This part is true.
Not too long ago, I spent the day with my favorite middle son, Harry, in New York City. It had snowed hard that morning, but by mid-afternoon, the sidewalks were clear. Harry and I were walking into the Whole Foods in Union Square at the exact moment a tall, blonde, twenty-something was running out. She had on a slouchy, black knit hat, a white short-sleeved tee-shirt, black leggings, and Uggs. An older man was chasing her, and he had a good grip on her very stretchy white shirt. She was clearly panicked. He was clearly determined. Interesting that no one made a sound: he wasn’t yelling at her to stop, nor was she yelling at him to leave her alone.
By the time Harry and I walked to the window to watch how it ended, there was nothing to see except a police van with flashing lights, stuck in heavy traffic. We headed back toward the entrance just as the man returned, carrying a can of whipped cream. He walked over and picked up a short, black, (fake?) fur jacket that was piled on the floor. It obviously belonged to the woman he had been chasing.
He was about to walk through an EMPLOYEES ONLY door, but stopped instead to talk with a Whole Foods staff member (wearing the official green apron). I listened as he recapped the episode. I couldn’t hear every word since the store was loud, but he pointed outside and said, ‘Look at that traffic – she’s long gone by now!’ (She had clearly wriggled out of his grasp. I had – incorrectly – guessed she was in that police van.) After he disappeared through the door, I asked the employee what happened. She shrugged her shoulders and just said the blonde took a bunch of stuff.
Harry and I spent the rest of the day making up her backstory. Here are a few highlights:
Her name is Loni. She’s a model. Works steadily but gets bored between gigs.
She needed the whipped cream but had no cash because her “people” always took care of such things.
She routinely shop-lifted, and today was the closest she’d come to finally getting caught.
Her friends dared her to take something.
When my boys were little, we used to play a similar game. We’d be driving in the car (or I’d be pushing one of them in the baby jogger), and we’d see an interesting person and make up where they were going, who they were going to see, what they will do when they get home and why. Our stories could easily last twenty minutes.
Many of us still play that game as adults – we make up a story. However, as adults, our stories seem real because we’ve told ourselves it’s true, or we think we know enough about a situation to fill in the blanks. As is human nature, our stories rarely play out in our favor – when was the last time you saw a small group of people talking (maybe 2-3 people that you know), and when you joined them, they immediately stopped talking? Hopefully, they turned your way, smiled, and said hello. Did your internal voice tell you they must have been talking about you? Did it feel that way?
The answers to those last few questions were a story. YOUR story. Since it’s YOUR story, you can fill in the blanks any way you choose. If you think they were talking about you – make it something good! Tell yourself they were in the midst of planning a surprise for you or saying how fabulous you looked.
If you’re going to make up a story, at least make it a good one!
P.S. It’s all a story.