Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Other Shoe Has Been Placed Gently On The Floor

I've been thinking a lot about the stories we tell ourselves.  One of the reasons I claim Christianity as my primary discipline and path is because it is steeped in narrative, and I believe humans need stories we can live inside as much as we need water and air.  Yet what attracts me to Buddhism is its focus on dropping judgment and being ultimately present in the now, which implies letting stories go.

I used to be very sure of the truth of the stories I told myself.  There was a time when I didn't even realize that's what I was doing, but just blindly accepted, without any hint of a question, that the things I believed were fact.

Nothing will slap you out of that illusion faster than a truly intimate relationship.

I won't bore you with all the details of my evolution, but I will say that where I find myself now, in my current relationship with my beloved, is that I hold different stories at different times, depending on my state of mind and heart.  This has been very confusing to me:  Which story is true?

Is it the one where I'm the evil queen holding the beautiful bird captive for my own narcissistic pleasure?  Is it the one where I'm the innocent princess being rescued by a knight in shining armor - or an innocent princess being tricked by a monster dressed up like a knight?  Or the one where we're both lost children trying to find our way out of the forest?  It goes on like this ad nauseum, and the only times I even think in these terms is when I'm feeling fearful and negative, so all the stories are - guess what? - fearful and negative.  The truth is, there's a little of all of them in my relationship, but what this relationship is defined by is a deep and abiding love and commitment to mutual growth.  What more could I ask for?

The story that I choose to put my energy of belief into is the one that's going to define how the relationship plays out.  But then again, how much control do I really have?

What if I choose the most beautiful story I can imagine might be true and I still get screwed?

It's these very questions I was contemplating when I came across one of Kate's recent posts at New Life.  She makes a reference to the expression "waiting for the other shoe to drop," about how happiness always seems tainted by latent dread of it ending.

In pondering that, I thought about The Sententious Vaunter's post, a hodgepodge of cool stuff, which includes a fairly simple recipe for happiness:  Deliberately choose things to be around you that you enjoy, and then enjoy them.  This way of happiness, however, also depends on not waiting for that shoe.  Enjoyment without attachment.

I started wondering where this shoe-dropping expression came from.  So I looked it up.

Apparently it came from some vaudeville act involving a guy coming home to his upstairs apartment late at night and taking off his shoes. He drops the first one and realizes it's pretty loud, so he places the other one gently on the floor.

Eventually the guy downstairs shouts, "Would you hurry up and drop the other one so I can stop waiting for it and go back to sleep?"

What if we could just assume that the shoe is already on the floor?  How could it do anything but make life better?  Duh.  So I've resolved to let myself believe the story that my deepest heart is already writing.  Because there's really nothing to lose.  Except fearful projections.

I've been deeply studying a book called Dreaming the Council Ways for over a year.  In the chapter I'm reading now, the author, Ohky Simine Forest, talks about how we attract what we fear, and the power of being decided.   This is where I'm coming from with all of this.  The point is not to attach to yet another illusion and live in wishful thinking, but to be decided about how I'm going narrate and interpret my story.  To let there be one author with a singular vision, instead of passing the pen around to a host of writers who aren't even sure what they have to say.

I was just talking to my very wise twelve-year-old son about this post, and he said, "What if the shoes were stilettos?"  And then, "What if you got so used to that guy coming in and dropping his shoes that you couldn't go to sleep without it?"

Yes.  So.  If you've got to wait for it - at least picture an elegant stiletto.


  1. I think I suspended the fear of the other shoe dropping quite a long time ago but that's because I've lived quite a lot longer than you have and have had my own relationships - good, bad, wonderful - and I choose wonderful and just plan to stick with this story for the rest of my life. But my worry about the shoe in the good and bad relationships - the worry didn't change the relationships, there was too much negative around the bad to let it turn back to good so I guess the shoes were maybe more thrown down rather than dropped:) Thanks for the reminder about that old vaudeville routine.......I had long forgotten or maybe never knew the genesis of that expression.

  2. That sounds like an awesome plan. I'm just now finally learning to embrace the wonderful story. It took me a long time to even realize I could.

    I'm so grateful to connect with you and others recently who strengthen that story for me.

  3. This is a beautiful and thought-provoking piece of writing. I've never seen this question approached so uniquely or so aptly before. I think you've hit the nail on the head. Better to live as you wish and not fear the consequences, or you'll never achieve true happiness.

    DO believe the other shoe has dropped, Pollinatrix. I think you've suffered enough. It sounds like you've finally settled in to a lasting and rewarding relationship. Me, I'm still stuck in "I'm the prince who's going to save ALL the princesses" mode.

    (P.S. I'm so honored that you mentioned me!)

  4. Okay, girl. THAT was an excellent post.

    I don't even know where to start.

    "The truth is, there's a little of all of them in my relationship, but what this relationship is defined by is a deep and abiding love and commitment to mutual growth. What more could I ask for?"

    I related to this statement as I've had this relationship for some time now- it's wonderful.

    In the beginning, yeah, I waited for the shoe to drop. I used to call it: impending doom.

    What this guy is calling "decided" I call; "intentional".

