(This is an excerpt from the new edition of 1,000 Little Things.)
She rarely makes eye contact. Instead, she looks down at the ground. Because the ground is safer. Because unlike people, it expects nothing in return. The ground just accepts her for who she is.
As she sits at the bar next to me, she stares down at her vodka tonic, and then the ground, and then her vodka tonic. “Most people don’t get me,” she says. “They ask me questions like, ‘What’s your problem?’ or ‘Were you mistreated as a child?’ But I never respond. Because I don’t feel like explaining myself. And I don’t think they really care anyway.”
The music is getting loud and I can see that she needs to talk. I ask, “Want to get some fresh air?”
In the chilly night air, she tells me her story. As she speaks, her emotional gaze shifts from the ground, to my eyes, to the moonlit sky, to the ground, and back to my eyes again.
When she finishes, she says, “Well, now you know my story. You think I’m a freak, don’t you?”
“Place your right hand on your chest,” I tell her. She does. “Do you feel something?” I ask.
“Yeah, I feel my heartbeat.”
“Now, place both of your hands on your face and move them around slowly.” She does. “What do you feel now?” I ask.
“Well, I feel my eyes, my nose, my mouth . . . I feel my face.”
“That’s right,” I reply. “But unlike you, stories don’t have heartbeats, and they don’t have faces. Because stories are not alive . . . they’re not people. They’re just stories.”
She stares into my eyes for a long moment, smiles, and says, “Just stories we live through.”
“Yeah… and stories we learn from.”
Letting Go… and Moving Forward
Happiness is letting go of what you assume your life is supposed to be like right now, and sincerely appreciating it for everything that it is.
Too often old stories and worn out ideas hold us down in ways we don’t even realize. We need to practice letting them go. And this letting go has nothing to do with weakness, and everything to do with strength. It’s a process of gradually rewriting the script we’ve been reciting to ourselves for far too long. And that’s what this list is all about—identifying the negative stories in your head, seeing how they effect your daily behavior, and then letting go to make room for positive change.
Right now, it’s time to remind yourself…
1. The past can steal your present if you let it.
Just like that woman I met,…