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

Christmas and Memory

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“What you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.” ― Julian Barnes

As you decorate for the holidays each year are you putting up all your lights and garland just to have something festive hanging from your windows and branches? Is this annual activity only aimed at putting your home in the festive mood? Maybe this is a traditional chore that just needs to be done? You’ve purchased all that stuff over the years, it would be crime to not drag it out and nail it to the wall, right?

My wife was the decorating dynamo to my grinch every Christmas season. Ask anyone that knows us. She was definitely over the top. As the years passed, our house started to look like a nutcracker flea market. Things are much more low key these days. In fact, I couldn’t find any of our collection of wreaths. Please don’t tell. I must of lost my senses and pitched them all one hot July afternoon. Let’s hope Santa wasn’t watching.

The question I want to ask is, do you think this is really all about just decorating? I think. whether we realize it or not, what we are doing is awakening our memory each holiday season.

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” ― Hamilton Wright Mabie

When we relive our memories that made us happy – it makes it more true.  The memory we have of being with our friends, loved ones, family becomes more firmly planted inside us as we remember, share it, and pass it on in the telling, retelling (and even elaborating). These memories become happiness for us years later, when at the time we never fully realized what they truly were. They were being planted inside us as we grew up and matured and then one day needed them so much.

“I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.” ― Virginia Woolf

What we do with our memories is so important. They aren’t really something to just save for a rainy day. They become richer and vibrant as we share them with others. They need to be passed on so that they can live and continue to enliven with meaning. When you talk about that ornament on the tree that your grandmother made, you are sharing part of yourself with your granddaughter. She will remember it one day as she hangs it on her tree and will have saved a part of you and a piece of what mattered to you.

“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.” ― J.M. Barrie

Memory hold us all together. Those rich memories that are being created and shared during this time of year are like chains of gold that hold people together – especially when the going gets rough. Having common memories, even when we don’t all remember the details the same, is an essential form of social cohesion. It’s like super glue that keeps even the most independent free spirit connected to his home base. Somehow.

“There was a long hard time when I kept far from me the remembrance of what I had thrown away when I was quite ignorant of its worth.” ― Charles Dickens

When Christmas arrives each year, what do you remember?

I’m unpacking boxes in the garage and finding memories stashed away, some very carefully, others crammed in with what looked like a mostly hurried life. I honestly thought that maybe last year I had packed away my artificial tree with all the decorations still on it. It is the season of hope, no? Well, I found the box and no such luck.

My childhood Christmas was in the 60’s and 70’s. Very unique decor. I remember two very different kinds of holiday. One at home with a silver and gold tree in the olive green, dark wood living room. The tree had it’s own rotating multicolored spotlight shining on it as it stood proudly in the front window. We thought it was cool, but because it was in the front living room, where no one ever went, except the little dogs to periodically take a dump, it was an experience we didn’t really fully embrace.

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We had another tree in the den, the regular tree. This is the one where we stashed presents, hung lights and our homemade ornaments. It was the children’s tree. We did grow up doing craft projects with the neighbors. I remember making ornaments for the tree and even presents for our family. I don’t remember all the gifts purchased at the store – I do remember those that we made ourselves. Not sure all the recipients did??

“The smells of Christmas are the smells of childhood” ― Richard Paul Evans

As I recall, my grandparents did hang up on the walls of their little house those homemade gifts. That was the other location for my childhood Christmas memories. There was a life-sized Santa and his sleigh with Rudolph, wooden cut-outs in the front yard. We knew Christmas was almost here when they went up each year. The tree was hung with all the familiar decorations, homemade, store bought, it was an archive of memories as we explored the branches every year to look for our favorites.

Those memories are recorded on polaroid photographs. Remember those? Your aunt with that funny hairdo. Those cousins who looked so innocent. Everyone was like a new jacket. Then you realize how many of those faces are gone now. I can’t really remember any of what was wrapped up in those packages, so colorful and carefully arranged. But I do remember those people that I didn’t pay enough attention to, taking it for granted as we all do. Now Christmas is just a few of us instead of a houseful. All that love is still bouncing off the walls but not as many to catch it.

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

I don’t think it’s a bad thing to grieve a little for people no longer here when you come across a memory. We had a beloved aunt who crafted homemade cards with photos, she wrote on the back of each one, I saved many and run across them now and again. That’s what bittersweet tastes like, I thought, as I put one of her handmade ornaments on my tree last night.

Make it a point this year to take a few moments and remember someone or sometime in your life. Think about what they/it mean to you. As you’re sitting around with others, find something to share – especially with someone of the next generation. Maybe a backstory, a quality, something important that ought to be known. It doesn’t need to be in chapters or make everyone cry. But it will tell a lot about you. If you can be intentional about sharing, you will have helped hold your group together with a few more strands of meaning. And that kind of buried treasure won’t ever run out of batteries.

“You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” ― Amy Carmichael


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