    I am intentional about where I'm going. When I see some bullshit that doesn't fit my intentions, some crazy person reaking havoc with me or whatever, I'm done with it. With a quickness.

    "The point is not to attach to yet another illusion and live in wishful thinking, but to be decided about how I'm going narrate and interpret my story."

    While it's ridiculous to imagine that I control so much, there are a few things I can control- so when I see something I like, I do more of that. When I see something I don't- I cut it out.

    Again, excellent, outstanding post.

    When can I look for the book?

  5. Thanks guys! I'm always amazed when I get such praise for writing that I really wasn't too sure about. I actually read this post to my 16-year-old writer-daughter to make sure it made sense before I posted it. I felt like it was going in too many directions. I'm glad it was coherent enough for you guys to get something out of it!

    Postman - As I was attempting to go to sleep last night, your comment about saving all the princesses went through my head, and another quote from Little Women came to mind.

    When Meg (movie version, again) complains about not having any suitors, Kirsten Dunst, as a young Amy, says, "You don't need scores of suitors - only one, if it's the right one."

    May you find the right one. Some lady's going to be very lucky to have you.

    EC - I love your clean, crisp approach to life. I'm more of a waffler myself, especially when my compassion gets the better of me and I end up giving people too many chances. I'm glad I have you around to put things in perspective.

    Are you saying I should write a book? I'd like to, but I don't have any idea how to group all these loose ramblings into something that would be clear enough in its purpose that people would want to buy it by looking at the title and cover. Any suggestions?

  6. Why, thank you. I'm truly touched that we've never even met and you can say things like that to me with such confidence. I appreciate it. I concur with EC - excellent post. Book worthy. You've put enough incisive and inspirational insight on this blog to start one, easy.

    Just group your thoughts by topic, in book form. Look at the tags you've labeled your posts with and group similar posts together, and there you go: you've got your chapters. I've seen books full of random stuff that were organized in this manner, and I think it works.

    Again, excellent writing. I'm very glad you decided to start blogging.

    P.S. I've been steadily collecting a list of Blogger's verification words, and this is what I have so far: shakera, frocin, tusanov, somfrie, flurat, arupis (actually, that's not a verification word; it's what happened when I tried to type the word "stupid" and had my fingers in the wrong spot), euriz, gencalsi, rigunp, micaters, boidn, lypnjura, maket, zatedu, and digeo. Any of those sound like good cocktails? Anyone up for a "gencalsi flip"?

  7. Polly,

    Thank you! And ditto what Postman said.

    Easy as pie- the book. You've probably already got over 1/3 or more already done!

    Actually, that's what I'm doing. My book is: "Entrpreneur Chick~ How to Roll with Da Big Roosters!"

    The thing that keeps writing so much easier than being a solitary activity, is the feedback I receive and also, reading ppl like you and Postman and the other blogs I read, enrich my life SO much. It's just awesome.

  8. Postman,

    I dunno- but a double shot vodka tonic, diet tonic with extra limes sounds really good right now. Can't have it though. Blah, blah, black dress.

  9. Dang, not even vodka? Nor diet tonic? This is diet regime is brutal! And I thought I'd seen some brutal regimes before this!

  10. Maybe I should change my blog's title to The Whole Blooming Bar.

    Truly, EC, that sounds pretty horrid. You're already stunning - this dress must be really awesome for you to be going through all this for it.

    Blogging really is a great thing. And, EC, I've already got the title of your book burned in my mind - it's very catchy.

    Postman - I'm going to have to think about the list for a while. I'll get back to you.

    You guys are so supportive! Thanks for all your encouragement.

  11. Pollinatrix: Don't bother. I've decided that's what I'm going to name MY bar. "Interesting back story there, mate. Let me tell you about this blogger I knew in Taos..."

    Take your time. And you're welcome.

  12. Ok, Postman, here's what think:

    a Euriz should be fizzy.

    A Gencalsi sounds lovely, but I can't imagine what should be in it. Chocolate liqueur, half and half, and ginger ale, maybe?

    A zatedu should be radiation green and have cherries.

    A digeo must have tequila.

  13. Taking time out of the busy life I have been dealt to come and read this has been worth it. I am most appreciative to be sweetly and tenderly reminded that the shoe might very well be sitting upon the floor and that the breeze of gentleness has come my way. It is hard to perceive in the harsh dealings we might have had that life turns for us, but this has reminded me I KNOW when the breeze shifted its direction, I KNOW THIS IN MY SOUL, but I had forgotten. Thank you for reminding me.

  14. Sounds logical to me. Euriz has a fizzy sound to it. I'm with you on the ginger ale with a Gencalsi...can't imagine what else might go in it though. Don't know if creme de cacao and ginger ale would mix all that harmoniously, to be honest...zatedu sounds vaguely Japanese, so in goes the Midori. That would take care of the greenness. Digeo/tequila makes sense too (anagram of Diego, really). I'll let you know how the results turn out. Thank you for the suggestions.

  15. Jennifer - You're welcome! I'm glad this resonated with you.

    Postman - I can't wait to see what you come up with.



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