Assumptions about others don’t always prove on target

In my women’s writing group, we are given a choice of prompts to get us started with a piece that we could share in the next meeting. One of them that spoke to me is “What needs to be thawed in your life?”

I thought this was appropriate for many reasons.

For one, it’s winter, and everything could use a little thawing, as far as I’m concerned.

For another, I feel that I have been trying to take more risks lately and reach outside of my comfort zone, and this could be representative of my desire to melt away some of the fear in my life.

I decided to write about chipping away at the icebergs of assumptions that I have allowed to accumulate in my world.

I thought it was an accurate analogy because icebergs stand in the way of where we want to go.

Also, the part that you can’t see is often bigger than the part that’s visible, and I think this explains a lot. We may try to reform a certain behavior, but the mindsets that are behind it are usually the problem, despite not being as obvious at first glance.

I frequently assume the worst — if I issue an invitation and don’t hear back from someone, then I tend to think that they’re avoiding me, I’ve done something wrong, or they think I’m boring.

But I’ve noticed that as I’ve cracked the door to the possibility that I might be wrong, that it might have nothing to do with me, then often it has been the case that some benign reason was behind the silence. Their phone died, or they didn’t have Internet connection over the weekend and therefore were unable to respond.

Along with this project of attacking these attitudes, I’ve also decided to seek out people whom I admire, who have elements in their lives that I want to emulate.

These aspects could be a rich social life, fulfilling work that they enjoy or stimulating hobbies.

I thought I’d invite such people out for coffee and see if they have any advice to offer. The fascinating part is that sometimes I get more than I originally asked for.

I got together with someone who has her own freelance business. We discussed how she was able to make this happen, and I was excited to hear her talk about how everything came together toward this end.

Then we got into more personal subjects. I should note here that I’ve always envied her — she’s beautiful and talented, doing work she enjoys and seems to have so many friends.

I mentioned to her that I always felt left out by a clique of our mutual acquaintances, and before I had a chance to express admiration at how she was accepted by them, she confided that she felt on the fringe of that particular group, that the ringleader didn’t really like her because she was an artist and didn’t really fit in with the intellectual flavor of the rest of that crowd.

She said she would often remain silent when everyone was together because she didn’t feel she had anything to bring to the table. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

This meeting reminded me of the Dr. Seuss story, “What Was I Afraid Of?” which was known colloquially in my family as “The Pale Green Pants with Nobody Inside Them.”

If you’re not familiar with this tale, the gist of it is a boy encounters a spooky pair of slacks when he goes out, and he gets increasingly anxious about leaving the house, knowing that he will cross paths with the trousers.

Then he suddenly encounters them in a place where he can’t escape and screams in terror. The pants shrivel into a pile and begin to cry. It turns out they were just as scared of him as he was of them.

This isn’t a perfect analogy because my friend isn’t a levitating pair of Grinch-green leggings, but the point is that I made assumptions about her that turned out to be completely untrue.

She also has some social anxieties. She sometimes feels left out. She might feel awkward among some people.

So she might experience some of the same things that I do.

What does it all mean? Maybe we’re not so different after all. Maybe I’m not the outcast I thought I was.

Maybe there’s hope for me after all.

And maybe one big chunk of iceberg just floated away.

Stephanie Haines is a writer from Greenfield who now lives in Bloomington. She can be contacted through her website,