The Titantic or the deck chairs: the choice is yours or, uh, mine actually

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted. It’s not laziness, or busy-ness, or one too many cheerleading competitions, though I could easily make a case for any of those things. We’re awfully good at making cases, we humans.  We are good at making up stories, too, and casting those stories with the people around us, loved ones and strangers alike, feeding them their lines, interpreting their motives in accordance with the plot we’ve written and the themes we’ve developed.

He doesn’t love me enough, or I hate this job or, no one understands me.

 Well, no, as a matter of fact, no one does understand you. It’s not possible, so the sooner you drop that fairy tale, the more peaceful your life will be.

But I digress.

I haven’t posted recently because I’ve been percolating, a favourite pastime of mine. I’ve been sitting, standing, walking and driving around town with a question in my mind, one that I posed in my last post: how the hell do I turn this cruise ship around- this life of mine- and point in a healthier direction? If you know me at all, you’ll know that I don’t let myself off the hook that easily. I know that I have to find my own damn life boat. No one else can find it for me, especially if I’ve cast him or her in the role of, say, the Loch Ness monster or the Perfect Storm.

The life boat, I’ve realized, isn’t as elusive as I make it out to be. The answer is as simple – and as hard – as re-writing my own story.

Even now, re-reading my last post, I am drawn in. Such a compelling explanation. So true!

Wait a minute.

Is it true?

I have a knack for writing my life story as though it is The Titantic when, really, it is anything but. You’ll have to forgive me for that though; or rather, I will have to forgive myself. It’s one of the gifts of our humanity, of our having a pre-frontal cortex and an imagination that can spin-doctor our lives as though they were reality television, creating drama where there isn’t any, of having a fight-or-flight programmed amygdale that wants us to react to perceived threats and slights when maybe, just maybe, there hasn’t been any actual threat or a slight.

Sometimes all it takes is pressing the pause button in our ongoing dramas to see what’s really going on.

Lately, for instance I was sharing my circumstances with a good friend, explaining how often my husband is away, how many directions he is pulled in by family, hobbies, work.

“Why aren’t you with him now?” she asked, speaking of his prolonged stay in Florida. “Didn’t he invite you?”

“He always invites me.”

“So why didn’t you go?” she asked.

And instead of giving one of the half-dozen stock reasons I usually trot out, I paused and thought about it, and in doing so, realized that, again, I really have no idea. 

So what gives?

If you say you’re lonely, and your husband offers you more attention, why don’t you say, yes, yes that is exactly what I need. Thank you, I’ll take that.

And then I see it.

It’s simple, really. I can’t accept what he’s offering because doing so wouldn’t be consistent with the story that I have played out day-after-day, year-after-year, from the early days of our relationship. The story of us that I’ve written, casting him as the insensitive cad – an insult I hurled at him in our first year together – and me as the long-suffering-second-string-wife.  My mind is so fixed in this storyline, and our respective roles, that no matter what he does my mind will still go looking for evidence that substantiates my theory. And the mind will always find it. Consequently, no matter what he does, nothing will change.

He can’t win, and neither can I.

And it’s such a great story.  So persuasive, so dramatic. So unbelievably poisonous.

It just isn’t true. It never has been.

Except in my mind.

I am gratified to realize this, relieved. It’s not as though dozens of different teachers haven’t been telegraphing this message for years, from Buddhist nuns to Byron Katie to Yoda. But to suddenly see it is an amazing gift. It’s also a challenge: if I see it’s just a story, can I write a new one? What should the new story be? What are our roles, the happy ending?

Great questions, no? I’ll let you know what answers I find in my next post.

(This is an excerpt from a heck of a long essay.)