When I was six years old, my brother loved playing Monopoly with me; he always chose the power position of the banker. When I asked to hold that post, he sneered and said that I didn’t compute numbers in my head quickly enough.
He was right. And he could, in his ten-year-old sly wisdom, steal my money–although it took me months to catch on. I finally ratted on him to our mom. She pointed her finger at me and said, “Amrita, don’t ever tell stories!” Stories? I thought to myself. What does she mean? Well, of course she meant lies. I don’t know if the injustice I felt was because my brother—that time—got away with his lie and had me blamed, or that she had given stories, which were always precious to me, a nasty, new meaning.
I’ve come to realize that we tell ourselves stories all the time, and they are, in fact, lies. That’s how we construct “me and my world.” I am the protagonist of my stories, generally the heroine, unless I’m having a bad “self-esteem” day. There is nothing wrong with this; we all do it. But at some point–for me–this stopped working: I became more interested in the truth of what I am than in the stories that I construct about who I think I am, and the whole fabric of my belief system–of how I create meaning–crumbled. This turned out to be a huge relief.
However, a big question remained. Having lost interest in story, how do I converse with family and friends? How do I move in the world? Story is really what people are looking for in conversations: this is how my day went; this is what happened to me; this is how I feel about it and contextualize it. My husband and I have no problem because we’ve been unlearning at about the same rate. I still talk about the events of the day, but the feelings and contextualizing are, in the main, gone. If I have gotten hooked by some interaction, we quietly take it apart and look at it until the meaning I had given it falls away. The players in my life don’t have to become bad guys or good guys. They are simply people, doing the best that they know how.
Just for the record, my brother turned out to be a very helpful, very honest, man.
© Amrita Skye Blaine