So Many Stories!
Since the release of Podcast 72, I have received questions and positive feedback regarding comments I made about the stories we tell ourselves. Essentially, I said that something like a new environment or a situation in which we do not feel confident or at ease is just that. The problem is, we tell ourselves stories about what this might mean for us. For example, if you’ve moved to a new town and everything feels unfamiliar, you may begin to question your competence as a traveler or a blind person. In fact, the new area has nothing whatever to do with your confidence, but is simply just a new area.
The problem as I see it is that we don’t always realize the stories we are telling ourselves. This was brought home to me during the past few days while visiting my friend at the nursing home at which she now lives. It is almost a given that items are lost in places like this, and the first thing to go missing was a single shoe. I had asked the nurses to keep a lookout for it, but nearly a week had gone by, and it hadn’t turned up. She has a second pair, so it was more the principle of the thing.
Then, her cell phone went missing. This was a considerably bigger deal. Besides being more valuable, she counts on it to be in touch with the important people in her life. I tried to call it, and got voicemail, and later found that she had run down the battery.
I went searching all over for the phone. I checked in her bed, even though she was in it. Because of the stroke, objects that end up on her left side aren’t seen by her. I looked through the sheets and blankets, under the pillow, and inside the pillow case. I swept under the bed with my cane, and looked on her tray table, and in the drawers of her nightstand and dresser. No phone! I asked a nurse, who looked in many of the same places I did, and came up with nothing. At this point, I was ready to file a report listing it as stolen.
The story I was telling myself was, “It has to be gone. If someone who is sighted looked and can’t find it, the phone is missing.” Then, something sparked in my mind; a glimmer of a suggestion about where it might be. I think the only reason I had that spark was because I was willing to approach the lost phone with a sense of curiosity. Admittedly, that curiosity was fast turning to irritation, but I maintained enough of it to think clearly and creatively. “I wonder,” I thought, “If they simply didn’t move it from the last place where she had it. When I checked on the wide arm of her wheelchair, there it was. I was not only glad to find it, but to realize that changing my story about what I could or couldn’t do allowed me to find the phone.
Buoyed by my success, I wondered how I might use the same kind of thinking about the shoe. It started out in a long wide closet. My friend has a rack on one side, and her roommate has a rack on the other. In the middle is a sort of common ground that often houses at least one wheelchair. I wondered if a chair, or perhaps feet nudged the missing shoe to the wrong side of the closet, and when I checked, that is exactly what had happened.
Of course, not all that has been lost is found. I have all but given up on the three shirts that seem to have disappeared into a black hole. However, before giving up, I have made sure I exhausted every creative possibility for finding them, rather than making up a story about what their absence might mean.
I wonder, how brightly might we shine, and in how many more big and small ways would we succeed if we stopped the stories, dropped the drama, and realized that situations need not define us?
If you have similar experiences or other comments, we would be delighted to hear from you.