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The Stories We Tell

There are typically two times I find myself experiencing a deep desire to write. It is a strong, nearly physical urge to get the words out of my brain and into some semblance of order so that the weight on my chest subsides. Over time, I’ve learned that this desire most commonly arises both when I find myself in utter, unbridled happiness and in staggering, inexplicable despair.

Lately, this urge has been nipping at my heels. I’ve started so many posts only to have them land in the recycling bin within minutes because I’ve struggled with what, if anything at all, I even want to put into words.

It is true that as of late, I’ve known utter, unbridled happiness. I haven’t been this happy in ages. To be frank, though it seems like I’m tempting fate to admit it aloud, I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced this particular brand of happiness and it certainly qualifies as utter and unbridled in nearly every single sense. But over the course of the last few weeks, it has become increasingly clear to me that all of that happiness is somewhat tinged by an inexplicable despair that I must admit, I find staggering. You see, if I am indeed this happy now does that also mean that I was that unhappy before?

The weight of that question is not in and of itself, of course, terribly heavy. But it does, undeniably bring forth many other queries that are slowly weighing down both my mind and my spirit.

Questions like, why was I so unhappy? Did I even realize I was unhappy? If I didn’t, why couldn’t I see it? If I was that unhappy, what was at the root of that unhappiness? Did I cause it in whole or just in part? What if it wasn’t unhappiness at all? What if it was apathy? If it was apathy, how did I manage to confuse apathy with happiness for so long? What does that say about me and the state of my spirit? What if it wasn’t apathy either? What if it was something much more sinister? What does that say about me and my experiences? How do I label things I’m not sure I even want to acknowledge, much less express?

I felt a solid gut punch just typing out that last sentence. It all feels like such a tightrope. My past. My present. My potential future. One toe out of sync and maybe I go crashing down. Maybe I bring those I care about down with me. Maybe I hurt people I don’t intend to hurt by simply trying to label the things I’ve experienced. Which I suppose brings me to the two largest and most conflicting questions that weigh heaviest on my heart: “How do I heal without hurting people I love and how can I continue to love my people if I can’t heal from past hurt?”

I’ve never been one to see myself as a victim. Of anything. This might on the surface appear to be a good quality — no one likes a victim mentality, right? But what if, refusing to see yourself in that light means that you bear the weight of things that truly aren’t yours to bear? You see, under that kind of weight you develop automatic responses. And these new instincts, if wrong, will ultimately become detrimental to yourself. To others.

I have so much fear that I won’t be able to overcome these responses I find myself backsliding into sometimes. I worry they will follow me forward and keep me from being who I need to be – both for myself and for those I love. And I wonder if the only way to escape them is to acknowledge their weight. Acknowledge my experience. Acknowledge if nothing else, it is all real to me and therefore, valid.

And while I find immense delight in the happiness that now bubbles through in my daily life and my heart feels lighter than ever before as a result, this sinister weight presses down and threatens it all. This weight caused by having borne things I had no business bearing. This weight that wasn’t mine and yet, I willingly carried. This weight that I don’t want to talk about for fear that doing so may hurt people that I love but also, because doing so may force me to meet a version of myself that I’m not totally comfortable with acknowledging, much less knowing.

This weight that — if I’m being radically honest — I wonder if I have the good sense to not willingly pick up and bear again.

One of my favorite fictional characters, The Doctor from Doctor Who (yeah, I’m going there) once said, “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.” But over the last few weeks I’ve discovered that the stories we are comprised of are merely the stories we tell ourselves. For better or for worse, we each draft our own stories but none of us has the ability to dictate the stories other people tell about themselves. Or the stories they tell about us. And while all these stories often conflict and conflate, once written, they are painfully difficult, if not impossible, to un-write. It hurts to know that your story, while truth to you, may hurt another but it also it stings to be the villain in a story you must read all over someone else’s face.

Another iteration of The Doctor (yeah, we are circling back there) also said, “We’re all capable of the most incredible change. We can evolve while still staying true to who we are. We can honor who we’ve been and choose who we want to be next.”

In the end, I want my story — the one I tell myself anyways — to be a good one. One that honors who I once was without ignoring the unfair burdens I carried or glossing over why I willingly carried them. One that honors who I am today without fear that the truth I speak, which is indeed My Truth, is somehow not worthy of inclusion in my own narrative. And one that honors who — with the help of those other two versions of myself — I hope to one day become.

After all, this is my story. And I’m learning that I’m entitled to tell it.

I feel lighter already.

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2 Comments

  • Reply 16 Unmissable Reads, The Best of the Blogosphere (February 2020) - Not Dressed As Lamb

    […] has written a beautifully poignant post about the stories we tell [about ourselves] and how we can lighten our burdens by speaking our truths. Just […]

    February 23, 2020 at 8:59 am
  • Reply Liz

    Kate,

    I recommend visiting a Catholic church. The Prince of Peace is there, the font of all happiness and true peace. If you have never been to a Catholic mass, try it some time and sit in the back and observe. Most churches are unlocked during the day and you can also just go in and sit in a pew, or even visit during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which anyone can do.

    February 23, 2020 at 2:20 pm
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