Making Assumptions and Learning a Lesson

I went to Physical Therapy today.  I started on the bike, did all my squats and stretches, and the leg work, and then it was time for a rub down of that now-aching hip.  As I lay on my back, my head on two pillows and my knees on a bolster, I felt so much better even before the massage started.

And that got me thinking.

When I was in Colorado, I married into a family of men, young and old, who all worked hard at tough physical jobs, including ranching, driving a truck, delivering packages.  When we gathered at the dinner table, I could see in their faces that they were beat, although still always laughing and kind and a lot of fun.  Everyone went to bed at obscenely early hours — 7-8PM, but then they mostly worked starting at four or five, and a steak and egg breakfast had to come first.  A weekend of this wore me out, much less a lifetime.

All but one of the brothers, my husband H., visited chiropractic offices two or three times a week.  They all seemed to get satisfaction from the appointments and the manipulations.  I was 23 years old, and I knew everything, of course; I knew it was just mental, there was no help to be found in chiro-practice, they should see doctors right away, to correct the damage the chiropractor inflicted.  No one ever told me to shut up — they really treated me well — but on and on I went, basically calling all of them stupid, though I never used that word.

Then, my physical therapist came over and started trying to loosen that leg, which is always as tight as a rubber band.  I told him about my memory, and confessed that now I knew what they were talking about.  Chris immediately pointed out that physical therapists are not chiropractors — this I knew, but I told him about my derision for my in-laws’ dependence on the second, and confessed to him that I had never tried it before I treated them that way.  Now here I was, on the table, experiencing my version of the same activity, and it really helped.  I felt like something of a jerk for saying those things, but fortunately, no one put as much weight on my words as I did.

Today was a good example of all of the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, which are:

1.  Be Impeccable With Your Word
2.  Always Do Your Best
3.  Don’t Take Anything Personally
— and especially —
4. Don’t Make Assumptions

I made a big assumption with my family-in-law; I decided that I knew better than they did, though I had never been to a chiropractor, and I’d really never done hard work, except with them on the ranch, so I didn’t know anything.  I think I figured them for slightly slower country “cousins” who couldn’t possibly know as much about medicine as I did.

I would never have told them that, but I took it as a given that they knew it and were just being stubborn.  Hence the scorn.  I never admitted to myself that I felt that way, either — I loved them all very much, and I came to love how they welcomed me into the family, although they may have believed I was warped, somehow.  Whatever they thought, they accepted me for who I was at the time, wholeheartedly.

Which reminds me of a subject I know I wrote about before, but I can’t find it:

When I met my second husband, H., I was working in the Buckboard Express, in Colorado Springs, where cocktail waitresses wore costumes, including fishnet stockings and garters and satin and silk.  I loved that job.  I met one of H.’s brothers at the bar, as well.  Nice guys.

Then, H. invited me to his parents’ for dinner.  He told me a little about them, but I was too busy thinking about what I would wear to hear him.  I went out, bought a lovely queen-of-the-rodeo dress with a fitted top and a swirly skirt.  I got a new perm in my hair, (I looked like a poodle.)  While at the beautician’s shop, I decided to get artificial nails, and we painted them fire-engine red.  I assumed I looked great.

Until I walked into the ranch house, and saw a family all in jeans and frayed, button-up shirts and boots.  I think now I might have wanted to alienate them, somehow, (I’ve been examining passive-aggressive behavior;) they were totally unflapped, and made me feel right at home.  After dinner, I tore off the nails, borrowed a shirt and some shorts, and got my flat shoes out of the car and put them on, in place of the 3 1/2 inch heels I usually wore to work with my costume.  We went outside, and H.’s dad told me about the history of the ranch, and told me about Hereford cattle and pointed out a cow-and-calf pair in a nearby pasture, showing me the markings and explaining the different colors and patches I would see.  I learned more in that hour than I ever knew before, about animal biology and farming.  I learned, as well, that all I needed to do was be myself, and this great, interesting family would take me in.

Funny, I started by writing about making assumptions in a negative way.  But H.’s family jumped to a conclusion with me that I didn’t expect.  I didn’t have to prove myself in any way; they assumed I was lovable and loving, and in their company I became exactly that, for a while, at least.

I am still a know-it-all, but now I am a lot more reticent about correcting others, especially in subjects I know nothing about.  Learning to listen, and rein in my one-ups-man-ship, is often trying, but I will never regret learning this lesson — I am not the smartest person around, not by far.  And that’s just fine.

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