The Narrowness in My Narrative

Had the wonderful experience today of catching up with a dear friend, Ernie McNally.  It all started when I was paying bills…

Indeed that is where the story begins.  I don’t enjoy bill paying so I put on my headphones and randomly picked a playlist.  The list I picked was one shared by my friend, Ernie.  As I listened and wrote the checks, I had this odd sense of gratitude and joy.  Not my usual feeling state while doing bills (even if that is recommended).  Though I admit it is a feeling state I often imagine my friend experiences on a regular basis.  So I chuckled.  I often wish I was a lighter, easier, less intense person. Lighter and easier, I think, fits Ernie, but not less intense.  No – that intensity just comes out very differently in us.

Oh, I digress – which is the nature of a narrative.  Though not the aspect I was planning to write about!

After bill paying, I noticed an ache in my chest.  I decided to explore and turn towards the feelings.  Soon, still with my headphones on, I was crying and very aware of the current shifts and changes in my relationship to Ernie.  I was missing him and decided to write him an email as I listened again to the playlist and cried.  It was a rambling email of how I missed him and knew our lives were presenting us very different playgrounds. Though I knew he needed to be doing what he was doing, I hadn’t figured out our new world together yet. His world had been quite like mine in recent years until his health took a odd, life-threatening turn and he went with it. The committees and circles we shared suddenly weren’t the same – he was gone and of course I didn’t want to bother him. It was his health and that was way more important than my wishes that he could still be a part of planning and leading at Haven. Mostly I just wanted to thank him for the tears, laughs and memories his music had offered to me and to say I was still connected. I just was not so sure of our new narrative – our worlds seemed so different.

I hit send.  I wondered if it was a good idea.  But I had felt so close and did want to reach out.

I'm Cool! I'm Calm!
I’m Cool! I’m Calm!

He called.  We had a wonderful time talking about curiosity and what that actually might mean.  We spoke about what it’s like to live with cancer or something shaking at the roots of your foundation and offering you a moment of ‘nothing to lose’.  We spoke about intensity – each of our ways with those strong feelings that wrestle inside us and how in some ways we can be like ducks – looking cool on the surface and kicking and paddling like mad beneath the surface.

I came away from the call thinking about my stories, my narrative.  My stories about myself, about him, about others.  I like my stories.  That’s how I create and paint my world.  However, I also came away thinking about the possible narrow -ness that might came with my narratives. Like my story of his health being more important than a rambling email from me, that he’s a lighter, easier and more grateful and I am not, that I am too intense. These little story-lines that continually slip in and narrow and define my narrative – of course that is until a song or something shakes me up and the narrative takes a turn.

I love the word narrative. It so obviously offers it’s own shadow-side so we have a  chance to notice we might be narrowing our world with our story. The odd paradox of being human, we are able to imagine, to write and rewrite the narrative of our lives. The challenge is to not let the narrative become too narrow. To not imagine we have the whole story or even the best part of it right. But isn’t that what good friends are for, to listen and share stories and to damn well not let either of us get to narrow and our narrative!