As I mentioned yesterday, I’m reading The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks, 1985: a book composed of essays describing select case studies of Sacks’ neurology patients.
I’m about half way through, but the idea of narrative as our mind/life has come up in at least a few essays. These patients have amnesia of some kind and the question: Without memory does the person remain? has been up for deliberation throughout the book.
It got me thinking about how valuable our stories are, our narrative. Many of us have moments, months, years, and perhaps even decades that we’d sever from our story if were allowed. We carry old haunts, harbor guilt or hold onto grievances from our past, but seriously, who or what would we be without them?
Denying them doesn’t work. We’ve tried that too. But those memories never disappear wholly, they more or less matastasizes within.
Sure, in a perfect world we could pick and choose what we’d like to have woven into our stories. But, unfortunately or fortunately perhaps, depending on how you look at it, we don’t live on that planet.
I remember having this conversation within, on the beaches of Hawaii 2008-09, during a deep depression where everything I’d mentally and emotionally locked away seemed to fall out on the floor in front of me to be sifted and organized once and for all: How can I, in right mind, NOT accept the bad with the good?
Not to mention, that I’d been such a terrible judge of “bad” for so many years. Awful things had turned out amazingly from a clearer perspective.
Plus, trying to separate what one might really argue as “truly bad” from the now determined, compassionate, loving, kind person I’ve become was impossible.
That surgery seemed a risky one. It’s as if God said, “Sure, remove all the unjust, the humiliating, the desperate, the dark moments, but only if you are absolutely positive you can get a clean cut from all that you’d gained in return.”
Couldn’t do it.
And it was with that, that I came to know acceptance, truly. If I love, honor and respect the person I am today (a fairly new thing for me), I must also hold the same space for my journey–even offering it gratitude, if I may.
That flipped a ginormous switch in me. No longer was I a victim of my story or my circumstances, instead, I was empowered. I had come to gain deep empathy for all victims. And my purpose became defined by helping others release themselves of their own bars (denial, disdain, despair).
In the cases of amnesia, Sacks described patients who aren’t grounded, who’ve lost purpose and meaning, who have little stake in life.
It’s no vacation, like one might imagine.
We need our stories. They define us. And lucky for us, the pen is still in our hands. We have the opportunity to right (by re-writing) our stories, to repair even the unimaginable.
I leave you with this: It begins with acceptance. The truth always sets us free.
Kat Hurley is a transformational author, speaker and personal development coach, making over motivation @The Year of Magical Dreaming. For the full 411, visit kathurley.com, yo!