When my daughters were younger we used to play a game as we drove along city streets. “See that man over by the bus stop? The one walking slowly with his shoulders hunched,” I’d ask. “You’ve got sixty seconds to tell the story of what’s happening in his life.”
Quickly, one of them would ‘write’ the story of his life. “He just came from the doctor’s office. He’s worried because the doctor wants him to go for some tests and he’s scared about what they’ll find. Tests always scare him. Even as a kid, he hated tests. ‘Someone’s judging you no matter what you do,’ his mother used to say. ‘Tests just confirm other people’s bad judgement of you,’ she’d add before marking up his homework with her bright red pen. The doctor told him he doesn’t think it’s cancer. He wants the test to rule it out. But the man didn’t hear the ‘not cancer’, all he hears is, ‘I’ve gotta get a test for cancer’. And he’s convinced he’ll fail.”
And we’d drive on with the story weaving itself until we spotted another person who inspired a different story.
Outside my office window at home the world unfolds every day.
A woman walks past my window every morning. The story I tell myself is that she is on her way to work. Dress pants. Coiffed hair. She has a happy step. A lightness to her gait. She steps onto the heels of her feet, rolls forward and bounces up. Her arms swing. The hem of her 3/4 length dark blue coat with shiny brass buttons swings. The large bright blue bag she carries over one shoulder swings with her.
She walks away and the space in front of my window is filled with a woman walking her Cocker Spaniel on the other side of the street. She too is dressed for work from head to ankles. White running shoes encase her feet. She walks as quickly as her old shambling dog can shuffle. He always stops at the corner where the walk from the white house of the man and lady with the red car meets the sidewalk. He always sniffs. She always waits a moment then tugs gently on his leash to get him moving.
An elderly woman walks by. Bright pink coat. Milk white hair spilling out from the edges of her cream coloured hat. It forms a halo around her face as she steps into the sun streaming towards her from the east. She walks quickly. A purposeful stride.
The story I tell myself…Morning exercise to stem the flow of time eating at long lost youth, curbing ages erosion of her well-being. She’s committed to good health. Good eating. Good living.
Outside my window, the world flows by. I like to make up stories about the people in its flow.
Sometimes, most times, I tell myself stories about all the happenings in my life. Sometimes, I’m right. Sometimes, my emotions, my memory, my experiences cast a light on the story I’m telling myself that isn’t true about the other people in my story.
Life is made up of stories.
I can make up a story for anyone, but the real stories that make a difference in my life are the one’s I tell myself that make a difference in how well I pass the time of day loving, caring and being with the ones I love.
The real stories are the one’s I’m willing to tell that bridge the gap between what’s going on, and what I tell myself is going on.
Sometimes, those stories are absurd.
Letting go of the absurd, I get real with my story. And when I get real with my story, I get real in my life.