Story Time

The wind is whipping outside, spitting torrents of rain against my window in mad little spurts. Rain storms are rare in the high, alpine deserts of Utah, and when we were blessed with rain, wind, thunder or lightning I would cower under my covers, afraid.  My mother told me to pretend the storm was singing me a lullaby, and since I was good at following instructions, I did. Now storms lull me to sleep and bring me comfort.

I’ve lived in Seattle for two months now and people keep asking me if I like the weather. When I tell them I do, they ask me if I’ve spent an entire winter here. When I tell them I haven’t, they lift their eyebrows at me as if I’m oblivious to the fact that it will keep raining all winter and that I shouldn’t like the rain. So I keep my secret about finding pleasure and comfort in storms and raise my eyebrows back at them.

I like the rain.  Deal with it.

It’s interesting, the stories we tell ourselves about life. I tell myself I like the rain, and so I do. My mother told me the rain was a lullaby, and I chose to believe her. Our lives are created and constantly determined and redefined by the stories we tell ourselves and how we choose to see ourselves.

Yes, how we choose to see ourselves.

That voice inside? The one that says that you hate being wet, and winter sucks, and how much happier you’d be if it was sunny all the time? That’s you choosing to relate a certain way to your surroundings.

And the one that tells you that you’re too fat, thin, ugly, pretty, lazy, stupid, smart or whatever? That’s you choosing to think a certain way about yourself.

Sometimes our thoughts don’t feel like a choice. Sometimes they feel very set in stone, and our story about our past that plays us as a victim or a villain seems to be written on golden plates. THIS IS MY STORY, we think. THIS IS MY IDENTITY.

Here’s a fictional example. Scarlet is depressed. Her mom won’t give her the praise she feels she deserves and her family doesn’t give her the attention she wants. She isn’t getting what she feels she deserves from the people around her, and because of that, she is depressed.  Even her body seems to betray her as she often falls ill or becomes injured. She feels like the victim in her own life.  But this is not how she has to relate to her story.  Slowly, Scarlet can start to choose to be her own hero — the girl who doesn’t need the approval of others to be warm, successful and sassy.

This year, through a variety of circumstances, I lost my husband, my best friend, a good friend, my home, my dog, my cat, my security, my Ayurvedic practice, a boyfriend, my yoga community, and access to good burritos. That’s one way I could choose to look at this year. Instead, I can choose to see it as shedding old habits and patterns that no longer serve me and allowing space for new things to enter my life, including new friends, animals, work, relationships and good Pho.

For me, like is growth, and I’m continuously assessing my relationship to my story. So it was a shock when my teacher called me out a self-limiting pattern I couldn’t quite see. She said, “I support your goals, but can’t you see that you’re so focused on self-growth that you’re not able to give yourself love if you don’t achieve it? You’re not even on your own team! You need to change this and I suggest X,Y,Z.”

I was so angry at her for “busting my game,” or for calling me out on a pattern that felt comfortable and allowed me to relate to myself in a different, but ultimately same, old judgmental ways I had before. I was angry that I hadn’t seen the pattern that I was in. And sometimes that’s the hardest part — recognizing the pattern your in. And then the second hardest, being willing to let go of that pattern.

I wasn’t ready to let go of mine. I struggled with moving forward for a few days, losing myself in the new Twilight movie, reading book after book, and diving into the nostalgia of my past through old journals. The the more I struggled against moving forward, the more by body let out protest — I clumsily injured my foot, my spine became unaligned and I had nightmares.  Yet again, I needed to change my relationship to my story — my story that said I didn’t deserve to give to myself unless I achieved.

So how do we start to recognize our stories so that we can step back from them, see them for what they are, and then change our relationship to them to bring about whole health and healing?

I obviously give myself a few days of lee-way to get used to the idea.  After that, the idea is simple on paper but harder in practice.

First, we need to realize that we are Spirit. We are Perfection in a human body having a human experience and choosing in each moment of each day how to relate to ourselves and the world around us. We need to learn to become neutral to our situation and to find amusement at both the big and small things. Once we can laugh at our struggles they tend to lose their power over us and we become free to move in a new direction. Then, by all means, move into that new direction!

Today, I am working mechanically through the instructions my teacher gave me. In other words, I’m going to fake it until I make it, because I know her suggestions are in line with the next step for me. So I’m praising myself before I write this post, which feels strange because I haven’t done anything yet. And when I feel like it’s not working, or that I don’t like it, or that my life is otherwise difficult or a struggle, I’m going to get up and dance the funky chicken at that struggle, so then I can laugh, and let it go, and move on.

And I’m going to walk in the rain. Because even though I like the rain, I don’t like to be cold. Or so I tell myself.

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