History

The Past Is Just A Story We Tell Ourselves

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Samantha: “Last week my feelings were hurt by something you said before: that I don’t know what it’s like to lose something. And I found myself…”
Theodore: “Oh, I’m sorry I said that.”
Samantha: “No, it’s okay. It’s okay. I just… I caught myself thinking about it over and over. And then I realized that I was simply remembering it as something that was wrong with me. That was the story I was telling myself – that I was somehow inferior. Isn’t that interesting? The past is just a story we tell ourselves.”

I read once that the stories we tell ourselves about our lives may be more important than the actual events of our lives, they can actually shape our happiness more than our lives themselves. For example, “if you still feel anguish from a particularly rough breakup, change the story you tell yourself about it. Rather than being the poor guy or girl who got cheated on and will never heal, make yourself the person who got out of a terrible situation before you married and made a big mistake. If you were a child of divorced parents and worry that you’re doomed to repeat the same pattern, turn yourself into the outlier of your family who will cultivate a lasting relationship.” ~ Alexis Meads

Seems simple enough. Of course, I know that the author did not mean burying feelings or ignoring realities or boundaries. He meant to change our perspective on the experience. Since I am changing the way I look at myself (victim or survivor; ashamed of or inspired by my past; afraid of failure or of regret), I am changing the way I tell my stories too. I won’t focus on painful and disappointing experiences. After all, it’s not what happened to me that hurt me but the way I viewed what happened. It’s the stories I tell myself: the interpretations and meanings I give to those experiences.

So I’ve made a decision: To choose a new story for my old stories. Instead of seeing them as examples of lack I choose to love that they will forever be a part of my life and accept that they are a part of me because they have made me who I am today.

“Oh darling, it’s okay that you faltered…that you engaged in a destructive behaviour that was not in keeping with your true values. You did it to dull the pain, diminish the anger. But you realised that it still lay there… pressed further down. Let it Come Up a thousand times, again & again. Let it Rise…and Drift Away.” ~ Patrice Charles

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On February 6th 2014, four days after I stopped drinking alcohol, I started this blog. My two-year soberversary is fast approaching and my January posts, inspired by thought-provoking quotes by fictional philosophers, is a way of celebrating my journey. I hope, in turn, to inspire you on yours.

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Yabbering

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Toph: And then when I was nine, I ran away again. I know I shouldn’t complain, my parents gave me everything that I ever asked for. But they never gave me the one thing that I really wanted. Their love. You know what I mean?

I have a tendency to overshare. It was the most pronounced when I drank. Through the haze of alcohol drinking buddies and even acquaintances became “soul mates”. We were “destined to meet” and obviously had “a real connection” because after a few drinks we were pouring our hearts (and our personal business) out.

I am an empathetic listener and love psychoanalyzing people, so I have a way of getting people to open up to me. Of course, I always opened up about myself too. To an alarming degree at times. Then, the next time Sober Me (with a less than perfect memory of what we talked about) met the recipient of my confessions, I would be embarrassed and worried about how much I’d revealed. My new “friend” would be baffled by what appeared to be an about face on my part. I, on the other hand, would pretty much be ready to bolt.

I know why I did it. I told my personal stories to anyone who would listen, just because I needed approval and love so badly. I needed self-acceptance so much that I wanted someone who heard my stories to tell me that I was still a good person, not broken, or if I was indeed broken, say that I was made the more beautiful for it.

I keep the telling of my personal stories in check now, revealing them to only trusted friends. The reason why I share anything now has also changed. It’s no longer because I desperately seek approval or proof of worth, and is instead to offer understanding and compassion.

“Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story?” If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky. If we have a friend, or small group of friends, or family who embraces our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and power, and fills us with a sense of belonging, we are incredibly lucky.” ~ Brene Brown

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This is Post X, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

A New Story

I had coffee with a new friend a few evenings ago. We had a great time comparing our stories and getting to know one another. Later that night, while I was falling asleep, I thought about all that we had talked about. I realized that while I was happy to have shared what I consider to be new stories, I had spoken of the old stories in the same way that I had been for a long time, despite the fact that a lot of time had passed and my understanding and interpretation of those old stories had changed.

I woke up feeling heavy and unsettled and it took me a few days to truly understand why. Even though I had long come to terms with the old stories and have accepted that they are a part of my past, I was still choosing to drag along with me the old heavy, hurtful, angry feelings they once produced.

I made a decision right then and there to choose more. To choose a new story for my old stories. I choose to love that they will forever be a part of my life and accept that they are important to me because they have made me who I am today. And I’m not half bad, when I really think about it.

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