Personal Narratives Can Change

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Photo by Liana Mikah on Unsplash

We all have stories about how things are supposed to work out. We get them from our parents, our extended family, friends, education, entertainment, everywhere. The trouble is, they aren’t always true, or at least they aren’t true for everyone. What happens when we run into a reality that conflicts with our established narratives? Motion sickness.

I’ve always been very susceptible to motion sickness. I was the kid in the back seat of the VW bug complaining that it was too hot and turning green on the way to the grocery store. I was the one that had to sit in the front seat with the AC on in my face. I’m the one using every trick in the book, from deep breathing to focusing intently on the road ahead, to keep from having to pull over and rest on the way to anything. And not just on mountain roads! I can get sick just driving down the freeway if someone asks me to look at the map!

Motion sickness is said to be caused by a conflict between your eyes and your ears. Your eyes tell your brain that you are still, but your inner ear says that you are moving. Conflicting information causes your body to rebel and become nauseous. I’m not sure what evolutionary help this is, but it does cause someone like me to reflect on the bigger picture.

As we grow we all create these personal narratives. They make it easier and more streamlined to deal with all of life. This works like this. He acts like this. This relationship works this way. We don’t need to think about those things as much. We put them in the back of our head and work on the new things.

But what if the story we’ve built in our heads about how things are supposed to go doesn’t match the reality of the situation we are currently in? Anxiety, anger, depression, that nauseous feeling that something is horribly wrong!

Just like when I start to get motion sickness, it’s time to focus on the reality and take some deep breaths because things are about to change. It’s what I have learned to call a “growth point,” the place in my life that I learn something new, my world is about it become bigger. It can be so scary though. What if reality isn’t nearly as good as my fantasy? Then again…how can one live in a fantasy permanently? Life, no matter how complicated, is much easier to deal with when we accept the reality, or at least as close as we can come to it.

Change is unavoidable. How we deal with those changes is what makes the difference in our lives.

Do we hold on to what we believed to be true and ignore reality? Do we get angry and blame the people around us for letting us down? Do we walk away from situations, people, environments when they fail to meet our expectations? It doesn’t seem very productive. If we keep searching for the world that matches our narratives as we know them, we may never find it. We may just keep walking away from the very people and places that are offering us the opportunity to grow into something better.

What else can I do? I could stop, take a deep breath, and make some space for my feelings first. Things are changing, something is different. What is it and how can I see it more clearly? I could ask some questions. Is this person or situation failing me, deliberately hurting me, or causing me some kind of trouble? Or are they only doing what they have always done, doing what’s best for them at the moment? Will it really hurt me? Is it really wrong? Looking at the situation or person with an open heart helps. I want to understand.

What seems to help is talking to a special someone, someone that is as open to change as I am, someone that has no stake in the game. That person is hard to find and changes according to the situation. I’m not really looking for advice what I talk. I’m only looking for feedback, someone that will ask questions from a different point of view and is willing to go down some crazy rabbit holes with me. Talking to the wrong person can make my situation infinitely worse. I’ve learned to be very selective.

When I lack another human to speak with, I write. And I write a lot. I write whatever comes to mind, even the meanest and nastiest thoughts. Writing out the hurt and the angry words, the words sparked by fear and mistrust, seems to release them into the void and make space for clearer thinking. Once my narrative is out on paper alongside of the potential for change, I feel like I can think more logically. I come back to that same writing the next day and walk away feeling stronger and ready to embrace change, only to come screaming back to scrawl on the walls of my paper cave over and over again.

I talk to myself on the pages. I fight and scold and lecture, I listen and give myself feedback. Lord, I hope no one reads that stuff some day and has me committed! Some of it strongly resembles the raving of a very sick person. But maybe that’s the reality of it. At moment, I am sick. What my eyes see and what my inner ear feels doesn’t match, and my mind is reacting violently. But I know from experience, the feeling is only temporary. Focus and adjust, take a rest from the effort, and try again. It’s the only way to grow.

Book Run Adventures!

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Books are one of my very favorite things in this world. I’m obsessed with having them, reading them, making notes in them, and writing about them. I wish I did more of the writing about them, but I’m working on that. You can’t just wish for something to happen; you have to make it happen! So here I am, writing about…something.

Since I’m still reading “Revenge of Analog” and he was talking about book stores, I got a bug about going to Barnes & Noble yesterday. That is no small feat since it’s 60 miles away and in the direction of the city. For those that don’t know Southern California, that means traffic. But…books!!

Our small town has three, good sized used book stores. They are nice to browse through from time to time, but they are old and crowded and not very organized. I wish we had a new book store that was closer, but alas, that’s another cost of living rurally.

The truth is, there is just nothing better for finding new fiction than browsing the aisles of a real bookstore! Amazon is great for finding a specific book I go looking for, like when I see one recommended by an article or a friend, but not much good for browsing. So, got in the truck and headed down the highway.

First obstacle. It usually takes me about an hour and half to get there, but as soon as I hit the main freeway the traffic stopped dead. Wondering what in the world could be going on, it dawned on me that I saw a sign the day before to expect delays due to Coachella Fest weekend. Oh man…this could take forever!

I sat there wondering for a moment if I should abandon the mission, but then traffic started to move again. Maybe it was over? It stopped again. It moved again. It wasn’t permanently stopped and, besides, I’d change freeways in a couple miles. It wouldn’t be so bad after that. I kept driving.

Getting closer to the change in freeways, I see another sign. “Road construction. One lane only.” Are you kidding me? I consider aborting the mission again. Nah, it’ll be fine after that. It’s only a couple more miles.

Nearly three hours later, I arrive at the bookstore. I’m stubborn and I had my heart set on book shopping. If I turned around, all the time would have been wasted!

