After all, that’s what most religions are made up of. Stories. Structured words that explain our origins, and pain, and where we’ll end up. We tell ourselves stories to understand; we tell ourselves stories to remember. We tell ourselves stories to forget.
Story is my religion, and characters are my people.
They say that reading makes you a more empathetic person… and it makes perfect sense. Reading narrative literature trains you to look for the other person’s perspective. If you can do it for a book, you can do it in real life.
The last several months have been a nightmare in terms of personal growth, and for whatever reason, my initial response was to wallow in that nightmare. What, I wasn’t feeling like myself? Then I was going to chastise and hate myself for it, and I was going to stew in that feeling and let it become me.
I snapped out of it, to some extent, by honing in on story.
I kind of threw myself into my book release. Sorry (not sorry) to everyone who was annoyed by my onslaught of posts promoting the book – it was my therapy. I pushed that story because it was my heart and soul for so long, and I had hidden it and cultivated it silently for so many years, until finally, when I wasn’t feeling like myself, I thought, well, this book is myself. If I focus on this, maybe I can get back to me.
Maybe it worked. Maybe it didn’t. But it gave me something to focus on. And then, when the book was released, I became frustrated again, because there wasn’t anything more to push, except for the same old tired thing that others were already sick of hearing about.
And so I returned to my discontent.
All of this, by the way, was probably not the healthiest form of therapy. I mean, I’m a writer, so writing and getting my emotions out on the page is great – but putting all of my worth into one publication? Probably not the most ideal decision. And yet, I did it. I think it’s very easy for creators to only think of themselves as their creations.
And then, after the high of publication faded, I returned to wallowing. It was a muddy pit that was far too easy to slide back into.
So I started writing more stories. In fact, I’m working on two projects right now – a novel and a musical – and they are both great. And I’m able to channel a lot of my energy into both of those projects.
But, ah. Here’s the lesson I’ve learned along the way:
My worth is not in those stories.
You see, story is my religion, and characters are my people, but I am myself. And I need to constantly remind myself of that.
My writing is a part of me. But to use a form of therapy and creative outlet as an identity is… dangerous. It’s not a completely horrible thing – I wear that hat, and I wear it proudly, but I need to remember to take off that hat. I need to remember to examine myself and be proud of the things that I am when separated from my work.
Little ol’ me.
Maybe the past several months have been a nightmare because I have refused to wake up. I’ve refused to let go of things that I had in the past, I’ve refused to try new things. I’ve refused to see myself as anything other than my work. I’ve refused to see myself as anything other than what I’ve built myself up to be… The story that I’ve written for myself has lost its structure, once again, and I have not been able to let go of the eraser shavings.
But being myself is not a matter of creating a persona, or trying to fit myself into the being that used to be. It’s about taking that moment, here and there, and asking myself: who am I?
Have I changed since the last time I asked that question?
How do I feel about that change?
What changes would I like to make, and are they achievable?
It’s funny how “being yourself” can simply be redefined as “being connected with yourself”.
So maybe I’ve changed. I don’t know, maybe I haven’t. I think it’s been a little of both. Hopefully for the better.
Story is my religion, and characters are my people, and I am myself… And that story is still being written.