Watch What You Make It Mean

Several weeks ago, after two cancelled dates with a fella I very much wanted to see, I had a very rare sleepless night. I found my mind doing battle with some very old voices – gremlins who were trying to convince me that I am “not enough” to sustain this new relationship. The night was unsettling and it caught me by surprise because I have worked hard to fight those gremlins of insecurity and they had all but disappeared from view.

I had forgotten to watch what I make things mean.

The title of this post is a phrase I picked up at a workshop and it has become a mantra that grounds me. It is a reminder that the meaning I assign to every single event in my life is an individual choice that I make. Meaning lies in that intersection between “truth” and “story” and once chosen is filed away as a memory. I often joke that I have the memory of a gnat. I readily admit that I really am not good at remembering the details of events, the punch lines to jokes, the plots to books I have read or movies I have seen or who said what to whom. What I do remember are impressions and feelings for all of those things. I store in my body the way that I feel when I meet someone rather than the specifics of what they said that they did for a living.

I was at a dinner party recently where the conversation turned to this idea that someday, we may be able to record and replay all of the moments of our life. We could always go back and use those recordings as evidence of what “really” happened.

Most would probably assume that I would be all on board for a technology that would allow me to remember everything in high definition but instead I was disturbed by the idea. I don’t believe that we are built for that level of total recall. Memory’s edges are soft and imperfect. There are studies that show that different people who witness the exact same event will each recall it differently. Siblings who grow up in the same house can have vastly different memories of childhood. The events are seen through their particular lens of history. Memories become the stories that we tell ourselves about life and about love and about our very existence.

We often unconsciously project on to others a “story” that is filtered through our lens of history, through our past heartaches and let downs.

We manage to miss seeing the present for what it is, the opportunity to tell new tales.

When something or someone joyful comes into our life how often do we miss that things are good because we become trapped in, what Dr. Brene Brown refers to as, a perpetual state of disappointment – that place where our gremlins gain a foothold as we jump to the bleakest worst-case scenario? This can often happen when a moment is so overflowing with joy that the vulnerability that is required to embrace it scares us.

Fear actually tries to convince us that it is easier to live waiting for disappointment, to live waiting for the other shoe to drop than it is to live the joy of the moment.

Since my long night of battling gremlins, I am back to the idea of watching what I make things mean.

I have gotten myself back to the idea that I am the author and I can choose to write my story as seen through fresh eyes rather than the lens of my past relationship history.

Those two missed connections were about bad timing and understandable circumstances and they were not a covert sign telling me that I am not enough.  I am choosing to tell myself the version of my story that empowers and uplifts me and that leaves plenty of room for being happy. I am choosing to see the joy and to sit in it as my tender heart continues to open and my arms widen to actively embrace my life.