After a breather and a bathroom break, I consider whether I should get a cup of the sweet-smelling coffee they are selling at the front of the store or not. A cup of coffee will need a sweet snack to go with it.

No! Must not deviate from healthy diet! I’ve already spent most of the day sitting on my butt. I can’t add several hundred calories to that. I head to the fiction aisles.

Going through the books on the shelf, I try to focus and start to read. No one is waiting for me. I have all the time in the world, but I don’t have that much money. I’m going to have to narrow down my choices. I can’t just throw books into the pile all willy nilly!

So many great books. How can one possibly choose? By cover, of course! One had praise from Stephen King on it. That’s good enough for me! One said “student” and “history” on the cover. Nice. One was called “Tell me no lies.” Romance. Like that!

I picked up “Wicked” and walked around with it for a while. My mom read it and loved it, so have a lot of my friends, but I know the story too well and although I’m sure I’d love it, I can’t buy them all so I decided to put it back.

I got “Bird Box” because the TV show looks awesome, but my family isn’t a fan of scary TV shows. I’ll read it and give myself nightmares. I passed by a table and saw “Rebecca.” Like the movie my husband loves so much? Yes please! And then, just as I was about to walk away, I saw “bookstore” and “Paris.” I picked it up and read the back.

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“literary apothecary”

“prescribes novels for the hardships of life”

“mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal is himself”

I’ve always dreamed about opening a bookstore of my own. One of those, if I were rich, kind of dreams. I imagine a warm meeting place where people can hang out and talk books and music, meet people, drink coffee. Maybe some used books could be shared. Children come there to find new magic. It’s a beautiful image. This book was for me. I think he must have come right out of the book and handed it to me. If this were a movie, it might have fallen off the shelf at my feet all by itself, so I’d be sure to find it.

Six books. As I made my way to the front of the store to buy them, a woman asked if I needed a basket. “No thanks! When the arms are full, it’s time to go!” She laughed. Book people know the struggle. Man, I wish I could WORK at a bookstore.

At the front of the store, I found a line about six people deep with one cashier. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to stand here and read this little darling while I wait, like eating the chips while you wait at the checkout because you didn’t eat lunch before you left for the grocery store.

I read twenty pages while I waited. I fell in love instantly. It’s just that beautiful.

Leaving the store, I realized I was hungry for more than words and that I was right across the street from one of my favorite places, Panera. I put my books in the back seat and drove over.

Ok…Southern California…it took me ten minutes to drive across the street. Really. What are all these people doing here? Whenever this happens, I’m reminded why we moved to the desert. Yes, I may not have a bookstore to hang out in, but at least it doesn’t take me ten minutes to drive less than a mile.

Once I parked and got my lunch, I went back to the truck, moved the seat back, got myself all situated with the new love of my life and started to read. It was a beautiful hour. I can’t wait to read the rest of it, but I’ll have to wait a little. I’m about 200 pages from the end of The Brothers Karamazov and about three quarters into “Revenge of Analog.”

Before I headed home, I checked to see if there was a good podcast to listen to. Tim Ferriss interviewing Neil Gaiman! Can this day get any better?

Writing THAT Book

Something dawned on a me a while back. I’m scared. No. I’m terrified of finishing it and putting it out there. Why? Because people didn’t believe me when it happened and that killed me emotionally more than what happened, especially when some of those people were very close to me or should have been.

When it happened, there were people (other than the DA) that thought I was hiding something. The police don’t arrest completely innocent people. There had to be something going on that led them to think it was me. That’s what I thought too. It’s why I hid nothing from the detectives that served the search warrant and ultimately arrested me. I waived my “right to have an attorney present during questioning” because I believed whole-heartedly that you could not incriminate yourself if you didn’t do anything wrong. That was naïve. They used every word I said to build a case against me.

I thought it was just the police being overzealous. It’s not evil. It’s just the way things go sometimes. A mistake that will be cleared up after a while. A year later, it wasn’t cleared up until I paid a big lawyer a lot of money to scare them into letting go. Like big ill-trained dog with a bone, I had to get a big stick to get the bone away.

And then it got worse. My church, some friends, and strangers doubted my authenticity and said so. Right as my world started to slip away from me, instead of throwing me a rope, they turned their backs and kicked dirt at me as a fell. My lawyer warned me it would happen and he was right.

I’ll admit that one of my biggest problems is self-consciousness. I feel that I need to have the approval of others, kudos from everyone I can find. I feed off it. I shouldn’t, but I do. To walk around knowing that people think of ill of me is the worst thing I can think of. Being accused of a violent crime was horrible enough, but then people didn’t believe that I was innocent. I didn’t choose to be in the position. I did absolutely nothing to be there. It was just plain circumstances. It happened to me and I got through it.

Here I am, years later, writing it all out and reliving each painful day. And it turns out that writing it isn’t nearly as hard as offering it to the world…voluntarily. This time I’m publicly bringing it on myself. Not only will my family see it and know the details of my experience, some for the first time, but strangers all over the internet will be able to read it for themselves. If people close to me had a hard time believing me, how will strangers react? And how will I deal with that? That’s what is slowing me down right now.

Why am I doing this to myself? Because the truth must be told whether or not people listen or believe. I can’t let other people’s biases, their opinions, stop me from telling my story. I’m doing it for myself, to heal. Not only do I need to become a better story teller to make that happen, I need to strengthen my defenses to deal with the responses to it. Back when it happened, I had to focus on getting through. I had a young marriage, young children, and finances to deal with. It was a like a big meal. I ate and that’s all I could do. Only now am I ready to digest it and grow stronger from the nourishment.

It will be slow going for me, but I’ve learned than any progress is better than none. My story will be told in the best way I can tell it.