“I’m done, I’m not finishing the show”
I informed my partner Tanya in the flattest of monotones. I’d spent the last two years working on on the play, Wrestling God and Girls, tirelessly. But, there was no drama to my announcement, no emotional breakdown – I just didn’t see the purpose anymore. In response she fumbled some comforting phrases while failing to cover up her concern – both by my choice and more remarkably by the uncharacteristic lack of emotion. See, I’m a feeler, and make up for my short height with my vocalizing capabilities. I processes most emotions audibly and in relationship. This quiet and eerily calm letting go was unlike me, and she knew better than to get in the way of my process. Smart human.
Fortunately, I had booked two spoken word poetry performances in the upcoming week, and in researching how to preamble an excerpt from a show I was no longer writing, I came across Marie Forleo’s interview with Todd Henry. Thank the heavens.
In it, Todd likens embarking on a creative project to hiking a canyon. At the beginning your destination is clear to you on the other side of the valley. But as you hike down, your perspective shifts and by the time you are at the bottom, you question whether the trip was a worthwhile journey to begin with.
The last part hit me in the solar plexus. He was talking about me – I was questioning if this project was even worth doing anymore –I was in the bottom of the canyon and asking “why tell the story?”
After a few temper tantrums, I finally got down to the business of figuring out what I needed. I lay on the couch with Tanya, crying hot shamey tears and spitting up story after story that ate at me from the inside.
“I’m useless. I’m pathetic. I’m a total failure.”
Though some part of me knew the terrible things I was saying couldn’t be true, they were rising up and out of me without any holding back.
Thankfully, Tanya was having none of it.
“Babe, you aren’t a failure. You picked that story up somewhere but that doesn’t make it true.”
And just like that – my perspective shifted and I remembered the power of story. She was right.
The story of being a failure wasn’t mine but I was clinging to it like it was my truth, all without awareness. In turn it was controlling me and ke me from working on a project that had been born of much love.
To change this, I had to reclaim the power as storyteller of my own life – to remember that I can be brave enough to pay attention to the stories I’ve chosen to believe about myself and my life and respond with curiosity and self-compassion.
Is this story still true?
Where did I pick this story up?
Does it serve me?
What is a different story I could tell in service of myself?
We can only change the stories we own, and we can only own those stories which we know and name for ourselves. This is why we work with the stories and scripts by which we build our lives, and which we can rescript in order to create lasting transformation.
And in case you are wondering, I’m finishing the play. It’s my story and to tell my story is a revolutionary act of love that I am giving myself. This is my work. It is the work of us all.