Story Blindness

I just emerged from a bad case of story blindness. It’s not as painful as snow blindness, at least most of the time, Usually it’s more like driving in a whiteout.

I’m navigating along, appreciating the emerald moss or the birdcalls of spring. My life is going bloomingly. There’s a sense of equilibrium, a deep flow if happiness.

Until.  Something happens that isn’t a part of this peace. I get a call that someone I love is in trouble. My dog nips at a stranger. Somebody feels hurt by something I’ve said or done.

That’s when the Big Story shows up. The story that it shouldn’t have happened. That I should have known better. That it’s my job to rescue or make them feel better. It’s a story of my incompetence, one that’s so deeply embedded that I often don’t recognize it because it feels like a part of me. It’s a story of shame.

A story so engulfing that I can’t quite see through it. I react as if it were real, moving into habitual loops of rescuing, appeasing, or trying to soothe myself with food or television. Anything to avoid that feeling of contraction, that self-condemnation. Sometimes I’m in the whiteout for a few hours, and sometimes I’m there for days, trying to make the feelings go away with my old bag of tricks.

Here’s what I’ve noticed. Since I began seeing the tricks my mind plays on me, I’ve been able to avoid stepping into the fog much of the time by noticing how things I would call problems turn out not to be. Situations that would have sent me into blind reaction lose their charge. Or I just feel the feeling and let it pass through.

But not always. Sometimes, if I’m taken by surprise, it might take some time to sort out what’s real from what’s not. What’s harmful from what is there for my learning. But when I stay in curiosity and watch closely, the fog begins to clear. The shape of what is actually true shows up. I find what I can do to address the situation. I choose to stop blaming myself, and I reclaim my own essential innocence.

And there on the other side is the beauty that was there all along. A world of kind possibilities.

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