Cheryl's Blog

Telling stories

While on vacation, I’m sharing a favorite memory – a blog I wrote about our cat, Poupon, when we were lucky enough to still have him with us. He was a dear companion… and a wonderful teacher.

~*~ Telling stories ~*~

While making tea this morning, my cat Poupon got upset when he didn’t get his usual treat. We share a ritual. When I add almond milk to my tea, I always mix a little with a bit of warm water and give it to him in a small dish. He looks forward to it and gets all excited as soon as I turn on the teapot.

At least that’s the story I tell myself.

Last night I forgot to soak almonds and therefore couldn’t make any milk for my tea or for Poupon. And, as soon as he discovered that he wasn’t getting his milk, he began meowing. That’s when I started thinking:

Poor dear, he’s upset.
He thinks I’ve forgotten his treat.
He’s wondering why I’m not giving him his almond milk.

Then I started laughing. Poupon is a cat and a sweet sidekick, and while we do communicate with each other, the truth is I have no idea what he’s thinking or feeling. I can only imagine. And that’s what I do. I imagine.

The moment Poupon started meowing, I made up a story. I projected my thoughts and feelings onto him and then made them true. We all do this. Every day. And it causes needless suffering and pain because rarely are the stories we make up positive and empowering. Our reptilian brain anticipates trouble and before you know it, we’re imagining the worst. A friend is late for dinner and you tell yourself that she doesn’t value your time. The boss closes his door to meet with a co-worker and a little voice in your head is convinced they’re talking about firing you. Or the kids neglect to help around the house and you convince yourself that nobody cares about you or your needs.

Throughout the day, we’re like reporters assigning stories to those we come in contact with. We make assumptions. We attach meaning to people and events. We weave together a narrative and then treat it as if it’s real, responding and reacting to our tall tales.

These days I’m doing my best to live in reality rather than fantasyland. This requires a daily practice of catching myself when I start making up stories. And believe me, I have my work cut out for me.

After surviving the loss of his morning treat, Poupon made his way to my lap like he always does, unfazed and oblivious to the missing almond milk.

At least that’s the story I’ve told myself 😀.