My Sister Left Me
We all make assumptions that we act on. Some assumptions we hold by agreements we make with others. Some assumptions are implicit in our cultural expectations, like how I should behave as a parent or husband, or as a person of my age group. Still other assumptions we just ‘make up,’ as if out of thin air, like my assumption that if driving somewhere out of town with my wife, I will be behind the steering wheel. We quite possibly have to make assumptions about others and the world in order to function efficiently. Imagine what it would be like to live for even one day in this busy world without making up any assumptions about others and oneself. But we often get a rude awakening when those assumptions turn out to be untrue, and nothing more than our wishful thinking.
I’d like to share with you a story that is an example of my own awakening when my assumptions were challenged by circumstances as a youngster in my first days of kindergarten. This came to me a few days back as a recovered memory (something that happens to me frequently as I get older). These memories often have a present-day message for me hidden in them, and this one is no exception.
I was just starting kindergarten at Clara E. Coleman School in New Jersey. Back then there were no buses, and everyone walked to the elementary school located in their part of town. My sister, Stephanie, would wait for me by the exit doors at school to take me home. I relished the time with her. She is almost five years older than I, so she knew all about school, and what to expect, and I looked up to her wisdom and caring for me. She also provided security for me, as the school lay beyond my usual range of exploration in the neighborhood. Out beyond busy Prospect Street, I knew no one, did not have any friends, and did not normally go, at least on foot and especially not alone.
Our arrangement of walking together worked well for a week or so, until one day I left my class and started walking toward home. I’d gone as far as the first street on the edge of school grounds when it hit me that my sister was not with me. Suddenly, I felt alone. Very alone, in that moment. Feeling abandoned and vulnerable, I just started to cry. The uniformed crossing lady at the corner saw me standing there, alone, all tears and sobs, and approached me. “What’s the matter?” she asked me.
“My sister didn’t come to walk me home. She left me,” I said.
“Well, do you know your way home from school?,” she queried.
There was a moment for me of transformation of consciousness, a moment when the assumption I held that I could not make it home without Stephanie lifted. I was struck by the fact that I had the resource to get home on my own; I knew the way, even where to take the short cuts to get back home, and all along the route there were Safety Patrol kids who would make crossing busy suburban Jersey streets safe.
My assumption about dependency in this situation was exploded. I was truly empowered with my own inner resource and knowledge. I wiped my tears and runny nose, set my sights down the long street, and with a much lighter step, made my way home on my own. This was a big accomplishment for me, as much for the physical feat of finding my way as for the emotional and spiritual feat of learning that I have the inner resource to find my path in life as well.
So, here’s an invitation to you the next time one of your made-up assumptions is exploded by Reality, because this is the Universe calling you forth to BE. You may be feeling frustrated, abandoned, or like a trap door just opened under your feet: Trust that the universe supports us when we are in need and open to listening. Stay with that feeling of falling, the chaos, the not knowing. Just stay in the discomfort for a moment or two breathing, and then ask yourself what is real and true for you in this moment? Be open to the answer that calls you forth, the one that empowers you, that connects you to other humans or to nature or to the cosmos. Your exploded assumption, like a big balloon that has just burst, may give you a shock, but it also reveals a piece of the world that was previously hidden behind that big, puffy, colorful made-up bit of fantasy that you have been carrying around, letting it get in front of your face to block clear vision.