Stories, Assumptions and Disappearing

My gods, it’s been a while since I wrote here. Over a year in fact. As a person who has a driving, burning need to write, I don’t do a lot of it in my spare time, although I do, every day, for a living. This means that my blog gets rather neglected as a result. Often I wonder why it is that I don’t write, when it is so important to my well being. Having thought about it over the past few days and having been prodded by a husband who knows how important it is for me, mostly I have come to the conclusion that I self censor a lot of the time as I have trouble believing that a) what I have to say is of any interest to anyone but me, and b) why would anyone else care? I think that mostly comes not from a place of self-depreciation, but from a total lack of ego and much of the time, a need to hide from the world. But I also realise deep within me a fear of being misunderstood and misconstrued, of giving the wrong impression or the wrong end of the stick. I seem to do that a lot, whether through my own absolute inability to communicate effectively or through others misreading of the story. This, and a bit of a ‘dark night of the soul’ over the past few months has led me to consider some old patterns I thought I had dealt with pretty throughly and to work more deeply with the idea of narrative and story as ‘reality’.

I realise over the years that I have come to understand my life and the events I look back on as a series of stories. Some of these stories are probably true and a pretty good representation of the facts, some are probably half true, others not so much, and some I am sure that I have fabricated to suit my own perspective almost entirely. We all live our lives through stories, we are all story tellers. We write new stories to explain the world and our experiences every day, just as our ancestors did. As a pagan and animist, these stories are important because in both the telling and listening they can reaveal much about ourselves, the world around us, and the realtionship we have with ourselves and other people (other storytellers).

We craft the world (much of it crafted for us by parents and others to begin with) from a very young age, putting the bits together with glue and sparkley paper, building the tapestry that we eventually call life. Each of these individual tapestries is our own stitch pattern and colour scheme, unique and personal, beautiful, disjointed, messy. If another were to look at your at your tapestry they would undoubtedly recognise some of the images and patterns, sharing your perspective and understanding. Yet, some may be unrecognisable to others, the colours jarring or the pictures blurred, even if the events were shared, our perspectives of the same event, the things it meant to us, may be interpreted in very different ways.

I grew up being told that I was difficult, demanding, precocious and asked too much. I still carry this narrative, still tell this story because on a very deep level I still believe it to be true. When I don’t find the nourishment I need (because I ask too much!) I escape rather than wanting to be seen as unnaceptable. Consequently throughout my life I have been told that I come across as proud, aloof and sometimes arrogant. Actually what this really is, is a terrible case of shyness and a rampant innability to deal with the world, or people despite sometimes making a really rather passable pretence of it, and a deep sense of pain at my own percieved unnaceptability. I know that this has me running for the hills so very often, distancing myself from others as a defense mechanism because somewhere along the line I have learned (rightly or wrongly) that I’d rather be alone than get it wrong/cause hurt/cause offense/make too many demands.

How true this story is, I’m not sure, but either way I often end up feeling lonely and it’s difficult sometimes to make friends. It is a good example of the way in which the stories that we tell ourselves become true because they affects us profoundly in our day to day lives. Most often we do it to ourselves completely, tying ourselves in emotional knots in the attempt to tell the same stories we’ve always told, often from childhood. We hold on to these stories as an important part of our reality and sometimes, whilst rewriting them would ultimately brings us freedom from the things that stop us from achieving our potential, change is difficult and painful and sometimes strikes at the core of who we understand ourselves to be and the ways that we protect ourselves from the world.

In doing it to ourselves, it is also interesting to consider how often do we do this to others, making assumptions about what they are thinking and feeling to fulfil our own narratives. I know that I am a master craftsman at making up the bits I don’t understand and of filling in the gaps of what something unspoken might mean, or what was meant or inferred by something else without having had that conversation about where that person really is. This is neither honourable or constructive and usually ends in misunderstanding. This was brought home to me recently in a conversation with someone at a pagan event (I’m sure he won’t mind me using the conversation as it was all in the spirit of burying old hatchets), where he told me that the first time I’d met him many, many years ago, I managed to piss him off within about five minutes “Me??” I said incredulously, “how on earth did I manage that? I’m nice! I hate conflict.” Apparently he had arrived late at a workshop group and whilst I have no recollection of the event or of the meeting, I know the sort of workshop it would have been, one where a group has to create a scene or a part of a ritual that then gets put together to make the whole, I’m sure you know the sort of thing. It’s generally something I avoid like the plague; too many people, opinions and disagreements. He went on to tell me how I had basically looked at him like he was shit on my shoe and then given him a job to do that he was less than happy about! Luckily his telling was quite comical and we both laughed about it, probably realising that neither of us had handled it well. As the laughter settled I started to puzzle over my behaviour. It was so hard to think of a time when I would have deliberately behaved like that. Eventally I realised that I had probably been shy, awkward, just about coping with the group as it was, hoping I could disappear as soon as possible, and hiding my fear and uncertainty behaind a facade of cool and capable. I suspect that could easily have been construed in the way he percieved it, which I am certain would not have been my intention at all.

