about this before—how we tell ourselves stories about the people and events in our lives and then believe they're true. This week I had an epiphany that reminded me that no matter how sure we are that we're right our stories could be mistaken.
My ex-husband is often late for things. He doesn't like to follow rules. He encouraged our children not to do what people told them to—or follow rules if they didn't want to.
For years I told myself he was immature and/or passive aggressive and it drove me nuts! How could he handicap our son (Down syndrome) even more than he already was.
But...this week I woke up and had an epiphany. I know my ex-husband grew up hearing about relatives who died in Nazi concentration camps—and about those who escaped. He told me once that the reason he never wanted to own a house or other property was because some of the ones who died died because they owned property and wouldn't leave. These stories—he said—were why he put other people ahead of family.
Well, I woke up (having watched Life is Beautiful the day before) thinking: What if? What if my ex-husband grew up hearing about this relative or that who lived because he or she was late to some place they were supposed to be? What if he grew up hearing that this person or that lived because he or she refused to follow the rules and do what they were told to do? What if--?
What if so many of my assumptions were wrong and he was driven by an (unconscious or conscious) imperative that said because our son was handicapped it was even more essential that he not do what he was told because under the Nazis he would have been one of the first taken away?
It changes everything. And nothing. Problem behaviors are still a problem. Relationships that don't work still don't work. But...all of a sudden anger evaporates. Instead of feeling as if I was hostage to his behavior, I can see that perhaps he's hostage to the stories he heard and the emotions/behaviors those stories engendered.
And I may be completely wrong. It's all just speculation—another story I've told myself. But it doesn't matter. Because the real lesson is that there COULD always be reasons for anyone's behavior that may never occur to me. It's a reminder that it isn't necessarily about me—even when it seems to be (whatever “it” is in terms of someone's behavior). It's a reminder to hold compassion even for—maybe especially for—those who do things that upset or hurt me. It's a reminder of the importance of looking within and looking at where my own behaviors and assumptions come from and to challenge those that don't serve me.
It's a reminder that so many assumptions we make are just stories. Some have more evidence behind them than other but....still they are just stories. And stories can be rewritten—especially the ones that keep us trapped in hurt or anger or a mistaken sense of limitation.
Here's hoping you have your own epiphanies and rewrite some stories of your own this week. Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),