Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Story I Tell

When I was in high school, I was a big fan of Toad the Wet Sprocket and they had a song called "Stories I Tell." Here is a portion of the lyrics:

Now what is a blessing and what is a dream
Caught between portraits and none's what it seems
And why is it people expect there's a change
When I feel I'm a part of something I can't see
I feel the same

Do we ever wonder?
And do you ever care...

Last night, I was listening to a podcast entitled "The Stories We Tell" from the unitarian church in Madison, and this topic was really interesting. Rev. Kelly J. Crocker alludes to her own story of rejection and explains that at a certain point in her life, she began to reframe this story that had forever defined her. She reframed it in a more hopeful & positive way, and it became a story of "welcoming" and "freedom to be yourself" instead.

I thought this was so interesting. In college, I went out on lots of dates with loser guys who treated me like absolute crap. After each date, I would go home and recount the story to my friends who were eager to know the punch line. What crappy, funny thing did the guy do next? Then what horribly inappropriate thing did he say? To them, it was amusing. To me, it was the only way I could cope with all the crappiness - to laugh about it, to find the humor hidden deep within. This was my first experience in "reframing" my stories.

As for a story that defined me, I would have to say that living in Japan while in high school "defined me" for many years and I began to resent that. I wanted a new story because I was sick of telling the same one over and over. I was not Japan. Japan was not me. Unfortunately, I could not completely erase Japan from my heart, and I eventually ended up going back there for marriage.

So, then, marriage defined me. Of course, it couldn't a typical marriage. No, it had to be a "met in high school, fell in love, were separated for many years, couldn't stay apart, got married & moved to Japan" kind of romantic-sounding story, and this too began to define me. I had to retell this story again and again, but I hated that too. I was not my marriage, and my marriage was not me. Here I was stuck in Japan married to a person that was so different from his beautifully-written letters, and everything about my life was suddenly equal to two things = Japan + Crappy Marriage. Where was the humor in that? I couldn't find it no matter how deep I dug with my crappy shovel and my crappy complaints.

But, then I began to realize that I could reframe my life in Japan and my marriage. I am the only one who can change it - not the facts of it - I am in Japan and I am married - that will stay the same. But, I can change my reaction to it, my attitude about it, and the story I choose to tell. This is partly why I started Working Mom in Japan, so that I could write about the things that make me happy rather than all the crappy situations that seem to never end.

This is why I decided to educate myself and continue on my journey of change, spiritual growth & personal development. Learning new software, learning new scrapbooking techniques, saving money for my Masters Degree (someday!), reading books about success, child development, politics, etc. - these are feeding my passions every day. I know my husband is stuck inside himself somewhere, and I realize now that I can't wait around for him to change. If he does, that is his business. There is always the possibility that he will be affected by my changes, but I can't even depend on that. I just need to work on myself, and that is exactly what I am doing. Don't get me wrong because I do love Yusuke ... I just came to the realization that we are not on the same path. Even though we are married, we still have our own paths.

At 33, this was a huge revelation to me, and it probably would not have happened unless I went through all the crap to get here.

Upcoming: I want to try this re-framing technique more often and would like to do a writing experiment some time this week. Wait for that!


Sherry said...

Good for you! So many things I want to say, but your public blog probably isn't the right place. Perhaps another time. Will just say that I think most of us married to Japanese men, whether we are foreign or Japanese ourselves, end up on our own paths.

L. said...

Yeah, agree with everything you say!

Others might try to define us, but what matters most is how we define ourselves.

I know lots of women who define themselves first and foremost as their children's mother -- I've seen how empty some of these women are, when their kids grow up and have their own lives (which is perfectly normal and actually good).

My Japanese husband is not just on a different path, but a whole different planet. :)

Michele at Sweet Leaf said...

This was a good post--food for thought. I always thought it odd that MY story of the teenage years was My Jaws. You had similar surgery, but never got saddled with that. I'll have to think some more on this topic ...

Shannon said...

I agree with Michele. This is a good post. I want to write about it, but I think I need to reread it about 6 more times! You really wrote a lot that needs contemplation.