cracking up

We all have stories to tell. Most of us have a few stories that can pinpoint defining moments in our lives; and some of us have stories that lead us to conclude ‘that’s why I am who I am’. If the stories are good, we tell them over and over with bright eyes, joy and laughter. If bad, we tell them in whispers, to fewer people and with dread or despair in our eyes.

These stories can colour our perceptions and memories of our past and, so too, the colour of our future.  Many people don’t go in for navel gazing much, they merely accept what’s on the surface. They struggle a bit to make sense of the defining stories and their current feelings or situation, but generally don’t dig deeper. If it doesn’t fit with the overall picture then some outside force or person must be to blame.

But by just scratching the surface, you may begin to see, to feel, to discover the unsaid, the un-acknowledged stories. Those deep ones that are truly defining.

Here’s a scenario. Your childhood memories are filled with a father who was at every school event you participated in. He cheered from the sidelines and fairly shone with joy when you won. He was the one who went through all your subject choices at school, your university application forms, your career advice notes. He was there when you walked for the first time, drove for the first time. You know without a shadow of a doubt you can tell him anything, anytime. You know he will always be there for you. And yet, you have this underlying feeling of just not being quite good enough.

You push yourself to achieve and be more, to be a better person than you think you are and never quite seem to achieve your personal nirvana. This self-dissatisfaction confuses you because there’s nothing in your memory bank to give you a clue to your dissonance. You blame your relationships, work pressure, the city you live in, anything.

And then one day your father tells you that you were his sole reason for living. That you saved him from his own deeply low self esteem. He confesses that his love put too much pressure on you.

A small crack appears on the veneer of your self portrait. As the crack widens you realise that although dad was there all the time, his eyes only shone when you did well. You realise that his smile was your achievement. His smile was your responsibility.

And it all rushes in clearly. You can’t stand to be less than the best because if you are, his shoulders will slump a little and your heart will break a little. A key to your dissonance. A clue to what’s making you look at your own reflection with a slightly turned down mouth and the shadow of a frown.

Cracks appear in all our stories if we take the time to look. I’m not advocating an all out audit of family history and a long list of blame and guilt. Just knowing that there are cracks should give you enough impetus to walk around, over or through them. Just knowing that the pressure you’ve felt to be a certain way isn’t what’s true. It’s someone else’s lie. There’s a reverse of this story, too. You could believe that your past is filled with adversity and strife, only to find cracks that are truly filled with joy and hope.

What makes you dissatisfied with your life? And for that matter, what makes you satisfied? What veneer are you living up to or buying into? What are the silences that indicate there are cracks in your story?

Find them because inside lies the truth of who you are. Inside lies the path to being truly you.

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