I've been thinking a lot lately about the blogging craze, the willingness for folks to bare themselves on the world wide web, and the stories we tell ourselves and others. Folks flock to bookstore self-help sections to find some sort of absolution and solution for conflicts and problems with which they are dealing. The books tell them to avoid those situations in the first place, leaving them feeling more oppressed and alone with their burden, and plodding off to "the woodshed" to punish themselves for being "so stupid" in the first place.
In another of those intersecting moments, I've found myself reading blogs by one friend who is Buddhist, who comments on the stories we tell ourselves. She says we tell ourselves many stories of "who we are" in various moments, and Buddhist practice would say that if we don't like who we are in those moments, we should "change the story" - much like we change the channel on the tv or radio. Granted, this is my interpretation of HER interpretation of a book that she read, but I think this is the gist, and I like what it implies. One of the "stories" she tells herself is that she is not a very good writer. I got all caught up in that comment, because I LOVE her writing, and I couldn't believe she said that about herself. Then I realized, she wasn't saying it was a fact - it is just the "story" that she tells herself. And, I suspect, she'd like to change the channel from that story. That "story" allows her to make excuses when her writing isn't received as she had hoped. I had to admit that one of the stories I tell myself is that weight is a big "issue" for me - and I use that story to "excuse" my lack of will power at controlling how I treat my body. I decided that rather than find my next excuse for a bag of M&Ms or a creme filled chocolate donut, I would simply start telling myself to "change the channel." Old story - I am a person who will always struggle with her weight. New story - I am a person who can make healthy and happy choices about her eating and exercise. It's Wednesday night, and that method has been effective, and somewhat satisfying, for the past three days. In refusing to live in the story that weight is problematic for me, I'm finding, moment by moment, that I can tell myself a healthier story of a stronger C.
Another friend has been telling her personal story of recent pain and self-discovery on her blog. Not only has it been cathartic for her, but she is discovering that the sharing of her story and her willingness to be vulnerable in new ways is providing a start of healing for others who have heard her story and realized they have lived a similar story - and they are not alone. And in finding out she is not alone, her own healing is beginning.
At my church, we have been talking about the importance in the Christian community of sharing our stories in order to build community. As one retired pastor tried to explain, we all have a story, and all our stories are important, and it is important to share those stories with each other. I am finding this more true with each passing day.
So often, we keep our stories to ourselves, like some precious possession (or curse) that no one else could ever understand. The hoarding of our personal story deprives us of the ability to help someone else deal with their story, and also puts us in the position of potentially poisoning ourselves with a story that really needs to be retold (change the channel!). Sharing enables others to help us sort through the falsity or veracity of the stories we tell ourselves.
I know I take myself "to the woodshed" far too often, punishing myself for not "doing it right" - "it" being life, in general. Punishment without rehab just isn't all that effective. Self-flagellation may give me a momentary feeling of finding some sort of justification for my failings, but it is in my willingness to make myself vulnerable to someone else, accountable to people that I know genuinely care about me, that I begin the necessary healing of rehabilitation, thereby gaining the strength to change the channel to a more positive story. Change the channel, and walk away from the woodshed into a community of friends ready to listen.