Inside the Box

Humor Expands Perceptions and Prevents Jumping to Conclusions
Article Text: Never judge by appearances, but always remember that you will be judged by them.
Picture a pile of presents, beautifully wrapped, without gift tags. How do you choose one? Experience teaches us that outward appearances can be deceiving.

The Christmas lights reflected off the purple foil that wrapped around the biggest present under our tree. Next to the humongous silver bow, the gift tag showed my name! Filled with curiosity, I imagined my gift to be an extravagant reward from my husband for the progress I had made in the past two years.

Previous to sustaining a brain injury, Christmas preparation was difficult to manage. I shuddered to recall how my short term memory deficits and organizational challenges added to the confusion and chaos we experienced that first Christmas. Learning new strategies and systems wasn’t easy, but it helped me function better. Well aware that my housekeeping ability and cooking talents were still a long way from what they once were, the well-meaning advice others felt compelled to offer struck a cord of sensitivity within me.

Our four children were antsy and eager to find out what was inside the box, so they could open their gifts. Tearing madly into the wrapping, I uncovered a box, picturing an elaborate 5 piece dusting set. Larry beamed with pride. Certain this was a decoy disguising my real gift, I peaked inside. I felt like someone punched me in the gut as I came face to face with an assortment of lime green dusters in every size and shape imaginable, complete with extension rods. Clueless that I had interpreted his gift to mean I was a pathetic housekeeper, Larry joyfully demonstrated, “I know how you struggle with housework, and I wanted to help you. These dusters will make your dusting quicker and easier.”

Wide eyed, our children silently watched my chain reaction of emotion. I recognized the potential for a teachable moment, one where I could illustrate to our children how to graciously accept a gift you neither asked for nor wanted. “Larry, anytime you really want to help me with the dusting, feel free to borrow my handy, dandy, assortment of dusters.”

With that I huffed out of the room. Have you ever set yourself up to be disappointed by your expectations? Jumped to wrong conclusions? Or interpreted a situation differently than it was intended and took offense when none was meant? Such was the case of my big, beautiful purple present. Larry and I both learned something of value that Christmas.

I wished I had called on my sense of humor to communicate my hurt feelings in lieu of over-reacting. Instead of causing a scene, I could have joked with Larry and said, “I know you didn’t mean to offend me by insinuating that I am not a good housekeeper. So, I’m going to give you a chance to make it up to me. I am promoting you to head duster and giving you permission to borrow my new dusting set.”

Larry learned “The First Rule of Holes – If you are in one, quit digging.” That is, if your house is dusty, don’t buy your wife a handy, dandy duster set. Instead, wait until she leaves the room, secretly pick up a dust cloth and get to work.

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Lois McElravy, Lessons from Lois, works with individuals and organizations who want to learn how to use the power of humor and the magic of laughter to handle the demands and pressures of work and home, adjust to constant change, deal with difficult people, cope with the unpredictable swift pace of life, product positive outcomes and have more fun.

Learning to laugh and “hangin’ on with humor” rescued Lois from the distress and despair surrounding her daily life, and initiated her recovery from a brain injury. Lois’ keynotes and trainings entertain, inspire and stimulate audiences to examine their own response to challenge and adversity. Hilarious personal stories, “Lessons from Lois” impart life-changing insights and equip participants with humor strategies and practical solutions to overcome the seriousness of their life challenges and feel happy.

Her universal message renews hope and motivates others to consistently do small things so they can achieve amazing results one day at a time.

©2012 Lois McElravy, Lessons from Lois – Permission to reprint or repost this article is granted by including the above byline and Lois’ contact information.