My friend Chris once told me that when he felt a moment of breakdown, he repeated to himself, “The emotions of the situation are not the reality of the situation.”
My friend Jen Pastiloff says to me one evening, “Katie. Are you telling yourself a story? You’re telling yourself a story.”
I felt worthless after breakups, spending nights collapsing onto the floor in hysterics, in fetal position, carpet soaked with tears and heartache. Gasping for breath on a friend’s shoulder, being told “Don’t go over there now. Not like this. Romanticizing the drama looks better in your head. Always.”
I tell myself stories often. I over analyze, I think the world of everything and therefore expect my every breath is picked apart because I am just so absolutely obvious that how can it not be? I pause a second too long or trip over a word and think my reputation has been redefined for the worse.
I have Principal’s Office Syndrome. Although a smart girl, friends with everyone, in love with my teachers, I would be called to the office as a little girl and assume the worst. My mind would race and I would tell a story. I would remember an instance I was standing next to a girl who was being catty to another classmate and tell myself I was being called in to be suspended – and in my mind, what was worse was that all my teachers who I viewed as mentors and daytime parents would hate me. I would be hated. I’d lose my place.
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I became a very good storyteller. I got better as I got older. I drove myself mad. Everything was more dramatic in my head.
And sometime after the principal’s office and after the breakup and after the nonsense I started to slowly realize the drama was so engrained in me I could either let it control me or use it to serve me.
Sometime around when I started doing yoga regularly and found friends who not only served as dear friends but as inspiration and mentors – sometime around that time, I started not to take the story as the truth.
I started to probe and feel okay doing so.
I started to analyze people and situations and moreover myself. Former and present self alike. I started to take the emotions of the situation and probe as to why they were happening within the reality of the situation.
And then something happened. I started to want to understand and be understood instead of agree and be agreed with. I would look at the actuality of the situation and the players in this mad game and delicately peel away the cocoon threads protecting the heart of the matter.
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I still tell myself wild stories that I am thought ill of, that I am screwing up, that I am really just breezing through this all too easily and am bound to end up back at square one with nothing. That someone is onto me; that I know exactly what I am doing but really I don’t know shit. That someone is always more qualified, more talented, more beautiful, more special and well-liked. Just More.
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And when I tell myself this story I take the drama, I take the romanticized truth in my head and I ask WHY.
And usually the story I tell is rationally improbable. And much of my story is rooted in a desire to love and be loved or just simply a surface-level reaction.
A premonition that I might have something to be sorry about.
“You will be walking some night
in the comfortable dark of your yard
and suddenly a great light will shine
round about you, and behind you
will be a wall you never saw before.
It will be clear to you suddenly
that you were about to escape,
and that you are guilty: you misread
the complex instructions, you are not
a member, you lost your card
or never had one. And you will know
that they have been there all along,
their eyes on your letters and books,
their hands in your pockets,
their ears wired to your bed.
Though you have done nothing shameful,
they will want you to be ashamed.
They will want you to kneel and weep
and say you should have been like them.
And once you say you are ashamed,
reading the page they hold out to you,
then such light as you have made
in your history will leave you.
They will no longer need to pursue you.
You will pursue them, begging forgiveness.
They will not forgive you.
There is no power against them.
It is only candor that is aloof from them,
only an inward clarity, unashamed,
that they cannot reach. Be ready.
When their light has picked you out
and their questions are asked, say to them:
“I am not ashamed.” A sure horizon
will come around you. The heron will begin
his evening flight from the hilltop.”