While making tea this morning, my cat Poupon got quite 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 teaspoon with a bit of warm water and give it to him in a little 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 about him.
He’s wondering why I’m not giving him his dish.
Then I started laughing.
Poupon is a cat and a sweet companion. 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.
This is when the insanity really begins because now, not only have I convinced myself that I know what he’s thinking and feeling, I also start reacting to my own creation.
We all do this.
And it causes needless suffering and pain because rarely are the stories we make up in our heads positive and empowering.
A friend’s 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 that they’re talking about you and you start concocting crazy conversations.
The kids neglect to help around the house and you convince yourself that nobody cares about you or your needs.
We’re all mini projectors assigning stories to the people we come in contact with throughout the day.
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.
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 .
Video of the Week
This week’s video is one I shared long ago and it’s worth watching again. Here’s how to be happy and healthy from the perspective of a wild and wonderful thirteen-year-old. You can watch it here.