Sunday, May 15, 2016

Stories We Tell Ourselves

This is a photo of my son's memorial tree we planted on the first anniversary of his death (or we might have planted it on his birthday, I forget). The tree has proven itself difficult to keep on a straight growth trajectory. I keep having to adjust the tension on the green rope you can see in the picture. Such adjustments are not uncommon in my life--on trees, on my son, on myself. It's all part of holding the tension on the various threads of my life.

One of the threads I need to adjust in my life is in the stories I carry, the things I tell myself. We all do this (I think). Many of the stories are helpful and true (for example, I am tenacious). But some of the stories we repeat to ourselves are bald-faced lies (example, I am an annoyance to my friends). The lies are the ones that weigh the most, and they are the ones that do us the most damage on our journey.

It is part of a healthy growth journey to recognize the false stories we carry, and to ditch those things before they become so deeply embedded in our souls that they may as well be true (because we are living as though they are). I can't speak for anyone else but I know I sure don't need any extra (toxic) weight to carry. "Do not believe everything you think."

Sometimes other people tell you stories. And you must discern how meaningful or valuable those stories might be to you. This past week at MD Anderson, I heard many stories. My doctors and their assistants explained much to me about how my surgery and treatment for breast cancer is going to go. They spoke in calm tones with authority and assurance about some hard things. I came out of the day with a peace about how things were going to go, and with a feeling that I was going to be all right. I'm a sucker for that kind of calm talk (I never think about how easy it is for someone to sound calm and confident when they aren't the ones going through the stuff)!

(I'll be having a lumpectomy, probably followed by radiation, with hormone therapy possibly thrown in for good measure. That's the bare bones of the plan for now.)

But now that I am home, and away from the doctors and their reassurances, and as night is creeping in, doubt and her stories also tries to creep in. Yet, underneath the doubt, and the occasional fear, I feel good about it all, that I'm getting the best treatment available and I'm doing the best I can do for myself.

I have a few healthy, growth oriented friends who affirm my "good self-talk." I like to remind them that I have learned a thing or two through my trials. And also, that my good self-talk is a bit like my tennis playing, that is to say it is often inconsistent. And at times like those, when I sound like I am thinking I will one day have these tasks mastered, I have friends who remind me that I will never "arrive," that I am progressing!

11 comments:

  1. Yes!!

    Something I learned in reading for a psychology class in college that has stuck with me for the rest of my life (so far), is that we'd never allow other people to talk to us the way we talk to yourselves.

    We'd never believe those stories coming from someone else. But we can certainly convince ourselves.

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    1. I've slowly learned this lesson, and I'm trying to be kinder to myself.

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  2. That's not the writing you would have done before. Before all the things that you have beaten. Before all the things that have not beaten you.

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    1. Thanks, Cyn. It's true. I'm working on writing more transparently.

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    2. This is so true. Your writing has blossomed and bloomed and all the real stuff has risen above the rest. I love everything you write these days; it rings of truth.

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    3. Thank you! I often don't think it's my best writing, but it's honest and true writing.

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  3. This is filled with such hope! We are awful to ourselves and tend to go to the negative. I am glad that you are aware of that and adjust. I love you.

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    1. Thanks, Mindy! I love you back!

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  4. Good self talk is also like tennis in that we get better with practice. Learning to tell that negative inner voice that she is full of shit and a big fat liar helps, too. :)

    "You is smart. You is kind. You is important."
    And you is so very loved.

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  5. Self-talk, ugh! That was my project to change in a class for my master's degree. I worked hard, and still work hard at it, but at least I no longer call myself stupid every time I make a mistake! I would think the doctors at Anderson, as the best in the country, know whereof they speak, and your little doubt popups are simply a mechanism we use to ground ourselves, but it doesn't need serious consideration. I liked your phrase about the stories we tell ourselves. It's a good way to look at it. Some of them are definitely fiction!

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