I’m thinking everyone has had some type of experience like I described on Amtrak’s quiet car yesterday. Quick recall: I was playing a training on the quiet car that was erroneously coming through my iPad AND my earbuds, and when I heard the extra feed thought it was someone else. It was not them, it was me! When we make these discoveries we need humor, not judgment to pause and remember we are no more or less special than anyone on the planet.

To drive the point home, here is another laughable example of this realization, that was shared with me by an acquaintance.

Call her Danielle, a friend of my close friend who joined in an intimate birthday celebration one evening. Danielle was strikingly attractive: Tall, beautiful, glamorous and full of energy. She was also a great narrator.

Danielle shared that one day on the commuter train there was a foul smell. Just terrible. She looked around at the other passengers trying to identify the offender. Did someone have a stomach issue? Was someone not clean? Did they have something foul on their shoes? She described this process as if she were attempting to choose the guilty party from a line up.

Even when Danielle thought she’d correctly identified the “stinky ____” as she referred to the person, when the crowd shuffled at one of the stops, that person was no longer there, but stench was. She even checked her own shoes. What is that smell?

Danielle became visibly annoyed as she shared this story. She was making faces, using strong language and said how offensive the smell was. She couldn’t wait to get off that commuter train and get some fresh air. She was even offended that someone would bring that smell into her space.

But alas, arriving at her office did not relieve the odorous suffering. The foul aroma seemed to be following her, and the intensity increasing.

You can probably guess how the story ends: Moments into her arrival at work, Danielle discovered she failed to empty her coat pocket of the deposit she’d collected while walking her dog earlier that morning! She spent so much energy and time trying to blame someone around her that she hadn’t considered the culprit might be her and missed the obvious!

We had a hard belly laugh as she told this story and raised a glass to toast our dear friend’s birthday. I never saw much of Danielle again, but when I had the experience on Amtrak’s quiet car it reminded me of her! We are so quick to create narratives in our heads that are completely false, and in the worst of times (and some not so funny illustrations of this habit) we even act on these false assumptions and the impact can be devastating.

So here is the reminder, again. When something is awry, don’t assume someone or something outside of you is the culprit. First, look inward. Because it might not be them, it might be you!

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