It was true. The speaker had realized it herself partway through the reading. She was in love with it, but perhaps only she. The audience wasn’t responding; the trajectory of the story lost its way somewhere in the middle; the characters were too many and indistinguishable from each other; the ending didn’t seem real. The writer had fallen in love with her story and hadn’t realized that the story couldn’t yet stand on its own.
How often do we fall in love with our own story, whatever that may be at the time? Perhaps it’s the story of how competent we are, how loved we are, how important, how good, how indispensable we are. Surely the world can’t go on without us and this story.
There’s value in falling in love this way. Sometimes it’s what keeps us going, perservering at something we’d be unlikely to pursue were we to stare reality in its face. Often it’s the first phase of an emerging identity, the half-life posing with its grandiose emotionality, pretending it’s the big enchilada.
Then again, the falling in love makes us blind to much else and we are likely, when in love with a story, to act on premises that are not true or that make it more difficult for us to connect with others in the worlds that we jointly inhabit.
Back to the writer, who next day took her courage in her hands and applied it to a new post on her website. She admitted being in love with her story; she acknowledged her perceptions and realizations as she read the story; she confessed to her fear and desire to end the reading partway through. She vowed she’d go back to the drawing board and take her love to a new level of interest, scrutiny and hard work. Within 24 hours she’d heard back from several colleagues that her realization and her courageous post were models of excellence for her colleagues. The post inspired conversations grounded in the work of writers, readers and listeners about the work and their support of each other in the work.
We, too, when we realize our love has led us astray, hold this opportunity and this power in our hands. It’s the opportunity to be genuinely vulnerable. It’s the opportunity to hold our conflicting desires and perceptions in the palms of our hands and stay with the ambiguity and lack of resolution. It’s the power of connecting with others when the defenses are down and we get to smile, weakly or with utter amusement, at our common plight, not knowing what comes next but knowing that we’re in the right place to step gamely into that arena.
What’s a story that you’re in love with? How does it impact how you move forward in the world?