We are not the Stories We Tell (#31writenow #nablopomo)

by P. Braithwaite


I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m a storyteller. Not a life coach. Not an English professor. Not a shaman, a journalist, a novelist, or even a blogger. I’m a storyteller – a person who tells stories.

But here’s the kicker…you’re a storyteller too.

We’re all storytellers. I tell stories publically. Maybe you tell yours privately. Maybe you tell your stories to yourself. I have a whole stash of short stories that I need to submit for publication. But you, dear friend, are a brilliant storyteller too. Your stories are beautiful and complex. They send chills down my spine when I hear them. Your stories are a work of art.

See, we all tell stories to mitigate our experience. We tell stories, create characters, villains, victims, plot twists and climaxes, to put some space between ourselves and our pain. We protect our pain – our beautiful and terrifying pain – by creating these intricate containers for it. Our stories are mausoleums for our pain.

People sometimes ask me how I can write openly about my life. It always makes me feel weird (just because I write personal stuff doesn’t mean I want to talk about it…lol).  I can write them because somewhere in the earlier part of the last decade I realized that I am not my stories. I’m not even a reflection of those stories; I don’t necessarily live inside my stories. I’m not an embodiment of those stories. And when you read them, you’re not really getting the deepest parts of me. I’m not my baggage. I’m simply a character named Patia…in a story written by me. I’m a hologram of all that I am. My stories, I thought, hold no power over me. So I started giving my stories away. I started selling them like bean-pies, running up on cars with a squeegee and a story. I feel a pay day coming pretty soon…

But while I was telling my stories – some sad, some funny, some twisted, ALL incomplete — I didn’t realize that stories are vessels for pain. I was tucking tiny packets of my pain into each story, and shipping them somewhere away from me. The stories we choose to tell, whether happy or sad, are vessels for our inner-turmoil and heartache. When we tell a distorted story, it becomes a vessel for what we’re not ready to see. When we tell an honest story – it becomes a vessel for the pain we’re not trying to feel.

Every time we concoct a story, we have to jump out of our hearts and stand inside our heads. And when we’re in our heads, we don’t feel. I thought I’d built a bridge between my heart and my head.

But sometimes the traffic is pretty bad…

So, when you’re sharing your stories with yourself, your friends, your lovers or your journal – know that your story (though valid and beautiful and really good) is separating you from your inner truths. Our stories keep us attached to our pain and our brokenness. Our stories keep us tied to our humanity. And I’m of the mind, that we’re so much more than human. I don’t want to be attached to my pain anymore. I don’t want to protect my own delusions.

So what I’m learning today is that I’m a storyteller, but that’s a role I play. Storytelling is a verb. It’s a dress my ego wears when she wants to feel fancy. And that’s okay. We must learn to drop our stories and sit in our hearts – even if our hearts are rooms filled with hurt and pain (it’s okay, they don’t live there…they’re just visiting). We must drop our stories, so we can take custody of our own hearts.

I’ll go first…

When I drop my story, I am feel: Broken, Alone, Defeated, like a failure. I feel inadequate and scared that everything I am isn’t nearly as beautiful or powerful as it should be. I feel angry. I feel a constant stream of low-seething anger that radiates from an oven in my heart.

My passion and my anger are intertwined. (Is that a story or a feeling? I’m not sure.)

So we create stories – and those stories create baby stories – we create reasons and conditions around the feelings we don’t like. And, sure, we’ll say things like “I am hurt” or “I am sad” but those are false because what we feel and who we are…are separate. And while firmly and falsely convinced that we “are” our feelings, we start to explain ourselves… and once we do that, we’re no longer living fully. We’re building monuments and statues to protect and serve our pain.

I’m not staying stories are bad. I’ll never stop telling stories, but we must learn to make our stories work for us. I must learn to make my stories work for me.

We must learn to live inside our hearts – life is meant to be experienced through the heart.

So today, I am learning that while we are not our stories, we’re not our feelings either. And the sooner we make peace with the feelings behind the stories, the sooner we can let them all go.

And I’m not sure…
but I suspect…
….that what’s left is wholly beautiful, complete, and awesome in it’s powerful and simplicity.

And so it is.

What pain are you protecting today?

Pssst…wondering why I’m blogging so much? I’m partaking in a 31 day blog posting challenge. I basically have to write everyday. I know it sounds simple, but this is arguably the hardest thing I’ve done since writing my graduate thesis. Anyway…here’s today’s offering. #31writenow #nablopomo