I tell a lot of stories about myself.
I tell about my travels and my teaching, and about my favorite books, about my relationship with my parents. About my kid.
I also tell stories about how incompetent I am. How I badly I have failed. How I cannot get a real job. How I have no classroom management skills. These stories are rooted in particular experiences, but I tend to make them pervasive and universal. I did this thing once, which means I ALWAYS do it, much in the way that, when you do something one time for a holiday, the children in your presence will say that is what you ALWAYS do for that holiday. The experiences that these pervasive stories are based on, live so strongly in my memory, that they take over.
When I tell these stories, I believe them. And I believe they matter more than any other story about me.
When I tell these stories, they drown out the students I have helped, the tears I have wiped, the joy I have shared. The stories of bad experiences are louder and stronger than the stories of good I have done. Success pales in the face of defeat. These stories squeeze the life out of any good I have done. And they squeeze the life out of me.
I feel myself contracting. Growing smaller. These stories are killing me.
What stories do you tell about yourself?
What if we told the stories of heroes and heroines that way? What if we told about how Cinderella failed to keep her mother alive? What if we told about how the young woman in Finist the Falcon failed to awaken the prince the first two nights? Those are part of the story, but they are not the story. We do not leave the heroine in the woods, alone, to die. We do not leave her weeping at the side of the true love who will not awaken, because he has been drugged, nor by her mother's grave. The fairy tale follows her through repeated failures, to success.
Your failures are not the story. You are more than your worst moments. You are worth more than your debts. You are comprised of far more than one awful day's events, or even a year's or a decade's.
When we learn to tell our whole story, without shame, we become more whole. When we tell the stories of success as well as those of failure, we give others permission to do the same.
Many of us have been taught not to speak well of ourselves. Many of us have been taught not to "toot our own horn," that it is better to laugh at yourself, to tell others how incompetent, how bumbling, how stupid we are. We think it will protect us. If others think too little of us, it will keep them from expecting too much, and that way, we won't let them down...
But it doesn't work that way. All we do is ensure that others will not see what we can do, what we are capable of. All we do is ensnare ourselves in a story that will never let us reach the treasure we hoped for. I have been ensnared in such a story for a long time, now. It is sticky, and it is pervasive, and it is taking my deepest dedication and devotion to healing to even allow for the possibility that these stories are not Truth, writ large. They are only facts, and facts without context, or facts applied in the wrong situation, are tantamount to falsehoods. I am determined to see a fuller reality.
What story are you telling? What happens if you change the story?
Apparently, there is a phenomenon known as the Sunday Scaries. I've been living with this feeling for years and years. It's the feeling one gets on Sunday, knowing the weekend is almost over, and tomorrow, you go back to work. And for me, it's the knowledge that there was so much I wanted to accomplish over the weekend, to prepare for the week, that isn't done.
The Sunday scaries are the opposite of Sabbath. They are the opposite of a day of rest. They are a tool of oppression, and a fear-based way of being. I am tired of fear.
What do I want instead?
The way around this is always the same. Stop imagining that I am locked in the tower, or in the witch's cage, or under the earth. Know who I am, and what I can choose. Look for help. Offer my help where I can.
When I stop and look around, I can always find the way back. Even when I feel like my hand is grasping and flailing, the thread is there.
A few years ago I signed up for a course in the Magic School by Mandy Steward (she has since close the school, but is still living a magical life and making magical art). One of the things she taught in that school, which I never got to finish because perfectionism kept me from moving forward, was that there are tools in our favorite stories and films and books, that we can use in our real lives.
So today. I am using my magic thread, from The Princess and the Goblin, to help me find my way. I am making my home like the House in the Fairy Wood.
We went to a wonderful friend's home for brunch today. It had been planned for a month, and I was afraid it would be cancelled. She's an amazing human, who I am excited to get to know. Our children played and wrestled and were silly and wild together. We adults sat and talked books and history, and shared stories of our lives. It was so good and so needed.
How will you combat the Sunday Scaries this week? What magic tools will you use? What do you want to create in your life?
I'm not myself lately
I hear the words from my lips and wonder, then who am I?
there is a constant drive.
there is a hum under the words, the beating of my heart,
there is a moment in every day where I stop and wonder,
Who is this I, this self, whom I am not, lately?
Who is it, then, who is experiencing this life, if not I?
and I tie myself up in knots,
and I feel the thread slip from under my finger.
Do you know the thread? The thread Princess Irene follows,
up to her grandmother's room, away from the goblins?
I put out my finger, and I cannot feel it.
I put my hand into the back of the wardrobe,
and it's solid behind the coats.
there is a hum under the words, a flutter in the chest,
and every day there are more lines around my mouth,
and around my eyes.
I am not myself.
and I think of the poem by Juan Ramon Jimenez.
and I think of the thread.
and my hands are like my mother's, and I wish hers were here,
so we could hold our same-same hands together.
So I could find the thread, the one that stretches up
to my grandmother's room.
So I could read their eyes in my own,
their love in the lines around those eyes.
So I may be myself.
I'm beginning to see the light. The days are longer, just enough longer that I feel like I can go on...
Hi. That's me. I write, sometimes, about parenting, storytelling, and about living a life with stories.