Last week on Valentine's Day, New Earth Daily included an article I wrote for their launch. Tell me a story - the intention had flowed straight from my heart into text on a computer screen. It seemed so easy. Little did I know that six hours later, my life would be catapulted full speed right back into the depths of "my story".
I received the call that my favorite aunt had just had a stroke and was in the ICU of the small town where I grew up. Throwing clothes into a bag and jumping into my car, for three hours my tiny Honda Fit navigated between 18-wheelers along I-35 as I cried. The tears came from some place I did not understand. A fiercely independent woman, my 91-year-old aunt had been in a nursing home for more than a year - a life she never wanted. Perhaps the tears were relief that this part of her journey was soon to be finished, perhaps they were evidence of the sorrow of losing the only family member whom had ever seen me for myself.
Somewhere along the drive, I realized the irony of this timing. Could I show up now in this emotionally charged chapter of my life without the back-story? Could I come to this moment as just myself, leaving past hurts and defenses behind? How was that going to work?
As I pulled into my mother's driveway late at night, I knew I had come too far to go back. Yet as I opened the back door and walked into the home where I grew up, I felt my story come over me like a tidal wave. So many memories, so many versions of the same old story - they felt too dense to break through. All I knew to do was breathe. And then to breathe again. And again.
Maybe a good comparison would be a well-known play - we've seen it often. The scenery is the same, the characters have the same names, the music is tunes we have hummed for decades. And then we realize the dialogue has changed. The circumstances are familiar but the plot line seems different. What is so different about these characters?
That was my fantasy, but not much of my reality.
In fact, the well-worn lines took over without even a moment of recognition. I fell into my character with nary a thought. Until late in the night, unable to sleep, I remembered. The question became - do I believe what I write or is it just gentle fiction? There could never be a better time to test this out, to see if I could "walk my talk".
But how? I was in a new land with no roadmap except my internal GPS system.
Dismembering the story seemed such an insurmountable task when I was so emotionally drained. Yet, maybe this was the best time. I had no energy to resist, being my former angry persona just seemed too hard. So over and over, time and time again, I remembered my new story. The story where we are all just doing the best we can for this moment. The story where I don't have to personalize every comment. The story where I could find the same compassion for my family that I generously had offered to strangers. The story where the goal was not to inflict hurt.
If I am committed to telling the truth, sometimes it worked - sometimes it didn't.
But as the days went by, I began to see a new rhythm. When I found myself digging into the old story of so many decades - I forced myself to go outside. In the rain. I gave myself a little time out before I lashed out in anger. This helped. It gave a moment of distance that allowed me to regroup - to release all those emotions and just have some space for the new story to grow roots.
This is still going on - did you know when someone is taken off life-support, life does not just leave the room? Each incidence is unique, but my aunt's journey seems to be leisurely. So I have more time to learn about the character I am re-creating. As I explore the releasing of the need for control and finding the ease of offering support, I can see that with practice, this can become easier.
I can revise and rewrite this story - one sentence at a time.