This has been a reoccurring theme this week, which usually means it needs to be addressed. I think it started when I was listening to Brene Brown. It came up again the next day listening to Tony Robbins, then yesterday during a conversation with an old friend, and again this morning hearing a heartfelt conversation between to older men. It revealed itself from two different angles: our tendency to neglect the story of ‘the other’ and the way in which we interpret our own.
Concerning the other, it is almost unavoidable to react to and judge others when they don’t act in accordance with what we deem normal, kind, and rational. I personally, take pretty much everything ‘personally’. Someone is short with me, I said something to annoy him. Someone is in a bad mood, I pissed her off. You didn’t respond to my text in a timely fashion…like in less than 3 minutes without an explanation, I will spend at least two of them wondering what I might have said to upset you. And this could be with anyone- the woman behind the register or a text exchange with my neighbor. I’m exaggerating a little bit, but not much.
The more probable and far less self-absorbed scenario is that someone’s mood, tone, word selection, and number of cigarettes smoked most likely has nothing to do with me. I can usually read people pretty well and am clearly sensitive to a fault. So it is the rare exception that I have pissed someone off or hurt someone without knowing it. Yes, it happens, but most often their actions or reactions have nothing to do with me.
They are simply playing out their story, their individual story that has been unfolding even before they were born. Stories that have layer upon layer of heartbreak, filled in with deep pockets of empty promises, and lined with scars of false truths and imposed inadequacies so entrenched they can no longer be seen. But they are felt, daily, until we numb them, intensify them, or expose them.
The latter is the only way to heal them. And the latter is what we seldom do.
Our story is also laced with all things beautiful, with moments of sheer bliss, of laughter and innocence, dreams and fearlessness, bold leaps and soft landings. Our first win, first true friend, first kiss, first love. These, too, define us. They steer our tendency to trust, our willingness to take risks, and our capacity to love.
But it seems to me that the amount of exposure we had to either end of the spectrum dictates in what direction we will go. For those of us who spent more time in the dark spaces, it is mostly our attempts to circumvent that darkness that determines our course. Operating from a place of fear, mistrust, and shame becomes our modus operandi.
We let our story define us instead of defining our story.
Owning the darkness of our story is terrifying. It means owning our crazy, our ugly, and our pain. No one wants to do this and few people do. Owning these necessitates exposing them…and this is not for the faint of heart. It means admitting we are weak, vulnerable, and yes, damaged.
But damaged, to me, is beautiful. It is truth. It is part of what makes us unique and cultivates our defining characteristics. It is courage manifest because it did not break us. It is inspiring because it transformed us… if we have the courage to transform it.
I can think of so many examples of the ways in which my friends and family, heroes and adversaries, have interpreted their stories. If I take the time to step out of my own interpretation and try to imagine why they are standing where they stand, it amazes me or it breaks my heart.
So herein lies the lesson or message or whatever you want to take away from this.
Our story is what shapes us, not what defines us. We instead, define our story.
Every milestone and every scar will always be there, but it is how we interpret them, how we use them, that empowers or enslaves. It’s the ‘I am’, right? If you interpret ‘damaged’ as fucked up, as your cross to bear, then you will most likely claim this as your worth. And this is what will command every aspect of your life.
If ‘damaged’ is your gift, you phoenix, then you transcend, and you rise.
I am slowly learning that my story is who I am, but more importantly, it is how I choose to live. I might not have been able to control how the first few chapters unfolded, but it is now mine to write. I can fixate on my scars and use them as a scapegoat. Or I can honor them as a testament to my courage and strength, and to that of others. I am the protagonist, after all. I have my dragon, but I also have my weapons, some wisdom, and my happy ending. Or not… my choice.