The Stories We Tell Ourselves


“Two or three things I know for sure, and one is that I’d rather go naked than wear the coat the world has made for me.”
― Dorothy Allison, Two or Three Things I Know for Sure

Over the course of my life, I have written extensively about my background. Candidly, unapologetically. Most of my readers know I am in recovery, grew up poor, and overcame a lot of trauma as a child…

I think the word we insist on using now is survivor.

And it is true; I am a survivor.

But here’s the thing, in an email conversation I was having recently with a wise woman, I discovered that this survivor label no longer serves me. In a way, it has limited me to always being the abused kid, the writer-alcoholic, the poor adult hopping from one near-miss tragedy to the next.

It seems that while survivor might be a badge of courage, it also assumes some basic things about a person, allocating him or her to a moment in time when surviving was the only goal.

And this isn’t even a post about thriving, although thriving is something most people aspire to, survivor or no. This is about the stories we tell ourselves, and in turn, the world.
Inadvertently, in all of my surviving, I forgot the other aspects of who I am and landed precisely in the middle of the narrative I created these last few years.

For example, how I ended up in Phoenix was not so surprising given the narrative of the life I was creating – preferring the wild fantasy to the facts. A survivor just goes with the pull of the tides, right? No. There was a deliberation of story, of belief.

But what would have happened had I done something else? Hmm.

What would have happened if the life I thought I loathed was just mirroring the story I kept creating rather than actual reality or what could have come to fruition?

I’d say any one of us is capable of re-writing a story in the moment – scrapping the old narrative when we find it going in a prescribed direction. Almost every decision we make is based on these stories, from work to romance; family to identity.

All of this has prompted me to JUST STOP TELLING THOSE DAMNED STORIES. Stop already.

Stop telling stories about being poor as shit, drunk as hell, and even…as much as it hurts me to leave her behind…lost and alone at age 10.

Because these stories aren’t where I live anymore, or what I live.

So expect something new from me in the coming months. Wildly, fervently, freeing-ly new… as I set pen to paper, and begin.

2 thoughts on “The Stories We Tell Ourselves

  1. I’ve never liked using the word “survivor”. It creates an identity solely connected to what was ‘survived’, and thus that becomes the who and what of a person. There is no forward motion once that is your identity, because you have titled yourself and inexorably tied yourself to that specific past. So much happens to a person during their lifetime, why create a rope holding yourself to only one part of it? Why allow those people, places, bad times continue to have so much power?

    I’ve had Bad Things happen. And it changed me. And it sucked. But it is not who I am. I’ve also had great things happen that also changed me. I am not a “Survivor”. I am a strong, independent woman who got through some fucked up shit, but who also had some amazingly wonderful times.

    We cannot deny the ways in which past happenings affected us, that would be to lie to ourselves, but we also don’t have to decide that those things shape and form us and our decisions now. The trick is to be aware of the effect of the past on the now, but not let it rule the now.

    So, good for you, Aleah. What you have here is a braveness and a courage.
    And I look forward to your next writings.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely, hoyden. It’s good to acknowledge all of the things that comprise who we are, but not get stuck on certain aspects of our past. In the same sense, this helps us view others as being dynamic rather than static. Things change; we change.


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