What are we without our stories? What are we without these characters we play in our heads, daily lives and relationships? Who am I without the traits and distinguishing parts of me that make me different from everyone else on the planet? Am I so little more than just an actor playing a part in a movie that is life, or just a monkey, a hairless ape, that has mimicked my way out of and into the various experiences that made up my life of choices and reactions which brought me to here and now?
There is a video wandering around the internet of Jim Carrey in an interview this year during New York Fashion Week. He talks about essentially these basic questions and ideas. I’ve started to watch it a couple times, and stopped because his existential crisis drama from the lens of a very talented actor turned spiritual guru leaves a sore feeling for me. Then a friend sent me a PM with a version of the interview that turned the seeming ravings of someone that found insanity a little early in life into a solid and rational summary of what it seems to mean to be human, now and in this world we live.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I learn, how I have different behaviors and responses to different situations and people (namely people that knew me 5+ years ago vs. people that know me now), and how much learning and changing behavior and thought patterns is essentially just mimicking and using another being’s (yes, even learning behaviors from animals) reactions and behaviors as a model to build myself.
I was going to write how I’m so different now than I was at a younger age, what those differences are and clues of what happened in my experiences to create them. And yet, that’s not the point of this writing. Every person, self-aware females being among them along with self-aware males and non-binary gendered people, goes through some form of changes and shifts in their late 20’s and early 30’s. The point of this writing is that question: What am I without my stories?? What was any prophet or celebrated person without the stories written and spoken about them?
I know I am a human with a good, kind and solid heart. I know I am deep and wide. I know I am love and a fallible, highly intelligent, sensitive and quick witted creature. I know I am female. I know I am different than many creatures I’m around, and when I find those that are more similar to me I have desires to glom onto them. It’s less of a fear of abandonment or being ostracized, rather more a relief and joy at seeing a being of my tribe.
So what would you be without your stories? If you forgot that you have had a shit show of relationship(s), if you decided to drop your judgments about the people with who you shared experiences of pain or loss, if you let go of your stuff, memoirs, possessions, clothing and jewelry, and if you left the place you called home and what you knew for somewhere unknown just because you felt deep in your gut there has got to be something better than this and you are meant to live something more than this.
I can tell you from my own view of going through these “if”s, dropping old patterns and letting go, that you would be fucking terrified. You would be scared out of your damned wits and about ready to completely lose your shit almost every day. Sometimes you do lose your shit and have a fit of tantrum and emotions. Sometimes you just stay silent and function on autopilot as your brain works through the variations of the problem sets you are managing. You would be talking yourself away from the edge of a cliff down below that is pure insanity, dark and murky depths of chaos that don’t have an end or dry land to rest between battles fighting off the madness. You would be dealing with judgments from every single person you meet and have known who doesn’t have a frame of reference or experience like yours so they somehow refuse or neglect to offer empathy or support. You will be navigating the cold, metallic and devoid of humanity maze of systems that make up our social, legal, financial and survival needs structures. And you get to continue living the adult thing, keeping up the appearance of a “normal” life and some fashion of decent adjustment when “well-adjusted” is a laughable overstatement.
This nasty, harsh, dark and forced world, the negative feedback and opinions thrown onto you, the suffering, challenges and difficulties you deal with, they are also stories. How you deal with them are just patterns and habits. You learn from those around you or you figure it out on your own and learn from your mistakes. Again, though, patterns and stories. We are all acting amidst our own and each other’s stories, habits and patterns.
Then, you get those bright and clear moments of “Ah HA!” The realization that you finally figured it out what needed to be done and you, metaphorically, cut a huge chunk away in the jungle of this path of discovery and understanding life. In the Ah HA! moment is when I realized I am truly very little but a mix and melding of patterns, stories and habits. One of my partners has been saying this for many years, and it’s true; I’m an imperfect monkey made of habits and stories.
The trick, maybe, is finding the positive and growth inducing patterns and habits that lead to better ones and a better version of life and self. The trick is not to get rid of anything, but to replace and reframe what’s already there for a better and more useful version. There is no getting rid of or deleting stories. There is replacement and building new stories.