"You can't handle the truth," the general says, spittle flying in an age before we were as frightened by his words as we are by his errant bodily fluids. We love that scene because we all know what he’s talking about. We don’t want a light shed on certain truths. Things that allow us to live the lies we live.
This is the second time in my life that I’ve had to face the truth that what I believe about myself isn’t who I really am. I didn’t integrate much lasting change the first time I went through an extremely traumatic year. Thankfully, this time I know I have. I know because it is a continuing evolution. I uncover more all the time, and it’s leading me back to who I really am. So, I thought it might help a person or two who are maybe thinking what I said the first time in 2009.
I feel like the Universe has been bitch slapping me around and I’m ready to listen.
I imagine 2020 will be that year for many people. First of all, I’m sorry for what you’re going through. I know it’s rough. I know you feel alone, scared, angry, despondent, and fill in the blank. I can’t change any of this for you, but I can tell you a personal truth that might.
There’s a lot to unpack here and I’ve gone through so many cycles of thinking I was over certain things, only to have the scab ripped back off. The point is, I can’t give you a one size fits all answer. It’s a quest you must find your own path through. But I can share some of the wisdom that has carried me forward on mine.
I love writing science fiction. They say it’s the genre of philosophers. It’s a place where you can go deep into pressing issues without them being too triggering because they don’t seem like reality. I’m reading the third book in the Binti series at the moment, and the tensions between both tribes on Earth and aliens races sound and feel a lot like tensions between any group we may consider “other”. The truths are easier to digest in this format of strange and unusual stories. I like to insert personal truths into my fiction, but you’re getting this one in its raw form.
I’ve learned through my little Universe love taps that we are all story tellers, and most of us live inside those stories we tell ourselves. How about an easy example? Think of the last time someone told you no when you were trying to get something you really wanted in your career. Maybe you are querying agents like I am. It could be a promotion at work or a sale you really wanted to close or a loan on that house or building. We all hear no in our lives.
Are you thinking about it? Can you tell me what happened?
Wait a second. I only asked to hear what happened. In my case of querying agents, I had one tell me no.
That is, quite literally, all that happened. But guess what? My lovely amygdala started getting to work with all its preprogrammed material and made up a whole story about it. My logic says, it wasn’t a fit and the right one will present itself if I keep going.
If that story is true…then why did I stop after the first 12 or so queries? What mental block threw up distraction after distraction and excuse after excuse?
There must be another story under there. It sounds something like, who do you think you are? You think you’re so smart? No one wants to hear what you have to say. There’s a typo right there. For someone who’s supposed to be smart, you sure do moronic things. You offended that person describing a character that way. You can’t do anything right. They googled you and saw all the bad things people say about you and now they think no one will buy your books.
Now it’s your turn. When you think back to that person telling you no, what story did you make up about it? Remember, all that happened is that they said no.
This extends to everything in our lives that we can’t be with. That we are ashamed of, regretful for, feel guilty about, lie about to protect our sense of identity (which is also a made up story).
Someone asked what the key to healing some of my past trauma was. Separating what happened from the story I told myself about what happened, is what has worked best for me.
A lot of that programming is still deeply embedded, and it still wants to make up stories about things that happen. But now I have the awareness to separate those stories and remind myself they are all made up. The next steps on my journey are discovering how I might rewire some of that old programming. The programs that say I’m not enough, or I’m too much (welcome to the paradox), or I’m bothering people, or whatever it is that makes me feel bad or stops me from doing something I want to do. Stay tuned on that one.
If you want to go further than a time someone told you no…if you want to get real vulnerable, think about something you lie about, or hide from other people. Now, try separating what it actually was from the story you’ve made up about it.
As all professional authors know, revising is everything.
A very talented author I was messaging with last week said that the ability to look at no's as forward progression is a superpower. It's a superpower we all have access to. I hope you find yours.