The Stories We Tell
Taylor Swift has a new album out. In the middle of a pandemic, she surprised us with some new music that she wrote in isolation. And the music sounds like it. It is melancholy, moody and somewhat whimsical.
It’s like having Christmas in July.
My favorite song on the track is called "Exile." It’s a duet between a boy and a girl and over the course of the song you begin to see that their stories don’t match up. It’s about a break-up and the guy says: “You never gave a warning sign.”
And the girl says: “I gave so many signs.”
It’s beautiful and it’s poetic and there’s something about it. It captures the strange reality that two people can be in the exact same relationship or live through the same situation and have two very different experiences of it.
They both experienced the same series of events, but the story they tell is very different.
There is something fascinating about that.
On my fifth date with James I asked him if he was going to break my heart.
It was a bold question to ask, but it was a very deep fear of mine. Saying it out loud was part of the healing process. It allowed me to breathe.
It also allowed James to speak into that fear. There were so many times at the beginning of our relationship that I had to say my fears out loud. And every time, James spoke into them with love. He broke their power. He helped reveal that they were a story I was telling myself and not the truth.
Where we get into trouble as human beings is when we stop speaking our fears out loud and we start believing they are true. When we immerse ourselves in the stories our fear speaks over us, our lives begin to be shaped by them.
It can be a dangerous and very limiting way to live, especially when it comes to cultivating connection.
Most of the time, our fears have everything to do with our lived experience and our past.
In the context of relationships, our fears have very little to do with the person standing in front of us and more to do with the voice inside us.
The stories we tell ourselves can be powerfully transformative.
They can spur us toward connection, or they can lead us into building our lives in insolation.
Early in our marriage James and I adapted a phrase that we now use during disagreements or discussion. It’s “the story I’m telling myself” and yes, we got it from Brené Brown, OK!
When we are knee deep in a disagreement about a situation or a topic that we both feel very differently about, we’re honest that there are stories and narratives in our heads that are shaping how we think and feel.
These stories are often rooted in deep fears from our past. Sometimes, they are shallow roots from a different time or place in our relationship. More often than not, the story we are each telling ourselves in that moment is very different.
And, getting to hear that story out loud allows us to speak truth into it. It allows us to get on the same page in the same book and see life through each other’s eyes instead of simply our own.
It allows us to avoid saying or doing things that are shaped by unspoken fears and learn that there is a difference between the stories we tell ourselves and the life we desire to live.
The line between them is thin, but it’s there. And, it’s the difference between a heartbreak ballad and a love song.