The Stories We Tell
By Lucy Connor
Humans are innately story tellers. If you ever had a child, you know that rarely does a bed-time go by that he or she is not begging for a story. Read it, sing it or make-it up…any of the above will pacify a child trying to avoid going to bed. Turn on the news or the radio and you will hear one story after another about the hot topics of the day. Some are truthful, some contain “alternative facts”…stories all the same. From cave man times, men and women have told stories. Some are told through pictures, some through song, some written and some spoken. Some stories though, are created in our own minds and when left there unchecked, can go rogue.
In this world of Single Again, I am constantly astounded at the stories that I read and hear. Starting with the infamous online profile, many people tell their stories and add a little juice. “After all, what is a little white lie? Women like tall men so even though I am 5’8””, I can say I am 6’..no harm no foul.” “ Men like skinny women, so let me classify my rather matronly body as athletic and toned, once he gets to know me, he will love me no matter how I look.” “Well, I had a job, we can just concentrate on that. No one wants to date someone who is not working..” Sitting on one side of a blank screen, we can be anyone we want to be and no one will be any worse for our lies. No one, that is, but us.
These types of stories are common in the online dating world. They happen all the time. The one thing you can basically count on is if they seem too good to be true, they probably are. I try to take everything I see and read in a profile with a “grain of salt”, figuring it is “peppered” with quite a few untruths.
The kind of story-telling that has been on my mind for a long time now are the stories we tell ourselves to justify our behavior. Stories we tell ourselves to excuse the failures in our relationships. Sometimes we tell stories about ourselves such as “I am not worthy” or “No one could ever love me” or “He is lucky to have me, I can behave however I want and he will stay with me.” Sometimes, we tell stories about our partners. “He just stopped texting, he must have run into an old girlfriend and is talking to her instead”, “Her walls are too high, I will never make it in her heart” or “If he loved me, he would ask why I have been a bit inattentive lately.”
We spend so much time making up stories to justify whatever is happening at the moment that we no longer seek the truth. We settle for our own, rogue version of the story no matter how untrue it is. Ofen, we stop seeing each other because we have convinced ourselves that that person we thought we loved is really a loser. In my experience, this happens completely in one person’s mind and without a discussion between the two people involved. How easy it would be just to ask a question and listen to an answer. Unfortunately, the drama would cease and there would be no reason to run away, if we actually sought the truth.
“A good story is always more dazzling than a broken piece of truth.”
― Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale
As I think about it, we are all terrified. We are scared that we are wrong about what we are feeling, we are scared that once someone really sees us, they will no longer love us. We are scared to win after so many years of losing…so instead of talking to each other, we make up stories in our heads to explain what we do not understand. The stories go rogue and the relationship gets de-railed and we are left wondering what happened.
I am going to venture off the beaten path and tell some stories on myself now. I am in love with someone…completely and totally and have been for almost four years. In that time, we have dated and broken up so many times that we have both lost count. He is my forever and I am his and we both know it. Unfortunately, we are both writers, storytellers and dreamers. We are bright and creative and are usually the ones people come to for advice. For some reason, this loses its power in the translation of our day to day. We make up stories about what is happening to us, instead of talking to each other about it. I cannot even begin to count the number of times that we have a bit of an intense discussion and then wham….no one is talking. He thinks I am putting him low on the priority list of my life and I think that he does not love me enough to find out why I did not text that day. One day turns into two then a week then a month and now we both have such convoluted stories, gone so rogue that it gets harder and harder to find our way back to each other.
Here is an example of something that happened recently. We started talking again after a long time apart. I have two jobs and am generally at work from 7:30 am to 7:00 pm at least 3-4 days a week. He works from home and has some flexibility but lives 2 hours away from me. We started talking about how we could see each other and I was told it had to be during the week, even though weekends are really the only time I have several hours to put together. He will drive the distance but I have to cancel something I was supposed to be doing to make it work (my second job or Wed. church choir practice). I chose a Wed. evening and did not attend my commitment. Our meeting was amazing. We started dreaming of a future again…we understood again, that we were meant for each other. We decided we needed to see each other again on a regular basis. I was trying to figure out how to make it work during the next week, but as a teacher I ended up with commitments that could not be broken. I was afraid to tell him because I felt like he would think he was not a priority. I did not text one day, and wham….flat line…that was it…I heard no more from him.
I can only imagine that he has made up a story about why I did not text as I have made up stories about why he did not. I can guarantee that NONE of the stories we have made up are true. It seems it is always easier to just blame each other for our failures and not even try to make truths from the lies we tell ourselves. We both say we want a life together, we say we love each other but we behave like a newbie filling out his/her online profile. We create lies in our own heads and after a while we even believe them. Rogue lies, “alternative facts” all in the name of justifying why we fail at being the love we should be for the one person that means more to each of us than any other.
Stories, lies and half-truths made up in our own heads may protect our hearts for a while, but will eventually leave all of us Single Agains…Single forever.