THERE’S ALWAYS MORE TO LEARN
by Linda Anderson Krech
I spent over 90 minutes in a waiting room this past week. I was waiting to get a second opinion on whether or not I need hip replacement surgery, to follow my hip fracture surgery, which it sounds like I do. Not what I was hoping to hear.
But during my 90 minute wait, there were two women sitting right behind me, two rather loud and very chatty women who I came to know a great deal about, though I had no idea what they looked like. Yes, I was eavesdropping though I was trying not to. In fact, I found their chatting to be very distracting, as their voices rang out and their words found their way into my mind, uninvited.
They spoke about loved ones with gender confusion and drug addictions, TV shows that seem promising, online dating experiences, and 4th of July plans. I noticed a stream of judgmental thoughts arise in my mind, based on the volume of their voices, and the content of some of their conversation.
Then one of them was called from the waiting room by a nurse. Her name was Jean and as she walked in front of me I could see that she was elderly and was wearing a vibrant purple dress, which her friend enthusiastically pointed out to the nurse. It became clear that her companion, who still sat behind me, was there to provide transportation to and from the appointment and to provide friendly companionship during the outing, which she certainly did.
Once the door closed behind Jean, the waiting room was very quiet for a minute or two and then, not surprisingly, she turned to chat with me. She reassured me that her cough was not contagious. I turned around to see her and I recognized her as a local jazz singer. I had seen her perform at an outdoor musical event that I attended last year. She’s very unusual looking and hard to forget. As I chatted with her, I found her to be filled with friendliness, good will and enthusiasm for life, and her eyes sparkled, no matter what she spoke about.
Thoughts are not controllable. Before I began chatting with her, my thoughts were mostly judgmental and negative. I wish they weren’t, but they were. Without knowing anything about her as a human being, I was judging her and felt superior. But contact with the real person changed my thoughts, which also changed my feelings. She works three jobs as a single mom of three kids, and also makes time to drive her neighbor to a doctor’s appointment.
Sometimes we don’t have an opportunity for real-life contact. We take our thoughts and ideas with us and believe them, because they can be compelling and persuasive, but that doesn’t make them true. We may not ever have enough information to understand the truth of a situation. Given how unreliable our thoughts can be, let’s try to hold them with a light touch, rather than clutching them as the inviolable truth itself. There will always be more to learn and more adaptations to make in our thinking over time. We can draw conclusions based on what we understand, while recognizing that there’s always more to learn.