Day 18 (Kind of – It really, like Day 20)
You know how I know I’m getting close to a breakthrough? The walls go right up and the excuse machine shifts into high gear. As I mentioned in my earlier post. This starts Section 4 entitled “How to Get Over Your Own B.S. Already” and let me tell you, while I was saying, “It’s about damn time!” on the outside, inside, I just wanted an viable excuse to not write. So I went with my old standard, “I need to think about this a bit”. Maybe there was truth in that. There is definitely some excavating I am going to have to do, but honestly, I just ended up bingeing my new favorite obsession, British crime mini-series. Last night was series one of “Marcella”, yup, the whole bloody thing. I watched until I couldn’t keep my eyes open and then that became my new excuse. “I’ll write tomorrow morning, first thing.”, and now it’s nearly 5pm and I’m forcing myself to not make another excuse.
So, why the resistance? Because now is the time I need to dig up all the stupid stories I tell myself and change the narrative. Most stories we tell ourselves are lies. Sometimes we glean them from others: our parents, our siblings, our spouses, our lovers, our teaches and even our closest friends. Sometimes we even make them up ourselves, just so we can feel a little better about where we are in our life.
I don’t even have to look very far to find the stories, I know I dumped a bunch of them in the previous pages of this journal exercise. I also had a great talk this morning with a dear friend I’ve known since I was 14 and he was probably the first person that said to me “that’s just a story you tell yourself”. We’ve had a lot of great conversations about our stories, and this morning was no different. So maybe, just maybe, my procrastination yesterday was a divine intervention. I may not have had the same insight last night as I do tonight.
Stories, I tell myself:
- I’m better off single
- No one will love me if I’m not skinny
- I am not interesting
- Talent is a “use it or lose it” gift. I squandered it, so I have no right to ask for it back
- I’m lucky I have this job
- My desires aren’t as important as the desires of others
- My standards are too high. Maybe if I lower them I’ll find someone to love me
- I don’t know if anyone “deserves” anything. (Mostly used when someone tells me I “deserve” to be loved)
- I’m too sensitive
- I am too under-educated to present myself as an expert on anything
I just dug up some stories, I hadn’t even dealt with at all yet. It’s really amazing the myriad stories I tell myself. Some even sound life-affirming, but they are really not. So, here is where I start the excavation and change the narrative.
- I’m better off being single. It’s easier to be single. I decide what I want and when. I live by my rules and there’s no one to try and change me…yeah, there’s no one there to challenge me and help me grow.
A link to a song, that should be my new lifesong: https://youtu.be/RJssHQjaZHg
- No one will love me if I’m not skinny. I have been loved (or at least crushed on) even when I wasn’t skinny, but there have been enough douche bags make a comment about my weight to shame me. Largely, I think because they wanted to keep me feeling just “not quite good enough”. The last relationship I was in, the guy kept referring to “us” being fat, as if we were in the same boat. I finally told him, ” I might have some fat on my body, but I am not fat”
Acknowledging that some extra pounds don’t define me made me feel better. I am not one thing, but the sum of many things. I’m a 55 year old woman who is one size bigger than I want to be. I don’t think that’s the whole of my existence.
- I am not interesting – This started a long time ago. I remember sitting at the dinner table when I was probably in elementary school. I was telling a story about my day, and maybe it wasn’t very interesting, but I sensed that no one was listening and I ended my story with “and the house caught on fire, and we all died”. Crickets…no one noticed. I did it a few more times, before my mother finally caught it. She was really mad at me for thinking that I wasn’t being listened to. I don’t think she ever knew how many times that experiment played out, giving me evidence that I was, in fact, not interesting.
In life though, when talking to strangers, who maybe aren’t dealing with their own inner turmoil like my family may have been, I hear that I am fascinating, and brave, and a great story-teller. Friends and sometimes strangers come to me for advice and seek out my stories. So this is who I need to listen to. I need to believe the people that tell me I’m interesting. I need to own that story instead of the old story that no longer is even remotely true.
- Talent is a “use it or lose it” gift. I squandered it, so I have no right to ask for it back – This is the big one. When I was a little kid, I found out I could sing. It became very much a part of my identity. It was the one thing I was most proud of. My mother was proud of it too. I got great feedback from teachers, and parents of classmates, I got more solos in choir than was really fair to the other students.
I loved singing. It was my therapy through my mother’s fight with cancer. It was the one thing I really counted on to set me apart. Singing made me feel free. It was a release of all the negative stuff invading my brain. Singing choral music and Opera made me feel worldly (my first feelings of wanderlust).
After my mother died, and I lost my biggest cheerleader, I didn’t really sing as much. I had gotten married and I think the man I married didn’t want me to appear “bigger” than him at church (really, the only place left for me to sing) and so he discouraged me. He didn’t exactly tell me to not sing, but he would often point out people who had such beautiful voices, I shouldn’t try to compete. After a while, I just stopped.
After several years, I started back to school and took a voice class, just for something “fun” to do. The first day of class, the teacher told me in front of the class. “Man, you can sing!” I was shocked and embarrassed. Somehow I expected to be unremarkable and not get any notice, but I soon became his shining example in class and joined his traveling ensemble. It was the happiest I had been in years. I made friends who sang, and encouraged me to do more and believe in my talent. I got involved in the theater department and started building this world where I felt like I fit.
At the end of my last semester in school, we had our final recital performance. My husband came, and at the end of the night, when I asked him what he thought, he said, “You were fine”. Nothing else. I was crest fallen. I was long past believing he had any love for me, but I thought at least he could have shown some encouragement. I guess I should be glad that he didn’t blurt out “You Sucked!”, but it felt the same.
It took me a long time to realize that he knew NOTHING about music, and I gave his opinion of my talent more weight than I gave my music professors, my singing partners, and even strangers who approached me after my performances. I let his story write mine.
And now many decades have passed and I have sung in front of people on a couple of occasions, but nothing major. I abhor Karaoke, so that’s out for me (resistance, much?) Now, it feels as if it’s too late. My lungs are shot, I can’t sustain a long note to save my life, but what’s really sad is, I don’t even sing in my car as much as I used to. I took the joy out of my life, I did. No one to blame but me, and no one to fix it but me.
- I’m lucky I have this job – This one is easy. I say this with every job I have. It’s my number one way to get comfortable and not seek out a more unconventional life. Time to kill this story…which is why I’m here.
On that note: I’m going to tackle stories 6-10, tomorrow.
If you don’t hear from me, feel free to call me out!