Is there another way to look at that?
- How do you feel about this situation? Feeling words are simple – happy, sad, angry, depressed, amused. Thought words are more complicated – like “why did she do that?” Ask yourself how you feel and answer in simple words.
- Has this feeling happened to you before in similar situations?
- Could this be a pattern?
- Do you often respond to certain situations in the same way?
- What do you get from having that response that feels satisfying?
- What actually happened, without any interpretation on anyone’s part?
- Is the situation, “She doesn’t like me and moved my hand away.” ?
- Is it “I hurt her when I grabbed her arm” ?
- Is it, “I touched her arm and she moved.”?
- Is it, “She was falling and when I tried to help her, she was embarrassed.”
- If option 3 is what actually happened, what are 3 clear ways you could interpret that?
- Since what she did is different from any interpretation of what she did or what you did, anything is possible.
- What are you assuming?
- Can you ask the other person what happened and listen to their answer?
- What feelings or thoughts could have caused that situation or response? Does that change the way you feel?
- Your first thought or response is only your first thought or response. It’s not necessarily the truth. What other ways to think about the situation make sense? Your response is a choice. Which do you choose? Why?
Aileen walked carefully through the park, holding her white dress away from the grass while trying to keep the side slit closed as much as possible. The best thing that could come of this disaster, she realized, might be that she had an evening when she didn’t have to please anybody else. Her phone rang and she wobbled in her high -heeled sandals as she dropped her hold on the dress and dug in her purse to find the phone. She was a little off balance since she was using one of her hands to hold the dress and the other to hold the sweet little girl’s hand. Had her father called her “Bubs”? What kind of mother would let her husband call her daughter “Bubs”? She felt her phone in the purse, pulled it out to look at it and stumbled again. It was Jim. She had had enough of being yelled at for one evening. She pushed those little volume things on the side of the phone and it stopped ringing.
Bernard was just ahead of Sophie and her mother, pushing the cart behind Bubbles and Aileen. When he saw Aileen stumble, he let go of the cart and took three really fast, long legged steps to be at her side and gently support her arm when she stumbled the second time. Her skin was smooth and he could feel the hint of a bicep underneath. She probably had a personal trainer. If he could just get her phone number, who knew what might happen next week, when Bubbles wouldn’t be there to leap onto his bed first thing in the morning!
“One more cheating, lying man,” Aileen thought, disgusted. “Such a sweet little girl! “
“Thank you Bernard.” She said, without emotion, as she shrugged off his hand and leaned over to take off her shoes. She held her shoes and her dress in the hand that wasn’t holding Bubbles’ small one and walked naturally, steering Bubbles off the gravelly path and onto the grass. She liked the way the stiff grass bent beneath the balls of her feet and pushed up between her pedicured toes.
“Where’s your mommy tonight, Sweetheart?” Aileen said, loudly enough for Bernard to hear. But he didn’t. He was back on the path getting the cart.
“Mommy’s at home, Miss Aileen. Daddy takes care of me when mommy’s at home. And we go to the movies in the park! Mommy doesn’t like the bugs.”
Sophie’s mom had piled her blanket on top of the cart and was pushing it. She bumped the cart into Bernard’s foot and apologized. Then, she let go of the cart and she and Sophie followed the other two onto the grass. The moonlight was bright enough for them to see other setting up nearby.
“She doesn’t like bugs? Do you like them?” asked Aileen
“I like dragonflies,” Bubbles said, excitedly. Sophie had joined them.
“I like butterflies,” Sophie said.
“OOOh! Two beautiful things that fly!! Two beautiful girls who dance!” giggled Aileen. She dropped the fold of her dress where she had been holding it, tucked two fingers of Sophie’s hand into hers, next to the straps of the shoes, and swirled around in a circle ringed with two giggling, twirling little girls.
Sophie’s mom smiled, then pointed to a clearing on a rise in back of the crowd, but in front of three small trees. There was space and a good view of the movie screen. She looked back for Bernard. He was pushing the overloaded cart over the thick, tangled Florida grass but he saw them in the darkening park and waved.
