“You are not your story”, I’ve heard this said many times.
While I understand that we hold within us the power to decide that we will no longer react in certain ways to the hands we are dealt, or the complexities that life will inevitably throw at us; simultaneously, I understand that this does not erase our stories, it simply gives us new perspective on them.
And so, what are we if not our stories?
To experience is a fact of life and the essence of our being, it is our very experience that weaves the fabric of who we are, what we do, and how we evolve. From the time of conception, we begin interacting with the world around us. From the time of conception, we evolve based on our experience; based on our story, as it’s written.
As I lay quietly this afternoon, I felt into the layers of myself, the shades and every version of me I have been since I was a child. I can feel them all still here, a vital part of my being, though surely much different than the version of me I am as I write this. There the question arose, what am I if not my story? Now, surely, I am a sentient being and even furthermore my belief is that I am a piece of all that is. I am my spirit, my most inner self that transcends time and space and matter. At the same moment, I am an aware, conscious, and experiencing life form and the classroom in which I learn is this life, and my story is the book in which I read and write. It is a compilation of tragedy, love, triumph, beauty, despair, anger, unconditional joy, and grit. Every word holds a story, or multiple stories – all of which have guided me to decisions, to understandings, and to greater purpose.
No one story is without pain, and no one story is without loss. Why do we feel the need to look away? How would it feel to open ourselves to our pain? Perhaps, it would be our greatest point of transcendence; perhaps, it would unlock doors inside of us that led not to the pain we've endured and want so badly to escape, but rather to something entirely new; something powerful, something humble, something wise.
You are your story. You are every layer of yourself, every shade, every version of you that you have been since you were a child – they’re all still there, a vital part of your being. Though perhaps much different than the version of you that you are as you read this, or perhaps not, this is for you to look at and decide.
At a certain point you may even come to realize, that it is you yourself who holds the pen.
And so rather than decide that “you are not your story”, you might choose to embrace it. You might choose to cherish each and every layer, each and every moment, all the pain, all the mistakes, all the joy, all the beauty, as different opportunities for learning, for becoming.
Think about it, you don’t even need to speak it. What has your story taught you, up until this very moment? Can you practice acceptance and compassion, and understand that you have a choice from this moment forward, not to rewrite, but to write differently? Can you accept that what is past cannot change, but that you can?
Embrace your story, let it teach you.
It has so much to offer, if only you will allow yourself to see.
The weather is cool, it’s dark, driving under street lights, the radio is on.
The band Death Cab For Cutie chimes in, my heart takes an unexpected leap; a song I’d heard a million times before, yet this time, in a new way. I suppose I’ve changed, and that’s what made me hear it differently.
Once upon a time these words were just something that seemed to exist inside of a cloud. They offered a pretty image, a light feeling not quite understood, something entirely untouchable. I’d accepted this without even realizing it and moved on humming a melody. Never would I think that one day these words would mean something so different.
“I want to live where soul meets body”
The resounding answer, “you do” was loud and clear.
The surge of contentment that followed was palpable.
“You do. You do. You do.”
Right there, right within your skin is that exact place. Somewhere that an energy, a light, that is entirely you resides. The you beyond your roles, your regulations, your story, the you that is simple, the you that is just love. Death Cab’s lead singer Benjamin Gibbard calls it the Soul, I agree, and feel free to replace that with whatever word or image works for you. Your Soul, your body, enmeshed together to create all that you are, right now. I realize it all sounds a whole lot like a fairy tale, but well, we are pretty magical.
How often do you look to the world around you and think, “I wish I could be that”, “I wish I could have that”, “I’d be happy if only I were [insert your thoughts here]”?
Many, I’m guessing. I’ll let you in on a secret, I spent the greater part of my life thinking all those things, too. Then somewhere along the lines, I managed to begin meeting myself, right where I was. I started leaning in and allowing myself to be, to be imperfect, to have a shitty job, to feel ugly, to have been victimized, to have made more than my fill of mistakes, to be broken and fearful, to feel utterly alone. I finally let myself look down at my hands and see all the broken pieces of myself I carried. And I didn’t look away, I just let that be. You know what? I found myself there. Where soul meets body. There’s something so deeply remarkable about finding that place. It’s where hope lives, it’s where humility lives. You realize in that place, no matter how “broken” you might be, so long as you are here, you are always mendable.
Hope initiates action, and action initiates change; humility initiates forgiveness, and forgiveness initiates freedom.
“I want to live where soul meets body”, Benjamin Gibbard goes on, “and let the sun wrap it’s arms around me”. My answer to that is,
“so do it”
Go outside while the sun is shining, stand there. Lift your chin to the clouds and breathe…and stand there.
Meet yourself there, where soul meets body, and be.