Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The stories we tell

The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same. Carlos Castaneda
Carlos C. is right. The amount of work in making ourselves feel one or the other is the same -- it's in carrying the load of our creation that we are worn down, or lifted up.

I work in a place where people are worn down by their stories, day in, day out. They carry the load like a weight upon their shoulders, sitting at tables with hunched shoulders, rounded backs. They walk with shuffling footsteps, backs curled into their chests, their hopes gripped in hands buried deep down into their pockets, forever fearful of coming up empty handed.

I work in a place where many people believe, this, this life of poverty, of misery, of hopelessness, is all they deserve. All they will ever create.

Fellow blogger, Maureen of Writing Without Paper, wrote in her powerful poem, The Things They Carry,
"Someone's morning pastry, last night's handouts
The story of his life."

When you're down and out, living below poverty, below the threshold of main street, sometimes all you've got to make yourself visible are the odds and sods of other people's handouts and the story you carry to mark your passing. It is all you've got to tell. The only thing that's yours and yours alone. It's all you've created in a life of despair. It is all you fear losing. You don't fear death -- this is a living death. You don't fear rock bottom. You've already hit it. You fear, losing your story. Without your story, where would you be?

We all have a story. Doesn't matter which side of the street we walk, we carry our story -- sometimes, it will lift us up. Sometimes, it will drag us down. We decide when and where and to whom we tell our story. How often. How loudly. How softly. We decide it if is a rant or a song. A dirge or a symphony of joy, of hope, of love.

We decide.

Once upon a time, I had a story. It was the story of being abused. Of being a bit part in another man's creation. I thought I was his leading character. I wanted to believe I was and so in my mind, I painted my story of our relationship with me as the heroine. Me as the lead actor. I was strong and loving. I stood by my man. I could, as he told me, make him a better man.

I became so attached to my story that I couldn't see it was killing me. Dragging me down into the pits of despair. Pushing me under. Drowning me.

I couldn't let go of the story I'd created because... well because I feared if I let it go I would be lost. Where would I be without the story of me as a super heroine of such astonishing power I could make a mere man a better man? Who would I be without this story of love awakening in the rosy dawn of his happily-ever-after? How could I be the heroine of my own life? I was his, forever more, forever and a day. Ours was a love committed 'til death did us part. How could I claim my own story away from my one true love when I had promised to help him be the man he'd always dreamt of being?

I was too frightened to look at the possibilities on the other side of our happy ending that never was. The story where I claimed my place in the sun for me, myself and I.

See, I'd always held onto the notion, buried deep within me, that I needed a man to complete my story. I needed someone else to make my dreams come true. Convinced that story where I was completed by another was the only one I could ever write, I became lost in the land of make-believe, telling my story again and again hoping for a different ending. No matter how many prince charmings came riding through, or how quickly they swept me away, the story never changed in my telling because I held onto the notion of needing their kiss to awaken me to life beyond my wildest imaginings.

We all have a story.

I've created a different story today than that sad tale of an abused woman too scared to admit that what was happening to her hurt like the dickens. That story was a sad tale of two people where the best of times were only a figment of my imagination. I kept grasping for the golden ring of what wasn't there so that I would not have to see what was right before my eyes --I was living in the worst of times. I was refusing to claim my power to write the story of my lifetime just for me, myself and I.

We get trapped in our stories.

The secret is to step out of the characters we've created and ask ourselves, Is this truth or fiction? Am I the passive voyeur committed to watching the story unfold, letting it happen without my direction, or, Am I the active hero/heroine creating the story of my life as I direct each choice I make towards my goals, creating more and more of what I want in life with every passing day?

In my daughter Alexis' awesome blog, Outside the Lines, she writes,

"I want to race through the grass in bare feet, and swim in the deepest part of the ocean, and eat an apple right from the tree, and fall recklessly in love,
and run with the bulls, and find a cliff and dive!
No safety gear or parachute to break my fall.
Straight into the great wide open.
Sailing fearlessly into life."
The question is: Do you fear the story of your life outside the coloured in lines of your existence? Do you fear creating a new story beyond the comfort zone of your limitations? Are you willing to colour outside the lines?

Just for today. Try it. Do something you fear. Step outside your comfort zone and leave yourself exposed to creating a new story of your life unfolding like you dreamed.

1 comment:

Maureen said...

I was so surprised -- and honored -- to see mention of my poem in your blog post this morning. Thank you!

Alexis's poem reads like a Mary Oliver's. What joy is expressed by this beautiful young woman. Joy that you were able to instill and let free.