I have been walking around all these years with stories about myself. Some are true, but some aren't. It is not that I have made them up entirely, it is that I have crafted a personal mythology that does not necessarily reflect life outside of these walls of my fortress mind.
This week, yet again, I have been forced to look at one of these stories and realize, it's time to throw it out. Stop telling it to others, stop saying it to myself. It may have felt true before, but it isn't true. The more I tell it, the more hurt I cause myself, and others.
I have been keen enough to listen for the stories others tell about themselves, so that I can say "hey, that's part of her thing" and- more importantly- so I can illustrate somehow to them that their story is just that, a story. It may have parts that are true, but it is in the past, and unless you want to retraumatize yourself continually, you will stop telling it. Or stop telling it like that.
I think we all know drama queens (and kings) who never fail to bring up their particular issue or set of issues, and somehow wind it in, braid it through, or just grab whatever situation is going on and yank it so hard as to fit into their narrative that they don't get it that it is okay to let it go, let it pass, or even actively choose to not relate to it. How do we do this on many other levels? Usually with sentences that start with "I have never..., I have always..., my mother has never..., my brother always..., my father is....".
These are a few examples of my stories that I have had to recognize for what they are- old and tiring and self defeating- and more importantly not true. They may have come out of truth, but their perpetuity is in my own creation and thus they are my myth. I don't need my childhood to appear to read like the The Odyssey, even if I have met some ogres and maidens along the way.
I am not beautiful: I was never told as a child I was beautiful, or, for that matter, pretty. Whether I think it of me now doesn't change then, I didn't hear pretty until I was in high school and that usually came with a modifier. You look pretty with your hair like that. You would be pretty if you lost some weight. I think there is not a woman on here who cannot relate to how important this belief is in life, and how it directs your success. Despite what is said, beauty is rewarded above all things in this modern world. How people learn to find beauty in others is what changes. This isn't a discourse on beauty, this is about how we create our ideas and stories about ourselves. I was not a beautiful child or a pretty girl, just kind of average but very smart and creative, and had to develop a whole different type of personality to match. This also meant that I didn't have many nice boy relationships along the way because I didn't believe I was attractive in the physical way (and was frequently reminded of my flaws), and I put myself in emotionally and physically and sexually exploitative situations a lot. I had no idea that I had control over that, it seemed to just be how it was for me, "girls like me".
I have never been loved by my mother: ah, she can be a total witch. She was not a good mother by most people's standards, and I spent my childhood thinking she hated me and wanted me dead. My adolescence was not that different or my young adulthood, except the wanting me dead part. She is mentally ill in the normal way- depression, alcoholism and narcissism. She does love me and she also battles me constantly, herself even more. Accepting love or any kind of gift from her has been exercise in compromise and self defeat. You'd think that people could give you things because you like them and they make you happy, not because you "deserved" them and should learn to want something else. From this I have also learned to be cold and distant when I am angry and feeling judgmental. I think I am at least sparing people when I don't choose to attack them physically and verbally with the words and rages. And those words and rages rarely pop up anymore. Not never, just not nearly as often. I'd prefer not to be this way at all. I still don't know how to unlearn everything.
I have had to do everything on my own. My parents were not helpful much in most of the ways that people who do well in life assume other's parents were helpful as well. I see my friends who are generally well adjusted and married and have "normal" lives, and they had great relationships with parents who were there for them financially, emotionally, parentally, and still are actively involved well into their adulthood. Recently, a high school friend expressed the disbelief that my mother could move to Europe and abandon her children (I was 19, my sister 15, my brother already long out of the home and in school). She can't imagine what it would be like to be away from her kid. I can't defend it, but it was my life. I can't imagine what it is like to have a parent who is there for me, consistently, or one has takes responsibility for their children's needs. I believe this is part of why my sweetie and I are well suited to each other, neither of us grew up being overly loved by generous parents. We still don't have that in our lives, and we just had to slog it out mostly on our own. My brother and sister got bailed out a lot by other people, and I get helped out by my aunt a lot. But I always did my best to make sure I was never in a boat that needed bailing, or I just sucked it up and did the job myself. I have a hard time asking for things, and never ask unless I have a plan to repay. This week, my sister has decided to help me pay off some debts that I have decided aren't going to crush me so much as slow me down. I accept the cost of paying them off over a long period of time, and what else can I do? She is making this a gift, I am not to moralize. I found myself wanting to fight this, but now I feel a sense of relief that I don't have to spend another two years paying these things off, as my salary goes up and down and never steady. That I don't have to pay her back is something I am going to have to learn to live with. Because my story is now different. Someone is giving me something and not asking for anything back. Not that it has never happened before, but the story would now be a total lie.
I have never been loved for who I am. What does that mean anyhow? We grow up and change and learn and adapt. Some folks seem to change more than others, some folks seem to never change but not really like who they are. I am not sure how much the same or different I am. Is it a good thing to be willing to change yourself a lot? Why? I think there is a middle way. Still, we measure our rejections more carefully than we realize our acceptance. Because acceptance is flush with who we already are, not who we failed to be. I have never been good enough for the men I have loved, in their view, apparently, because they are all long gone and willing to give me up easily instead of give up their demands. Or maybe I was really impossible to be with and I didn't see it. Or maybe we were just trying to make something work that shouldn't have. It takes time to know someone well enough to love them as they are, not just like them for what they do. I have been loved, and I have been liked, and I have been disliked, and I have been nothing'ed. I am with someone who loves me as I am, apparently, because I don't hear comparisons to women who he prefers, or things that he'd rather I was doing and not doing. When this is happening, it is so much easier to see the like and love and acceptance that is always around. The story has to change. I haven't been in a relationship that was as mutually supporting and loving as the one I am in right now, ever, in my life. The mythology of love and marriage and princesses and all that does so much harm to the potential for human love. It is a nice idea, and there are kernels of truth. The reality is so rarely resembling the fantasy, that it is no wonder we have a hard time recognizing love when it is there for us to have. The fantasies are so much easier to stay attached to than truth.
I am getting to enjoy the feeling of lightening my load this week. These stories of mine haven't served me as well as I'd like to think they have, and they have proved to be a tremendous weight. Yesterday, I visited with some friends and my sweetie, and just had a fun light happy day having japanese food and going to see a friend at his store and then the bookstore and then Trader Joe's and then the herb store and then having a popsicle (it was 100 degrees out, fyi). The friend at the store had said something about my having good karma. I replied, "I am not sure I have good karma, I just have my life, my karma is what it is. Right now, my life is good."