Who would you be without your story?

Imagine you’re in seventh grade and you see someone across the courtyard you like (“like” defined as: a warm, compelling feeling based largely on superficial and unexamined factors). And let’s say, for example, some of those factors include: this person looks like a Greek God (or Goddess), has sun-bleached hair, tanned skin, Chicklet-white teeth, and is wearing a strand of puka shells around their neck. Now, turn your attention towards the undercurrent of terror this warm feeling has brought with it (most seventh-graders would rather die than be rejected). The paralyzing humiliation one could suffer from being publicly denied, in this case by the most popular and gorgeous person in the whole school, conceivably the whole county. Naturally (especially if you’re a girl), you wouldn’t do anything rash given the severity of the situation, however compelling the warm fuzzy feelings, right? Like decide to walk directly over to him when he’s is standing amidst a group of his friends and say, “Hi my name is Maryanne and I just wanted to tell you I think you’re really cute and was wondering if you wanted to go to Heidi’s party with me this weekend?”, which is exactly what I did.

Yes, I know, where was my impulse control? Oh gawd, this was like a train wreck waiting to happen, replete with emotional roadkill! What-were-you-thinking, you’re thinking. Easy to say from where you’re standing now. In my shoes it didn’t matter so much that this person was the foxiest guy in school, that everyone was watching me, or that you weren’t supposed to ask guys out (or tell them you thought they were beautiful to their faces). What did matter, at least at that moment, was that I saw something I was curious about and figured, what did I have to lose? It was simple math, not rocket science and incidentally my forthrightness had worked before. I had a really great streak in first grade, come to think of it.

Of course I was afraid, what seventh-grade hormonal Goddess-in-training wouldn’t be? Still, I was more excited than terrified, and more interested in what was possible than what I had to lose. That is, until this particular tactic blew up in my face. Up until this point in my life, for whatever reason, I was unaware that I had any story or even a rap. I had no vestige of personal vignettes I had accumulated, hoping someday I might write about (or create a reality TV show about). I was still in basic training, for God’s sake! Bound for the hormonal highway, head first with nothing but my “good girl handbook” (the one my parents gave me at birth that was filled with red lines, asterisks and contradictions), flying by the seat of my pants through the blank pages of my life.

Yet somehow this boy, this time and in this moment, something shifted. Whatever barrier that previously existed between me and the narrator of my life disappeared. It was like that scene in the wizard of Oz where Dorothy pulls back the curtain and sees there is no OZ, there’s just a mere mortal, some insipid old man. And it’s in this crushing moment she knows…she’s not in Kansas anymore.

I can still feel right where my body collapsed as I looked in this boy’s face while he threw the TKO and knocked me right out of my living library and smack into the shallow of my false persona (the fake person we all create when we get separated from our Divine selves). It was like being punched in the stomach and having the air sucked right out of my lungs. Everything around me was suddenly still and grey as I stood in the wake of this momentous ego slaying. What was wrong with me? melted into my mind and echoed as I collapsed inside myself. Pondering the answer was no real option because I knew it only lead to extinction. And in a conscious attempt to stop the pain and avoid what felt like certain death, I told myself a story that went something like No one will ever hurt me like that ever again and I never approached a boy I liked that directly, ever again.

The funny thing about stories is that we love to hear and tell them again and again. And despite the fact that real life events determine most of our original storylines, why is it that some of these headline events are our favorite repeats and others are yesterday’s news or even fade away? I can say for sure that I had many opportunities in my life where I had felt the mighty blow of someone or some experience taking a jab or even going a few rounds with me and my life force. Yet I suspect there are opportunities where we get to witness the split, the separation between our authentic and Divine selves and the one we create to “survive.” Moments, I am guessing, where we start to consciously make up stories and give meaning to circumstances that in a perfect world wouldn’t need any.

And because this is no small subject, out of respect for its vastness I will say that while it’s clear most of us make up stories about ourselves to avoid feeling pain, to be cared for or liked, and a million other reasons, the question of who would we be without ours remains.

In my case, having spent a significant amount of my life sifting through my own stories in attempts to understand and discover who I am, it wasn’t until I was willing to give up and let go of them that I found out.