Jun 03 2009
We are all on a hero’s journey of awakening. We have been entranced by the stories we tell ourselves about our lives, ourselves and each other. Convinced that our stories are true, we are spellbound to only see and experience our life from that limited perspective. It is a great triumph on our hero’s journey to awaken from our trances and discover that we are the authors of our life stories.
One of my prominent story lines used to be “Poor Janet”. I was a captive of and captivated by that story. It was a part of my identity. I received attention and validation for being “Poor Janet”. I remember once when I was about seven, I was at a birthday party and I wasn’t winning any of the games or prizes. I then played a game of my own; I sulked in my best “poor me” demeanor, and the mother hosting the party took the cue and gave me a prize! Though our stories confine us, they also define us and reward us in some way. That’s why we stick to our stories and they stick to us.
For many years, when it came to relationships, I felt the lingering imprint of my “Poor Janet” story, the main theme being, “Nobody wants me. I will always be alone.” There’s a Snoopy cartoon in which Lucy is lamenting, “Nobody loves me.” Snoopy is standing next to her, lips puckered and says, “I love you, sweety.” She doesn’t even see him. She says, “No one cares about me.” He says, “I do, I care about you.” She continues to be oblivious to his presence and says, “Probably no one will ever love me.” Snoopy finally gives up and says, “You’re probably right, sweety.” Like Lucy, I wasn’t able to see love even if it was there because it didn’t fit my story.
Eventually the pain and boredom of my story awakened me from my trance and I saw how I was perpetuating it. I was then ready to create a new story. I had a breakthrough moment during the first week I met Tom, almost exactly ten years ago. He was at my house and we were massaging each other’s feet and I was in oxytocin heaven, and thought, “I’d like to have this in my life long term.” A Bonnie Rait song began playing and I was singing along with it, “I can’t make you love me if you don’t.” That song activated the neural pathways of my sad old story – “I will always be alone. He won’t want me. I can’t have this.” I caught myself slipping into the sweet melancholy of that story, and I stopped and thought, “Wait a minute – why can’t I have this? It’s just habit programming. I’m just as lovable as the next person. I can have this!” In that moment I had a clear awareness that this was MY movie; I’m the star, director, casting agent, and writer of my movie – I can chose to do a conscious rewrite!
I decided to change my story. I once read that Barbara Streisand said early in her career, “I have decided to be beautiful.” I decided to be loved! I backed that decision up with actions that eventually helped to completely revise my story line. Now, ten years later, I’m continuing to share regular oxytocin moments with my husband Tom.
I find that old neural pathways and story lines can be re-stimulated in times of stress. This past year “Poor Janet” (and the fear and sadness that fuel her) has been tugging at me, saying, “First my appendix burst, then cancer, then a hysterectomy, then fires blazed through the Santa Barbara mountains, and now my beloved cat is dying! What a horrible year!” Or, as Queen Elizabeth once said, it’s been “an Annus Horribilis”.
This year has challenged my sense of safety. It has confronted me with the fact that anything can happen. Anything. I really don’t have control. A hot sundowner wind can suddenly appear and whip up a fire that burns scars into the beautiful mountains and peoples lives; cancer can scar and take away parts of my body, or even my life. Fear asks, “What if my story turns out to be a tragedy after all?”
Fortunately I have a larger part of me now that keeps me from being seduced into that old trance; I know that our stories are shaped by how we choose to interpret what happens. Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl said, “The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” My choice now is to bring compassion and loving presence to Whatever is happening. Compassion is a great awakener and unifier. Bringing compassion and loving presence to “Poor Janet” (or any other trance state) whenever she shows up comforts and calms her and integrates her into the whole of me.
From this vantage point I can see that the events of my life this year have created an ‘emerge and see’ situation; I am emerging to a higher perspective and seeing clearly what I want to do in my life: to align with my souls purpose, to be fully present here and now, and to reinforce the awareness that love is the answer – loving what is, loving all my feelings about what is, loving myself for not loving what is. It’s all about love. That’s my story. It’s a Love Story.
What’s your story? Is it a tragedy? A comedy? A love story? A story of despair? A story of triumph? Are you in an “emerge and see” situation? Once we awaken from our trances and see that we are the authors of our stories, we can create a new story. Here’s to living Happily Awake Ever After!