There’s always that anxious temptation to alter my story, to abbreviate or leave out, or to edit for audience. I want to be complex. Not complicated. But, you know what? Sometimes I am complicated. And you know what else? That’s not really my story.
Context and authenticity is everything, and when we seek for an honest inner life we’re sent skyrocketing out of our comfort zone. And often, other folks feel uncomfortable, too. What I’ve learned is that their discomfort is no reason to start editing. My story ultimately belongs to me. Their discomfort belongs to them.
One of the reasons I started to write, and continue to write, is because it doesn’t matter what the subject is, I’m always digging inward. Writing is always a journey inward.
In the 8th grade, my English teacher would quiet down the class and play music for us, from pop tunes to classical music. I enjoyed the quiet and the Beethoven. He would tell us to write out our reaction to the music. It could be anything.
Whether we wrote a story or a poem or a description of whatever the music inspired―what it really was was an exercise in validating what was genuine. This was a unique experience of complexity in a context where I received rare affirmation. What I put down on paper was worthwhile.
At a time when my biggest aspiration was to drop out of school, getting recognition as a writer meant the world to me.
And then my teacher shared some of my writing with the school librarian.
One of the craziest things about this teacher was that if students asked a question and he didn’t know the answer, he’d march the entire class over to the library to look it up. So, on one of those excursions, the librarian pulled me aside and handed me a copy of Victor Hugo’s novel, Toilers of The Sea. It was from his personal collection and was a fairly early, and probably fairly valuable English translation.
“I’ve read your work, and I think you’ll learn a lot from this book.”
He was right. It was cataclysmic. Toilers of The Sea seemed more like narrative poetry and I had never been moved by a book before.
In the novel, the character, Gilliat goes through defining experiences, epic struggles, only to see his dreams vanish. I took it very seriously. Gilliat seemed to have a tremendous level of perseverance, and he was able to show an amazing degree of exertion and achievement. I wanted to be like him, if only on my terms.
From then on, I spent an inordinate amount of time on exactly what my terms were, and are to me.
Years later, I read Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
This is the complexity I chose to embrace. A definition of success that would never rely on what I did for a living, how much money I made, or what toys I owned, but rather on the freedom to choose my own way, with or without approval and acceptance.
Maybe a gilded cage is better than no cage at all, but I have embraced a story with a scenario based on freedom as a measure of success. And being open in my relationships to the freedom of being who I truly am and who you truly are, too. Yeah. I know. Embraceable me.
When you don’t stoop to alter your story, but instead embrace the authenticity of wanting the best for everyone in your world, wanting to make a difference, seeing freedom as success, power as choosing your own way, and taking complexity over complication, the road may not be easy, but it is beautiful.
And all this because I opened a spiral notebook, clicked a pen, and started writing.
“Embrace your complexity, stretch your creativity, and live up to your potential, you are what makes the world great.” ― Dan Wells
I know people who react, and lack self-awareness. It’s okay. I get it. It takes work to respond and to cultivate self-awareness.
Conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires ain’t easy. It’s hard to change bad emotional habits into caring habits. Dr. William Glasser, the creator of Choice Theory said, “All we can give or get from another person is information.”
There’s a deluge of information out there. And a lot of it sucks. We have received information that has been introjected into self that doesn’t belong to us. You’ve gotten that information. So have I.
“Freelance writing? Are you serious? That’s so unrealistic!”
“So, what are you going to do about getting a real job?”
“You’re never going to make any money writing.”
I’m not a skycap and I’m rejecting that information right here, right now. And along with it, the baggage from the past―the bad information that originated in and is inherent to childhood―the values, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings that were not introjected from the environment, but rather the story that we have ourselves experienced. This information sucks, too. It’s dulling our ability to respond, and dampening our self-awareness.
The means of entry into becoming a perceptive person begins when we arrive at the question, “Now, in this moment, in this space, what is my reality?”
The real journey inward, whether it begins with a pen and a spiral notebook or not, leads us to a here-and-now state of mind―it is pure perception, without any judgments.
Accept or reject things based on what resonates with you now. Context and authenticity framed by what resonates―you get it? You take an honest account of your current situation, add what’s both significant and appropriate to you now, and rock your personal narrative. Right? Good. Start authoring your story. Don’t hold back. Embrace it. Embrace your complexity.