I took a load of liquor bottles to the recycle depot the other day.
Few of them were mine. They were left by a previous flat mate when she moved out.
An assortment of about 40 beer or wine bottles.
As I walked into the building I blanched a bit at the smell. It’s been a while since I’ve been there due to our handy curb-side pickup.
There were a few other people coming and going as per normal, and I found myself wondering what other people thought of me with all these empty liquor bottles.
Were they assuming I had an alcohol problem? That I was responsible for drinking all that wine and beer?
All sorts of cliche images came to mind. The raucous older party girl clinging to her youth by a thread; the sad, older, lonely woman drinking herself to sleep, wishing her life was different.
I am neither.
But there was an immediate amygdala response. Fear of being seen as something I’m not, and being judged.
Others making false assumptions about me. And generating a whole story about what they’re assuming. And then believing it’s reality.
So as I notice this… the fear and scenarios I’m running in my head, I look around me and see that there are 4 men, each engrossed in their own emptying, sorting process, who aren’t paying any attention to me.
I recognize I’m just having a social anxiety moment. I take a few deep breaths and pull myself back into the present. Then I’m good. I chuckle at my perfect imperfectness and focus back on sorting my own bottles.
Then I notice that one of the guys near me has a bit of a beer belly, probably mid forties and I imagine him drinking beer and watching sports, with his kids playing around him.
And another older guy, late fifties or mid sixties; hard to tell because he looked ragged, worn out by too many hardships in life. Maybe homeless or ill.
Then in a flash of insight, I saw what I was doing.
I was doing the same thing to them that I feared they were doing to me. I was running a whole movie about who these guys were and their life circumstances.
And seriously, they could be anyone, with any story.
This is judgement in all its glory.
The Third of The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, is Don’t Make Assumptions.
This agreement states that “the real conflict is between the truth and lies.”
“The truth doesn’t need to prove itself; it exists whether we believe in it or not. Lies only exist is we create them, and they only survive if we believe them.”
This is a powerful agreement to work.
I’ve been endeavouring to pay attention to when I make assumptions. And it happens often. It’s an automatic program; a lizard brain response to fear. Any fear.
So the work is learning to catch it, and unplug from the story so I can challenge it. Ask myself, “Is this real or reel?
When I’m successful, it’s very freeing. I’m flooded with an expansive feeling that anything is possible. The universe is a mystery, ever unfolding.
It’s much more fun than fear and judgement.
So I’m grateful for these moments of illumination, like this one at the recycle depot.
Just another opportunity to get mentally and emotionally healthier, so I can truly be me.
And so… onward, my work continues.