We all have stories we tell about ourselves. One of my favorites (because for some bizarre reason I’m completely okay with making fun of myself as long as it’s funny) is the story of a time I was in London with one of my best friends. We went to the Hard Rock Cafe (because it’s pretty much as close to Mecca as you can get with her!) and they were celebrating their 30th birthday. As we were leaving I noticed a tremendous poster of Jimi Hendrix. I guess I must have had a funny look on my face or something because Angela asked me what was wrong. (And now I need you to picture the most valley girl confused voice you can here….) So I looked at her and I said “Well, if Jimi Hendrix was black then how did Val Kilmer play him in the movie?!” I think she might have actually stopped breathing for a moment she was so shocked. Finally when she regained her senses she said “Jim Morrison Nikki, MORRISON!” and stormed away in sheer disgust. So yeah….one of my stories is that I’m almost completely ignorant of all things musical. Or really celebrity related. I’m STILL not entirely sure who the Karshians are. I actually thought they were something from StarTrek for a while….but that’s another topic I’m woefully ignorant of. For quite some time I was actually convinced that pretty much every song that came out before 1985 was sung by Lynard Skynard. I think you get the point.
Each of these stories we tell about ourselves to others serves to define some small piece of who we are. I’m not sure why I was thinking about it the other day, but since I’ve been so busy at work my mind has literally been in melt down….and when your brain gets all melty and gooey your thoughts run together in weird ways and perhaps sometimes it produces something that’s not a complete mess. Anyhow, I was thinking about the stories and how we also tell them to ourselves. We define ourselves by our own visions of how we’ve lived our lives. And also by the other people in our lives. I am a sister, a daughter, a wife, a mother, an employee….etc. Each of things are a part of the definition of me. But if you think about it, our stories are extremely dependent on other people. What happens when one of the people in our lives turns out differently that we originally envisioned? How does the change in their story redefine our own? For example, if you’ve always thought of yourself as someone who rose above the chaos of their childhood and then it turns out the parent who created the chaos actually has some sort of illness…..does that now actually make you a bad person because you weren’t more sympathetic to their situation? Did you still rise above it, or did you abandon the person?
As a parent, how much of our identity is tied up in our children? How much do we view their successes and failures as a reflection of ourselves? What happens when that child doesn’t live up to, doesn’t want to live up to, or can’t live up to, the expectations we had of them? How many parents want their child to be a football star or a musician or a doctor only to have them decide that their identity is a Starbucks Barista. As a parent, how hard is it to take the dreams we had for our children and set them aside….to let our children write their own stories? And as parents, how will our children view our contributions to their own stories?