A couple of weeks ago, I was in a drive-thru line at a local fast food chain grabbing a quick snack as I bustled from one appointment to another. It was one of those days. I had been on the move since my feet hit the floor that day and I was just trying to finish up some commitments so I could head home and snuggle with my kiddos. My brain was flooded with to-do lists, a review of the day and looking ahead to what I needed to still get done that night. I had a pile of laundry with my name on it and a list of organizing projects that were begging to be tackled. I had activities that I needed to research for the kids as summer activities, blog posts to organize, and emails to return.
All this to say that I wasn't really paying attention to life around me.
I have this habit of running my hands through my hair when I'm thinking. There's generally tangles in it (one of the byproducts of having long hair and driving with the windows down whenever I can) and I tend to use my fingers to get rid of them whenever I'm sitting still. My hair also has this habit of falling out. Not in a concerning way, but more than most people from what I've observed. Some people "shed." I often feel like I'm marking my territory in my own kind of way.
Anyway, I'm sitting in the drive-thru, untangling my hair and my fingers are soon full of hair that was decided to emigrate from my head. I did what I always do... I shook the hair off my fingers out the window.
Now picture this. I'm at the food delivery window of a drive-thru and I'm shaking my hand off out my car window. At that moment, the drive-thru worker opens the window and hands me my drink with what is unmistakably a look of irritated disgust. I was, at first, taken aback. What on earth was wrong with this woman?
Then, it hit me. She saw me waving my hand out the window. She could easily have thought I was doing the international symbol for "hurry up" and was being an impatient customer. Maybe she thought I was doing some other obscene gesture. It was clear that she had taken whatever she thought she saw personally. Obviously, this wasn't my intention as the only thing I was doing was trying to do was to de-hair my fingers.
But that wasn't the point. The point was, she saw something and she made an interpretation of it and was offended by it because she truly believed that she had every right to be.
How often does this happen to us? How often do we see something, hear something, read something and take it out of context or completely misinterpret it and then lose something like trust, our peace of mind, our temper or something equally valuable?
The whole incident reminded me of those commercials that AmeriQuest put out several years ago that are the classic "This isn't what it looks like" scenarios of day-to-day life.
It made me stop and think how often this has happened to me over my lifetime.
The time I thought that the silence on the phone was anger because of something I had said when my boyfriend was actually just paying a toll while he was on the road and couldn't talk for a minute.
The time I asked a friend to babysit and she sounded so upset on the phone I thought I had overstepped some kind of boundary... turns out she was in a lot of pain that morning dealing with rheumatoid arthritis that she didn't really tell people about.
The time I thought those girls on the rowing team hated me only to find out over drinks one night that they were avoiding me because they thought I hated them.
It's a classic case of being a human being. We make mistakes. We jump to conclusions. We speak before we think.
Emotions are tricky little buggers, aren't they?
A prayer I have been saying lately (thanks to A Course in Miracles and Return to Love) is "God, I'm willing to see this differently." It's usually enough for me to consider another point of view and get out of my own head which can be a nasty place occasionally.
As for the woman in the drive-thru window, I made a comment about losing all my hair and trying to keep the strands out of the car and was extra sweet to her for the rest of our interaction. I told her I hoped she had a wonderful day and she smiled at me as I drove away.