Saturday, February 18, 2012

What we are not (good news)



What if the on-going narrative we have always thought was our story, our defining story, was not that at all.  What if those details were merely things that happened to us, not who we are.

The recent post sharing Ben Okri's quote and video, and the responses it received,  jolted me out of one of my fogs, a default position in which I convince myself that whatever I'm doing is a reasonable substitute for thinking.  My story - likely all our stories - is not a closed room or vacuum, in which the things that happened remain in place, exactly as they occurred, with me marooned there, reshuffling those pieces as the only cards I'll be allowed to play.  That story is not THE story, but more likely the ticket for a mythic journey, upon which I would not, could not, have embarked without  the whats of the story setting events in motion.

"Getting stuck in our story" is a phrase a therapist friend used one day, referring to how any of us is capable of repeating, endlessly, the grievances, wounds, losses, disappointments, resentments, horrors, and so on, that we experienced.  In my most coherent moments, I am able to say, as one of the facts of life for which I am most grateful, I'm still here.   Where there once may have been drama, now there is calm.  Life is a skill with the longest learning curve, with the possible exception of Photoshop, which I have no intention of trying to master.  We are neither our faded glories nor our faded traumas.  Those were towns we passed through on an extended road trip.  Remember, if you wish,  the root beer floats, the mosquito-plagued motel, the moments, ups and downs, the cars and their drivers.  None of them are here.  And the sum of them does not add up to an authentic self.  Who we really are has always loitered, or hidden, behind the events; we did not become them, nor they us.

This information is the hamburger too big to bite, or almost.  As soon as I could absorb it, I could feel its truth.  For now, I'll leave the thought here for all of us to nibble upon.  As I digest this slowly, I realize I could write of all the ways in which I am not my story until I had each of them firmly in print, with hard copies in at least three separate files and maybe a tattoo that I could read without straining.  I am not my story.  I never was my story.  That makes so much more seem possible.

16 comments:

Melissa Green said...

Dearest Marylinn,
I had to guffaw when you mentioned Photoshop!! It's so very true and so hard to remember--that what happened to us is not the same as who we are. The past is over, most of the people who hurt us are gone. We are single-mindedly ourselves, as we are, 'still here' and the narrative is a sort of thorny vine that twines around us as we try to get on with our lives, but they live beside us--they are NOT us. Beautifully put, as always, M. xo

Kerry O'Gorman said...

But it's with all of these stories which help make up the authentic self and who we've become through the souls of our traveling shoes...

Kleinste Motte said...

Cogito ergo sum. That would be the toal of what you say.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Melissa - The wish to learn Photoshop, balanced with its cost and its, shall we say, challenging aspects have turned it into an icon for goals-unlikely-to-be-realized.

Vocabulary and thought play such a significant role in our self-definition. Early labels or inaccurate assessments, causing us to see ourselves as limited or less than whole have no place in an authentic life. Time for the new, the true story. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kerry - The events contribute to the whole, of course, but if one comes from a history that includes abuse, trauma, unavoidable victimization, it seems the order of things to take that story and hold onto it as an identity. We are not our wounds. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kleinste Motte - I suppose that's so, or its reverse, which I can't say in Latin, of we are not, thank goodness, who we thought we were, if that makes any sense. :)

Lisa H said...

THIS is the place to come when I need a shot of sanity and wisdom. If I didn't know you personally, I'd doubt that someone this wise, with THIS sense of humor, was real, or at the very least, a team of several writers.
It's you. Just you Marylinn. ALL you.
Photoshop indeed *bangs head on computer screen*

Radish King said...

Dear Marylinn, I don't know. I just don't know. For me writing it and writing it and writing it helps squeeze the poison out of me. This post makes me somewhat embarrassed for you for what you might read on my blog wherein I write my story over and over and over. I just don't know. I do however know that when I think about being old and getting older I always think I'm still here. I have survived it.
love,
Rebecca

Marylinn Kelly said...

Lisa - Thank you, me and countless alter egos. I do believe the Photoshop ship has sailed. For me. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Dear Rebecca, We ARE still here. We keep telling our story until it no longer fits, which for me was about 5 minutes ago. No one will ever convince me that impossible things don't happen. Love, Marylinn

Jayne said...

"Life is a skill with the longest learning curve..." Boy, isn't that the truth.

I was just visiting a blogger who tackled this very subject in a different way. But, I think her findings were quite similar. Regardless of past happenings--what we did or was done to us--we write our own story. This is can be a difficult truth to face: We don't have to be stuck in our story. We can write our own story! The hidden story, the story that we rise from. The real story. But we must look closely. Ever so closely.

Sherry O'Keefe said...

'i never was my story'. yes yes. because we are organic, nothing, not even the stories, can entirely contain us. courage, with courage, we learn we are not limited to our wounds. love this post, marylinn.

sherry

grrl + dog said...

I've always liked Margaret Atwood,

now I like her even more.

good to be reminded we are not our story, I forget that too..

Marylinn Kelly said...

Jayne - The word transcendent comes to me reading your comment, for we do rise above and/or beyond, without denying, injury, injustice, accident, illness, reversal of fortune. It is a process of prolonged stillness and the awareness of love without strings that helps us inch forward. Looking closely. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Sherry - Thank you. Way too long feeling consigned to some gulag of the spirit, a product of limited, limiting vision without and within. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Denise - There is much around us that brings on amnesia, forgetting the essential and the true. How fortunate that we have become a circle, able to remind each other.

However, just now Googling Margaret Atwood, Twitter and Facebook feel unseemly...the work of her publisher(s). Welcome to the world of 2012. xo