It was on one of those rare trips to Costco when I was by myself, the store wasn’t overly chaotic, and I had the luxury of spending a few extra minutes browsing the book section.
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably figured out I like books. I have a Kindle and a tablet, but I don’t care much for reading from them. I like my own book I can hold in my own two hands. Almost every book I read uses a pen or highlighter for a bookmark because I love to mark in them. Most of my library contains books filled with underlines, stars, or comments in the margins.
Okay, back to Costco! The cover of the hardback book declared it was a New York Times bestseller. I thumbed through the pages, and even though I tend to wait for a book to come out in paperback before purchasing it, I was intrigued and bought Gretchen Rubin’s Better than Before. This book, filled with extensive research by Rubin on the topic of habits, isn’t only a good read, but also has had quite an impact on me.
I look forward to receiving Gretchen Rubin’s daily quotes (email@example.com) and periodic blog posts. A recent post included her interview with James. E. Ryan, who recently wrote a book I plan to purchase, entitled Wait – What? And Life’s Other Essential Questions. In her interview with Ryan, Rubin asked this question:
Have you ever been hit by a “lightning bolt,” where you changed a major habit very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc?
Her question started the wheels in my head turning, and I realized my answer to Ms. Rubin’s inquiry would have been, “You betcha!”
The first instance I recalled was a number of years ago when I was working as a human resource assistant. One morning I called a Veteran’s Administration Hospital to get a critical piece of information for a client. My first attempt resulted in an extended period of time placed on hold while really obnoxious background music blared. Irritated, I hung up!
A few minutes later, I called again. This time, someone answered, and almost immediately, we were disconnected.
Surely, the third time would be a charm. Instead, the woman who answered my call was surly, rude and absolutely unhelpful. I abruptly discontinued the call even before the conversation was completed.
Seething, I called my colleague and friend, Harriet, who worked in another office. I poured out my indignant frustration. Harriet’s calm and gentle response was one of those “hit-by-a-lightning bolt” encounters. She said, “Sue, maybe her husband beat her this morning.” This comment absolutely changed my paradigm. I didn’t have the words to explain the change until many years later, but when I heard this phrase, I realized following my conversation with Harriet, the truth of Socrates’ wise statement had become my reality:
You don’t know what you don’t know!
Today, when irritated by another’s behavior, I’m more apt to wonder:
What if that fellow who cut me off on the freeway can’t stop thinking about the frightening words he heard at the doctor’s office a few minutes earlier?
What if that clerk at Wal-Mart or waitress at IHOP who keeps making ‘dumb’ mistakes is a single mom distracted by worries about her daughter who’s being bullied.
What if that naughty little boy in the classroom must return to a home filled with anger and abuse.
What if that boisterous person whose political or religious views are the polar opposite of mine has been treated unfairly or accused unjustly by a “belief system” or “cause.”
The ‘what-if’ possibilities are endless.
I’m going to conclude today’s post asking you to ponder these words:
“I don’t know what I don’t know.”
How might those words impact you as you encounter inevitable, irritable circumstances and/or people?
Next time, I’ll pick up this topic once again with a couple more personal examples. I’d be honored if you shared one of your own “hit-by-a-lightning-bolt” experiences.
Blessings on our journeys of learning and growing together…