What story have you been telling yourself lately? My friends and I were talking about ourselves to each other the other night and we got onto this topic. What’s the story that you tell yourself that keeps you stuck in the same place? For instance, telling yourself that you’re not athletic. So maybe when you were a kid you were awkward, maybe you weren’t fast; maybe you weren’t the captain of the team. So at some point instead of trying to be as good as everyone else, you stopped and went to find something you were good at. You went and found something that other people would come to you to learn how to be better at it. Now every time someone suggests a hike or a pick up game of whatever, you decline with the excuse that you just aren’t athletic. You’re not sporty. Maybe you aren’t, but I can tell you that a guy has pushed himself in a wheelchair all the way across the country, and there are people who started off in the red zone of obesity who ended up running marathons. It’s all just a story you’ve decided to stick with. It’s a lot easier to just keep saying the same thing enough times for people to stop asking, instead of venturing out and trying again.

I was in a relationship a few years ago with someone I thought I had so much in common with. When we met I really identified with this tortured side of him. The part of him that got nervous when someone gave him a compliment. Instead of someone trying to change me into something else, I felt like I could embrace the darker edges of my personality. I could really be honest about the parts of myself that I would usually gloss over, ignore, pretty up. We were like two scruffy kids that no one understood, and we were in it together. We bonded over drinking coffee, and wearing converse, and not liking sunny days. We were skinny and pale and loved each other for it. I was getting really into yoga around that time. I would drop anything to be at my 8:30am class. I wouldn’t have a drink the night before, I wouldn’t stay out late, I wouldn’t sleep out. I even skipped out on a few trips because I felt guilty missing my yoga class. I started getting fit. I started doing handstands in the middle of the room. I couldn’t believe I was excelling at something physical.

One day my friends begged me to come to the beach with them. It was the last thing I wanted to do. What do you even do at the beach? You just lay there? I didn’t really see the point. But I went along with it because it seemed like if I said no to one more thing, they would just stop calling me to do anything. I threw together a mismatched bikini and a straw fedora, and we made our way out to the water. As we drove closer to the ocean I felt lightness in the air. We parked and I stood on the sidewalk, and stretched out towards the sun with my eyes closed, and smiled. This was nice. We settled into our spot on the sand and I slipped my dress off. It was one of those hot days that are bearable, not the kind of hot where you get nauseous standing up. I pranced around near the water with a bag of chips in my hand and made fun of people’s tan lines. I didn’t feel awkward in my body. I’d been working my ass off for this body; I was toned and lean and looked good in a two-piece. As the sun moved over us, we moved with it. We leaned on our left sides, stretching a leg out to catch the last bits of warmth. By the end of the day I was the last man standing. Those beachy bitches were telling me it was time to go. The sun was setting, it was getting cold, and the bums were arriving to settle in for the night. So I pulled myself away.

When I got home, I lay on my floor and sneaked a peek at the new line across my hips. I couldn’t help but to grin. I called my boyfriend, but he gave me the cold shoulder. “You spent the day at the beach? I thought you hated the beach.” He was annoyed with me. He was mad at how I spent my day. I had told him I didn’t like the beach just like him, and I didn’t like the sun just like him, and we were going to sip espresso inside all day together every day. That was our story. I went against him. I broke our bond. I wasn’t allowed to be frolicking in sand, when I had already strongly proclaimed a different existence. One where we live like vampires, crushing colored flowers and staying busy being superior to blondes. But, I really enjoyed being at the beach. I liked pinning my hair up and off of my neck after it got hot and damp. I liked shaking my feet off before getting back in the car. I liked how the seats were warm on my arms from parking outside with the windows down all day. But then, what about my story? Once I said it out loud and believed it, I had to stay confined to it. I wasn’t allowed to break through it or expand it, or alter it. It was my story. Unchanging.  But maybe it was just something I said to relate to someone I wanted to love. Maybe I just wanted something to say so that I could feel defined by it. He seemed like someone I could fit into nicely. So I fit in whichever way I could. I shifted shapes so he could feel complete, like he had a partner in his alienated existence. But every time I shifted, there was a new space to fill. I just couldn’t fill them all. And he probably wasn’t looking for that anyway.

So, some days I like it rainy and some days I like it sunny. Sometimes I get up with the sun so I can sweat through two hours of yoga. Sometimes I sleep in until noon and don’t exercise for three months. Sometimes I’m the smartest girl in a room, and other times I stay quiet because I can’t follow the conversation. I’ve been called cynical and I’ve been called romantic. Aggressive and patient. I’ve wasted so much time making proclamations about myself so that I don’t feel ordinary. But they’re just stories that we get used to telling, and we don’t need them anymore. Because they hold no value.

I’m bad in relationships. I don’t eat sushi. I don’t like dogs. I’m not adventurous. I can’t have casual sex. I only like tall guys. I can’t learn a new language. I will always be fat. I’m not funny. I don’t want to get married. I hate the color pink. I’m always late. I’m not a morning person. I can’t be alone. I’m antisocial. I’m not religious. I’m not affectionate. I can’t operate a computer. I can’t do my own taxes. I will never get my heart broken again. I refuse to see boy movies. I can’t be dragged to a girlie movie. I will never move on. No one gets me. Opera is boring. I can’t run. I’m not easy to love. I can’t wear hats. I can’t love someone who smokes..

Instead of these being innocent observations of yourself, they turn into something that demands attention. This is what I am. I am a collection of things I wont do, or don’t see, or can’t understand, or don’t like, or am afraid to be. I use these stories as a way to test what you’re willing to take. I use them as a way to keep people away. None of them are true. They might have been true for a time, but they aren’t anymore. Now they’re just old wounds that are making sure you don’t forget them. They hold you back.

Rewrite your story. Right now. Tell a new story. Change your story. As many times as you’d like. One of the things I enjoy avoiding in my life is being vulnerable and witnessed. So, by doing this here I’m changing my story already…

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