Life events, aka Reality, continuously weaves surprising plot twists and characters into my preferred story about my life. Pops or induces slow leaks in my inflated views of myself, nudging or hurtling me towards the Real. Deprives me of false hope and false comfort. So it goes with America’s stories as well. Whose precious and difficult story are you willing to hear, bear, receive, and hold?
Sara’s story: the idealized and the real
In my preferred telling, the Main Character is selfless, empathic, honest, fair and equitable, and trustworthy. To claim these virtues as parts of myself is to claim some hard-earned wisdom. To claim that is the whole of who I am is to idealize myself, to leave aside my limitations and the work I have yet to do, to flatten myself into a paper doll. Because I also can and do fail to even consider another’s needs; steel myself against feeling another’s turmoil or suffering; deliberately ignore, skirt or disguise what I understand to be true; play God; fail to follow through on a commitment. I become a human, dimensional, interesting Protagonista when I invite all this into my story.
The problem is not that I have ideals and wisdom that I aspire to live into. Nor is the problem that I fall prey to quite human limitations. The actual difficulty is when I take a partial view of myself as the whole. Not a believable character, but one I maintain by default whenever I fail to notice what I am doing. Or when I take my story as Everyone Else’s Story.
Once I notice what I am doing, living into these questions helps me:
- What story, whose story am I telling?
- Who are the heroines, the allies, the enemies?
- What drives the action?
- Who and what am I leaving out, filling in, emphasizing, dismissing?
- What pattern of my lineage or culture am I continuing to act out or react against?
- How am I responsible, and how do I act on on that?
Reflection – Ask yourself
How do I appear in my own story?
Who and what am I including?
Who and what am I leaving out?
The shattering of an idealized America
We live in raucous times, pitting our stories against one another. Heroines, allies and enemies are shaped by where and when we were born, into what circumstances, with what skin color, with what religious belief, with what expectations, with what gifts and burdens of history – and countless other influences.
From all around and within us our many and varied stories resound with the thunderous cracks of shattered dreams, the heavy sighs of disappointed expectations, and piercing cries for justice. We are challenged to separate out the many actual injustices from the collapse of our idealized stories of ourselves – and most especially how our stories are supposed to end, our partial stories of others, and our partial versions of America itself.
To draw on Khalil Gibran’s potent words – we are in an agony of pain as the shells that enclose our understanding, our precious and difficult stories, break one after another. Until such time as we each, in our own way, are willing to hold the pain of one another’s stories, even the pain of someone who we have written in as an enemy in our own.
CHALLENGE: Whose precious and difficult story are you willing to hear, bear, receive, and hold?
How big a story treasury are you willing to risk becoming?
Banner photo: Lend a Hand, acrylic by Linda Carmel, Hillsborough Gallery Of Arts, Hillsborough, North Carolina