Photographs by Meadow Linn

Friday, April 6, 2012

Be the Bard of Your Own Life

Have you ever seen a stranger and, without even knowing it, made judgments about who you assume them to be? I do it all the time. Perhaps it’s a woman at the supermarket, or maybe it’s a young man who speeds recklessly on the freeway.

I might analyze the contents of the woman’s grocery cart and create a story about her life based on what she’s buying. If she’s overweight, I might assume certain things, but in reality I don’t know anything about her. Maybe she has an underactive thyroid or takes a medication that packs on extra pounds. And the man speeding in the red sports car, who I might call a “jerk,” could be on his way to the hospital to join his wife, who’s in labor with their first child. Perhaps he’s scared, and doesn’t know if he’ll make it in time.

From a very young age, my mom taught me, “You Don’t Know the Whole Story.” It’s possible the guy is just driving too fast, and he might even be a jerk, but there could also be underlying reasons for his actions, just as with the woman at the grocery.

I tell myself stories all the time. Sometimes it’s about strangers and sometimes it’s about things in my own life. Dating seems to bring about some of my most elaborate tales, usually to my own detriment. Often, when I don’t hear from a man after a seemingly good date, I think, Oh, well. Better luck next time. But, other times, I find myself searching for an explanation. These stories, unfortunately, can quickly spiral out of control. Awhile back, a date (that I was really looking forward to) was cancelled at the last minute. When we didn’t reschedule right away, the yarns began to be spun…

I told myself he changed his mind because I talked too much and wasn’t a good listener. I even worried the fried potatoes I ordered had been a turn off. Crazy, I know! I also fabricated a story in which he Googled me and found something (what? I didn’t know…) that scared him off.

The challenge with making up tales is that they can easily grow, like adding kerosene to a fire. What starts out as, “I’m disappointed the date was cancelled” can expand into… Where did I go wrong in my life? Why can’t I find love? Maybe I’m not meant to find lasting companionship. Blah blah!! These questions ultimately serve no purpose. The truth is…I didn’t know why we weren’t able to reschedule. Often, the truth is the simplest and the least painful. In this particular situation, it turns out the man was just really busy. It actually didn’t have anything to do with me.

The stories we tell ourselves, however, can be a powerful tool to becoming more compassionate and creating increased harmony. In many cases, we won’t ever know the truth, but we have control over the stories we write.

You’re the bard of your own life. You can choose to tell yourself stories that uplift you or ones that bring you down. You can choose tales that show compassion or ones that judge. When “I don’t know” isn’t enough, create stories that bring you joy. Magic will abound as a result!