I hope I’m one of those “happy” old people…one of those seniors that you run into at the grocery store who meet you with a smile, laugh with the clerks and forgive their own stumbles. The ones who feel warm and don’t seem to take themselves too seriously. OMGSH HOW??? How did you possibly live so many years and manage to stay happy?
With this in mind, I often struggle with how to somehow loosen that drain catch in my heart and let the resentment or anger that builds, out somehow. I don’t want to be bitter and twisted, though I know that potential is great. God help me.
Truth is, I’m a great story teller…yes sometimes in the middle of social circles re-telling some hilarious experience I’ve had with a glass of wine in hand …but I don’t mean those kinds of stories. Maybe I’m more of a great story creator, specifically those fictional stories I create around people and experiences in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s natural, and I get that we all do it. Human beings are meaning making machines and it’s like we almost have no choice but to give meaning to the things we experience; it’s how we understand our worlds and make sense of stuff. We rationalize, we explain, we blame, we justify, we validate and we label…not always maliciously, but instead in a “natural” attempt to understand shit that we go through. We connect the dots.
It starts off mildly, “oh so and so forgot to cc me in that important email”….and then another experience happens and we begin writing chapter two of that story “I can’t believe so and so started the meeting without me, she must really feel threatened by me”…then of course chapter three and chapter four soon follow as the plot thickens and the story becomes more complex…and before you know it, so and so missing me in an email culminates into so and so competing for my position and trying to squeeze me out!
How many Chapter 10 complaints do we have in our lives and in our stories about certain people around us? Chapter 10 Complaints are those high level, broad, generalized, damaging labels – he or she is selfish, he or she never helps out, he or she is using me or is always competing with me, he or she is always taking care of themselves….you can recognize these story built personnas by the language you use, because NEVER and ALWAYS are pretty strong indicators that these characterizations are coming from your own story telling.
The Truth is, it might have been that so and so had really missed me in that first email; innocently! Maybe she was so nervous about sending out the email she missed the detail – maybe she didn’t realize I would need to be involved. The problem when we write chapter one is we usually do it in the vacuum of our own thoughts, feelings, judgments and assumptions – we never usually test the things we are offended by…we rarely ask or call people out…we assume everything is always about us; and then we inevitably start to story tell.
We buy into our assumptions and our fictions as if they are truth – but we forget, that they were based on our thoughts and perceptions, influenced by our emotions and limited by our limited understanding of the totality of a situation. If Chapter One was off, then how can the rest of the story, on which Chapter One has been built…be true or trusted?
In recognizing these things, I keep trying to pull at those threads that weave my stories together. I keep trying to deconstruct these chapters and back space all of the untruths I’ve layered for plot, drama and meaning. I’m trying not to story tell, especially when I reach points where I can’t stand certain people anymore or the anger or bitterness I feel becomes stronger than feelings of amenability and love. It’s not easy but I’m trying. I don’t know what this actually means or what it looks like in real life…does it mean I start communicating more? Assuming less? Maybe I reflect on the assumptions I’ve made in my vacuum? Pray for understanding in the relationships that I struggle with? I’m not really sure….
All I know for sure is that the LAST thing I want is a resentful or hardened heart…which is where I think story telling ends up. I don’t want to feel blocked in love or stand off’ish to vulnerability or gun shy. I want to keep myself open…
After all, I’m hoping to be a happy senior with a gummy smile and comfortable orthopedic shoes.