But this got me thinking. If he had been so very, very wrong about me in that situation, how often am I so very, very wrong about others, perhaps colouring the scene to actually reflect my own insecurities rather than seeing what was intended? How often do I feel hurt, rejected, unloved etc. because of my own hang ups, ending up doing my disapearing act because of something imagined rather than ‘real’? Probably all the time. It also got me thinking about how responsible we are for what we put ‘out there’ and how we share responsibilites for misunderstandings. It’s not ok to say “your reaction to me is your problem”, because that gives us the excuse to behave as badly as we want and take no responsibility for it. I would like to suggest that whilst we cannot control how others react to us, we have a responsibility not to behave like an idiot. If I behave badly, I can expect someone to respond to me badly. Ultimately, every action or inaction is a choice.

So in that way, however difficult a task it may seem, we have a choice about the stories we write, both about ourselves and others. I have the choice not to disappear when I hear the message that I am difficult and unnacceptable and in being conscious that is a pattern I can start to retell the story in a different way. Not that that’s easy and I certainly don’t have the new story yet, but I’m working on it. At the same time, I’m working on letting others tell their own story, without adding my own chapters (assumptions) and certainly not without a conversation. Because, if we hope for the freedom to tell our own stories in our own way unhampered by the misreading of others, then we must offer others the freedom to do the same.

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7 thoughts on “Stories, Assumptions and Disappearing

  1. angharadlois says:

    Goodness, a lot of this post reads like a description of the inside of my head! You raise some very good, very necessary questions about responsibility, relationship and understanding. It strikes me that many people in the druid community and beyond are currently going through this process of unravelling unhelpful narratives and weaving new ones – myself included. Not an easy process, but for someone uncompromising in their desire to live with integrity and ever-increasing awareness, what other choice can there be?

    For what it’s worth, what you have to say is always of interest!

  2. Nimue Brown says:

    To my considerable surprise, there are clusters of sentences in here that I could have written, because they are just as true of me. I’m also unacceptable, and I know how hard it is stepping outside of that story to see anything else at all. Not least because I persist in doing things some people find unacceptable. Having the right people around seems to make a lot of odds, so I will offer to you something I struggle with on my own account – the possibility that the people who have a problem with you have a problem, and that you are not necessarily it. Also, if you write and put things in public, someone will get the wrong end of the stick now and then, it’s pretty much inevitable, but not something to take to heart. None of us can hope to write in ways everyone will understand, all the time. Especially not if you’re trying to say something important.

  3. It’s so easy to slip into old patterns, rather than picking apart and weaving new ones. This honest and heartfelt post was beautiful. As Bobcat always said, it’s all about relationship, where the edges meet, where soul touches soul. If we make assumptions, we’re not engaging honourably. It hurts when others make assumptions about us. Where there is no dialogue, no understanding, no desire to understand, we can respectfully walk away – engaging all the time in that situation could cause us to lose our minds. But being aware of that engagement, being mindful, awake to it, I think is key, and your words above are inspiring and inspired.

    After much bullying in high school, it took me twenty years to cope with the aftereffects, the withdrawal, distancing, etc. I avoided talking to people, afraid to incur more bullying, and so I was seen as a snob by some. I was shy, and again that was misconstrued as aloofness. Acceptance helped me to understand and come to terms with it all. Nothing could change the past, but moving on from that place allowed me a freedom to change my story. I had been bullied in the past, but that does not define me now. People come and people go in our lives, flowing in and out like the tide. We have great achievements and horrendous downfalls. As you stated in this post, and as Angharad reflected above, responsiblity is a key factor. Owning our shit. And then with awareness moving forward with integrity.

    We’re not going to please everyone all the time (nor should we). Everyone is fighting their own battle. But working with that awareness might just make all the difference. Looking at all the assumptions in our lives is a real eye-opener, and it can shock us to our core. But I think it is a very necessary part of our development, picking apart the threads of our assumptions in order to weave a stronger web. A life’s tapestry built upon assumptions would be terribly weak, and won’t hold up to much. But being honest with ourselves and others will provide us with new materials to weave our soul’s worth. x

  4. And keep writing! You always inspire me šŸ™‚

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