The stories we tell ourselves

How many times a have you heard someone tell the story of some major event in their lives? Have you noticed that, often, the story gets more “set” with each retelling? Everyone has that uncle (or dad or granddad) who tells the same old war/military, (hunting/fishing, sailor/truck driver) stories whenever a new person at family gatherings freshens the audience. You may even have your favorites, stories that always make you laugh, stories that reaffirm, stories that explain.

That last, more than anything, I think, is the most common reason for the longer stories we tell ourselves and others, the major motion picture events like having a baby, moving, getting married, going to college or into the military, losing a loved one. We tell the story because we want to know Why ~ but we’ll settle, initially, for When, Where, and How. Retelling the story of us is how we create order in our world, how we cope with the unexpected, how we give ourselves the illusion of some control in a reality inherently uncontrollable. It’s necessary, because living in free fall is just too frightening.

So we tell ourselves the story of something that happens, like amateur detectives in a cozy mystery, figuring out and linking together the chain of events that led up to whatever it was that happened. And it’s a good thing, this storytelling, because once the mystery is solved, the “truth” revealed, you can move on to the next thing, even though you may tell this particular story again when you need to.

Remember the old All In the Family episodes when Edith Bunker would tell Archie about something that happened, often diverging to set the story in context or because some related thought occurred to her ~ while Archie mimed some method of suicide? It was wryly funny to many of us ~ we all know someone who rambles on (sometimes we ARE the someone who rambles on) and never seems to “get to the point, Edith!” But in a very real sense, Edith isn’t telling him the story, she’s telling herself, and in the process of recounting the Where, When, and How, is trying to uncover clues to the Why of whatever it is that will make sense of what happened.

We all try to trace the thread of the story to make sense of the events that take place in our lives ~ like following the storyline in a book or movie to see how it all comes out, only the denouement is a bit more important to us. It’s how we negotiate our way through the world.

It’s also one of the ways we assemble who we are.

Fortunately, our lives are not one major motion picture event after another. I’m not sure how long one could survive the intensity and stress, even if each event were a joyful one, like having a baby.

But even when there’s no car-chase or love scene or explosion going on, the cameras are still rolling and the narrator is still telling the story. We talk to ourselves all the time, telling ourselves who and what we are, constructing our reality by narrating our perception of it, filtered through a multitude of experiences, conscious and unconscious.

What impacts us the most, though, are those brief soundbites that pop up in our minds over and over again, like public service announcements. But where do these soundbites come from? And how do they really serve you?

Next time: not brought to you by the ad council . . . .

A Gift of Love, Faith, and Belief ~ Jewels dropped from the abundance of the universe

It’s funny how the universe drops little jewels of joy and uplifting in the path of your life now and then, treasures unawares, if I might modify that phrase a bit.

I had several jewels dropped into my path today ~  sown last night, when we lent our car to one of my daughters, after she’d come out of work to find one of the tires on her car flat. Out of that less than positive happenstance, as with jewels taken from the dirt and stone in which they’re formed, came these three treasures ~

1.) I got to spend half an hour talking with Brigette about things that are important to us, as well as just chatting, when she picked me up on her way back to work so I could get my car;

2.) talking with her about the seminar I’m going to in Ontario this weekend and enumerating the ways that I know I’m meant to go to this seminar, helped to calm my heart and worries that the check I’m waiting for won’t come in time for us to go, and

3.) but, this, the most complex and multifaceted of the treasures I received takes longer to explain.

Brigette had left the radio on what I think was a christian station she listens to. The news program was interesting, but when I went to push the button to find out what station it was, I accidentally hit one of the programmed buttons instead, so I had to search through to find the station again ~ I’m not sure if I found the right one, because the newscast had just been ending when I hit the wrong button, and when I got back to a christian station, the second or third one the scanner stopped at, there was a young woman speaking about how she’d reached out to Jesus when she was 9 and felt him take her hand as she sat on the back of a horse. Of course the word “horse” caught my attention, and even though I’m not religious, I am a person of faith, and what little I’d heard touched my heart, so I continued to listen.

The young woman’s parents had died (I don’t know how) when she was only 9, and her life seemed to have crashed down around her and, just as my heart called out to my angels several months ago, in her grief and pain she had cried out the only name she knew, even though she’d only ever been to church once or twice in her life ~ Jesus. She said that in that moment she had felt him take her hand and he had never left her since.

As I drove to the store before I went home, I continued to listen, and it turned out that the young woman and her husband were guests on the radio show, which I later discovered was Focus on the Family. The couple’s names are Kim and Troy Meeder (I looked them up on the Focus On the Family website), and they are the founders, owners, operators of Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, in Bend, Oregon ~ where they have helped thousands of “broken” children find healing by working with the horses the Meeders have also rescued and helped to heal.

Listening to them talk about how they built Crystal Peaks from a plot of land that had been scraped raw and mined for cinders to spread on the roads, 8 acres of land that had no grass or trees or even dirt when they started (which was how they could afford it in the first place), I was struck by how obvious it was that, in healing that piece of land, they were learning patience, growing in faith and belief, and preparing themselves for the next great work of rescuing “broken” children and horses who, within that same love and belief, though they were unaware of it,  would help to heal each other.

It was a beautiful story, and one that speaks to me of the best uses of one’s faith. As I listened, there were points at which I felt the flush-and-goosebumps feeling that I associate with being in contact with the divine, whether you call it the cosmos, or the universe, or god, or the holy spirit ~ it is an in-flooding and an up-welling of love and belief that refreshes and re-energizes, as true love and belief always do.

It was a gift to me, carried on the joy in the voices of these two people as they talked about the children and horses they had brought together and helped to find healing.

It was one of the jewels dropped in my path today, and I wanted to share it, knowing that even in giving it to you, the gift stays with me still. For, as some of the oldest texts of faith, the Upanishads, tell us, the abundance of the universe cannot be reduced, no matter how much of it is taken or given away.

“From abundance he took (received) abundance ~ and still abundance remained.”

May you live and love in the abundance of divine energy that vibrates through and around us all.

The gifts of the season

For Christmas this year, I’m giving myself permission to stay home, just my love and me, and do absolutely nothing, maybe watching movies, or reading, or listening to music, or just lying in each others arms and talking. It’s been (in the words of the Counting Crows) a long December, one that seems to have lasted all year, for me, and more difficult days ahead.

But tomorrow is the winter solstice, which marks the turning of the year and the returning of the light as the days now begin to lengthen toward spring. Friday night is Christmas Eve, marking the eternal return of another kind of Light to the world. Sunday is a personal celebration day for me, as it marks the birth of my son. For others, many of these days between now and the New Year mean observances of other celebrations, each with their own symbols of life and hope, of prayers for peace and gifts of love. So many paths,  all leading to the same summit, and the same sun shining in many windows.

So I’ve chosen to give myself a little break, a season of rest in the spaces between, to take comfort from the light rather than dwell upon the shadows behind and in the path ahead, to remember and give thanks that I’m blessed to have so many people that I love who love me right back ~ and to rest in the upwelling joy that ordinary people in an ordinary place can create when they choose to do so ~ like this gift of joy given me by one of my daughters.

Wishing, for all of you, an upwelling of quiet joy and all the love and peace this season brings ~