The Stories We Spin, the Stories that Spin Us

The other morning, I was looking over a project in my backyard with discouragement, reviewing all that there still was left to do.  A wild tangle of bamboo and vines and gnarly roots lay before me, where I needed to create a path for a drainage pipe. My arms and legs already bore the scarlet scratches and welts from my pitiful progress to this point.  Surely this was supposed to be easier; I must be doing something wrong. My internal compass pointed firmly south of the State of Competence.

And then I caught myself.

WHOOOA. Stop.  I had gotten up at 5:15 AM.  I exercised, then I scrubbed all the eaves of the house,* and I had already harvested a big pile of dead bamboo from the jungle before me. And this was all in the hours before my day job.  Enough for now.

The poet David Whyte says, “When your eyes are tired, the world is tired also.” I realized that I was looking at the project and making up a story about it, myself, and the drudgery of existence with tired, overheated, uncreative eyes.  

I was also listening to an audiobook--a captivating tale of a real magician’s search for wonder. Curiously, I was just at the place in the narrative when the hero had reached the point of giving up and needed to back away from his craft. The correspondence between his mood and mine was striking, and I wondered if his account had also influenced my own feelings.

In any case, I decided it was time to stop and shower. (It was a damp, steamy Louisiana morning and my soaked shirt dripped with sweat.)  But my body did not at all want to go inside yet, and I decided to honor that impulse. So, I maneuvered to a circumspect part of my backyard that was sheltered from the neighbors’ view. I stripped down to my skivvies, and turned the cool spray of the garden hose on myself.

As the water flowed, I contemplated writing about the experience.  And then I wondered how the very intention to write about it might actually be shaping the experience that I was having.  You know, the way the habit of sharing photos on social media can influence the way that we look at our experience, the way we take the photos, and can subtly guide our choices of the photo-worthy situations that we put ourselves into.  #lifebyinstagram

“Better stick the dismount,” I thought, “so that I have a good ending to this story to tell.”  And then I thought about how recognizing that shaping impulse within me was also something that I could write about, so that you all could think I was particularly introspective and insightful.

Oof. Too much meta for a Thursday morning. I decided to let go of it all and just be completely present to the experience. So, I went all in (or all out, depending on your perspective): I dropped my drawers and stood buck (and butt) naked under the cloudy sky for the next ten minutes. My thoughts yielded to the soft thick grass under my feet and the cool clean water coursing down my body, washing me and my stories clean.

*Note: I do not typically scrub things like eaves. (Read “NEVER.”)  This task was in preparation for getting new rain gutters installed.  Just didn’t want you thinking I was some kind of a fanatic.