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.