My brain lies to me. It tells me I have nothing to say. That there is nothing of value that I could put here. That my life, my stories, are better kept to those who already know and love me, who will overlook my faults because they are good, kind people.
My brain says there is no sense in writing at all. It says my words are unoriginal and trite and of no worth to anyone, not even to me.
It whispers that there is no sense trying to change anything. That I am a terrible mother. That I shouldn't have nice things -- I'll just ruin them.
When I am running late because I took the time to feed the birds, or to do one more thing for my child, or to take a shower when there really weren't enough minutes between 7:15 and 8:00 to fit in those activities, my brain tells me what a failure I am. How disrespectful of others. How selfish and unthinking. How I couldn't plan my way out of a paper bag, or if I did make a plan, how I would never be able to follow it through.
My brain tells me I will never have my own classroom again, because I failed before, and there is no sense in anyone hiring me because I will just mess up again.
And maybe, really, these aren't technically lies, because they are a little true. All of those things are true. I will fail again. I do make mistakes, big ones. I have moments of selfishness and cruelty and self-indulgence.
But they aren't the whole truth.
It is also true that I am a fantastic teacher. That the kids I spend time with are as lucky to be around me as I am to be around them. That I am a great mother and partner. That I really care about others. That I deserve nice things. That showering, writing, eating delicious healthful food, meditating, feeding the birds -- they're worth the time.
I am trying this Lent, to be more consciously loving. To be more kind. That includes me. Kindness means telling the truth, gently. Kindly. And telling the light and the darkness, the good as well as the bad. Not just the heavy, the sharp, the painful.
It's true that it's cold, and snowy, and winter has been weird and long, and yet not as cold nor nearly as snowy as last year. And it's also true that spring is coming.
My brain lies to me about a lot of things.
We have a tendency, we humans, to look for evidence of what we already believe to be true. Statistics can be bent to tell a lot of different stories. I want to learn to look for evidence of kindness, of goodness, of the growing beauty of the world.
The thing that does a pretty good job of shutting my brain up, is to take steps when it's not looking. When my brain is busy, and not yelling abuse at me, I do things that confirm my growth. I look for ways to delight my child and spouse. I sign up for, and follow through on, online courses that will build my skills as a teacher and a writer. I make phone calls, pay bills on time, send emails. I have to take action before I can think myself out of it. Once I do, I can point to the action and say, No, Brain, look. You are only telling part of the story.
What if we told stories that left us in the forest, the dungeon, the belly of the wolf, the tomb? What if we still told children, Red Riding Hood was a bad child, was eaten by the wolf, and that was the end of the story? What if Vasilisa went into the forest, and we left her in Baba Yaga's house? What if Lent, and Good Friday, were the end of the story? How could we go on?
Maybe your brain lies to you, too. Maybe it tells you awful things, hurts you, tells you the trauma you endured as a child or as an adult was your fault. Tell it the rest of the story.
Someone once told me that we only remember nightmares because we wake up. If we stayed asleep, we'd find our way out of the pain or fear or awful distortion, back into safety, and remember nothing of the struggle when we woke. I tell my son, that when he wakes with a bad dream, he has the power to finish the story in a beautiful, funny, safe-feeling way. We tell the story of the dream together sometimes.
We all have the power to finish the dream, to tell the end of the story, to find the other half of the truth. Sometimes, we can only stick with it, hoping and trusting that there is another side, another part of the story, more to come that will make it okay.
This may not work right away, and it may not work for big, awful things over which I have no control, but it can make it easier to be myself, and to get through the day with some sense of goodness intact, even if it's just a tiny spark.
It can take a while for my brain to quiet down enough that I can talk over the lies. Days or weeks, even. But eventually, the other part of the story, the other side of the truth breaks free of the netting of despair and bursts back into the light. Let's help it to come forth. Keep whispering, singing, shouting the other part of the dream, the other half of the truth, the happy ending.
Sara is a storyteller, writer, artist, teacher, wife, mother, and singer living in Minnesota. I write about storytelling, and about living a life with stories.