How much of our experience is the story we tell ourselves?
I hold certain stories to be true that scare the shit out of me. They have been woven into the cloth of my being, over time and with precision. My belief in them is strong, and they are hard to let go of.
Despite their complete lack of compassion, these are some of my oldest narratives:
I am not smart.
I have no original ideas.
It is too much to ask my friends for anything.
I am a disorganized person, which will always make life hard.
Nobody really cares.
I am alone.
A few weeks ago I told a beautiful story of love and dreams and synchronicity. Could I just have easily told another side of that experience that would have painted a lesser picture? Is it only wonderful because I deem it so, and how many other stories do I tell for better or for worse that shape my experience?
The I am alone story, is one I hold close in practice and see it play out in ways I am constantly kicking myself for. Living 13 miles off the coast, with my oldest friends and family, boat rides and hours away--it has been easy for me to reiterate this story again and again. I am not an "islander", nor am I married to one, which has always left me feeling like I will never fully belong. Despite the span of 18 years living on the island, I've always felt my time here was temporary without family or land rooting us. Having said good-bye to so many friends at the end of seasons passed, and understanding the tides of rumors in this small community, I am left knowing that at any time I could be at the other end of it, my feelings hurt already. When my son was born, I felt the community envelop us in a way I had never felt before, and I softened, but still my trust was being tested.
For forever I've had a card in my bathroom with a little Louise Haye-ism on it. I cannot change another person. I let others be who they are, and I simply love who I am. Depending on the story I was telling at different stages I found this reminder helpful. There were times when I rested in the satisfaction of being truly in love with who I was. When faced with challenges from outside energies, I was reminded to bring my focus back to myself, knowing this was where the real challenge and remedy lie. I read that card every time I brushed my teeth, intentionally or not, and it became a part of my truth, my story.
When we moved, the card got packed away amongst the toothbrushes, shampoo, and towels. With each visit of a grandparent another box is unpacked, and I recently noticed the card prominently placed back in its spot on the soap dish. This time with a different message I had never seen before, I didn't know the card was two sided. I get the help I need, when I need it, from various sources. My support system is strong and loving. A message so perfectly timed, it could not be ignored.
Suddenly, all my beliefs and story about being alone had a light shining brightly on them. This card was retelling a story I had been holding so close to me. A story that I felt kept me safe, but really just held me back from the beauty I was being offered within my community.
The neighbor who comes over to hold my baby, while I work.
The mother who dropped fresh eggs from her chickens at my doorstep, every week after my son was born.
The woman who hits reply almost every time she receives an email from me, saying what a great job I am doing.
The friend, who trusts me enough to pay it forward, and pass on what is the biggest gift I have ever received.
The roommate who never forgets birthdays or Christmas, who is one of the best gift givers I've ever known.
The doctor who lets me text her when my kids are sick.
The librarians who make my son feel loved, and seen, and safe.
The babysitter who has become family, and allowed me to step out and away at times when I otherwise wouldn't.
The teachers who greet him with a hug, text me when he's having an exceptional day, and let him borrow books, because they know it gifts him the confirmation he needs.
The families that share in wisdom, and playdates, and hand me downs, and shoulders to lean.
The village, that I see daily, in the market, at the post office, on the ferry. Who check in, with heart and a smile.
The friends, who I laugh with, celebrate with, and have my back no matter what.
My family is not here. My oldest friends, who are part of my closest knit fabric, do not live here. I see others, who have this on the island, and it becomes my entire view shed. All I am able to focus on is what I do not have, until I allow that story to release, and begin the retelling of a new one.
Little by little.
Every time I brush my teeth.
And I feel the wave of support and love and community rush over me. And I understand the simple truth, that I am not alone.
What stories do you hold close, that need retelling?