The other night I found myself in my mother’s craft room, attempting to be creative. I am bad at art, has been one of my go-to phrases since the fourth grade. I will always remember her; the art teacher from hell. She told me I was bad at art and I believed it ever since. My mom and I joked about how crazy it is that one little sentence can stick with you for the rest of time. I heard, you suck at art, and ran with it for the next 15 years.
This craft night talk reminded me of a recent Krishna Das lecture I listened to. The part that struck me was when he reminded the listeners to “drop the storyline” and “to let go, a million times a minute.”
What does dropping the storyline even mean? I had to chew on this for a little bit. I find that the true essence of any teaching is what it really means to the learner. My storyline served me when I had no other way to identify myself and no faith that I am okay just the way I am. My storyline has been and can be an excuse for my behavior. My storyline keeps me in my comfort zone and perpetuates the tendency to see myself separate from the world around me. Dropping the storyline to me, is shedding limiting beliefs and labels.
I have been a victim. The girl with an eating disorder. The runner. A vegan. The straight A student. Crazy. Intense. Antisocial and shy. Uncreative, weird, a perfectionist. I used to talk about my social anxiety, my addictive personality, my poor immune system, and my tendency toward high-stress.
My ego loved (and loves) these labels. By owning any of those storylines, I effectively limit myself. I present myself to the world as a one-dimensional, unchanging person. What I have been helped to see and understand is that I am not the labels I choose for myself. It is comforting to identify as a certain type of person, who does specific things, and who has a number of “flaws”. It is easier to present yourself to the world as a set of defined characteristics than to walk around with an open heart and mind, vulnerable and accepting of the fact that we are being shaped by every single encounter and every single thought.
One of my biggest storylines was, I am a victim. I never realized how comfortable that space was for me. For a long time, I walked around feeling and no doubt exuding the energy that life was happening to me. My “poor me” attitude seemed to carry me through my day and it allowed me to not take responsibility for creating my own life.
In essence, I felt I had destructive habits that were not my choosing but instead things that others were responsible for. I was the star actor in my very own drama, and somehow this made me feel like my life had substance. As a former partner told me, “You enjoy the drama. You feed on problems. You seek them out!”
Turns out he was right.
What would happen if we all dropped our storylines? Would we be bored? Would our lives seem less fulfilling? Would we take more risks or try new things more often?
One time I read “You are not a jar”. I love this. We are definitely NOT jars. So why all the labels? Why the disclaimers, assumptions, and limitations? Why do we take on an identity and hold it with a death grip. Why can’t we forgive ourselves for the past and live in the present?
What labels do you have for yourself? How do you limit yourself? Do you feel comfortable acting as a victim? Do you use labels to avoid risk? Are you afraid to put yourself out there?
Challenge for the next week/month/year: Pick one of your labels and start to notice how often you use it. Start to notice how it has shaped or limited your life. Then start to peel that label away. It may be painful, like pulling off a band-aid. But, I promise you that the fresh skin under that label will be so happy to see the sun. And your life may change in a tiny way or maybe it will change in an extraordinary way. What do you have to lose?
Be Brave. Find your bliss.