Mythologies

What’s the mood music that’s playing in the background of your life?

“A myth is a way of making sense in a senseless world. Myths are narrative patterns that give significance to our existence.” ― Rollo May

We conjure and accept stories over time to help us explain situations and people that have made our lives what they are. As I pass through stages in my life I think about the various stories I have been told and that I have constructed myself. These stories help to explain and sustain the reality I’m living through. They keep me floating down the river.

Everyone has this kind of experience. Think about the kinds of experiences that you and others you know have to figure out:

Why did your mother leave you when you were a child?

How am I going to find a new job?

Why does it cost so much to get ahead in the world?

I don’t understand why bad things happen to good people?

Our myths take shape over time and as we grow with experiences.

I’ve got to clear out the stuff in my house that I’ve collected over so many years. I found an app the other day that will allow me to post and “market” all the books shelved in EVERY room. That would be one great gift to leave my children, less books to have to deal with!

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Sometimes, maybe more times, these days I find myself tripping over the clutter in my head and heart. Just today I stumbled over a foul box that I thought I’d thrown out, but as I read about and was reminded of other people and my own place in this world, I fell right over it. It was actually an ancient myth that had been told to me since childhood. I had buried it away like a treasure. But it wasn’t something to save and live on in days to come. This myth was a slow-acting poison that just kept me limping along in life.

Do you think you have any of those buried away in your own sandy beaches?

The myths we have built to help us survive sometimes get in the way of real progress, of healthy transition. We discover, the hard way, that our definitions about other people, relationships and even ourselves aren’t really accurate – maybe even downright false. We’ve been walking around in the dark too long. Worse still, we may have spent too long chained up in our heart and mind to ideas and feelings that kept us trapped and alone.

“People say you’re born innocent, but it’s not true. You inherit all kinds of things that you can do nothing about. You inherit your identity, your history, like a birthmark that you can’t wash off. … We are born with our heads turned back, but my mother says we have to face into the future now. You have to earn your own innocence, she says. You have to grow up and become innocent.” ― Hugo Hamilton

Sometimes our myths stop working or we ourselves move into new territory and we must construct a different kind of explanation to carry us across that deeper river. When you want to be more intentional with your life, pulling up anchor is an essential first step. That often means confronting a myth or two about yourself, other people or the world around you. To move in a new direction, we all need to be able to sing a different tune.

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I was standing there doing one thing and thinking deep thoughts the other day. Really just rolling through the Rolodex in my brain while engaged in a mindless activity, you know, like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, loading the dishwasher, folding clothes, etc. I was replaying the old “eight-track” tape of why things were the way they were in my life – related to a few specific situations. Then the light came on. Those lyrics weren’t really true. Actually, here’s the rest of the story, I told myself. I had known it all along but I guess I didn’t want to take full ownership of my own rotten consequences. Isn’t it always easier to blame others or mysterious fate? Or how about feeling like a real martyr and casting your life on the pyre of God’s will? That one’s really healthy for the pity party!

“Self pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.” ― John Gardner

I write a lot in my journal. Some of it is classic dialogue, sounds so much like a broken record. But each time I run it through the mechanisms of feeling and thought, I take another swing at getting to the truth. Ranting on paper also feels better than bottling it up and feeling soul sick.

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Finding someone who will really listen is a good habit. That sounds funny but getting into the practice of sitting together on the front porch of life is an ancient form of healthcare. Be careful and make sure this person is willing to not be a weird circus mirror – reflecting back to you the distorted myths that you might be chewing on. Find someone who is genuine, that loves you and is faithful to the truth. Clearing out the clutter needs an accurate picture.

 

My challenge these days is to confront some of the myths rattling around in my soul and make sure they are true. I’m ready to jump off the side of the pool and swim out into life. That takes courage, mostly about myself, and a willingness to go under a time or two. But sitting on the side is never as much fun as getting into the middle of it all and participating in what’s really happening.

“My yesterdays walk with me. They keep step, they are gray faces that peer over my shoulder.” ― William Golding

Recently I read a great strategy about overcoming the negative and discouraging self-talk that can weigh down progress. These are like those lethal myths that lodge in the DNA of our souls. Instead of hearing only the story of defeats, pay attention instead at the successes. When I listen to the story about how I’ve outlived my usefulness, I look across the room at a photo of someone in my life who really does need me. That changes the story.

The stories I tell myself are as important as food, water and air. They keep me alive in one way or another. I need to grow wise and pay attention to these stories because they are what make me who I am and how I am with everyone else.

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” ― Virginia Woolf

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