06 Feb Just the facts, ma’am
Growing up on the farm, my family was often featured in local newspapers. Evidently it was considered quite a novelty to be a single mother with three daughters raising sheep in the midst of cattle country in Western Pennsylvania. The articles would recount my mother’s decision to abandon city life to raise her children in the country. They would go on to describe how she started with a mere three sheep that over time swelled to 300, and the development of the cottage industry of wool and sheepskin items that we made and sold. Each retelling had its own angle and an accompanying cheesy headline like “Sheep Farming Shear Delight for Mother and Daughters” and “The Wolfes in Sheep’s Clothing” (get it?). There was one thing they all had in common however; they always got something wrong. It never failed that we were misquoted in some way, statistics were jumbled, or the article didn’t quite capture our true essence.
This morning my sister shared a link from a local newspaper about her and the new chapter of “Women Writing for (a) Change” she has established in Jacksonville, FL. (You can read it here.) My favorite part of the article is at the bottom where the writer says, “A year ago, she took up the ukulele so she could play music with a sister who is a professional musician.”
Yep, that’s me! A professional musician!
While I do indeed take credit for inspiring Jen to take up the ukulele, to say I am a professional musician is a stretch, since to date I’ve only had one full length concert that I did not charge admission for. And while I have sung “Me and Bobby McGee” at the majority of my friends’ weddings, I was never paid for that.
Yet hundreds of people who will read this article will believe that somewhere in NYC lives a professional musician related to Jennifer Wolfe, and have a different perspective about her and me than they would have if the facts had been accurate.
This supports my point of view that “it’s all a story based on interpretations.” While on one hand most of us would subscribe to the notion that you can’t believe everything you read, in practice, we don’t typically question things when they are presented to us as fact. Why would anyone challenge that I am a professional musician, especially if they read it in a newspaper article?
We approach our own lives similarly… we hear, read, think, learn and see thousands of pieces of information a day, interpret them based on our historical experiences, make snap decisions about what they mean, and interact with them as though they are facts. I’m sure my sister never told that journalist that I was a professional musician, but that’s what he heard, so for him it was true. Not only did he believe it, but he wrote it down to be read by others as fact.
Sometimes, as in this case, it’s a no harm done situation. (One could even argue that I’m showing up in the universe as a professional musician based on my intention for the future.) Yet the impact these thousands of mis-interpretations-believed-to-be-facts have on our lives is very powerful. Does the fact that he/she didn’t text you after they said they would mean that they don’t like you? Or, that they lost their phone? Most of us would lean towards the “they don’t like me” scenario and tailor their actions based upon that assumption. Over time, with enough people not texting when they said they will, we make up stories about ourselves and how unlovable we are, which affects how we interact with the next person who promises to text.
Our natural inclination is to collect evidence to support what we believe to be true and to dismiss evidence that supports what we don’t want to believe is true. Awareness is the first step to transformation, and so I invite you to notice when you make decisions about situations based on what you believe to be true, and challenge those assumptions. Ask yourself, “what am I basing these beliefs on?” and “what could be an alternate story?” I promise you that how your world shows up for you will change dramatically.
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