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The Stories We Tell Ourselves

How can we relate to stories that threaten our own? Some of us go towards the threat. We search and question and dig. Some of us rationalize to try to force the stories to fit together. Some of us simply don’t engage and bury the threat deep inside. Some of us seem not to be threatened at all. - The Staircase on HBO Max

The concept of differing stories about the same events is interesting to me, especially in light of the pandemic and the climate crisis (a crisis which has never gone away but has been relegated to lurking in the background). We all have different stories that we tell ourselves. When another narrative comes along that threatens our story – like when the government abandons us during the pandemic, or health care is not there when we need it – we scramble to recalibrate our story to align with the new story.

Not all of us recalibrate. Some people stick their head in the sand and refuse to write a new story. Every person who doesn’t wear a mask inside public spaces is in a form of pandemic denial right now. Lately, that’s a lot of people. People who have COVID are boarding planes and telling themselves a story that it is okay to do so. It is amazing how we can tell ourselves lies to avoid the truth.

For some of us, denial simply isn’t an option. We cannot un-know what we know. Like the quote from the drama The Staircase, some of us go towards the threat with our eyes wide open.

Here is another quote, because others say it more eloquently than I do:

One of the most pressing, under-researched questions today is how one can live a meaningful, happy life in the face of global civilizational collapse. This, right now--take a look at the news--this is the calm before the storm. -Émile P. Torres

If you are a super-feely person like me, this pandemic has probably been brutal on your mental health. Seeing people around you suffer, witnessing the dissolving of community and the rise of a dog-eat-dog mentality, being shocked at the government’s inaction and lack of compassion – well, it is a lot.

How I pine for ignorance because it really is bliss. I’ve never been the most carefree person, so I live with the cold stark reality instead.

As Émile P. Torres, says, how do we live a meaningful, happy life in the face of this collapse? I wrote about how our family deals with the heavy weight of advocacy in Stay Soft Warriors. Explaining all of this horror to our son with Down syndrome has been no walk in the park. If nothing else, it has helped me pause and think about our family’s response these past two years. Yes, we have made mistakes, mostly related to our unregulated news consumption. We look at these mistakes and recalibrate too. This is how we grow and learn.

How do you live a meaningful, happy life in the face of this collapse if you refuse to steep in denial? I'm especially distraught about the state of the world that we have left for my grandson Levi's generation.

I am reminded of the time I was in cancer treatment – fearful because I caught a glimpse of my death, abandoned by people who I thought loved me, struggling with how cruelly I was treated in the cancer hospital.

I created my own Small Comforts List, which helped me. Times have changed, as cancer is no longer actively staring me right in the face. Cancer has been replaced by the inconvenient truths of the pandemic and the climate crisis. I need to add British artisan competition shows and meandering walks with our pandemic puppy to update my 2022 small comforts list.

I don’t know what comforts you. But if you search and dig and question like I do, I’d recommend making your own small comforts list. I will admit that I struggle with reading books and, instead, I watch a lot of television now. (This is a shameful confession for a writer). So I’ll end with a quote from the movie Don’t Look Up, meant for us outspoken and tortured advocates:

I’m grateful we tried.

I’m grateful to those of you who have tried by opening your eyes, paying attention and speaking up. Join me now to carve a space for peace in your heart, for you deserve rest and joy too.

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