Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Re-telling The Story of Your Past

I have to be honest with you.  I have been working on being a kinder, gentler, happier person for more than a decade.  I have admitted more than once in this blog that it feels like I have been every kind of "messed up" in my life.  Actually, I was a bit luckier than that, I never had an addiction to anything or had to go to rehab.  Unless you count anger.  It certainly didn't give me any joy.  It didn't seem to make anything better.  But yes, I used to be the sort of woman who would talk about "tearing you a new one" or proudly proclaim I could go from zero to b*tch in seconds.  Not having had a traditional addiction, I can only guess that anger is similar.  It doesn't mask any pain, but it can be the "stay away from me, I'm an injured animal 'go-to' method" for dealing with anything and everything that even hints "this might be unpleasant."  That in itself isn't tremendously surprising.  It is hard to go a day without running into someone who is exactly as I was.  What did surprise me is that, while I never lost any friends due to my attitude when I was angry, now that I am the happier version?  I have had losses.  Granted I am also gaining friends and generally feel more loved and appreciated than ever before.  Granted also, each of the relationships (there are three of them) was a bit problematic.  I no longer felt completely comfortable with any of them.   But I'm a Law of Attraction believer and I looked at those "problems" as opportunities for me to grow and learn.  Opportunities to be kinder and gentler.  My biggest surprise was how summarily and thoroughly I was dumped and gone from their lives.  An outcome I would never have initiated.  Even with the third friend.

The third friend, and only female in the group, hurt my feelings.  I was going through that break up (I've mentioned that a time or two as well) and in a moment of weakness, I shared an email with her and I got a lecture.  Further, I got a lecture from my soon-to-be ex.  Neither of them gave me any support or sympathy.  She thought I was an idiot for loving someone who clearly didn't want the same things in life that I did.  He thought I was an idiot for sharing personal feelings and details with a friend.  She actually called me names.  Granted, she had called me them before. She has called me those names nearly the entirety of both of our lives.  I have never liked them and they always hurt.  The difference became I am now "ok enough in my own skin" that I spoke up and told her I found them hurtful.  She stopped for a day or maybe two and then her attitude and the names returned.  I told her I needed some time and some space and she sent me a handwritten letter, several pages, written on both sides.  Near the opening, she wrote, "I'm only trying to tell you the TRUTH."

I apologize for sharing that bit of drama.  I abhor drama myself.  I've witnessed more than enough to last me many lifetimes.  It is probably part of why I always seek the kinder, gentler path.  You see it's her use of the word "truth."  It had me stuck and running in contemplative mode.

First, I questioned whether anyone actually can tell someone else "the TRUTH" with any sort of authority.  I figured a therapist or a life coach could, if anybody could, but I've never had one say, "Angela, this is the TRUTH."  That seems to actually be the territory for people who believe something you don't agree with and labeling it "the TRUTH" means you are no longer supposed to disagree.

Second, I found myself looking up the definitions of "truth" and "fact" and really beginning to wonder if truth can't be seen as being much like the popular definition of "history."  You know the one, history is a version of the events as seen by the victors.

It was during this same time that I was learning about limiting beliefs or subconscious thoughts we have with which we occasionally flog ourselves.  We tell ourselves we are undeserving or unlovable and get in the way of achieving our dreams with them.  A good percentage of the time, we built those beliefs on bad things that happened in our past.  More specifically on the "truths" we tell ourselves to explain the facts of the bad things from our past.  

That got me thinking.  

One of the "facts" of my past is when I was 11 years old, my mother found my diary in a dresser drawer and read it.  It is also a fact that is the same age I first decided I wanted to be writer and that one of the first books I read after the birth of that desire was Go Ask Alice by Anonymous.  It is my opinion that nothing from my childhood would merit a book like the one Anonymous wrote, but it is also a fact that I was diagnosed with PTSD from my childhood largely due to the events of that afternoon.  The facts in the diary were basically that I had taken to smoking cigarettes and I had kissed a boy, of course they were written in the flowery language of an 11 year old trying to sound like the sophisticated teenager she had just been reading about.  My mother's truth at the time came from another book, The Bad Seed written by William March.  If you haven't read either of the books, let me explain.  The girl in Go Ask Alice experiments with sex and drugs like many people her age did at that time.  The girl in The Bad Seed murders people, both adults and children, for personal gain.  My parents kept me on a short leash and house arrest for a few years while my mother spoon fed me her truth.  I believed I was The Bad Seed  for many years and I have no doubt many of my limiting beliefs were born during that time.  

We cannot change the sordid facts of whatever happened to us during our darker ages, but why can't we rewrite the truth?  Years later, I realized that "my TRUTH" of the diary incident was simply that I had been a young overprotected only child who wanted to be a writer and who was testing the notion of doing adult things for the first time.  Not unlike many other children my same age.  The difference was I got caught by a parent who decided to treat it as a DEFCON 5 event.  

The truth.  It is written in smoke and appears different depending on what vantage point from which you view it.  It is facts that are unchangeable and indisputable.  Particularly as children, we tend to view our truths with an eye to our own villainy.  We even blame ourselves for our parents' divorces.  It might not magically erase every limiting belief we've swallowed whole, but why can't we accept the facts, and rewrite the truth?  Why can't we write ourselves as unwitting heroes who simply had bad things happen to them?  For example, I was the first person in my family to attend and graduate from University.  It was only during a conversation I had with my mother on her deathbed that I realized she believed I was smarter than her.  Much smarter than her.  Suddenly I imagined a different interpretation of the "TRUTH" of that day.  Picture a woman, not stupid, but not especially smart.  She didn't have a tremendous childhood herself and had very few skills to draw upon.  She has a husband, but he is gone about 13 hours of most days.  She has a daughter who is bright and imaginative enough she is talking about growing up to be a writer.  Couldn't another truth be she was scared?  She was looking at an 11 year old who looked to be growing up to be smarter than her who was just beginning to challenge her authority by doing things no parent would approve of and not asking for permission.  Have I mentioned my mother was also borderline agoraphobic, a hoarder and she hadn't worked or taken adult responsibility for her finances or anything else after she met my father?  She never had a driver's license.  She was totally dependent on him.  Yet that same woman, when I seemed frightened or hesitant to take my driver's test, essentially told me, "Get your license.  Don't be like me."  Perhaps she was smarter than I give her credit for being.  Perhaps my new truth about a woman who loved her daughter, but who was just a bit overwhelmed by the responsibility, is actually a lot closer to "the TRUTH."

The truth is.  We'll never know.  All we can be certain about are the facts.  So why not tell ourselves stories where the people who hurt us were doing the best that he or she could at the time?  Why not tell ourselves the story from the vantage point of the victor?  Because after all, every day gives a new chance for us to be just that.  

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