It’s not about you

A while ago a Major Thing happened in the life of a person very close to me. I only found out about it a week or so after it happened — when I called to verify plans we had made, and I learned everything was off due to the Major Thing – which, by the way, was a good thing, not a crisis. I was stunned and, yes, a bit hurt.

When I mentioned it to another friend, she said “Oh, I’m sure it’s not about you.”

I have no idea why I was left out of the loop. It could very well have nothing to do with me. But the more I contemplated that phrase, “It’s not about you,” the more it bothered me.

Movies are “about” something or someone. A book is “about” something or someone. But this? This is a relationship. How can it not be “about” me, at least in part?

I have written before about how we weave narratives to make sense of the world and our relationships. This is what helps us hold our shit together. We are not computers, weighing every incoming fact and classifying it rationally and logically. No, we’re humans. We tell ourselves stories.

I’m the star of my story. You’re the star of yours. But our stories are also about one another, about innumerable things and people.

When I was left out of the loop, the story I had constructed – in which I played a certain role in the life of this other person – revealed a rather gaping flaw. Hold the phone! Am I a mass of self-delusion?

And this is the $1 million epiphany of the week, folks.

The answer is yes! I am a mass of self-delusion. So are you. That’s what being human is all about.

Nobody’s story will ever come close to reality, because stuck in these imperfect bodies, we are much too limited to see how things really are. And because we’re all such unique little snowflakes, nobody’s story will ever match another person’s story exactly. Case in point: At a dinner party Marc once recounted the story of how I came to abandon my PhD studies.  His story was completely different than the one in my head. And this is a story about me! Who was “right?” Who knows? (For the record, I came out looking way better in his story, so I didn’t say anything.)

When our stories collide, one of three things can happen:

1) I can hang on to my story and deny yours.

2) I can jettison my story and adopt yours (or at least what I think yours is).

3) I can step back, accept that my story is just a story (and so is yours), and recalibrate.

In fact, my friend was wrong. Being left out of the loop was all about me, because I am the only person who has constructed a story that says she’ll always tell me about important stuff. She has no obligation to abide by my script, and obviously didn’t. The only story I can fully know — and thus fully own — is mine.

But on a deeper level, made visible to me only through the detachment I have gained by doing hundreds of downward facing dogs and having the blood flow into my brain instead of out of it, I realize my friend was also right. What happened was not about me at all, because I am more than just the story I tell of myself. And by that logic, it’s not about the other person, because she is not just her story, either. This is the kind of insight that lets me actually get to choice #3 without getting stuck in #1 or #2, which are places of pain and contention.

So in the end my friend was both right and wrong. What happened here was a simple disconnect in two people’s stories. This is the nature of human relationships, and it happens all the time.

The mistake we make is believing that we are our stories, and that only one story can explain the universe.

2 thoughts on “It’s not about you

  1. Oh Mary,
    ton texte m’a tellement touchée!!! J’ai vécu cela en avril avec une personne en qui j’avais “déposé” ma confiance et mon affection. J’en ai beaucoup souffert. Blessure narcissique? Insupportable déception à cause du boomerang réçu?
    Il m’a fallu du courage pour téléphoner et demander une discussion: et ce fut un moment magique. Nous avons pu discuter calmement et pondérer ce qui avait terni notre amitié. Pour cette personne, j’ai agi car son amitié compte beaucoup pour moi. Mais, j’ai vécu aussi un moment délicat avec quelqu’un d’autre et, franchement, tant mieux car il en valait pas la peine.

    Je viens de lire un article sur la souffrance engendrée par la rupture d’un lien d’amitié, thème peu abordé par ailleurs. Sur le ressenti lorsque, par exemple, une personne est radiée du jour au lendemain de la liste “amis” sur les réseaux sociaux. Très intéressant.



    • Hi Monica,
      I wanted to bring up the point of confronting – maybe that’s not the right word, but rather reaching out – to a person when you’re hurt or confused, and trying to understand WHY your stories have collided and how it might be possible to recalibrate, but it was too much for one post. You’re so right, though… when your story is really important to you, when you cannot imagine going forward and not resolving the confusion, it’s a good idea to try and figure out why. Hopefully the other person is receptive to a conversation.
      Another friend also brought up the issue of social media, and I think that’s worth a whole separate post. The identities we create online are an even bigger fiction than the ones we create inside our own heads, and the ruptures and collisions, because we don’t necessarily see the consequences and because they are at a second level of removal from reality, can be even more damaging.
      Je t’embrasse très fort, ma cherie. Thanks for commenting!

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