I have realized something about myself lately. I tell stories to protect myself. Now, I have known that I do this, we all do this, but I just now, like seriously one minute ago I realized that I didn’t have to...
I found myself writing a story about a person and how they felt, what their actions (or lack of actions) meant. And I realized that I am the most boring playwright ever! I always have the same ending. Everyone’s behavior in my life means they are leaving me. I interpret everyone’s conduct with a lens that they are no longer interested, are leaving, have decided they don’t like me. And then I just dismiss them. I am no longer interested in them. I have written the ending of the story of us. And in this regard, I am a fabulous playwright, because I believe what I say every single time. Because the action that follows the thought story, is where I leave the building. And that my friends is a trauma response.
Now this is not necessarily a new idea about myself. I have realized that I do this before, like many, many times. The new thought today is that I don’t have to do this anymore. That today I have the skills and self awareness to do it differently.
Every moment before this one right now, there was no other possible ending. Like at all. If you were not responding, or had a change in behavior, or were otherwise showing signs of disinterest, I would review my conduct, see if there was anything that I could pinpoint that I might have done to cause your actions (or inactions) and then if I came up “clean”, then you were kind of dead to me. I just wrote you off like a character in an Agatha Christie novel. You were no longer with "us".
I have known for years that this was a protective mechanism. Designed and developed over years to keep me safe when interpersonal relationship left me feeling so unsafe. I have known this but never realized, until just this morning, that I didn’t have to do this anymore. I am safe. You can just do whatever it is you are going to do, and I don’t have to be the author of us, life can be. Life can just be the author instead of me. I can be an audience member, I can just watch it all unfold. I can have a way, just like I do when I watch a movie, or read a book. I see the story unfolding and I want it to go a certain way, but because I am not authoring it, I do not have control over the ending. I just get to sit and watch (or read) how it all sorts out.
In effect, what I have been doing, which I just now realized, is to stand up in the middle of a play, when the plot takes a turn I don’t like, and I leave the play. I have no idea how it is really going to turn out, I just interpret how I think it is going to end, decide that I don’t like it, and then I am outta there. The play, the story, ended before its time because I have decided it was going there anyway.
To be fair, I think I have gotten the ending correct, more than I have gotten it wrong. However, I can see now, that which was completely not seeable by me before, and that is, that I am controlling the outcome instead of being curious about how God, or fate, or Buddha or whatever is going to end, or not, a particular relationship.
I end it, early and quickly because I do not like the ambiguity. I would rather have certainty, even if it is wrong, than to live with the ambiguity of a better ending that hasn’t arrived yet.
I can see now that I get the “facts” and they aren’t really facts because I haven’t bothered to check them. I do not call up the person and ask questions. No, that would be totally weird.
“Hey, you were running super hot on me, and now you are cold as ice, what gives?”
“Hey, when you said _____ what did you mean?”
“Your behavior is leading me to think that you feel ______, did I get that right?”
No, I don’t do that. I just fill in all those blanks all by myself and then pat myself on the back when later on, I am right. And it just now dawned on me, that perhaps I am right because of the way I act in response rather than because that is where you were headed all along.
Humans do not like change or uncertainty. But they are two things that are staples of life. Everything changes and there really is no certainty in life, except that one day, we will die. That is the only thing of which, we can be absolutely certain. And we hate that. So we write the stories that predispose the endings so that we can feel safer, more in charge, less adrift on the sea of life.
Guess what? It doesn’t work, I mean it does in the moment. I always feel better when I write you out of the script of my life, it makes me instantly feel more in control. Except that I am not really. It is just a delusion. Again. I may have interpreted your behavior correctly. But I have may have gotten it so very, very wrong and hurt us both in the process.
The truth is I have no idea why you do what you do. Really. I do not know. I can only guess and that is what I do, I guess and then base my future actions on that guesswork. Such a strange thing to do really.
I have realized, woefully recently, that perhaps instead of metaphorically killing you off, I could just be curious. I can still deduce (because I fucking need to deduce it is in my blood) that your behavior means _____. But perhaps instead of acting on those beliefs, I could just be curious to see if I am right. And if you matter enough to me, I could actually follow up the thoughts with conversation and questions for clarification instead of just deciding what it all means and walking away like I never even knew you.
The strangest thing about this whole deal is that just now this morning, I felt for the very first time safe enough with myself to even entertain such a crazy thought. And that is not the strange part. I think most people feel this way, a lot. That is why relationships are so temporary these days. We are all just writing scripts, playing God with all the characters in our lives. No the strange part is that I knew a long, long time ago that there was another way. Like perhaps 1985. It was a Howard Jones song, that seemed to address this very thing. And when I heard the song, the lyrics, I knew he was right. It landed in my chest and mind with that ever piercing truth. But then, even though I wrote it down, and cited it and sang it. I somehow still failed to allow it to really be operative in my life.
Today, as I woke writing the story of another’s demise in my mind, I stopped and instead decided to just be curious. I don’t have to kick them to the curb, the universe will take care of that if it wants to. I can just be over here living this amazing life I have, and just be open to whatever happens. Those trauma responses can just fade away. I don’t have to kill you off (metaphorically speaking of course). You can just live out your days in my acquaintance however God wants you to. And I can just be ok with that. In fact, perhaps I should make some popcorn, and return to my seat to see how this fucker is really going to end, instead of the very unimaginative ending where I just interpret your behavior in a light least favorable to continued contact and kill you off right there.
Today I can see that behavior as a trauma response. I will leave before you have a chance to and thereby avoiding some of the hurt and pain that is coming. Truth really is that it never really works. If you matter to me, when you leave or decide that you no longer want to be friends or close or whatever, it is going to hurt regardless of whether I am the first one out the door or you are.
It appears that I got the message early on that my feelings were trying to kill me and that I should also never really tell the truth about how I felt about you. I just always kept giving you what I thought you wanted, living each day with this heightened perception of you and your motives. And then deciding for both of us what that all means...
Funny now. Not so funny for most of my life.
Today, today I can just allow you to be doing whatever weird shit you are doing and feel whatever that makes me feel. And if you are objectively hurting me, disrespecting me then I can decide to leave. But if your conduct leaves an ambiguity, I can just allow for that and trust that the time for resolution will come. Learning to live comfortably with the uncertainty that I can’t know the ending right now, but that one day I will. And that I always have the power to write the ending, but perhaps I should spend just a little more time, finding out if it is even my script. I mean, writing the ending to your scripts is really quite arrogant. And writing the ending to God’s well, I am pretty sure there is a word for that, but not being overtly religious, I have no idea what that would be...
For today, I can see that my story telling is just another trauma response developed and executed to make me feel safe when I fear that your actions are going to hurt me. And being a sensitive person, your actions hurt me a lot. And that isn’t something that I have been willing to admit, or really accept until now.
For those of you interested, the HoJo song is “What is love?” And it is some of the truest stuff I know about love, I have always known about love. But it is in real life, actually quite hard to practice. Very hard indeed. But so is telling stories that are loosely based in fact. So much harder to just live with the uncertainty that is really the pulsing thread of life, we just don’t know...and that causes us/me to do a lot of stupid shit to avoid the ever threatening unknown.
And today, for the first time, I am willing to just allow the uncertainty to win, to not fill in all the blanks and see what happens...crazy. Terrifying too, but I kind of like it. Makes me feel alive, and human. And that feels way better than just a collection of trauma responses. YAY!