They spread the blankets together so the roots of the trees made low armrests for 3 or 4 people. The two children saw another friend with his parents and welcomed him onto the blankets to play. His parents smiled and waved, then spread their blanket nearby. His mother stared at Aileen in her white “goddess” dress and said something to her husband, who was already looking in their direction. The wife sat on the side of the blanket closest to Aileen and aimed her husband’s gaze away, towards the large cooler of food they had brought.
Aileen noticed and squeezed her legs together to minimize the slit in the dress. It didn’t accomplish much. Bernard noticed too.
“I only need 2 minutes alone with her to tell her I’m not married to Bub’s mother. I can make 2 minutes happen.” He said to himself. He put the fruit and drinks on the blanket but folded the tablecloth near it so the woman who looked like a goddess to him could use it to protect the dress or cover her legs.
Sophie’s mom patted a spot on the blanket next to her and bid Aileen to sit there. Aileen gathered up her dress, held the slit together and sat down with as much grace as she could manage. She reluctantly accepted Bernard’s offer of the clean, folded tablecloth and spread it over her legs.
“His wife,” she thought, “better hold on to him because he’s roaming.”
She was too embarrassed to look at him again. The children ran to the little boy’s family, who had sandwiches, chips, cookies, cups and a large bottle of orange soda. They offered to share and the girls jumped up and down with glee, making their tutus flop up and down. The girls giggled and made the tutu netting on their skirts bounce even more. Sophie’s mom agreed to share food and contributed her chips to the pile. Bernard motioned for a suddenly somber Bubbles to come to him.
He wrapped his arms around her and whispered in her ear, “We already had dinner, baby. We brought dried apricots, your favorite, and watermelon water because you asked for it. We can share that, but I want you to eat the healthy food that we brought. Right?”
“Mommy lets me eat chips.” Bubbles gulped. Her lips quivered, and tears began to run down her face. The movie was about to start.
“Mommy’s not here, Angel.”
Bubbles collapsed in his arms, sniffling. Bernard scooted backward between the roots of the tree, gathering folds of blanket for a cushion; then he leaned against the tree trunk, gathered her up in his lap, surrounded her with his arms and made himself her easy chair.
Sophie plopped between her mom and Aileen but reached across Aileen to offer Bubbles a chip.
The girls and both women looked at Bernard. He waved off the chip and offered the apricots and watermelon water with the hand that he unwrapped from around his child. Aileen briefly looked over at him with curiosity; then she and Sophie accepted the fruit. Bubbles opened the drink.
“Stop looking at that man, Aileen!” Sophie’s mom hissed into Aileen’s ear.
“Where’ his wife?” Aileen whispered back. The movie had begun and only they could hear themselves clearly over the soundtrack. The light from the screen illuminated their faces and cast shadows behind them.
“I don’t know. Sometimes Clarissa’s mom drops her off and picks her up and sometimes he does. Why does it matter? He can’t give you what Jim can give you! You better use that body while you got it, girl.” Sophie’s mom was smug.
“Look at him. I wish somebody would hug me like that and not want anything back. Why are the good ones always taken?”
“You got one! How many do you need?”
“I’m so scared of Jim right now, I don’t even want to go home. I’ve never heard him as mad as this, and it’s his fault. He should have written the directions. It feels good just to relax and not have to deal with him.”
She held out her hand for another apricot and Bernard leaned over to hold the bag under her smooth, manicured hand. She kept looking at the movie, but chose a few pieces of fruit and began munching them.
Behind the families watching Nemo’s dad on screen trying to protect him from living a natural life, stood a muscular man in a tuxedo who was a little shorter than average. Jim had left the awards ceremony for the non-profit animal rescue group his company supported and come to look for Aileen. The doorman had said she hadn’t come home and she hadn’t answered her phone. He had used his phone to locate hers and it had brought him to this small park in Aventura. He was hoping she’d be easy to spot, wearing a sparkling white dress in the moonlit darkness and he had just found her, sitting on a blanket, arm outstretched, touching another man’s hand.
Is there another way to look at that?
Is it possible that something has happened in your life that you interpreted differently than the way the other people involved intended you to interpret it?
Almost every character in this chapter expected something in this situation and experienced something. How many ways are there to look at what was seen or experienced? Which ways do you think they should choose?