Tomato Injures Boy, Self
When my son was about 18 months old, he figured out how to open the refrigerator, a development that came to my attention one morning when I heard him give a sudden wail from the kitchen. Heart in my throat—had he burned himself? Was something broken? Was he bleeding?—I ran in and found him standing in front of the open refrigerator and holding half a cherry tomato, his face covered with juice and seeds and the flush of outrage. “It kachoo-ed at me!” he sobbed indignantly.
What a cool, fascinating deduction! Based on his limited experience—he had never eaten a tomato before, but he had, apparently, been sneezed upon—he came to a brilliant, though entirely wrong-headed, conclusion. It took me a while to convince him that the stuff I was cleaning off his face was not, in fact, tomato snot.
And so it goes. We’re muddling along, all of us, making up stories and explanations for the people and events that surround us, but often we’re basing those conclusions on little more than a stew of past experience, supposition, and fear. That guy at work who never says good morning thinks I’m stupid and not worth talking to. Every time I come into a little money, some unexpected expense comes up and takes it all away. This morning, I weighed 200 pounds—I’ll never be able to lose weight. My husband forgot my birthday; he doesn’t love me anymore.
We think it, so we believe it. And we mistake our beliefs for fact. Consider: the guy at work might be painfully shy, or socially maladjusted, or is holding his own belief that you don’t like him. The universe may be providing the money you need just when you need it, instead of giving you a gift and then taking it away. It’s possible that if you believed yourself capable of making healthier food choices, you would be more likely to make them, and you would lose weight. Maybe your husband didn’t remember your birthday simply because he is disorganized, overwhelmed, or absent-minded.
Those are all stories, too. But they’re stories that give us a way to feel good and move forward, instead of stories we use to beat ourselves up and reinforce our feelings of disconnection, victimization, anger, and fear.
So what are your stories? Why do you believe them? Can you think of other ways to look at the same set of circumstances, and to come to different conclusions? If you believed those other, better stories, how would your life—how would you—be different?
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